The world is a scary place. I don't know whether it really has gotten more dangerous, or if the rapidly expanding forms of communication have opened our eyes to just how many bad things occur. I hear many people say, "Things like that didn't happen when I was young.''
Maybe so. Or maybe it was just easier back then for the bad guys / gals to hide.
I was bullied as a child. I was bullied as a teenager and later as a grown woman. Words pale in comparison to what it feels like to be bullied, to be surrounded by people spewing hate in your direction.
When I was little, my mom told me to treat people the way I would like to be treated. My parents always made me consider how I would feel if I were in the other person's shoes.
Yes, I realize this is more of a Christian pedagogy, but I think it's relevant no matter what your beliefs.
I don't know what other people are taught when they are little. I don't know if nurture trumps nature, if some people are just destined to be bullies or if they were dealt a bad hand in life and hurting other people makes them feel better about their lives or themselves.
I don't blame technology. I don't blame the times. I don't blame Facebook or Twitter or graphic violence on TV or in video games. I don't blame teachers or parents.
I blame the bullies.
The mother of a 7-year-old autistic boy was considering pulling him out of the Warren school district altogether due to bullying back in April, according to an article printed in the Tribune Chronicle. The mother, Vanessa White, said her son had been "punched in the throat, punched in the head" not only by one individual, but sometimes by a group of boys.
According to articles released by the Associated Press, in June, 68-year-old bus monitor Karen Klein was reduced to tears by a group of New York middle-schoolers who berated and threatened her for more than ten minutes.
Ten minutes may not seem like a very long time, but I assure you, it's an eternity when you are being accosted - verbally or otherwise.
The adolescents reduced the woman to tears, and videos of the assault - during which she was called poor, fat and "a troll," and threatened with theft and bodily harm - went viral.
In the words of White regarding her son's bullying, "This can't keep happening over and over again. Something has to be done."
Many things are being done to combat bullying, including the Born This Way Foundation. The organization, led by singer Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, promotes individuality and self-expression.
It attempts to create a "braver, kinder world" by inviting people to follow three pillars: safety - creating a safe place to celebrate individuality; skills - teaching advocacy, promoting civic engagement and encouraging self-expression; and opportunity - providing ways to implement solutions and impact local communities (www.bornthiswayfoundation.org).
We can all benefit by following the pillars of Gaga's movement.
Bullying has many guises. It can show up in or against people of any age, race, sex, religion, etc. Bullying can happen at home, in school, down the street or in the workplace. Bullies can act alone, but they invite company.
If you see someone being bullied, don't be an accomplice. You don't have to join in to be an accomplice - you just have to remain silent when someone is the object of torment.
Don't remain silent. If you are afraid, tell an authority. But don't stand by and let it happen.
Don't we all cheer for Peter Parker / Spider-Man when he steps up against the bully, defending the victim and removing the bully's power?
The truth is, the bully has no power.
If we can unite against the ugliness of bullying and see the beauty in ourselves and others, we can make a difference.
We can all be like Spider-Man. And we don't have to have super powers to make the world a little less scary.