I Was A Grade School Bully

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Ohg Rea Tone is all or nothing. He is educated and opinionated, more clever than smart, sarcastic and forthright. He writes intuitively - often disregarding rules of composition. Comment on his posts - he will likely respond with characteristic humor or genuine empathy. He is the real-deal.

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I Was A Grade School Bully

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My grandson is beginning the sixth grade.  The past few years he has been practically overwhelmed by three school bullies.  Jubila is intellectually gifted – from the perspective of a proud grandfather.  He has exceptional language skills – that is to say that he has a strong vocabulary.  His natural interest is probably centered around subjects related to engineering.  When school began this year his parents and I talked about the problem of bullies at school.  I naturally reflected on my own childhood experience – and realized that I was a grade school bully.

The problem with bullies is tremendous.  Bullies disrupt the entire class of students.  Even the observation by a child of someone else being bullied sends a message.   Bullies affirm two erroneous short term life lessons – power works, and powerful people are to be feared.  In the short term the bully gets to be the big shot.  His friends admire him as a person of power – a person willing to go to any lengths to achieve superiority.  The “victim” is seen as weak.  And remember this, S**t runs downhill.”

All people, not just children, can smell blood – in the sense of the pack of wild wolves attacking prey.  If a wild wolf is injured, and bleeds, his fate is doomed – the other wolves smell the blood and finish the dastardly job of annihilation.  Many humans exhibit that primal behavior.  I almost wrote “primal instinct” but changed my thought because I do not believe humans have a natural instinct for killing or hurting other humans.  The headline news might not support my contention – terrorism seems to dominate the news of the day.  But the terrorists are nothing less than bullies – seeking power and control over others.  Civilized humanity recognizes the difference between being a bully and being civil.

But to my own story of childhood bullies.  My family was lower middle class – or perhaps upper lower class (In economic terms).  I remember degrading comments by other students about my clothes, and about my crude behaviors.  I admit today that I was crude – we had few lessons in polite manners in my home.  This is not to blame my parents – my father worked two jobs, my mother took care of seven children, and we lived in a four room house.  The physical limitations of our home often dictated disorderly behavior.  Meals were eat and run.  There was no quiet place to sit and do homework.  We were a crude bunch.

Now remember the quote from above: “S**t runs downhill.”  I did have friends who were like minded.  There was a red headed, freckle-faced girl named Patty.  Patty also did not have fancy clothes.  She was shy and kept to herself.  One day while studying schoolyard biology on the playground during recess we learned about nasty parasites called ‘cooties.’  Cooties were tiny, contagious, and generally destroyed the self-esteem of anyone caught with them.  Carriers of cooties were generally people who were seen as weak, vulnerable, without many friends, and available.  I remember that several of us decided that Patty had cooties – and it was our duty to tell her.  And we did.  My friends and I had witnessed first hand the power of being a bully.  We knew we could be winners if only we had someone to bully.  Being a bully is an individual, team, and spectator sport.  There are no referees.  We did not think consciously of ourselves as bullies – but most bullies don’t.

Many years ago, as an adult, I was in a Walmart store, standing in the checkout line, when I noticed the checkout clerk was none other than Patty.  Her red hair was as frizzy as ever and age had not diminished her freckles.  She was about fifty years old and had not learned much about how to dress – or perhaps she continued her life in poverty and had limited choices in clothing stores.  She was not wearing a wedding ring.  I remember the feeling of guilt I felt when I saw her again after forty years.  When Patty began checking my few items I spoke to her, I tried to be friendly.  I said, “Aren’t you Patty Lastname?”  Sheepishly she looked up and made eye contact for the first time.  She said simply, “Yes.”  I reintroduced myself, “Patty it is good to see you.  I am Ohg Tone, we went to grade school together.”  Patty just looked away, extended her hand to accept my money, and gave me the receipt.  She said no more to me.  I resolved that I would go back to that store.  I would look for Patty’s line and would always have kind words for her.  I returned to the store many times but never saw her again.

It has been well over fifty years since I teased Patty about having cooties.  My guilt haunts me.  But I cannot imagine how my behavior must haunt Patty.  Most children probably never completely recover from being the victim of childhood bullies.  I suspect Patty did not recover at all.  She has lived a life of sad and miserable loneliness.  While I am not the single cause of her despair, I know today that I contributed to her life of sorrow.

People who work with children have a tough job.  Professionals such as teachers and volunteers such as Boy Scout leaders all observe the tragedy of the bully.  We know today that when a child is bullied there are no winners.  We know today that bullies act out of some perverted need to be in control.  Their chaotic life often includes a single parent, poverty, abuse, and heaps of shame.

My daughter and I continue our discussion on her son and school bullies.  We recognize the trauma the bully must suffer while away from school.  But our priority is our boy.  When forced to choose between protecting the bully or protecting our boy – well, you know how that goes.

My thought today is that we should not have to make a choice.  The act of being a bully should send rockets of warnings to both the professionals and the volunteers who work with children.  The priority is simple – first protect the victim.  But when a bully is recognized we should have methods in place of helping that child feel some control in their life.

None of us is well served by having a child grow up in our society who believes that power is the answer to daily life problems.  One bully in a class can teach many children that power works.  The reality is that the exercise of power over others serves no one.  Check out the headline news and see the results of the exercise of power.

There Are 10 Responses So Far. »

  1. Even through your article, it is still all about you and yours. You assume that Patty was affected by you, and that’s why she is no longer there.

    You are still a bully, but it is up to those being bullied to take back their lives. I was never a bully, but people tried to bully me. Tried, being the operative word.

    You are never a victim without your own consent.

  2. Scratch that last statement, you can be a victim without your own consent, because you can be – being a perpetual victim, however, is not without your own consent.

  3. aerows –

    I think I understand your point about being a perpetual victim. But please tell us what a small boy can do in the face of three bigger boys.

    I don’t believe Patty left the store because of me and did not mean to imply such. I only meant that I regret not being able to make better amends for my behavior.

  4. You can give that small boy the tools he needs to build his self-esteem. Have you ever thought of enrolling him in martial arts training? It did wonders for me, and both my nieces are in Tae Kwon Do. They are asian, adopted by my sister, and it gave them both self confidence.

    Martial arts training isn’t about fighting – it is about self-defense. A small, perpetually picked upon person would benefit from learning such skills.

  5. Best wishes to you in any case. I stand by my recommendation for self-defense/martial arts training. It can bring out beautiful things in the soul, because it is not just physical training under the right teacher. It can be spiritual, mental and emotional self-defense under the same banner.

    Choose a good one, though. Bad ones are easy to detect, they allow a lack of discipline to prevail. Good ones incorporate advancement based upon grades for school children. It helps them on two fronts.

  6. Re: The Grade school bully.

    I was never a bully and managed to fly under the wire as a child when it came to being the victim of bullies, though I did witness many victims of bullies in my youth.

    Bullying is not just a childhood issue. We live in a world where bullying is he norm, every aspect of our lives reflects how we try to demean, control and oppress those around us. We use physical aggression, and psychological tactics to gain advantage over those we feel threatened by; or that we believe are in some way inferior to us.

    We are surrounded by bullies from the cradle to the grave. Bullying is glorified as “entertainment”, called a “stratergy” when we refer to government bullying, in our work environment it’s referred to as “office politics”, the freeways and highways we drive on are full of “agressive” drivers, some of us even have to deal with the neighborhood bullies. The list goes on and on, and no one is above being the victim of a bully, even our President is the victim of conservative bullies.

    So it’s not a problem of youth, it’s a problem in our society. Children not aware of political correctness to the degree adults are. They quickly see the hypocracy and the advantage of this type of behavior and learn to exploit the weakness of others at an early age; while as adults we have a way of making the obvious (such as bullying) appear as if it were something else, to avoid the shame we should feel.

    Playground bullying is the proving ground of adult agression. Once we acknowlege that bullying at any age is simple human agression out of control, and lack of empathy, perhaps we will stop making excuses and teach by example the art of love, compassion, forgiveness, empathy…then childhood bullying will be a thing of the past.

  7. CJV – thank you so much for your insight. “Playground bullying is the proving ground of adult aggression.”

    That is my point – what are we teaching our children about power and control?

  8. I think the attitude I am observing is “survival of the fittest”, which is a misnomer. In the human realm survival of the fittest actual depends on working together to ensure that justice, love, empathy and understanding is extended to all. The world is suffering a severe disconnect between actions and the consequences of those actions.

    Unfortunately, some of the most recent scientific information indicates that as much as one in a hundred may have sociopathic tendencies. We can not expect or even hope these people will pass on to their offspring, socially responsible behavior. As they are, all about themselves and how they can benefit, regardless of how their actions affect others. There is a snowball effect one socially irresponsible gives birth to two or three and those individuals do the same.

    Unless this problem is called out and addressed for what it is, it will only get worse. We are teaching the children that winning at all cost is exceptable, it’s okay to lie, use violence, slander, threats of violence, manipulation. It is important to bullies that we be politically correct and call their actions “stratergy” now days, not ethically repugnant or shameful, we teach children that it’s okay to blame the victim.

    I don’t understand reality televison shows, for this reason. They are all about deceit, dishonesty, manipulation, conflict, sabbatoge, hypocracy, lies, disrespecting and humiliating your opponants…is this “art immitating life or life immitating art”? Why do we as a society celebrate this behavior.

  9. CVJ – you are definitely adding value to this discussion. This is probably the bet we can do – keep the topic open and consider carefully the long term consequences of our present actions.

    Thanks

    Ohg

  10. The best we can do is not to tolerate this behavior, to stand up together for, and demand justice for the victim.

    You have to remember the true bully (adult) has no shame, you can’t hurt them; you can anger them, but not hurt them. There’s something missing in them, both in the neurological or physical sense, and in the ethical and moral sense. They are missing a quality that makes them capable of loving anyone except themselves, or feeling empathy for anyone else.

    Children with bully tendencies are not necessarily a lost cause, they’re brains are changing and growing all the time (plastic). If they are given a nurturing environment and taught the consequences of their behavior, or helped to see how they cause pain by their antisocial behavior they can learn compassion, empathy, love.

    There is a lot of psychological and scientific studies being done on this subject. If your wondering what makes a bully it would be well worth it to check out the neighborhood bookstore.

    Relevent subject matter to the day we are living.

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