Bullies Forever

When I was very young—I won’t say exactly when, thereby aging myself—the first books I read were mysteries with kids my age as the protagonists. I started with The Bobbsey Twins and Trixie Belden, eventually moving up to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew as I got a little bit older.

They were great and I liked the fun mysteries the plucky little kids were tasked with cracking. But one thing about them always annoyed me: the bully. There was always some terrible bully who would make things difficult for the main characters, even the teenage characters like Frank and Joe Hardy and Nancy Drew.

I brushed them off thinking that these were clichés the author used to move the plot along and give us a reason to root for the heroes a little bit more. Then, once I got into middle school, I found out the truth. There were not clichés. Bullies actually existed! I don’t think there was one grade from middle school on where I didn’t run into at least one archetypical bully. Contrary to popular belief, the girls were quite vicious. Any new girl in the class was fair game for their terrible verbal abuse. There was always at least one boy bully, too. While the girls were poetic in their nastiness, the boy bullies tended to use physical means to get their rocks off.

When I was in school, teachers rarely did anything about it. Times are changing. But back then, they’d shrug their shoulder or look away thinking, “Kids would be kids.” No real punishment or attempt at conflict resolution. Maybe the teachers just assumed that once these kids got older and graduated (or dropped out) they’d see the error of their ways and stop their bullying.

Well, anyone who watches reality TV knows that just isn’t true.

Kids who were bullies in school often stay bullies and the kids who stood by and watched generally tend to continue getting their jollies like that today.

Take the popular shows like Tosh.0 or Smoking Gun Presents World’s Dumbest. The format is similar. A group of D-list celebrities sit around and watch videos of accidents. Some of them are innocuous, like a husband and wife who fall into a pool at a wedding. No injury, no big deal. But then they watch other videos where people are actually getting hurt. Badly. They’ll show a clip of a skateboarder who lands on his head after falling down. The kid could have a concussion, or worse, and these people on the show are sitting in the studio taking delight in the moment. And people at home must be eating it up too, otherwise the shows wouldn’t keep airing.

Fox News has had a grand ol’ time denigrating the First Lady’s weight of late.  I’m not speaking to the politics of it – but the fact that anyone’s weight and the mocking thereof should make the “news” is just amazing to me. This is bullying, plain and simple.

And of course there are a myriad of shows and so-called celebrities whose sole purpose seems to be coming up with vile insults that pick apart the supposedly horrible way people look. No wonder our society has so many issues today.  This is popular entertainment. This is what we’ve become…millions of people sitting on their couches laughing at others and feeling superior.

Observing this behavior has forced me to come to the following conclusion: People have no empathy and no pride. Mocking others isn’t exactly a prideful moment. The lack of respect for our fellow human beings is shocking.

Need proof? Here’s the latest and greatest in human nature:  Yahoo Article on “People of the Iowa State Fair.”

This isn’t the official page of the Iowa State Fair, but it’s a page someone created to share photos of people attending the fair. Roughly 90% of these photos seem to have been taken by a bully–yes, a bully–looking for overweight people or people dressed in a unique and different way. The photos have captions that ridicule the innocent people who were just being themselves trying to have a fun day.

Of course, not everybody enjoys these photos.

According to the article:   Several visitors who find the site offensive have asked the administrator to take down (or at least take responsibility for) the page’s hurtful content, but to no avail. The administrator posted this response on Tuesday: “People watching is one of the great traditions of the Iowa State Fair, and this site was made to allow people worldwide to enjoy that… The internet is full of offensive and disgusting things, and if I stumble across a website that offends me, I re-direct my browser elsewhere immediately and do not go back.”

The italics are part of the article, but I’d italicize them if they hadn’t been, because that’s a common excuse.

“If you don’t like it, don’t watch.”

Well, the problem is, what about the people who do like these degrading photos and captions? They are society’s problem…because those adults are going to teach their kids that “fat-shaming” and “different-from-us-shaming” is okay.

Is normal.

Is funny.

And that’s so sad.