When I read the story about Kyle my immediate reaction was to cry. Not only because he died needlessly. Not only because he was so tormented by bullies that at 12 years of age he took what might have been a simple household item, put it around his neck and hung himself. I cried because I felt his pain.
From a very young age I was bullied. At home, in school and later in the work place. As a child I had no power to stop it. As a young adult I didn’t know how. It took many, many years before I found out how to stand up for myself. Sadly, Kyle and far too many like him will never get the opportunity to fight back.
It’s hard for me not to write this out of pure anger – anger at the bullies but also at those who overlooked (or ignored) what was happening. I have to wonder how many more young people are going to end their lives over bullying before the rest of us start paying much closer attention to the signs. I won’t sugarcoat it, kids can be cruel. And often times they don’t realize the absolute devastation they can cause with a word or an action.
As someone who spent her entire childhood trying to figure out why she mysteriously sucked so bad that kids (and a few adults) bullied her and everyone else ignored it, I can tell you that these kids who are being bullied need empathy. They also need protection not only from the bullies but from the adults who sit back and do nothing.
This world will never be an easy place to live in. It will never really be safe either. It will always have a spattering of assholes and bullshitters. There will be suffering and neglect and ignorance. And I guess I will never understand most of it. But what I do understand is why a child who is bullied mercilessly ends their life. I can empathize. I know first hand the pain and the loneliness of being bullied. (I still tend to attract people who like to bully but I don’t allow it anymore.)
I find it perplexing that we are all different, we are individuals, and yet all too often we are singled out and treated horribly because we are exactly what we are meant to be…different. Or sadly we do the singling out. We are all guilty of it at one point or another.
If I see someone who is overweight, well, so what? Their weight tells me nothing about them as a person. Unless I choose to be a judgemental asshole and assume, based on looks alone, that they are lazy or eat too much or some such crap. And if I want to be a real flaming asshole I will take a picture of that person (whom I don’t know but am judging based on how they look) and put it online for everyone else to make fun of too. Yeah, that really makes the world a better place.
Personally I don’t give a damn if someone is black, white, brown, whatever… it’s not for me to decide if people are good or bad based on a physical characteristic like color. Judging actions is one thing, judging color is another. And sexual preference – holy hell – who gives a flying shit anyway? It is not for us to decide that a particular sexual preference is good or bad. And don’t even get me started on religion. It’s about actions people, actions.
Apparently my soapbox was a little bigger than I realized. Regardless, I believe we have to find a better way to help young people see that being different is how we are meant to be. Being different is something to embrace not ridicule. Whether we are a parent or not is irrelevant – it’s certainly not going to hurt to try and lead by example in how we treat others. If our actions make one kid stop and rethink the way they treat people then we’ve accomplished something.
And lastly, I hope that young people like Kyle are at peace and the ripples their lives set in motion will forever lap the shores of this life reminding us that being different is a BEAUTIFUL thing.