Should Bullying Be A Crime?
by Kerri Randall
Bullying may not have anything to do with music, however I'll bet you'd find that many musicians and artists of all types encountered some type of bullying when they were growing up. Some of them might even say it inspired some of their art–that doesn't mean anyone was grateful for being bullied, just that it gave them some creative ideas and past emotional pain to pull from.
I don't know about you, but it breaks my heart to continue to hear about kids and teens killing themselves over bullying, and about school shootings that continue to happen. Maybe I don't pay attention to the news enough, but it still seems to me like every time things seem to settle down, you hear about another suicide or shooting.
Now, we'll leave the argument that the media picks up on what they deem tragic enough…and then cover the story mercilessly. That's a separate issue all its own. Whether or not we hear about the stories in the news anyway, we know the same things continue to happen. They're either on a smaller scale or not considered newsworthy enough.
I wouldn't say that I was necessarily bullied as a kid–I was never hit or shoved or hurt in any physical way. But I did suffer emotionally, being made fun of verbally and deliberately isolated, not included in groups both in class and on the playground. And it definitely had an effect–reality finally caught up with me between grade school and high school and I went through a pretty rough depression.
As I got older, and continued to behave as though everyone wanted to make fun of me or exclude me, I slowly realized (at least in my later college years) that a lot of it had to do with my own perception. I was still hanging onto the past in some ways when I had no reason to. I learned how important it was to take initiative and be myself and not be so suspicious that any laughter I heard was directed at me.
That said, the grade school part of it all was definitely not in my head, and even though it wasn't physical, it was as serious as it seemed. And that's how I believe bullying needs to be treated: seriously. But should kids (or their parents) be taken to court for it? Is one schoolyard fight enough? Should there be a set point, like 3 major fights? And then how do we deal with the emotional bullying?
Society takes verbal and emotional abuse seriously when it's a domestic relationship. Maybe it's tough to prosecute in court, but it's still regarded as a serious and dire situation which people should avoid, or escape from should they end up in one. So why is there still such an attitude out there that bullying is just something that kids do?
I saw an article from 2010 on msnbc that said 1 out of 6 kids are bullied. That's a lot, and I think that equals a major problem, not just a "kid thing." I had the misfortune of finding another blog from a person who had been physically bullied and acted like it taught him to stand up for himself, yet also taught him nothing, and that kids who commit suicide and parents who insist on consequences for the bullies are overreacting. That it's just something kids have to learn to deal with…like he supposedly did.
He makes one good point about how blame is carelessly passed around, and how everyone is ready to sue everybody else over anything and everything these days. Yes, that's a problem. And no, not every bully needs to be brought to trial.
The sole fact that kids are losing their lives, directly and indirectly, should be cause enough to see that bullying isn't just something kids go through and have to learn to deal with. Parents need to see that if their kid isn't the one being bullied, that means there's a chance their kid IS the bully. And who wants to raise their kid to be a bully?
Bullying others and standing up for yourself are not the same thing. And unfortunately, the whole notion of ignoring a bully to make them stop doesn't always work. Sometimes it just gives them more fuel and more reason to keep at you to get the reaction they desire.
It has to start with the parents. Just like in a business, the attitude of the whole goes from the top down. There needs to be a level of concern over how children behave, and they need to be molded into the good people that they really are very early on, when they're the most easily influenced. They need praise for the good things they do and appropriate discipline when they misbehave. Kids are cruel, but that shouldn't be accepted as the norm. It can be changed. And cruel kids who aren't "set straight" usually grow into cruel adults…
And whether or not they were raised to be nice, they need to take responsibility for their actions when they become bullies. I don't believe they always need to be accused of a crime, but the seriousness of the issue needs to be made clear. And if it continues to happen, the consequences need to match. Expulsion, therapy, community service, whatever it takes to get the message through.
True, not everybody is nice. Not everybody is going to like you or me. We all need to set the example, though, that that's okay, that we can be civil even if we dislike someone. There's no need to be rude or make someone feel bad for being different.
It's often those different people who wind up being successful artists, no thanks to the bullies of the world.
What do you think about bullying? Were you bullied as a kid–or even as an adult? Please share in the comments below or on my Facebook wall!
Kerri Randall is a singer, performer, writer, and…(wait for it)…fitness instructor. She has performed throughout Milwaukee and Wisconsin with multiple bands, and has even sung at the historic Pabst Theater with the Milwaukee Police Band and Jazz Ensemble. Her passion is entertaining and inspiring others to think, laugh, and have fun. Kerri believes the artist community can only thrive when we all encourage and support each other!