Thought for the Week
“Though the boys throw stones at the frogs in sport, the frogs do not die in sport, they die in earnest.” ~Bion of Borysthenes (325 – 250 B.C.)
Suicides among children have tripled since the start of the 2000s, and bullying is a key factor in this upsurge. Five years ago in my city, Gabriel Taye, the eight-year-old boy in the pictures above, hung himself. Today’s Cincinnati Enquirer recounts (edited):
Gabriel was bullied repeatedly before he took his own life. He would come home (from school) with injuries that school officials either did not explain or lied about in the months leading up to his death. (His) parents said their son would come home with bruises or teeth missing. One of those incidents, which took place in the boys’ restroom days before Gabriel died, was captured on school video. In the video, another student pushes Gabriel into a wall, knocking Gabriel unconscious. Gabriel lays on the floor without moving for seven minutes while other students step over him and kick him. A former assistant principal found Gabriel unconscious in the restroom (and took no significant action). Two days later, Gabriel was bullied in the restroom again, and two students stole his favorite Batman water bottle. He killed himself that day in his bedroom.
The illusion of the bully is that by knocking others down they have somehow elevated themselves. But, as Booker T. Washington observed, “You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.” (Not all bullies are men, by the way. Two of the biggest bullies I’ve ever encountered were women.)
Bullying can be practiced against groups, too, sometimes by a leader, a “bully-in-charge” who claims to be doing so on behalf of others. Vladimir Putin comes to mind, of course, but he’s far from alone in this. It’s a trick that keeps the bully and a handful of his cronies in power while lowering everyone else.
So what can we do? We can hike up our courage—again and again—confronting bullies whenever and wherever we find them: in our schools, in our offices, in our neighborhoods, at the polls, and, yes, in the mirror. It’s a fact that bullies were often bullied themselves, but, as St. Ambrose notes, “No one heals himself by wounding another.” Two of the most compassionate people I’ve ever known were reformed bullies. Because…
A re-formed soul is a far more powerful force for good than an un-formed one.
So let us learn to listen with ears of compassion, to look with eyes of protection, to speak with voices of healing…
And teach our children to do the same.
“If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
“If you see someone being bullied, make it stop. Why is that so hard for us to do?”
“We first crush people to the earth, and then claim the right of trampling on them forever, because they are prostrate.”
~Lydia Maria Child
“If bullies actually believe that somebody loves them and believes in them…they will become better people, and many will even become saviors to the bullied.”
“Now that you know, you cannot feign ignorance. Now that you’re aware of the problem, you cannot pretend you don’t care. To be concerned is to be human. To act is to care.”
“Free the oppressed, and break every yoke.”