When I was in the ninth grade in the 1960s, a gang of four girls I didnít know cornered me in a stairwell after a late band practice with an iron ball and chain and threatened to beat me up. Why? I donít know, except perhaps it was because I was successful in academics, sports, band and had recently been presented an award at a school assembly. Or, maybe I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Fortunately, I had a good sense of self-esteem and was able to talk them down, and while they were discussing whether they should go ahead with the attack, I ran down three flights of stairs to the nearest exit. I breathed a huge sigh of relief once I got outside onto a busy street. The next day I reported the event to the assistant principal, but I was scared every time I found myself alone in a hallway after school.
Today, bullying among children has increased to such a critical level that parents, educators, counselors, state legislators and many others, including the president of the United States, have sounded the alarm that enough is enough. The White House estimates a third of the nationís schoolchildren, about 13 million, have been subjected to bullying and at least 10 percent are bullied on a regular basis. Besides physical bullying, there is also verbal and emotional bullying. And, with the rise of the Internet, many children are bullied and humiliated online through email, chat rooms, Facebook and other social media. The number of children who have committed suicide due to constant bullying is frightening.
Whatís really behind todayís bullying epidemic?
The website, www.bullyingstatistics.org, defines bullying as “a form of intimidation or domination toward someone who is perceived as being weaker; a way of getting what one wants through some sort of coercion or force; and a way for someone to establish some sort of perceived superiority over another person.”
Reading these definitions, I couldnít help but think of how todayís political climate seems to have taken on such a hostile tone, especially leading up to and during election years. Incumbents and candidates alike seem to bully each other for these same reasons. The American public used to perceive congressmen and women as models of civility, but now these former role models seem to have earned our justifiable disdain. Their motives for bullying are as transparent as they are disgusting to me. Civility used to be a cultural value, but now it is sorely lacking in so much adult interaction today. Bullying is glorified in many action, comedy and reality TV shows as well as video games. No wonder so many children consider bullying as normal behavior.