Bully in the House! Is It You?

Last week I was having a discussion, OK sort of an argument, with someone I really didn’t know. I called him “crazy.” Or maybe I called what he was saying “crazy.” Either way, it wasn’t the best way to handle a disagreement, and I’m not proud of it, even if I was in my mind thinking that what he was saying to me was not quite based in factual reality.  I’m glad there weren’t any kids around to witness my extremely poor role modeling.

In retrospect, as I thought of better ways to handle my disagreement (isn’t that always the case), I thought about how much we’ve become an “us or them” society. That’s OK in football, but it can be sort of shocking to observe in other arenas. When the crowd cheered Rick Perry’s death penalty comment at the Republican debate and again cheered Ron Paul when he said that he would let people die if they didn’t have health insurance, I was shocked. I was surprised again that the crowd at the Florida debate would boo an American soldier because he happens to be gay.

It’s no wonder that with that kind of role modeling we have problems with kids bullying other kids. People who are different from us have become “things,” no longer worthy of life. My heart breaks for the family of Jamey Rodemeyer, the 14-year-old boy who killed himself because he was being bullied for being gay. Are we animals? No human being should have to endure that kind of pain, especially not a child.

It starts with parents. Children and adolescents are biologically wired to be impulsive and often thoughtless. Adults like me who engage in name-calling or simplistic generalizations about others are more guilty. When we laugh at people who are different, or dehumanize others in front of our children, then we are teaching them to be reactionary rather than thoughtful. When we hear that kind of base behavior from adults on the radio or television, we should be ready to jump in and talk about how inappropriate and immature it is.

So, parents. If you’re reading this, maybe you can take a pledge with me to be more aware of the messages you’re sending your children, even in subtle ways. Don’t raise a bully.

Categories: Editor’s Blog