Friday, October 1, 2010

Bullies

By now, I'm sure that you have heard about the tragic story of Asher Brown.

He was a 13-year-old eighth grader at Hamilton Middle School out of Cy-Fair who committed suicide last week by shooting himself with his step-father's handgun.

The reason for what in the world could cause a 13-year-old to truly believe his young life was no longer one worth living?

Bullies.

Apparently, young Asher was taunted mercilessly "for his small size, because he didn't wear designer clothes and because he was Buddhist".

It seems that since the Dawn of Time there have always been bullies in one form or another. I'm sure you dealt with them growing up. So did your parents. So did their parents.

There never seems to be a shortage of people who hold more power, strength, or popularity than someone less fortunate who elect to use said power, strength, or popularity to abuse. It isn't limited to 8th graders, either. In another highly publicized case this week, 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in New York City. The reason for his suicide was, again, bullies picking on him.

I think most of us were brought up to have nothing but disdain for those choose to be bullies. We are taught from a young age that bullies are usually people born out of insecurity regarding themselves. How many of us were taught cute little overly-idealistic methods of dealing with bullies when we were kids?

"Just ignore them?" or my personal favorite: "Try to be their friend!"

The bottom line is when it comes to dealing with bullies that the only truly effective method of dealing with one is to stand up to one. How often do parents preach that to their children anymore?

And how many times a day to we bypass the opportunity to do so?

How many times a day do we bypass the opportunity, maybe not to stand up for ourselves, but to maybe to stand up for somebody else who is being bullied?

It is very easy to cry on TV, hold a solidarity march (which changes nothing), or announce you are going to launch an investigation which will ultimately yield nothing (other than possible charges against the parents). But here again, you are talking about doing too little too late.

As lawyers, we have the opportunity to combat bullying more so than most. Prosecutors have the ability to stop some bullies by putting them in prison. Defense attorneys have the ability to stop some bullies by standing up for their clients' rights. Prosecutors have the ability to say they aren't going to follow an arbitrary policy that over-punishes someone for a minor crime. Defense attorneys have the ability to say we'll take it to trial if you try.

But there is always more that can be done.

Moments like this make me think of my friend, Mark Bennett. Mark, to be sure, often beats to the tune of his own drum, and has never been shy about espousing an unpopular opinion. But the guy has never been bullied out of his opinion, and he's never been shy about standing up against people he thinks are being bullies, either.

For that, I admire him. Even when we disagree.

When you ignore it, you become nothing more than a coward who condones it. When you stand against it, you'll often find many will stand beside you.

I know this is probably seeming kind of rambling, but what happened to Asher Brown and Tyler Clementi has got me kind of worked up today, I suppose.

So, I guess I'd say that my message today to bullies would be "grow up and knock it off".

And to the rest of us, I'd say we've got a duty to stop it where we can, and not be afraid of being bullied ourselves. To paraphrase The Once and Future King, it should never be Might that makes Right, but Right which makes Might.

Nobody should ever die over bullying.

Certainly not teenagers like Asher and Tyler.

10 comments:

Michael said...

Not sure this is exactly on point, but it's close. I posted it on FB yesterday in homage to the late Tony Curtis.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8h_v_our_Q

Anonymous said...

Rep. Garnet Coleman announced today that he is going to introduce a "bullying" bill named after Asher. I'm assuming it will be called "Asher's law."

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else think Lycos is the ultimate bullying?

Anonymous said...

Interesting concept - but true...young bullies grow up to be adult bullies; they bully their spouses, their kids and their employees.

Anonymous said...

Well, I think this is part of life - sad but true. I can remember being mean to other kids and other kids being mean to me. Part of it is kids not sure what to do with confusing/scary feelings. We have to help them work through these things.

Anonymous said...

Most of the bullying incidents we've heard about recently, including Asher, revolve around sexuality. Suicide among GLBT youth and young adults is much higher than the average for that age range. Bullying is a problem... But when are people going to stop poisoning their children's minds about what's right and wrong when it comes to sexuality? This is ridiculous. Kids can be little shits, but they learn this prejudice from somewhere.

Anonymous said...

8:42

Parents have the right and responsibility to teach their children about what is morally right and wrong regarding sexuality. Tolerance should also be part of the message, but to suggest that parents who teach their children it is morally wrong to engage in homosexuality are somehow "poisoning" their minds is "ridiculous".

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else think Lycos is the ultimate bullying?

Get over yourself. If anyone is the ultimate bully, it's former DA's who got convictions based on evidence that may have been false, but actively covered it up after the fact.

If anything, Lokos hasn't gotten enough convictions to come anywhere near that.

Anonymous said...

12:35pm. We'll just have to agree to disagree. I believe that teaching children that "homosexuality is immoral" is wrong. Period. But we're not going to change each others minds ever, especially not on a blog post about bullying.

Anonymous said...

I recall being bullied for a while by an older kid when I was in the 6th grade of elementary school. I finally had enough and started an old fashioned fistfight with the guy. The fight itself was a draw but interestingly enough, we became friends after that. These days they would have taken us both to juvenile detention probably.