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I know a thing or two about bullies.  In Junior High and High School, a was bullied quite a bit.  The reasons were many.  I came from a working class family and we didn't have the money to purchase the new fashions. I was short and small in stature so I was a good target for bigger kids.  I was a geek with good grades who was in the advanced placement classes for college prep. The rich kids didn't like an uppity poor kid in the same class as them, because I surely wouldn't be going to college. The biggest reason was my eyes.  I was born with low vision and my eyes bounce around all the time uncontrollably. On top of that they are a little crossed. Until I was 18 years old and got contacts, I had glasses, very thick glasses and because of this they couldn't even be stylish. I wish I had know of Elvis Costello.  That man can rock a pair of geek glasses!

There are different types of bullying.  Most people think of physical assault as the biggest form of bullying. It is not.  Intentional isolation is the biggest form of bullying.  Kids don't self-isolate, they want to be a part of the bigger group.  No, isolation occurs because of organized (or un-organized) decisions to keep the target isolated.  The target isn't invited to parties. They are made to feel unwelcome in school clubs and groups. They are refused a seat at a table at lunch.

Isolation can hurt, but can be overcome, at least to a degree, by geeks and/or bulled kids hanging together.  What is harder to deal with is the constant barrage of verbal slights and insults said loud enough to be heard by the target but not someone in authority who could address it.  The body can heal a bruise or broken bone, but it is harder for the mind to heal itself.

Follow me below the fold to see what this means.

So how do you deal with a bully?  Stand up to them.  It is just that simple. But how to do that? Let me tell you a story.

One day after lunch before we were sent back to class, I was standing by myself.  Another student came up to me and started giving me shit.  I didn't know him from Adam, but found out later that he was quite the tough with a record in juvy.  I tried to ignore him but it didn't stop him.  

Maybe I should have gone to get a teacher or something, but I knew this wouldn't stop things but more likely would just make it worse. On top of everything else, I would have a rep as a snitch. No, the way to deal with it was to back this MF'er down or fight him.  Most bullies are actually a bunch of (you fill in the blank).  They don't like to be challenged and will back down when they are.

I understand violence isn't the answer to most things, and normally will make things worst, but there are times a person has to fight, literally and/or figuratively.  If you disagree, you probably lived in a place a lot less rough than the town I grew up in.  I also knew that there would be a price to pay, suspension or expulsion from school. But I was confident that my parents would be supportive and I would not pay a price at home.

As it turned out, I didn't have to fight the guy. He backed down. It might have been the fact he thought I was crazy as a bedbug.  Or it could have been half the football team that appeared behind me.  I was told later that they intended to see how things went and if it went south for me, they would intervene on my behalf.  They would never invite me to one of their parties, but they weren't going to let the small "blind guy" get beat up. They didn't understand how awful the former was, but they had a sense of right and wrong that wouldn't let the latter happen. On the other hand, after this, the amount of verbal attacks went down dramatically.  And yes, I do believe there was a correlation.

Although it is no excuse for incidences like school shootings, or other incidences where there is a killing, it is very important to understand how bullying can play a role in these situations; how it can drive someone into depression or deeper into depression.  I see all this talk about "finding kids in schools" who might be dangerous and do something bad.  

Here is a thought, deal with one of the biggest drivers of mental illness in school kids. Do something about bullying.  Bullying can drive a child to kill themselves, and yes, it can drive a kid to kill others. Just look at what happened in CA this week.  Again, it is no excuse, but it is a cause.

And if you still don't believe that standing up to, and facing down bullies doesn't work, just look at Pres. Obama.  For the last for years he has tried to "soft-peddle" conflict with the GOP (and groups like the NRA). Now he is standing up to them and they a falling apart. Now that their facade his been ripped away, people who were once scared of them are now standing up to them.

Originally posted to kaminpdx on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 11:09 AM PST.

Also republished by Pink Clubhouse.

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