The Online Journal of Writer Kate Sykes
I’ve been thinking about bullying a lot lately. Maybe you have, too. It’s hard to ignore. It’s in the news almost every day: school shooters and would-be school shooters were tormented by bullies; gay teens are being bullied into jumping from bridges; teenage girls with eating disorders were bullied about their appearance.
Bullying pervades our media, but just how widespread is bullying in our society? I mean, there were bullies when I was in school. Are there more bullies out there now, or are we just getting better at identifying them?
This question sent me on a digging mission to find some facts. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that one-third of all U.S. students experience bullying, either as a target or as a perpetrator. And experts say that only a small percentage of children who are bullied, actually report it. The reason? Because they don’t believe adults will help them.
Whoah whoah whoah! Cue the needle coming off the record.
What?! Kids don’t believe an adult will help them? Let’s stop right here and consider this notion. Because if it’s true, we have a much bigger problem on our hands.
I’d like to think that most parents, coaches, teachers, etc. would respond the right way: by going to the source of the problem or even calling up the parent of the bully to tell them about their kid’s behavior, or, if that doesn’t work or isn’t feasible, intervening at the school or community level.
But apparently this must be a problem, because a bazillion nonprofits have sprung up to try to educate all of us adults about the problem of bullying.
The result of this, of course, is that bullying has now become a condition. A childhood epidemic even. A problem that needs to be corrected with psychological counseling and maybe medication.
But are kids really the ones we should be putting under the microscope? Are children really to blame for all this bullying? Or is this just another failure of the sociological imagination, in which we blame individuals for society’s problems?
The tells are often in the smallest of details, the tiniest omissions. Like this one:
The U.S. federal government is behind an anti-bullying campaign. I did some reading about it on it their .gov site, and I found a slight narrowing of the definition of bullying there:
First, from Wikipedia
Bullying: The use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception, by the bully or by others, of an imbalance of social or physical power.
Now, from StopBullying.gov
Bullying: Unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children [emphasis mine] that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.
Well, I suppose it would be embarrassing if someone pointed out that the U.S. is itself a big fat bully. In the words of Noam Chomsky, “Aggression has a meaning, but that meaning doesn’t apply to us.”
We call ourselves a democracy but in fact we are an imperialist nation. Most textbooks will tell you that isn’t true, that American imperialism lasted from the late 1800s through the period after World War II, when it, you know, just, kind of like, ended on its own… Mmm. No.
The driving force behind our country’s imperialist agenda is the doctrine of American exceptionalism, the theory, which has pervaded our schools, politics, culture and media from the time of the Revolutionary War to the present day: that USA™ Freedom is way better than your cheap knock-off made-in-China variety and should really be gifted upon others, using bombs, because, poor them, they can’t go out and buy real USA™ Freedom for themselves.
Of course we’re smart enough be subtle about things now. We just send lawyers, guns and money and hope for the best. You want an example? Let’s just cut to the chase, shall we?
Over the last 50 years or so, the U.S. has sent hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel to try to tip the scales of Middle East power in its favor.
News Flash: US support for Israel has nothing to do with establishing a Jewish homeland or the holocaust or the Olympics or the Tooth Fairy. Governments aren’t sentimental, in case you haven’t noticed. Governments do things to benefit their continued existence. Period. Moving on now…
Since then, Israel has been responsible for creating an estimated 5 million Palestinian refugees. This number includes all of the people who resided in Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, and who lost their homes and their means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as their descendents, which, by the way, is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency definition of a Palestinian refugee.
I’d call that support of bullying. Would you? What kind of message do we send our kids when we turn away from bullying on a grand scale?
So the next time you read about bullying in your Facebook feed, the next time your kid’s teacher sends home some educational material about how to recognize and stop bullying behavior on the playground, ask yourself what sort of society blames their children for the crimes of their government? And then, instead of turning and looking the other way, try doing something about it.
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