Friday, June 1, 2012


The Bully Pulpit
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Dunne

Bully dredged up such feelings in me, things I hadn't felt in years.  The documentary, which follows several kids (hopefully surreptitiously, I worried that the cameras would just make their situations worse) through their days of being messed with, hassled, punched, tortured, abused by their erstwhile peers in school, recalled my own struggles in school.  A late bloomer, a scrawny kid who always looked too young for whatever grade I was in, I had my share of bullying, frequently by the low members of totem poles of cliques, the low hanging fruit of the popular gangs, the pilot fish, the bottom-feeders of the jocks, the shosh's, who couldn't punch their way up, and so punched their way down.  It always flows downhill.

The kids in the films are solitary, ill-defined.  Not really excellent at things, and maybe at the wrong things.  They're "weird."  And so they're pushed and kicked further into their roles, segregated, marginalized.  Food is stolen from their lunch trays.  Pushed out of chairs.  They're punished for just existing, for taking up space, breathing the same air.

A couple of them find Final Solutions for remedying those situations, leaving devastated heart-broken parents, who find it in themselves to fight back for their absent kids, against the institutions that allowed it, the thugs that took advantage of it, and the attitude that promoted it.  They've gone through all the grief steps of Kubler-Ross...except for one—acceptance.  The kids shouldn't have died, should have spoken out.  But shame, learned helplessness, and depression prevented it.  They never got out of the stage of self-blame, and their only solution was to eliminate the problem—themselves (in their mind)—and in so doing, end their pain.

A good night's sleep couldn't cure it.  Talking it out would have brought embarrassment and no solutions—they would have faced the same stone walls their older and wiser parents can't negotiate after their deaths.  They just took it...until they could take no more.

Efforts like "The Bully Project," and "It Gets Better" and other support systems can change the attitude of the afflicted to a limited degree...but not the attitudes of the afflicting.  That would be nearly impossible; there is no listening to reason for something that can't be defended.

I related.  I was picked on in school (although nothing to what is displayed in Bully).  To cope, I developed a wicked sense of humor—sardonic, and barbed if it needed to be.  I gravitated towards others who stood apart from the "A-Team" and formed a posse of sorts.  There's safety in numbers.  I developed a passive-aggressive attitude, combined with a quick temper, mercurial, fast and over-the-top, partially because it was so repressed and pent-up, but also because it was efficient.  If I was in trouble, it would flash, and if that didn't work, I'd run.  I also developed a chip on my shoulder and an effective sparking glare that would scare people, even girlfriends.  I'm a result of that bullying and the frustration in handling it (or not).  I've mellowed over the years.  But it's still there, under the surface, buried in my thoughts.  Long after the names of the bullies have left my mind, I still remember the slights and how I dealt with them.  I've developed the attitude to just not interact and I still do.  Life is short.  Why waste it in frustration?  Why waste it at all?  I've put away lots of childish things, but the armor developed by the bullying still remains, dormant, but a part of me.

Dormant, maybe, but Bully dredged all this up.  I won't be seeing it again.

Bully is a Rental.

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