Being a bully is not as rewarding as it used to be. There was a time when bullies were feared, envied, and usually well-paid. But, as usual, the lawyers had to ruin it for everyone. Now, bullies are vilified, disrespected, and wholly misunderstood. I came across a modern high school bully this week in my capacity as the school’s attorney. Not the worst kid in the world but he knew how to bring tears. My investigation turned to his Facebook page where he pronounced his opinion that two classmates were “fucking retards.” It seems relatively mild compared to the high school bullies I knew when I was a kid. They drew blood and then stole your girlfriend. Or worse. In grammar school, a couple of kids tormented a cute little girl on the school bus until she had an asthma attack and had to be diverted to Englewood Hospital. I will never forget that day – – mostly because my parents had to drive me to the girl’s house to apologize in person. It all worked out – – today she is a succesful actress who appeared in Seinfeld, Friends, and dozens of other TV shows and movies. I am sure if given the chance, she would thank me in person for shaping her life. But I digress.
I met with the bully’ parents who conducted their own neutral, unbiased investigation and concluded that their beloved son had merely been joking around and was really a”sweet kid” who couldn’t hurt a fly – – unless the fly happened to be a fuckin retard and, although they didn’t come right out and say it, I suspect the parents would have abided such good-natured ribbing.
Here is my theory: All bullies can be cured. Few by their parents. None by their teachers. The more we beat them (or want to beat them), the deeper their affliction. Of course, being nice doesn’t work either and confronting parents will assuredly lead to ugly reprisals and, let’s be honest, whose fault is it in the first place?
We need to create an environment where bullies are quickly isolated and deprived of their audience. If Revenge of the Nerds taught us anything (and I think we can all agree it did), it is that bullies need affirmation to breathe. Cut off their supply and they should shrivel up. When I was a kid, bullies operated in the dark and few had the courage to take them on. The myth was self-perpetuating. Today, awareness is everywhere – – from anti-bullying legislation and zero-tolerance school policies, to a barrage of negative attention in the media. 7 of 10 children under the age of 18 report being bullied on-line or in person. I suspect the other 3 are doing the bullying. A generation of sensitivity and intolerance is brewing and modern kids are being inculcated into a culture of anti-bullying. And, this is the best and only immunization against our socially-challenged predators.
And, yet,I still get called once a month from a school administrator looking for guidance in the face of the most recent episode. Except, today the story almost always includes a footnote of resistance and compassion. And, that, is the surest sign that the bullies are losing.