Monday, November 4, 2013

Bully Pulpit

Fat Pat, Cherion, Fat Albert, Perkins, Three eyed fag. Cry Baby. That's a short list of the names I was called as a child by classmates, school mates and even some adults. I was bullied mercilessly for many years. It didn't really end until college.  That's why the tale of Richie Incognito and Jonathon Martin of the Miami Dolphins strikes a nerve.

If you haven't heard, Incognito is a bully who made threats and slurs towards Martin to the point that Martin left the team, and Incognito has now been suspended indefinitely. We're hearing anecdotes that Incognito was bullied as a child and his father, who has been posting slurs of his own, is said to have been a cruel man to his son.

Whatever  the reason for Incognito's behavior, its time for the NFL and other sports leagues to ban the hazing of rookies or severely curtail it. Perhaps there's still room for some mild teasing like making rookies carry the pads or buy donuts or sing their college fight songs, but there's no reason rookies should buy 40000 dollar team meals or be taped to a goal post.

The bullying and hazing in the NFL is a national story now, but the bullying that is going on every day in schools across the country is insidious and has caused many kids to take their own lives. This is becoming a crisis.  Due to the prevalence of social media, bullying is now carried out every waking hour of the day. When I was being bullied, I could at least leave the bullies at the door of the school and go home to peace and quiet.

At the open of this piece I mentioned a few of the names I was called.  Fat Pat was pretty obvious, cause you know I was fat.  Cherion is a play on my last name and being a "cherry" (aka pussy).  Fat Albert was the name given me by the lunch lady when I was in 1st grade and had a Fat Albert lunch box.  The fucking lunch lady.

Perkins was again a play on my last name and the character Perkins from Sheriff Lobo.  See Perkins was a bumbler and also fat, so there you go. Three eyed fag came in High School when I had a zit between my eyebrows.  Cry Baby was due to the fact that when I was teased, which was often I cried. My Junior High School Principal referred to me by that moniker.

The point of sharing these things is not a play for pity, because I think I'm doing pretty damn well. Instead it's an example of what kids take with them from bullies.  All of these things happened to me 30-40 years ago, but I still remember them all.

Take the time to take interest in  your kids day at school.  Ask them about their friends. Make sure that they understand that the can tell you anything, and feel safe.  Make sure you're monitoring and limiting your kids on social media. They may find it intrusive, but you're the still the adult.

If the school calls you and suggests that your child may be a bully, don't scoff and dismiss it. It may be unpleasant for you to deal with, but it must be dealt with. You're kid is in need of some redirection if they're bullying other kids.

The Incognito-Martin dust up has opened a necessary dialog, but they're both grown adults and will no doubt land on their feet.  The suicides of so many young people are far more concerning to me.
Bullying is not a joke, not a passing thing and often not easily overcome.

I was lucky, I forgave a lot, but I haven't forgotten.

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