Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bullying the Bullies.

Bullying. Bullying is big news now. Everyone wants to stop bullying. Everyone is very concerned about bullying. Bullies are evil. Bullying is bad. The victims of bullying are brave people. Bullying should be met with zero tolerance by schools and organizations. No bullying allowed! Get it?

I’ve never been very much of a politically correct mind. Maybe I’m alone in this sentiment, but I’m getting a little tired of all the whining and crying about people being bullied. People have been getting bullied since the dawn of man. The problem today isn’t that bullying is more common, it’s not that there are more bullies or that their methods of bullying are more brutal. The problem is that the bullied are bigger wusses than at any point ever before.

We used to think of being bullied as a right of passage. Stand up to the bully and you learn a valuable lesson about life! Stand up for yourself and learn that respect must be demanded, not hoped and wished for. We don’t see it that way anymore though. Today, we see the bullied as victims. And they are victims, but not simply victims of bullying, but victims of their own spinelessness.

Bullying becomes big news every time some poor kid kills him or herself after being bullied. It’s such a tragedy! Well, yes. It is a tragedy when a kid feels like they have no alternative to killing themselves, but the tragedy isn’t in the fact that the kid was bullied, it’s in the fact that they felt they were helpless to do anything about it.

I’m not making excuses for bullies. I just think that targeting bullies is a stupid way to solve the problem. There will always be bullies. Eliminating bullies is like eliminating lying. It can’t happen. You can all join hand and sing Kumbaya til the cows come home, but there will always be bullies. As long as some kids are bigger than others, as long as some kids are jealous of others, as long as some kids are so desperate to conform that they are willing to ridicule and prey upon those who don’t there will be bullying. There have always been bullies and there will always be bullies.

What’s changed isn’t the bully, it’s the victim.

Think about it. Think about how we raise our children. We don’t keep score at their tee-ball and soccer games. Everybody wins! Everybody gets a trophy! Equal playing time for all! No one ever loses. No one ever learns how to lose. And for that matter, no one gets to learn how to win graciously either. If a child is falling behind in the classroom, the class slows down so that the student doesn’t get left behind.

Excuses are made. Parents appease their children. Now, more than ever before, parents shield, guard and protect their children from the slightest hint of harm, unhappiness or the mere idea that they aren’t as good, as smart, as athletic, as talented, as gifted as the kid next door. Everyone is equal. Of course, that’s not the reality of it. We’re not all equal. Some of us are smarter than others. Some of us are more athletic than others. Some of us are big, some of us are small, some of us are cool, some of us are dorks. We are all different. That’s the thing that makes us special. Parents, though, want their kids to be special just like everyone else’s kids. Every parent wants his or her kid to be the starting quarterback or the homecoming queen.

Every parent wants their kid to be liked, to be popular, to be smart, to get into the best college, to find the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend. Parents have idealized how their kids lives should be. So, is it any wonder that when life doesn’t turn out like the parents expect it to, that the kids feel like they have nowhere to turn?

If little Timmy likes to draw and spends hours drawing the things he imagines in his mind, why don’t we celebrate that? If he grows up to become a well-paid graphic designer it’s certainly okay, but as a child the kid who keeps to himself and draws centaurs is somehow less than what a parent thinks he should be. He should have more friends. He should have a girlfriend. He should play soccer.

If little Susie likes other girls and dreams of a wedding where she is standing next to another woman, we don’t celebrate that. We call it a phase. We know she’ll grow out of it. She’s just rebelling. Even if her parents do “accept” her, very few actually do support her for her for what she is, do they?

No. The problem isn’t the bullies. The problem is the parents. Parents have this idealized vision of what their kids should be. Parents isolate kids from pain and failure and loss because they think a strong ego is what’s necessary to make it in this world. They are wrong. Childhood is difficult. It is the fire in which we are tempered. It is the proving ground where we earn the right to someday be called adults.

The problem isn’t the bullies. The problem is that kids don’t understand how to stand up to them. We live in a world more connected than at any time in our history. If you’re being picked on because you’re a nerd, there are tens of thousands of nerds only a few clicks away. You are not alone. If you are gay and living in small town and feel the full weight of how different you are, you are only a few clicks from being with people just like you who truly understand what you are going through. Strange then, that people feel more alone than they ever have before.

I don’t blame the bullies. I blame the parents of the bullied. I blame the culture in which they raise kids. I blame the parents for not teaching their kids to stand up for themselves. I blame the parents for sheltering their kids from hurt and pain and naively thinking that it’s a good thing. I blame the parents robbing their kids the lessons that are only learned in defeat. I blame the people who try to make everything fair. Life isn’t fair. Why should childhood be? A fair childhood only leads to an unrealistic ability to deal with real life and the completely unfair curves it throws.

We have raised a generation of children who are incapable of coping with unfairness because they never learned to do so as kids because they never had to because mommy and daddy were always there to make sure everything was equal and balanced and fair and right and good. We live in a Capitalist nation where competition is everything and we raise our kids on the concepts of Socialism where everything is balanced and fair and equal and as they leave the nest, is it any wonder why now, more than ever, bullies band together and find strength in their own conformity? Is it any wonder how those don’t conform, whether by their own choice or not, are so lost?

Ironic, isn’t it, that the same parents who so poorly prepared their kids for the realities of the world and how hard life can be, now choose to blame the bullies? Let’s not look inward. Let’s not accept any blame ourselves. It’s the bullies fault. We must band together against them. We are the adults after all! They are just children. We can band together and…bully them into being nice.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Common Sense Relief

Ah, the Fall! The air is crisp, the weather cool, the leaves are turning and the candidates are attacking. That’s right, it’s election time too and just in time for Halloween it seems there’s even a witch running for office! It’s the same old thing really. The Democrats are begging for time and saying that it takes time to crawl out of the hole the Republicans dug. The Republicans are saying that the Democrats are only making things worse and putting our grandchildren’s grandchildren in debt.

Of course taxes and tax cuts are hot button issues, so I find it just a bit more than ironic when my television switches from Democrat attack ad to Republican attack ad to…something called American Tax Relief. Have you seen this commercial? It features a bevy of smiling, happy couples who say things like: “We owed $3,000,000 in taxes but thanks to American Tax Relief, we only wound up paying less than $1,000,000!” Or, “We owed $60,000 in taxes and we only paid $300! Thanks American Tax Relief!”

My question is this: When did the IRS start bending over like that?

Would you like to know how much I paid in taxes last year? If you guessed every bit that I owed, you’d be right! That’s how taxes work. Isn’t it? You, or your accountant, figure out what you owe and then you pay it. Apparently, if you don’t pay it though and you wait a few years and then go to American Tax Relief they can settle with the IRS so that you pay only a fraction of what you actually owe.

It makes me wonder why any of us actually pay our taxes at all? Why not just hold out, spend that money and then settle for a significantly smaller amount at some point in the future? Does anyone else find it kind of insulting that the politicians keep blaming each other for all of our problems and meanwhile there’s some company out there who’s entire purpose is to help people not pay the taxes that they owe?

We do have a deficit don’t we?

“We owed $400,000 in taxes, but thanks to American Tax Relief, we only paid $60,000!”

Is it any wonder why we have a deficit? I understand its better to collect something than nothing but if the settlement amounts being reported on these commercials are true, we the people are getting screwed!

Then I watch some more of these political attack ad commercials and I listen to the “issues” they talk about. I can’t help but wonder why or how we ever expect things to get better when we keep electing officials based on issues that don’t really matter. Gay marriage isn’t going to get us out of debt. Abortion isn’t going to fix our foreign policy or win any wars. Whether or not someone used to be a witch doesn’t have any bearing on the unemployment figures. Maybe we the people aren’t so different from the IRS after all. We’re owed great things from our government and we accept a parade of clown college rejects. I wonder if American Tax Relief brokers elections too?