They were “just having a laugh”

Racism, religious persecution, hate crimes, ridicule or abuse for being different or differently abled, (is that term PC enough for everyone?) all have one thing in common, someone is treated badly for being who they are. When someone is treated badly for being who they are we call it bullying. When someone is harassed or assaulted for their sexual orientation, race, religion, or physical shortcoming (again I’m trying to be as PC as possible, but since what is correctly PC changes by the second you’ll please excuse me if I have caused offense.) it’s still bullying but on a grander scale. So my question is, in a society seemingly obsessed with stopping bullying how is it we can’t seem to let go of the very thinking which creates bullies in the first place? We as a society label people, place them in categories, and then hate on them for being who or what they are. Sounds like high school bullying at it’s finest does it not?

I was bullied in school as I am sure many of you were. I have few fond memories of my school years. I never wore the right clothes, I had to be home too early, I got good grades, I didn’t have the latest running shoes, someone didn’t like my face and felt the need to rearrange it, I was Irish, I was Catholic, there were a million reasons why my childhood bullies tormented me. At first I tried to change myself, to be someone they would like so the bullying would stop. Not surprisingly, it didn’t stop, apparently I could change what I wore but if I couldn’t change who I was I’d still be a target. In high school it was even worse, and I withdrew into myself. That’s when I began a life long battle with depression.

Did my bullies think beyond the act of bullying me to the long term effects of that bullying? No, bullies seldom do, they seem to stick to a steady diet of ignorance and apathy (I don’t know what effect my actions are having and I don’t care.) Did a single one of my bullies ever stop to think that their actions would send me into years of therapy? Or that I would try to take my own life twice to avoid having to go back to school after summer break? Of course not, they were “just having a laugh.”

The thing is, bullying isn’t funny. Sure you may be having a laugh shoving the skinny kid with the pocket protector into a locker and locking the door, but what trauma is that skinny kid going to come out of the locker with? For me it was claustrophobia. I have a paralyzing fear of getting trapped in small spaces, a fear so bad that I have to be heavily sedated to have an MRI, and I have panic attacks if I watch a movie scene where someone is trapped in close quarters.

Bullying has consequences. So the next time you think about saying or doing something nasty to someone because they are different from you, stop and ask yourself if you’re aware of the consequences your actions will have, then put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

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