It needs to stop…now.

It needs to stop…now.
Before I go off on my semi-monthly rant, we should take a moment and offer our prayers and condolences to the people of the Philippines, and all the victims of Typhoon Hayian. They have a very long road ahead of them, and they have many thousands of dead to bury. We know firsthand of the suffering and misery that lies in front of them. May they somehow find peace in the midst of this national tragedy, and find the resiliency and strength to recover and rebuild.
This weekend marks the 238th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. I have several friends who are Marines, both active and non-active (there is no such thing as an ex-Marine…), and I have been proud to serve beside them. The Marines exemplify the fighting spirit, the pride, the honor, the dignity, and spirit of brotherhood that are admired throughout the world. The world as we know it would be a very different place without them. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for the freedoms that we enjoy today. Semper Fi!
My Achilles injury is healing, and I hope to start running again soon. Triathlon training does not stop however. This injury has allowed me to concentrate on my pool training, and I have been putting down ¼ mile swims about 3 times per week. Luckily, the swimming does not aggravate the Achilles injury, so I can pretty much swim as much as want. I am generally swimming sub-10 minute quarter miles, and the other day, I swam a personal best of 9:39. Two days ago, I tried to best that mark, with a goal of shaving 9-seconds off my PB, and turning in a 9:30. I failed (sigh….). My first attempt was a 9:52. I was rather annoyed, and vowed, after a 10-15 minute break, that I would hit the mark on my next attempt. I failed again, this time going even slower and finishing with an 11:05. Let’s face it, I had just swum (swam, swimmed, flapped my arms?…) for a half a mile, and I was gassed! The take-away from this is not that I swam a half a mile in 21 minutes… it is that I SWAM A HALF A MILE AT ALL!!!! To me, this is great! The time thing is just a number, a measurement, and in my journey means absolutely nothing. I swam a ½ mile, and I am regularly swimming ¼ miles. I am very happy about it! This is a victory for me, when it is put in the context of where I was physically not so long ago, and it these small victories that I will bask in, albeit very temporarily, as I still have many more mountains to climb…
BULLYING… It is an ugly word. It immediately conjures up memories of the schoolyard, and if you were a victim, it is generally bad memories. It is hard to believe that something that we think of as a ‘school yard problem’ is actually much more prevalent in our politically correct and supposedly more enlightened society than you would think it should be. I will say it plainly…it makes me sick! I don’t understand, and I have never understood, why people feel the need to be bullies and why is it tolerated? The bigger question is why does it exist at all? WHY? How many peoples’ lives have been made totally miserable and almost unbearable because of it? How many people has it caused to become shut-off and alienated from their worlds? How many days of school, how many days of work, how many activities have been missed out of fear of being bullied? How many people have had their self-esteem crushed because of bullies? How many people have harmed themselves or even ended their own lives because of bullying? WHY???
I have no intention of addressing the questions that have been asked many times before. Why does it start? Where does it start? How is it learned? Where does it end? Who is at fault? I don’t know that there are simple answers to these questions, and I probably have not even scratched the surface of the questions that need to be asked. All I know is that it is widespread, it is tolerated, it is eminently hurtful, and it is totally wrong. From little kids on the playground, to bigger kids in high school, to even bigger kids in the locker rooms of professional teams, to the meeting rooms and board rooms of corporate America, it lives and breathes, and sadly it exists. It has infested all levels of society, and while it is slowly being brought out into the light of scrutiny, will it be enough? Is it even possible to put a dent in the massive epidemic that it has been for eons?
We all, well at least almost everyone that I have ever spoken to, carries a scar or two from being bullied, and I was not immune. I was the smallest kid in my class, so naturally, there were a few ‘tough guys’ who wanted to flex their masculinity by picking on a much smaller sized person. I have often wondered what ever became of the supposed ‘tough-guys’, who were too cool for rules, and didn’t feel that common respect was something that they needed to display, and the dignity of another human being was not important. I am willing to bet that some of them wound up in jail because they never grew out of it. I am willing to bet that some of them probably made a career of being a rag-boy in a car wash. Maybe some of them did eventually grow up. I wonder what they say to their kids? “Yeah, Junior. When I was in school, I was a scumbag bully. It was great! Haha!…’ One of the little things that I take comfort in is how things turned out. Look at us now. I am where I am, and my life is great! Whether it is great or not for them is subject of conjecture. The other thing is that I am completely confident, that if my bully-or-two came across me again, the outcomes would be VERY different. Let’s just say that the circumstances have changed… It was amusing that one of my (and most other peoples’) tormentors crossed paths a few years after he got kicked out of, or dropped out of high school. He was walking down the block, and I was coming right at him. The look of fear was in HIS eyes, not mine. The bully sort-of looked at me and mumbled a ‘Hi, Bruce…’ It was with great satisfaction that I just glared at him with the cold disdain that I reserve for only a select handful of people, and he put his head back down and scurried on his way, never to be heard from again. I always enjoyed that moment…I actually only have one other bully from my past that I would love to meet now. I mean, I would adore it. He is out there, but I will probably never have that opportunity. That’s too bad. Things now would be very different. I wonder if he ever thinks of his bully days, and if he does, what does he think of those days? Does he have any regrets? Does he wish he could make amends? Does he ever think to himself that he was a piece-of-crap of a human being? Does he believe that karma is indeed a bitch, and someday karma will cash the check that he wrote? I believe that movies and TV shows are made about bullies getting their comeuppance…
The reason that I bring this up is that I understand. Again, of everyone that I know, I can’t count out on one hand, people that have not been touched by this bullying epidemic. It is everywhere in our society now. You hear with much too alarming frequency the severity of the effects of bullying. I am not going to jump on the sensationalist bandwagon about Richie Incognito bullying Jonathan Martin in the Miami Dolphins locker room. This disgusting story has been hyped to death, and it only reached the level of infamy that it did because the two men involved were huge professional football players. What about everybody else? What about the people who are afraid to speak up out of fear of reprisal? What about the people who remain victims because of the shame of having to admit that there is a problem with a bully that they cannot cope with, and the social stigma that goes along with it? I laugh when I hear the age old advice of ‘just stand up to him/her, and they will back down.’ Or, ‘just slug him in the mouth. That will stop it.’ Really? More often than not, this is really bad advice. I am not saying that it will not work in some cases. What I am saying is that it will not work in most cases. Do you think that the lonely nerdy-girl working in an office full of she-bullies, (who take a special pride in ganging up on and bullying another girl in the way that only girls can), can really just walk up to the queen-bee and slug her in the mouth? The way bullying works today is much different than when we were kids. We didn’t have 24/7 access to other peoples’ lives. There were no hidden cameras to catch you in your most intimate moments. There was no Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. Truthfully, I think that the bullies of today are much more malicious than the ones that we dealt with as kids. If you need examples, I refer you to any news outlet. You will understand.
I leave you with this. Bullying is not a schoolyard problem anymore. It is a society wide problem. It is a culture problem. It is a ‘me-me-me’ mindset problem. It has ruined many childhoods. It has crushed the spirit of countless gazillions more. It has caused people to take their own lives. It needs to stop…now.


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