“Bullying builds character like nuclear waste creates superheroes. It's a rare occurrence and often does much more damage than endowment.” ― Zack W. Van
Hello again and once more I regret for neglecting my blog for so long, but I’ve been busy, which is good. I’m still writing, trying to wrap up “Losers” before beginning the long arduous task of editing, proof reading and finding the best route to get everything published. But I hope everyone reading this, or not reading this is doing well. But I would like to take this moment to talk about a rather big issue plaguing todays’ youth, bullies and those pesky internet trolls, who once upon a time, all their kind lived underneath bridges and now their plaguing us with their anonymity and cruelty.
It wasn’t until I began this blog that I started opening up about being bullied back in school, where I mastered the art of trying to be invisible and to ghost my way through the halls doing my best to go unnoticed. However try as I might, I always did everything I could to just be ignored and to just ignore those who relished taking pleasure from my pain. Most of the time I managed to just ignore it and disappear into a book, or by surrounding myself with good quality friends, who would always help me forget, or jump to my defense. But more than once I came across a bully whose approach was more hands on. Who didn’t just call me names, or made fun of my speech, or how I looked and sometimes played that ridiculous rhyming game, where they would almost always make fun of me for my last name.
Sometimes I even come across the occasional internet troll, who are always trying to crush the spirit of others, as if it would make their mirrors cast a better reflection of the one they gave, as if it was the only way to save themselves is to make the ugly so that no one would notice them hiding it. Personally I believe trolls were simply school bullies, who one day looked around and saw how much the world had changed, while they stayed the same. Who then turned their hate into stones and hurled them at beauty, as if they can’t bear to see anything other than ugly, anything Different. So they enjoy the anonymity of the internet where no one else knows who they are and the believing that being a troll somehow makes them better than who they’re trolling. Failing to see that it isn't cute, it isn't funny, talking others into death, while they sit back and laugh, as each family learns to graft skin over the wounds they gave them, coaxing the sober back into bars, offering nooses, cliffs, and pills to those who unfortunately found them before they found help. These internet trolls, have praised suffering in others, waltzed in between tragedies, dipping misery as if we would somehow be impressed with the dexterity of their animosity. But once upon a time, they and all their kind lived underneath bridges, but now they live online, in basements and attics, trying project their ugliness unto the world.
But let’s talk about bullying, I know some say they deserve our pity, our empathy, because they don’t love anything like the way some of us loves math, science, history, or literature. Some say that bullies are born from neglect and abuse themselves, so they take our their pain and frustrations on someone else, creating a never ending circle of prejudice and hate. But I don’t think this is always the case. Sometimes, yes this may ring true, but I think more often than not, and some people are just assholes. There’s no reason, no excuse and to pick on someone else, to make them feel like less of a person.
We see it all the time and everyone always acts surprised when we see or hear about a kid committed suicide because they just couldn’t take it anymore, or decide they have enough and go to school packing heat in the waistband of their jeans, turning their school into a shooting range. The media always seems so quick to blame music, the violence on t.v, religion or videogames, very few ever take that look and ask,
“Did I cause this?” Because a person can only take so much and everyone always wants to compare bullying to when they were a kid, or down play the harassment and ridicule, by saying they never meant anything by their words, or actions, saying they were just playing, or messing with someone. Always quick to laugh it off and say how they treated someone was just a joke, harmless teasing, etc. In reality, that kid they picked on, the person they teased, and harassed in the cafeteria, school halls and locker-rooms soon become a ball of TNT lit from both ends.
You see, I wasn’t the class clown, I was never really much a rebel, and I wasn’t a skater boy, a musician or a band geek. I was just me, I was the weird, awkward Stephen King kid who loved to read, write, watch tv and play videogames. I never had very many friends, but the ones I had were quality over quantity and I love each of them as family because in my mind they are and have been family to me. But I never really told any of them about my problems with being bullied, because I was terrified it would cause them to think less of me.
The first real bully I ever faced down, was a guy name Goliath (Not his real name, but I feel the need to protect his identity.) Anyway, Goliath was one of those kids who failed his freshman year at least two or three times, which mad him older than any of us and Goliath was also much, much bigger than I, he stood at 6’4 and weighed somewhere around 280 lbs. and unfortunately he was the first real bully I ever faced. (Although I did have the occasional bully who stuck to mainly name calling, whom I either ignored, or managed to use my wits to humiliate them with a truly perfect comeback) But then there was Goliath, who harass me, almost daily. He sought me out no matter where I stood or or hid, and it wasn’t just names he hurled at me, it was spitballs, paper wads, etc. And he was always followed around by a pack of hyenas who egged him and would take their shots at me whenever they could. The hyenas were my peers, always cackling, always laughing no matter what they, or Goliath did.
Now I tried all the tricks they tell you to do when face to face with a bully. I tried befriending him, finding some common ground which never really worked, and then I tried ignoring him, which also failed miserably for he would seek me out and get hands on. Twisting my arm, or hand painfully back, shoving me, putting me in a headlock, etc. Also to me, and to all victims of bullying, we learn very quickly how little going to a parent or a teacher actually works. It often at times makes things worse, and earns you the nickname Narc, crybaby, or tattle-tale.
But as Goliath’s harassment grew more and more frequent and physical, I finally decided I had enough. Now I was much shorter back then, around 5’4 at most and weighed about a hundred pounds soaking wet, so advantage was clearly Goliath. But I didn’t care; I deiced to fight back, but with fist, not a gun or a knife. It was his respect I wanted, not his life. So I waited for him to find me in the school yard. Which he did with remarkable ease and I braced myself for whatever was to come as he lumbered towards me, with his pack of snickering hyenas following close on his heels, but I stood with my head held high.
Goliath knew something was different about me almost immediately and asked if I was afraid of him.
“No,” I whispered; as he proceeded to mock me and tell me how he was going hang me up from a nearby tree by my feet. But I didn’t move, I just kept my jaw clenched until he went to grab me. Which was when I punched him as hard as I could into his abdomen (Foolishly believing a shot in the gut would drop almost anyone, but it didn’t, it felt like punching a monster truck tire) But gave him pause and he grunted as he looked at me and I dropped back into a fighting stance.
“C’mon you damn ogre, you might just kill me, but I won’t make it easy and make it cost you!” I shouted, barely noticing his hyenas hoot and practically salivate at the prospect of watching me get my butt kicked, but I didn’t care, I would fight him and I wouldn’t fight fair, I’d do whatever I could to hurt him as much as possible. But he didn’t do anything, he just stood there, rubbing his stomach and started shaking his head at me, then he said something I’d never forget.
“You have some major balls on you and I can respect that. We’re cool, I’m not going to fight you and if anyone ever gives you trouble, you come and get me and I’ll take care of them for you.”
Goliath and I never really talked much after that, we would pass each other in the hall with a nod to each other. Once we even shared a class together where he would occasionally ask me for help with some of our assignments. He never asked me to do his homework, or asked to copy mine, or any of that nonsense, he just turned out to be the type who was too embarrassed to ask the teacher for help and would ask me to clear up his questions instead. But not all giants I leared are so easily defeated.
But I learned my lesson with Goliath, if I was to stand up for myself, I would have to study and I would have to work on myself. So I started working out in secret. Push-ups, sit ups, pull-ups, lifting free weights, running. I would also read and watch everything I could get my hands on about fighting, self-defense all things I would practice alone in my room, or out in the woods around my home. My training would then come play the following year when I ran into yet another bully who’s approach came hands on.
His name was Smaug and we had gym together. Now Smaug wasn’t much higher on the social ladder than me, but he desperately wanted the approval of the “Cool kids” so he began giving me a hard time in attempt to humiliate me on a daily bases, most of his attempts often failed, but I think he believed if he made me feel inferior, he would somehow manage to elevate his own status. I managed to ignore most of Smaug’s taunts, while occasionally shutting him up with a well-placed comeback of my own.
Then one morning, I arrived to P.E a bit early and Smaugh saw me and immediately broke away from the circle of “Cool kids” and approached me, I immediately knew that no good was going to come of this and I was already having an awful day, so I raised my hand in surrender and said,
“Please don’t start with me, I’ve been having a bad enough day as it is.”
Then he smiled, glanced over his shoulder at our peers whom he desperately wanted the approval of and when he turned back to me, he shoved me, and then he grabbed my backpack and tore it from my shoulder and threw it to the floor.
I blinked, and said, “I’m warning you man, I’m not going to take this from you today.” He laughed, asked me what I was going to do, and then he slapped me. Earning a guffaw from our classmates who had begun gathering around us for the show and then he made his mistake by laughing and turning his head to see the attention he was getting, which was when I did a straight punch to his solar plexus, dropping him to his knees like a sack of bricks. Our classmates all had a good laugh, some cheered me on, wanting me to press my advantage and a part of me really wanted to. A part of me wanted to just let loose and let out all of my pain and frustration on him, to beat him so badly he’d think twice before ever picking on someone else. But When I looked down at him, hugging his chest, with his head down, I knew I didn’t need to, I had already won. So I just picked up my things and stepped over him to go change. It was strange to me how quickly some of the crowd turned against me that day, calling me pussy for not beating the crap out of the kid. I just didn’t see the point.
Smaug didn’t come charging into the locker-room for a rematch, in fact he stayed out of the locker-room, and after I changed I saw him sitting at the top of the bleachers, still hugging his chest and just glaring at me. But at this point I felt confident I could handle myself if he came at me again, but just to be safe, I kept a watchful eye on him throughout the rest of the period while he sat in the bleachers. After class, he approached me I was leaving, and asked me why I hit him, so I told him, he was asking for it. Later to my surprise, he actually befriended me and we remained friends for the rest of the year.
I’ve had to deal with a bully in one form or another for almost as long as I can remember back when I was school, but one lesson that always stuck with me, was that no one has to. I went to School with a guy named Allen Shafer, we weren’t really friends, but he in my opinion was always a very standup guy and in High School, that thing is very hard to come by. I had only a few classes with the guy and he was always the coolest in my opinion. Because he was popular, and he was jock but he never acted like it, he always treated me like a person. Not a geek, a dork, a dweeb and not an outcast. We had cooking class together and him and I were in the same group and he always made me feel included, heck I was even taken aback on the few mornings he would get to class early and make me and our group breakfast. He even taught me how to cook and always asked how I liked my eggs, etc. Then he would ask me how I was doing, wanting to know if I had fun on the weekends, a few times he even invited me to some of his parties, which I never attended, but always liked that he asked, always promising a goodtime if I go. But as accepting as he was, I doubted his friends would share the same sentiment. Fact is Allen I feel even now, went out of his way to make me feel cool, and accepted.
Even when we had Advanced P.E together, he would defend me whenever one of our peers would lose their shit on me, because I missed a shot, or screwed up in some way. He was the first who would jump to my defense and call out the other person. Sometimes by pointing out that I was always giving my all, or that I managed to steal the ball more than a dozen times. Often telling my own team-mates to chill, because I would miss one shot, and they would go nuts, while they would sometimes miss four or five shots in a row. Which made me admire the guy and realize at least for me and I saw rather it was intentional or not, he was taking a stance on bullying that seldom few ever do. And I’ll never forget during a game of flag football and I was on his team. We were tired, with one just enough time for one more play and it was our ball. I was expecting for the rest of the game to go as it normally did, which was for me to never get passed the ball, which I was perfectly okay with, because I didn’t want to get blamed for being the reason my team lost. But low and behold, during the huddle, Allen turns to me and says,
|For the curious Allen Shafer today.|
“Alright Cooper, during this play I want you to run as far and fast as you can, but count to Ten one thousand, then get ready because I’m going to pass you the ball.”
Needless to say my team was less than enthused about his plan, but he told everyone to shut-up and to trust him and have faith in me. Then before we broke, he grabbed me by the shoulder and whispered,
“Don’t be nervous, remember count to ten, turn around and I’m going to pass you the ball. Don’t worry about anything else, you’ll do great, just score us a touchdown.”
Then it happened, my heart was hammering almost painfully against my ribs as I ran and turned to see the ball spiraling straight towards me, all the while hearing the mocking laugher and the ridicule of my peers and team-mates once I screwed up, or fumbled. But I didn’t. I caught the ball, tucked it into my chest, turned and ran harder than I’ve ever ran in my life, scoring the game winning touch-down!
I never had so many people cheering for me in my life, everyone was giving my high-fives, patting me on the back and for that day and the rest of the week I felt like a hero. All thanks to one guy who treated me and saw me as a human being. I’ll never forget that. He owed me nothing, but I owe him a lot, he made school a little more tolerable. It’s always a nice feeling whenever the cool kid in class or school makes you feel like you’re cool too.
So that’s how you stop bullying in my opinion. Don’t ignore it when you see it, don’t join in thinking its just harmless fun. Step up, stand up and remind the world there’s more of us then they are dragons, giants and trolls, together we make up a dynasty.