24 November 2009

A Childhood Best Left Behind

This morning on our way to work, the girl I pick up every morning and I were chatting, as we are wont to do most mornings, and the topic turned to Facebook. And bullies. I confided in her that I had been tormented in my Junior High years - years I still consider to be the longest two of my life. I was lucky enough to, by a roundabout way, escape my bullies and start over in life - but this year being the year of Nasty Surprises gave me another turn last night when I saw my tormentors as recommended "friends" on Facebook (eye bleach, plz?) and I felt things I never would have dreamed that, some 20 years later, I would still feel.

They were revulsion and hatred and just a little bit of glee when I noted that one of them looked like she had turned in to the person I secretly hoped that she would someday.

I asked my co-pilot if that was weird and childish, but she then admitted to me that her bullying had lasted through high school and sometimes she still sees them. She feels the same. I then thought of one of my dear friends and the lengthy conversation we had one day about it - and how it's affected her too.

This brought me, in a convoluted and twisty sort of way back to the new legislation being considered in MA, spearheded by the Anti-Defamation League, to pass some form anti-bullying law. According to the article cited, the most popular bill up for consideration right now is HB 843. This bill would outlaw any form of bullying on school grounds and turn school officials into mandated reporters of bullying, similar to child welfare mandated reporting, though to whom the article doesn't say (and I, frankly, am too tired to look at this moment in time).

This isn't groundbreaking. Many states have or have considered anti-bullying legislation, and more appear to be following suit. Yet, as a former bully-ee, I wonder...at what cost?

My own bullying went largely unnoticed or unremarked on by the adults in my life at the time. Then, I think that the prevailing thought was simply that it was part and parcel of childhood and that we would either sink of swim, stand up for ourselves and the bullying would stop, it was only ever a phase.

We know now, of course, that such sentiment is not true and that bullies can leave scars that last a lifetime. But...the idea of this sort of legislation being considered sort of puts me off a little. I do believe that author, Terry Pratchett, summed up my own feelings on this best in his book, Night Watch, when he said (of inquisitor/cop Findthee Swing), "He didn't look around, and watch, and learn, and then say, 'This is how people are, how do we deal with it?' No, he sat and thought: 'This is how people ought to be, how do we change them?'"

That's what HB 843, at it's very surface and face, as I understand it right now, brought to my mind.

I've often wondered how I would deal with it if A was bullied later in life, in school...and hope I would do well, being able to empathize well and hopefully understand a little better how much it can and does affect kids. I've also wondered what in the world I would do if she turns out to be the bully and how to best turn that behavior around early on. The idea of having my choices legislated to me? I don't know. It doesn't seem right. It doesn't attack the roots of the problem(s), nor does it hold parents who don't want to see their children for what they may be accountable at this point - and I'm not sure that this sort of accountability should be legislated at all.

Having been there, done that, it's not an easy subject for me tackle. This legislation goes to the very heart of my viewpoints on government and our daily lives to begin with, but the subject at hand goes just as deep, to my very heart.

While ultimately, my own experiences were ones I've been unsuccessfully trying to repress for 20 years, they did not hinder my progress or abilities or even, in the end, confidence in my life and myself. They were times I wouldn't wish on anyoine and experiences I truly wish I didn't have to have. But have them I did and so they become part of the early chapters of my life...and later on, Lessons Learned. I wouldn't have imagined such legislation today, but it's all over the US and coming to a state near you.

What do you think about  anti-bullying legislation that requires mandated reporting especially? Will it help or only make the bullies lash out more?


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