By J’Mel Davidson
This morning I woke with a song in my heart. That song was “Backdoor Santa.” I don’t know why.
And I won’t bore you with the strange tangent I took from that song to this latest article’s subject: bullying.
When I was young, there were only a few steadfast rules laid out by adults for dealing with bullies. If they called you a name, you ignored them or called them something back. I was very good at insults, so this was never an issue. If they made fun of Mama, let it roll off your back. They didn’t know your mama, so their taunts didn’t matter.
And if for some reason the level of bullying became physical, your duty as an American youth was to be physical right back. It wasn’t about whether or not you’d “win” the fight. The purpose was much greater. You had the weight of the meek on your shoulders. You had to show that you would not take crap lying down. Hard to believe that the “good old days” were a time when parents encouraged their kids to kick other kids in the balls and punch them in the throat.
Sorry. I’m getting a bit nostalgic.
I’m not saying that the youth of today are weak. It’s very different today. Bullying is viral. Whereas in the good old days, there’d be a class of 30 peeps. Three of them would be loud-mouthed bullies. If they came up with a clever enough taunt, they could get about 10 of the other classmates on board to repeat it. Five of those were just trying to blend in so they wouldn’t become the next victim.
It was what it was. You learned the rules and you fell into place.
Example: When I was in sixth grade, a new kid made his way into my class. His name was Stephen. In sixth grade, he was already six feet tall. He was goofy, poor, and unlikeable, so he decided the best way to take the attention off of this was to bully me. It worked, sort of. I mean, he was still goofy and unlikeable, but he shifted that attention with a “rap” he came up with about how the assistant principal was my dad.
It didn’t make any sense and used assonance more than proper rhyme scheme, but this was sixth grade, so it was enough to get those 10 stupid classmates on his side.
Now if I told you this didn’t bother me, I’d be lying. It bothered me not because I was being made fun of but because it was lazy! It didn’t make any sense! It bothered me because much like today when seemingly intelligent people get sucked into stupidity on social media, people played along out of boredom. Someone—someone—had to be the butt of a joke, and it was my turn. Not Lakeisha with the bad teeth whom the kids called “teefus” and said ate bricks. Not Vickie with the large birth mark on her face whom they said looked like fried fish (they’d yell “sizzle sizzle” at her.)
It was my turn. Because I (did not) look like Assistant Principal Willie Hampton.
But you got over it. As far as I know, no one from my class ever got bullied to the point of suicide. I’m not saying we were tougher. Perhaps we had better coping skills. Perhaps it was because we were told how to handle it. “Bully back, and if you get hit, hit them back.”
Then the Internet got involved.
And now if someone decides you’re not up to snuff, it’s not just your class of 30 that joins in for a few days and it’s over. Your persecution goes viral. The entire school calls you gay or a slut or worse.
It’s hard to punch an entire school. Guns are an easier choice.
In the good old days, you’d tap some bastard in the jaw and get detention. Or you’d skip seventh period and steal gum sharks from the Eastwood Bruno’s.
And now people die. Or kill. Or kill themselves. Over name calling.
As much as I want kids, I’m terrified of the world that I may send them into. (And homeschooling produces creepy kids.)
I don’t know, dear reader. We need a reset of some sort.
Anyway, you go listen to “Backdoor Santa” and come up with answers of your own.
Epilogue: My middle school bully Stephen ended up a babbling crazy man. Twice, on a city street and on the bus, he’s asked me for money.
Twice I refused out of spite.