In all the talk about bullying teenagers there is a glaring ignorance of the influence adults have on kids. What’s happening is not just peer pressure, it’s an distorted attempt by teens to imitate adults. Years ago disgruntled employees were getting a gun and shooting the mean people at work. Adolescents saw the adults “going postal’ and the school shootings began.
You can’t call someone a nigger or spic without a quick scolding from an adult. But call some kid a queer, fag or dyke- no response. It doesn’t matter if the victim is gay or not, the kids use it as a weapon against those perceived as weaker. Teens are not stupid, as long as they are not forcibly stopped, they can get away with the bullying. This confidence extended to kids recently bullying an adult. A bus monitor old enough to be their grandmother. All of it captured on video and posted for all to see without fear of reprisals.
“Where did kids get this idea from?” the distraught adults ask. They got it from us. We hear how gays are targeted on a daily basis in the media and it’s acceptable to teens because the adults are engaging in the same kind of vile name calling. As long as adults-whatever their agenda-do nothing, the violence will continue.
It’s the adults who need to act as role models in this issue and we are failing. Understanding the boundaries of insult politics comes with age and experience but teenagers have not developed the emotional aptitude to handle the subtle and complex rules adults play by. They see how divisive our culture is and echo it in their behavior.
The important question is not why are the kids behaving this way, it’s why are the adults behaving this way? Is the harassment is an attempt by a larger society to reduce the empowerment and existence of gays by eliminating them at an early age with assistance of childish cruelty. Since politics are more important to adults than teens committing suicide they give tacit approval of such behavior with their silence.
Another part of the problem is how adults react to complaints of bullying. Every attempt is made to contain, suppress or avoid the issue rather than treat abuse for what it is: a crime. Rarely is it recommended to report the physical assaults to law enforcement. This attitude is an extension of the “we’ll settle this among ourselves” mentality carried over from- guess where? the adolescent culture where adults are not to be trusted.
Why are bullied kids so often the ones expelled from a school not the bullies? Are bullied children considered weak? Are the parents also seen as weak? Are the victims low on the pecking hierarchy and so deserve the punishment? Again, we see adults and adolescents are mimicking each other’s behavior.
The condoning of bullying by the adults encourages further bullying. They see it as an acceptable part of growing up. “That which doesn’t destroys you, makes you stronger” . Except it doesn’t as bullying continues into the adult world. When the workplace bully is stopped it’s because of their impact on productivity not civility. If we want to stop the domineering boss we should start with the high school bully; that’s where they are created.
Children are being told not to fight back for fear of escalation but many see this as a suppression of the instinct to defend oneself. One wonders if school administrators and teachers aren’t reacting to the present bully the way they did when they went to school. Ignore them and the problem will go away. The behavior of the bully boss or the mediators in human resources mimic the same dynamics of the typical high school.
And so the cycle continues until we recognize our younger selves in these kids and stop the bullying now.