Insolent, abusive and cowardly ... bullying in the 21st century

There’s been an inordinate amount of time spent discussing and relating the concept – and practice – of bullying in the news lately, from a recent local episode of what some consider an epidemic of sorts facing our area’s youth to the national level: students and children beaten, taunted and traumatized to the edge of their limits.

There has also, of course, been a great deal of time spent discerning the “philosophy” of the bully, not to mention several simple questions that pop up again and again ... why do people bully others in the first place? Is bullying worse now than it was then (say 20 years ago or so)? And who – or what – is to blame for bullying as we understand it now in the 21st century?

Believe it or not, there are answers to these questions. The only problem? Most people (including parents) can’t be – or refuse to be – bothered with learning those answers.

Face it, bullying has been around since ... well, I would imagine since the stone age. I was bullied as a child and teenager, mercilessly so at times, and yet you didn’t see me taking up arms against my aggressors. Then again, I’m somewhat of a pacifist, when you really get down to it, so maybe that option simply wasn’t part of my genetic makeup. Over the past 20 to 30 years, however, we’ve seen a number of incidences involving outcasts, outsiders and other social misfits walking into school with a gun (or guns) and a purpose, typically in an effort to “punish” those who have done them wrong.

And it’s only getting scarier.

Some people like to blame the times, of course, what with social media, 7,000-plus channels of cable television, increasingly violent video games and movies and the like; some like to blame our school administrators and teachers; while others blame the parents. Placing the blame on others is easy, though, while accepting responsibility for one’s actions often is not.

It’s as simple as that.

Considering the social climate surrounding our community’s youth day in and day out, however, it’s a wonder that anyone is truly surprised by the growing number of incidents that involve bullying. We have people taking down their American flags and making racist, disgusting statements following the lawful re-election of our president; people who honestly believe rape and pregnancy through rape are God’s will; people convinced their guns will be forcibly taken from them by the government; and people who refuse to accept the marriage of same-sex couples simply because that doesn’t jive with their own personal philosophy or religion.

Ignorance, fear, anger, depression, sadness and rejection, all wrapped up with a bright, shiny bow. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and hallelujah, welcome to America. And we wonder why our kids are so willing to condone, participate in or ignore violence and bullying in our schools, considering they learned from the best ... us.

To quote everyone’s favorite lightsaber-wielding, little green man, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Silly, I know, but wisdom – the finding of which is always a good thing – can be found in the strangest of places.

Which I realize does not, in fact, answer my earlier question: is bullying worse now than it was then? Personally, I’m not sure if it’s worse or simply more prevalent. Bullying is no longer confined to our school hallways and the classroom, it can be found on Facebook and Twitter, on a child’s cell phone or home computer, 24 hours a day. Sure I was bullied in my youth, yet once the school day was done, I could go home and escape that world thanks to my guitar, my books and a trustworthy group of friends. Nowadays, the bully has the option of following their target home, and not in the literal sense. The pressure those bullied face is enormous in 2012 as compared to 1992; there’s simply no comparison. And when a situation involving bullying erupts into violence, we’re all quick to place blame and point a finger, when all that does is exacerbate the problem.

The real issue is much more complex, sadly, and no one seems to have a credible solution. How long until this problem escalates beyond all reasonable belief? How long until our very own schools, here in our little corner of the country, sport metal detectors? And does that fix the problem or simply bury it for the time being? Simply put, these are some of the questions people need to be asking themselves.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunbrian

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