With the recent suicides of gay teens due to bullying from their peers, our social consciousness is once again focused on the practice of bullying. As someone who survived a lot of bullying in my elementary and secondary education, it's a subject that is close to my heart. It's nice to see that we're paying attention to a practice that can really scar a child or a teen for life or drive him or her to do something far more devastating.
Yet, I can't help but feel that we've done this dance before. Remember how we swore "never again" after Columbine? The two teenage killers were victims of...you guessed it...bullying. Well, "never again" lasted all of about a year before things went back to "normal." How long do you think it will take us to forget about the lessons we're relearning about bullying now?
Sure, we can feel good about coming together and coming out against bullying. What happens when that good feeling you get by "standing up to the bullies" goes away? More often than not, the desire to act goes away as soon as our memories fade. How many more victims are caused by our short term compassion?
And the saddest part of it all? We still aren't dealing with the bullies themselves. Usually, there's a reason a kid or a teen takes up bullying as a misguided hobby, and more often than not it stems from the bully's family life. Abuse, apathy, twisted adult role models, or just general insecurity can all create a bully. In a way, the silent victims of bullying are the bullies themselves. Instead of trying to help them, though, we demonize them and chalk up their behavior to "being a bad kid."
As tragic as the recent suicides are, the fact we need them to remind us of the horrors of bullying is even more tragic. Until we get serious about bullying, count on there being more lives shattered because we fail to understand the problem.