The new “anti-bullying” bill passed by legislators in Michigan has given me the desire to speak up. Bullying is wrong, no matter the reason given for doing it. However, due to this new legislation, bullies can justify their bullying simply by explaining they have done so due to their religious beliefs. The bill is a joke…a way to allow the Republicans in the State Senate to feel like they’ve passed some legislation that addresses the bullying situation that is too loud to be ignored. Instead, they have taken steps back by justifying bullying.
There is NO EXCUSE to bully…not one. Even if a child is taught that people with disabilities are less, because that is how many were treated in Biblical times, or that being gay is a sin because their church says so, that still does not give a child the right to verbally or physically harass another human being. That’s right. The person being bullied is human…just like you and me. They breathe oxygen. Their blood is red but looks blue in the veins beneath their skin. They have feelings and emotions. They feel sadness and joy, excitement and fear. Essentially, they are just like their bully physiologically; both are Homo sapiens.
If bullies remembered this, we would have no need for such legislation. We would not need to make a special law to protect children that are bullied because there would not be any bullying. The reason bullying occurs is because these bullies are often bullied themselves. They are devalued and made to feel like they are not human. They feel good by dehumanizing others…by treating them as though they are subhuman. Many of these bullies do not even consider their actions, the hurt and pain they are causing, and fail to recognize their victims are human themselves.
As much as I wish I could completely blame the government, this is where parents need to step in and teach their children how to treat other human beings. Our words and actions are often critical of others. We make fun of people without even realizing it. Look at the way we bash celebrities we cannot stand…because we do not see them as people, as humans. It is okay for us to criticize them since we do not know them. We grow up learning this as we have done the same to peers we are not able to relate to…the ones that are different. We are taught not to see them as humans…as people, like ourselves. We can torture them because we do not believe they are just like us emotionally…that they have the same kinds of feelings, themselves.
I was tortured by my peers in such a way, from the time I entered public school. In 1986, I was mainstreamed because it was the law and because I was smart. It was in this first year of school that kids all over the elementary school I attended tortured me on a daily basis. They called me a horrendous name, for a five year old. I was called “duck”. The reason behind this was my unattractive gait, a symptom of having Spinal Muscular Atrophy. While walking, my step was more a waddle, henceforth the reasoning behind calling me “duck”.
It got to the point where I could not walk down the hallway without hearing other students, from a variety of grades, quacking at me as I passed by. I would hear snickers and laughter following their quacks. To add insult to injury, I was cast as a duck in our Kindergarten play. Everyone wanted to be a bunny rabbit. I could not hop, but boy could I waddle. So, guess who was forced to be a duck? I remember crying and having to be convinced to play a duck. None of the adults could comprehend why being a duck was so upsetting to me, but then, they did not experience such harsh teasing.
It was 1987 when I first declared it was better to be dead than to live with any type of difference. What 6 year old should have to have these thoughts? Back then, my school was as guilty as my peers were. They knew the teasing and bullying was going on and yet they did nothing to stop it.
Things did not get better as the years progressed. The school attempted to force me to go ice skating, for gym, and threatened to fail me if I didn’t go. I was teased for my disability, my clothing, my family’s financial status or lack thereof, my family’s unpopularity, my weight, my hair, the way I spoke, the way I moved. I was deemed stupid, fat, ugly, nasty, pathetic, worthless, a loser, evil, a nothing. Not a day went by, in the 13 years I attended the Lake Local School system, where I was not called names, made fun of, or treated like a piece of crap.
In high school, things got worse. I was the butt of the senior joke one year. I don’t like talking about it much, but just know it involved dead rats. My doctor had me removed from the school, for my safety, as I was recovering from surgery that had almost killed me, at the time. I had just returned after missing nearly six months of my sophomore year. When nothing was done to stop the bullies, I was forced back to school. As bad as my peers were, I was equally as tortured by the administration of the school, who broke various laws pertaining to my lack of IEPs and refused to offer services to help me be independent at school, even as they accepted extra money for me to attend their school.
Raised Catholic (or Lutheran, prior) I spent much of my nights crying myself to sleep and praying for God [sic] to either change me into something better or kill me. Neither happened, and I was ready to kill myself. In the time since I managed to escape that environment and a nasty home environment, I have realized that life can get better, but it is still hard. It is a constant struggle to be different in this world. There will ALWAYS be bullies. There will ALWAYS be haters. However, as a kid, these were things I could not comprehend. Children want to see the world through rose-colored glasses. Finding out the world is not as sunny as it should be is difficult to understand.
I had no protection. I had nothing to stop my bullies. I also did not have the government backing an idea that bullies can justify their reasoning for bullying. This bill is wrong. Since the government does not appear to be willing to budge on this awful legislation it is up to parents to take matters into their own hands. Please…I beg of you. Do not let your CHILD be a bully. Do not let your CHILD devalue another human life. We are all different in our own way and that should be celebrated, not devalued. Teach your children now and help us build a better world, because the government can do nothing but seem to make it worse…for everyone.
Oh, and Michigan…shame on you. I’m glad I left. I won’t be coming back anytime soon.