Copy of “I Will Not Be Quiet” from June 2012 (old blog)

Part of a letter writing campaign, going to governors, senators, congresspersons:

I’m writing to draw your attention to a very serious issue facing the people of our country, in every state and municipality throughout the land. That issue is teen suicide due to bullying.

Many people believe this is a “created” issue, that bullying is not rampant, and that learning to deal with cruelty, prejudice, and hatred is just part of growing up. None of those statements are true.

Addressing the last belief first, I would like to ask a simple question: why it is part of growing up? The only possible answer is because cruelty, prejudice and hatred are tolerated; sadly they are also to a large degree glorified in the media, especially television and the Internet. The tolerance for this kind of behavior, in adults as well as in children, must stop. Just as the tolerance for racial hatred and bigotry had to stop being ignored by the authorities, law-makers, and religious leaders in this country in order for the expression of that hatred to no longer be the norm, so tolerance for cruelty, hatred and bigotry against any person perceived as different has to stop being ignored by the authorities, law-makers and religious leaders in this country. It is easy to turn away from this issue, to throw up one’s hands and say, “What can we do about it? It’s just the way people are.” Imagine what this country would be like if that had continued to be the attitude during the 60s and 70s in the Civil Rights Movement. While it is not possible to change the thoughts and attitudes of an individual by legislative, judicial and executive action, it is entirely possible to change the thoughts and attitudes of society itself by these methods.

The tendency toward aggressiveness may be inborn; the expression of that aggressiveness in the form of bullying is learned behavior. No one comes into this world knowing how to be a bully. Bullying must be practiced, especially in today’s sound-bite culture where the ‘zinger’ is regarded as a sign of wit and a marker of social position; no one looks up to an incompetent bully: they must learn to be good at it. Because this is so, it is possible to intervene in the process and stop bullying from being the lauded mark of social dominance that it is today. Schools have policies in place against bullying. Sadly, these policies are seldom enforced, chiefly due to the fact that the parents of bullies are often bullies themselves and aim their own aggressive behavior at anyone who is in the least perceived to be critical of their children. Hence, teachers, principals, and administrators are reluctant to take action against the bullying behavior of children before it becomes violent and excessive, often fearing the imagined scene that might take place in their hallways and offices with an aggressive parent bullying the teacher, principal or administrator into submission. Those who are “on the ground” where bullying is carried out may thus feel impotent to deal with the issue. The answer is simple, though carrying it out is not: any report of bullying to any degree must be taken seriously and must be immediately acted upon. Zero tolerance for drug use is in place in most school districts, and many workplaces, throughout the land. There should also be zero tolerance for bullying. Expulsion is not the answer, however. Corrective education and intervention should be the first response to each and every bullying incident, with suspension or expulsion being the last resort. There are many resources available to aid officials in determining the best methods for coping with bullying in their situation, to help children understand how to stop bullying they observe, how to cope with being the victim of bullying, and even how to stop being bullies themselves. I urge you to make these resources readily available, to insist that they be used, and to take a stand yourself that bullying will not be tolerated in any form.

Turning to the other points I opened with, that bullying is a created issue and is not rampant, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that in the US this year, during the first thirteen days of the month of May, at least 10 young people committed suicide to bullying. There may be more, not reported as suicide. There were certainly more attempts at suicide which failed or were aborted before completion. Please stop for a moment and consider that. Ten young people, in thirteen days. Ten young people, from May first to Mother’s Day. The issue is hardly “created” when that is the case. That it is rampant is also self-evident from those numbers.

On 9-11, it was horrifying to hear the numbers of the dead, but it was distant, a fact on a piece of paper, a word heard on a news broadcast. At the various services for the victims and at the anniversary ceremonies last September, the losses we suffered were made much more personal by the reading of the names of those we lost that day. We wept as the names were read; our resolve to end terrorism was strengthened as it became abundantly clear that no mere number leapt to its death from the towers, no mere number ignited in a fireball of jet fuel, no mere number was crushed beneath the weight of violated steel and concrete. People leapt; people were burned; people were crushed. People are dying because of bullying. Here are their names, as of this date:

Aaron Jurek – Blaine, MN; 15 (1994-2009)

Alec Henrikson – ,UT; 18 (1991-2010)

Asher Brown – Houston, TX; 13 (1997-2010)

Billy Lucas – Greensburg, IN; 15 (1995-2010)

Brandon Bitner – Mount Pleasant Mills, PA; 14 (1996-2010)

Bruce (Bobby) David Michaels – ,FL; 21 (1971-1992)

Bryan Tyler Boydston, 19

Caleb Nolt – Fort Wayne, IN; 14 (1995-2010)

Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover – Springfield, MA; 11 (-2009)

Cody Barker – Shiocton, WI; 17 (1993-2010)

Daniel Spangler – Cincinnati, OH; 15 (1996-2012)

Dominic Crouch – Cheltenham, Gloucestershire UK; 15 (1995-2010)

Eric James Borges – Visalia, CA; 19 (-2012)

Eric Mohat – Cleveland, OH; 17 (1990-2007)

Haylee Fentress – Marshall ,MN; 14 (1997-2011

Jack Reese – Mountain Green, Utah; 17 (1995-2012)

Jacob Rogers – Ashland City, TN; 18 (1993-2011)

Jamey Rodemey – Williamsville, NY; 14 (1997-2011)

Jamie Hubley – Ottawa, Canada; 15 (1996-2011)

Jeffrey Fehr – Sacramento, CA; 18 (1994-2012)

Joel Morales, 12

Jonathan William Clark, 15

Jordan Yenor – , MN; 14 (1997-2011)

Justin Aaberg – Anoka ,MN; 15 (1995-2010)

Justin (Chloe) Lacey – Eureka, CA; 19 (1991-2010)

Kameron Jacobsen – Monroe, NY; 14 (1996-2011)

Kenneth Weishuhn – Paullina, IA; 14 (1997-2012)

Lance Lundsten – Miltona, MN; 18 (1991-2009)

Nick Kelo – Akron, OH; 13 (1997-2011)

Paige Moravetz – Marshall ,MN; 14 (1997-2011)

Peter Blake McCullers, 15, Coral Springs, FL

Phillip Parker – Carthage, TN; 14 (1998-2012)

Rafael Morelos – Wenatchee, WA; 14 (1998-2012)

Robbie Kirkland – Strongsville, OH; 14 (1982-1997)

Samantha Johnson – Coon Rapids ,MN; 13 (1996-2009)

Samantha Kelly – Huron Township, MI; 14 (1996-2010)

Seth Walsh – Tehachapi, CA; 13 (1997-2010)

Thomas John “TJ” Hayes – ,MN; (-2009)

Tiffani Maxwell – Slippery Rock, PA; 16 (1993-2009)

Tori Swoape, 15, Bloomington, IN. May 8

Tyler Clementi – Buffalo, NY; 18 (1991-2010)

Zach Harrington – Norman, Oklahoma; 19 (-2010)

Zoe Hauser – Frederick, MD; 18 (1994-2012)

Let the reading of their names strengthen our resolve that social terrorism in the form of bullying come to an end.

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