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Bully Blogs Continue…

Our Lady of Sorrows
Our Lady of Sorrows – Definitely a school that lived up to its name!

It’s not ironic that a bullied teenage girl in Canada committed suicide during a month dedicated to dealing with and discouraging bullying. It’s just tragic and a sign that no matter what we do, bullying will always be around until both parents and children learn to take personal responsibility for the world around them.

Because earlier this year, we also found out that teenagers who tried to stop bullying got in trouble, like in Florida where a girl on a bus stood up for a mentally disabled student and was then herself called a bully. And what about another case, this time this month, when a mother forced her 13-year-old daughter (here in the Houston area) to beat up another girl?

Do we really have no idea of what makes someone a bully?

The girl shot by the Taliban is just another example of bullies. Just like the Texas mom, they’re grown up bullies out of the school yard, but still trying to control other people’s actions through the use of violence, fear, and intimidation.

And I know I’ve said it before, but I know where this comes from. I spent five years in a Catholic school where the officials had no idea how to deal with bullying, other than blaming the victims or pretending it wasn’t happening. The parents of the bullies didn’t care, either. Their precious little snowflakes would never do such things. It didn’t matter that their precious little snowflakes were actually precious little bastards. The parents closed their eyes just as the school did, and my sister and I both suffered for it, along with anyone else who got in the way.

Now I wonder, just like I do when I see these news stories, how do the bullies feel? Do they feel justified? Do they feel proud of themselves? Are they honestly that devoid of humanity?

What about my now-grown-up bullies from 20+ years ago? What would they say if they met me on the street? Would they apologize? Would they justify their actions out of embarrassment? Out of a true belief that they’d done nothing wrong? Would they understand what they had done? What if their own children are being bullied? Are they outraged at the lack of response?

I can’t always blame children for doing childish things, but when it gets adults involved, and when it goes on for so long, I have to think that there is something going wrong out there…

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Time to give in to the bullies!

A Bully Free Zone sign - School in Berea, Ohio
A Bully Free Zone sign – School in Berea, Ohio By Eddie~S (Bully Free Zone Uploaded by Doktory) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

So, CNN is featuring a video of a girl who got plastic surgery to “fix” her problems because she’d been getting bullied since the 1st grade because of how she looked.  She was 10 the first time she asked her mom for the plastic surgery “to stop the bullying.”  Her mom found an organization online – “Little Baby Face Foundation.”  They flew her and her mom out there, and the doctor decided that she needed more than her problem area (her ears) fixed – he wanted to do her chin, too, because it was “too square.” 

Now, I have no problem with the fact that he wanted to fix her nose – her septum was completely deviated, and she stated after the surgery that she felt better physically because she was breathing better.  That, admittedly, is an important fix. 

But the fact that the doctor suggested the other changes because once her ears would be pinned back, her other problems would be more noticeable, and he wanted to “balance her features” tells me this is more about appearance and giving in to others’ perception of what we should be rather than what we are. 

I do want to note: There’s a difference between some of what is shown on the Little Baby Face Foundation’s website and the “problems” they fixed for the girl.  They show true deformities – microtia and other issues that causing hearing loss that can be fixed with surgery, cleft lip and cleft palate, and facial palsy.  These are true physical deformities, and ones that cause physical issues – unable to speak properly, inability to move portions of the face…  These are true problems that need to be fixed. 

Being bullied is not a reason to change.  Because, let’s be very honest, a bully is always going to find something to bully someone about.  The fact she had surgery, all by itself, is something she can be bullied about.  Talk about giving in to peer pressure!  And peer pressure from people who obviously have never been taught respect for others, compassion, or empathy.

But it goes further than that.  Is there an organization out there to provide money to people who are bullied for wearing the wrong clothes?  What about an organization to teach smart kids to act stupid in order to avoid being bullied for being “too smart”?  Do we really need to create a world where we force people to change to be more acceptable to the masses of asses?  (Why do I have that song by L7 running through my head?)  

Maybe my opinion here is being informed by personal experience.  I was bullied for more than five years in grade school.  I was in a Catholic school.  I have no idea why I was picked for bullying.  I had been popular in public school, but when my sister and I were moved to private school, the bullying began.  Did the other kids know that we weren’t as rich as them?  Did they mind that I didn’t care if they were my friends? (Even when I was popular, I still was a bit of a loner and was happy to have only a few friends…)  Did they resent the fact that I came in and went into the “A” group with the smart kids? (Aside – what educators really think it’s a good idea to have an “A” and “B” group with the smart kids being in the “A” group?  Why not just say, “Hey, you kids are stupid, so you’ll never get an “A” in your life, including the name of the classes you’re in!”) 

I also have what some might consider a physical deformity.  I consider it one.  I had severe acne and have fairly severe scarring now.  Do I consider plastic surgery at times to “correct” it?  Yes.  Do I ever get it?  No.  Why?  Because I don’t mind the scarring.  Sure, maybe I think I’d look better without it.  But it doesn’t interfere with my functioning, any more than this girl’s ears interfered with hers.  I do think that maybe I’d have more success with certain parts of my life with this problem “fixed,” but I know that to do so would be to give in to social pressure to conform to an image that isn’t me.  Why should I be forced to change who I am just to make other people happy?

I’d like to close this with something my father taught me many, many years ago.  Probably the best advice he’s ever given me.  Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.

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Our Lady of Perpetual Motion

Image © Can Stock Photo Inc. / creatistaBecause it wasn’t bad enough that I spent 5 miserable years there, Our Lady of Sorrows (or, as any good George Carlin fan would call it, Our Lady of Perpetual Motion), is now kind enough to send their “Sorrow Scoops.”  (Seriously, who thought that was a good name?  It sounds like ice cream that would make you cry.) 

Anyway, so they send me this alumni pamphlet, and they don’t even spell my name right.  Talk about adding insult to injury.  It’s not like my name is hard to spell.  Katherine.  Easy, right?  Okay, not that easy.  I’ve seen it spelled plenty of other ways – Katharine, Kathryn.  Allowable options.  But Kathering?  WTF is that?

And the fact that they didn’t bother to catch it tells me that they are the same as ever.  They don’t care.  They never did.

Their little tag line claims that they have been providing students “…with a safe, structured and caring environment in which to grow, both academically and spiritually…”  Wow.  The stories I could tell.  If they considered any of the time I spent there “safe, structured, or caring…”

I’ll just tell one story for now.  Just one.  But I think it’s an excellent illustration of why I want to save up a stack of the pamphlets until I can use them to start a fire.

In fourth grade, the first year I was there, some other students watched Saturday Night Live and learned the terms “lezzy.”  Since my sister and I were foolish enough to still be friends and want to hold hands, we were called “lezzy.”  (Looking back, there’s perhaps another term they should have used, but no one said they were intelligent…)  Needless to say, things escalated because the school had no idea how to handle bullying.  When it finally got bad enough, they came up with a brilliant solution.  Rather than actually handle the people responsible for the bullying, they would punish the entire floor – the 4th and 5th grade classes that my sister and I were in.  So instead of recess, we all had to stand in the hall. 

Yes, you read that right, “we.”  My sister and I were included in the punishment.  For being bullied?  For reporting it?  For being miserable with their “safe, structured, and caring environment”?

Whatever their brilliant reasoning was, it was only the beginning of a horrible period of my life, and I while I should probably just get over it, every time I get one of their little “isn’t our school wonderful” Sorrow Scoops, I’m only reminded of everything bad about them.