After watching the video of Karen Klein the bus monitor being bullied last week, after my rage subsided, I started to think of instances of bullying in the my life. I'll say up front that I was mostly on the receiving end, but there were a few occasions that I was either the bully or laughing at the bully's actions, which is nothing less than encouragement. I'm not proud of it, and when I ran into one of my victims a couple years ago at the bar, we had a long talk, I apologized profusely, and he invited me as a Facebook friend the day after.
He's a better man than me, as I don't think I could ever forgive my tormentors. I'm not built that way. While I have a long list of what I endured (I'm also aware some that read this will have had it worse), I'll stick to the most prominent.
In seventh grade, during finals, we had wedgie day. That particular event entailed 8th graders chasing 7th graders around the school and through the streets of the town, giving anyone they caught a wedgie. For those not privy, a wedgie is when someone yanks the band of your underwear/boxers as hard and high as they can. It can be painful. Not only did the group of four guys who had consistently picked on me and gave me welts with punches and kicks throughout the school year catch me, they caught me twice.
The first time was across the street from the middle school, where I was given a Super Man Wedgie (dangled parallel to the ground) in front of a porch full of girls, after the principal kicked us off school property. The second time was after lunch. Returning from main street for our last final, this group of kids singled me out in a group of ten people. We took off running. I was the lone person chased and caught. I was smashed in the back of the head with a school lock. Bleeding from the lump already growing, they filled my underwear with pine cones, wedgied me (Nature Wedgie) off the ground, and dropped me in the street. A passing teacher slowed down, honked his horn, and told me to get out of the road.
Our wedgie day was the last to be seen at Knox Middle School, as far as I know. So many parents called the school that the year after, a year too late in my opinion, the cops patrolled the streets throughout finals and students were given warnings that anyone caught giving a wedgie would be suspended. I should note that not a single person dealing wedgies the year before was punished.
In high school, I had a locker across from a group of guys that didn't like me. Part of the reason I don't like being called a, "Baby-face," even as a compliment or comment of how young I appear, is because they used to call me that along with a slew of other names. As my bullies verbally taunted me, showing off for the girls they hung around with, they threw wads of paper, erasers, and paper clips. Sometimes, they spit or dumped water, juice, soda on me. Sometimes, they hit me with a fist or a foot. They also enjoyed waiting for me to bend down so they could shove me face first into my locker. It got to the point that I carried all my books all day long in a backpack, rather than going to my locker.
Needless to say, I did not enjoy my first two years of high school--I spent majority of those years bruised. I had a lot of dark fantasies in that time, drew a lot of violent pictures I still own and shake my head when looking at. I lashed out in a lot of different ways too: fist fights in school, out of school, and a couple of times while playing intramural soccer, mouthing off to teachers/coaches, yelling at my parents. Eventually, I was able to funnel my anger into drawing and writing rather than bringing a knife or gun to school and putting my tormentors six feet deep. Once that group of guys graduated/dropped out, life was a lot better.
Most importantly, I developed empathy. Knowing what it's like to be bullied, I became less and less likely to participate or condone such actions. Ridicule and bullying is nothing new to society, but its public display (I still can't believe those kids mocking Karen Klein could do that to an elder, let alone throw it up on Youtube) certainly is. No one at any age should have to endure that.
I think the most important thing to do at times like these when an issue is brought to our attention is to open a discourse. Those that are bullied need to know they're not alone, they can talk about it with others instead of harboring the pain, and the bullies need to be aware of their actions--they need empathy. As do we all.