Recently, a twelve year-old girl in Florida jumped to her death. Shortly after this, two girls (ages 12 and 14) were charged with felony-stalking\cyber-stalking the suicide victim. It is still up to a court to decide how much the bullying contributed to the girl’s decision to take her own life, but two girls were arrested and the parents of the girls have been charged with failing to monitor the girl’s online activity.
The finger of blame is pointing all over the place and the truth is – we don’t have laws for this sort of thing. Not yet, but we should.
This takes me back to when I was a freshman in high school, 14-years old. I was awkward and weird. I was 6’, 3” and weighed 112 lbs. On top of that, I have big ears that stick out, like windsocks on the sides of my head. If I turned my head wrong in a stiff wind, it would bowl me over. In short – I had zero self-esteem and was a target for bullies.
My bully took the form of a freshman football player with the inexplicable name of “Buddy.” Buddy would call me “Gay-Boy” or “Monkey-Man,” it alternated as to what particular aspect of himself he was attempting to repress. He made me feel horrible, but I gave him that power. He would hit me in the back of the head or take my books, pen or whatever. He never physically hurt me, but he did make me dread every encounter I had daily in school.
When I was 23 years-old and high school was a distant memory, I was still struggling and lived in a crappy apartment complex on Brentwood Stair in Fort Worth, Texas, taking classes at a community college at night. One night, I went into the office to pay my rent which was late, and who was sitting there but Buddy. I don’t know if he was a contractor working on the apartments, or if he lived there. I noticed his dirty jeans and workman’s boots, so it could go either way.
Now, for any person who has been bullied, this is something they long for. I wanted to be more accomplished than I was at the time, but so be it – fate dealt this opportunity now and I seized it. I clearly remember making a judgment call and deciding enough time had passed.
“Hi Buddy. Do you live in these apartments, too?” I said, acknowledging him.
He looked at me, stared for a moment to let it sink in and snorted, turning away.
Really. Mid-twenties now, and still a twat. Still playing the bully game, albeit less obviously.
In that moment, I saw him for what he was – screwed-up in a different way than me but nothing better than me. Just another broken toy. So broken, he must put others down to feel elevated himself.
This moment that so many bullied kids dream about – I had. Closure occurred, then and there. Buddy was just a dick. No longer a threat or a horror, though he had been for the years up to that point. He was just broken.
The remarkable thing is, I felt sorry for him. Something happened to Buddy that made him so damaged. I don’t know what it was, but as a writer, my imagination is virile and I have loads of ideas… ones I am exploring in my writes as Buddy faces the drunken uncle baby-sitter with the candy in his pockets, or the overbearing mother who makes him wear dresses at home or maybe just his broken home in general. Abusive father? Mother? Grandmother? Priest?
The directions are endless. What doesn’t kill you makes great fodder for your writing, and Buddy is evident in so many of the messed-up characters I leverage.
As for that 12 year-old girl who saw no other answer to a horrible situation except to leap to her death – someone is responsible. I don’t know if the means to prosecute exist or ever will – but parents MUST care more. Accountability has to be squarely placed and applied.
Look, young adults are troubled. The pressures and adversity they face is very real. As parents, we have to pull our heads up and see what is going on. We’ve got to help our children navigate these treacherous waters.
If we fail, more troubled kids will die needlessly.
It could be your kid. It really could.
I encourage parents to watch this movie with their kids – BULLY. It is on Netflix or can be rented. It will help remove the blinders so you can see what is occurring every day in schools across America. Ignorance to what our children are doing is not a disclaimer. As a parent – you can be called out and possibly convicted, so if you don’t do it to help the kids, at least do it to help cover your own sorry ass.
In this way, we all work together to fix a significant problem.