Just stop bullying

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By John Pawlak

Fifth grade is a tender age for children.  New friends to make.  New songs to learn.  New dreams to fill future hopes.  It really is a cute age.
This world is often short on cute, but little girls in fifth grade manage to keep us in ample supply.  
Jasmine McClain of Chadbourn, N.C., always liked to do her hair up in pigtails.  She loved to dance.  She loved flowers and pink dresses.  Ashlynn Connor of Ridgefarm, Ill., loved animals and wanted to be veterinarian.  She was known to pick up stray cats and care for them.
And at the ages of 10, Jasmine and Ashlynn each committed suicide.
 Ryan Patrick Halligan of Essex Junction, Vt., was 13 years old.  He suffered from a learning disorder and always had to work harder to keep up with his classmates.  His sister found him dead, having hanged himself in his bedroom.
The list of child suicides is long and tearful.  Megan Taylor Meier of Dardenne Prairie, Mo., three weeks before her 14th birthday.  Jared Benjamin High of Pasco, Wash., 14 years old.  Rachel Ehmke of Mantorville, Minn., 13 years old.
Billy Lucas of Greensburg, Ind., 15 years old.  Asher Brown of Houston, Texas, 13 years old.  Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, Calif., 13 years old.  Joel Morales of New York, 12 years old.
  I could list hundreds of names from large cities to small towns across the nation, name after name of children who took their lives rather then continue to deal with the torment inflicted upon them.
 Tormented by bullies.
 Bullying.  Many people dismiss it as something children should just “deal with.”  The stereotype depicts some kid taking another kid’s lunch money.  Grabbing someone’s book and tossing it around so they can’t get it.  Simple “innocent” teasing.
Well, it’s not something that should be dismissed or ignored.  Whether simple name calling to outright physical abuse, it’s wrong and it’s mean.  It’s hurtful and it’s damaging.
 And it should stop.
 What motivates a person to bully someone?  A hatred of anything different?  A need to put someone down to artificially elevate themselves?
Whatever the reasons, bullying is wrong, plain and simple.  
Bullying occurs in almost any relationship in which an imbalance of power exists. Bullying is nothing other than social terrorism.  
Recently, a young Pakistani activist, a 14 year old girl, was shot by militants who objected to her “promotion of Western thinking.”  Most people wouldn’t equate murderous terrorists to bullies, but the difference between the two isn’t as wide as one might think.  A terrorist promotes fears through radical actions.  A bully promotes fear just the same, albeit without the bullets and bombs, but the fear is just as real.
Forcing a child to live in fear is terrorism.
Bullying isn’t always easy to see.  It’s not always some big guy shoving someone in the hallways. And it’s not always a small group of kids targeting a single victim.
And now we have cyberbullying.  Blogs and social networking, technology used to degrade others.
Bullying can come in the form of exclusion, intimidation, rumors, ridicule, or physical harassment.  Whatever the form, bullying leverages hatred and intolerance to humiliate others.
In Longwood High School (Long Island, N.Y.), a freshman wanted to help stop bullying by raising awareness of the problem.  As an assignment on persuasive speech, she produced an anti-bullying YouTube video about a ficticious 12-year old girl who (in the video) commits suicide.
Sadly, many people are more comfortable not talking about it than doing something about it.  School administrators decided that the video “created a significant disruption” at the school and subsequently suspended the student.
 Amanda Todd, 15 years old.  Wilnery Polanco-Uben, 11 years old.  Phoebe Prince, 15 years old.  Corrinne Wilson, 13 years old.  Matthew Epling, 14 years old.  April Himes, 14 years old.   Christina Calco, 15 years old.   Jeffrey Johnson, 16 years old.
 Is that enough “disruption” for Longwood High School?  How many children’s names do we need to read about before we say “Enough is enough?”
  Stop the bullying.  Don’t allow it.  Don’t be silent when you see it.  Don’t walk away.  Take a stand and stop it.
 Just stop it.
  John Pawlak
 Los Alamos Columnist