Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Size Doesn't Matter

There's a video that has gone viral currently all over the internet called "Bullying Fail" or some variation of that name.

Most people that I know have seen it or heard of it.
It was recorded by a kid on their mobile phone and takes place in a school.

In the beginning we see a boy approach a much larger boy who is talking with some other kids. He says something to him, punches him in the face and proceeds to harass and poke jabs while the larger boy tries to protect himself.

Eventually the larger boy has clearly had enough of it and grabs the smaller boy, lifts him in the air and throws him onto the ground with a body slam.
The smaller boy is obviously injured as a result and staggers to get up while another lad who is even larger than the first steps in front of the bullied boy and appears to be challenging him.

An older girl who was approaching just prior to the body slam steps in front of the third boy and tells him to back off while the bullied boy turns and walks away.
The small bully turns into the camera and seems to make a face of some type and the video is over.

Initially I saw this on YouTube although it looks like they have removed it as well as the multitude of variations and of it.
It's still out there though.

The larger boy is Casey Heynes and has become an internet hero. He even has a web site in his honour.
From what I have read it takes place in an Australian school and Casey was suspended for the slam and faces further disciplinary actions while his tormentor has received no punishment.
If this part is true I do not agree with it.
Another report I have seen states that both boys were suspended for 4 days.

However this isn't the part that I want to write about. I hope that justice will be served in a manner that is fair.
I don't care how old the boys are or what brought this incident on.

The video speaks for itself.

I would rather not say that I am in support of any actions contained in the video but I will tell a personal story.

Throughout most of my public school years I was pushed around by another boy who was a year younger than I was. I'll call him Biffy.

For most of my life I have been larger than many kids my own age. I was usually taller or heavier than others and often both heavier and taller at the same time.

Unfortunately I was not very co-ordinated and a bit of a klutz.
Understandably I was not a very good fighter and didn't defend myself very well. Once in a while I triumphed but not too often.

I can remember the feeling I got in my stomach when I saw Biffy in the schoolyard or when he was nearby. I can't remember how many times he approached and pushed me for no reason or gave me a shot.

He was smaller than me but I didn't do anything back to him.
Maybe I should have and the length of this garbage would have been greatly reduced?

I remember how great it felt when I finally finished Grade 6 and headed to Junior High the next year.
I was free of Biffy for a whole year. At least in the school environment.

When I started Grade 8 Biffy came into the school in Grade 7 and it started all over again.
Biffy would push me when he was in the mood or punch me for fun.

Until one day it changed.

I was walking home along the sidewalk with some other kids when Biffy came up from behind and started pushing me.
I have no idea why the others with me didn't do or say anything but I think that they wanted to avoid Biffy too. Maybe it was a relief to them that he had picked me to push around rather than them?

We got to the part of our walking route where Biffy was to turn right towards his house while my friends and I were to continue straight.

I remember that Biffy told me to go with him rather than straight on. I said that I was going home but he pushed me in front of him and we headed towards his house through the hydro field.

It seemed like forever but in reality probably just a few minutes that Biffy pushed and punched me along in front of him.

Then something happened.
I don't know why or what finally made me snap but right as Biffy was pushing me I reached back, grabbed his arm and with all of my strength I threw him over my head onto the ground in front of me.
Then I put my knee onto his chest and held him down.

Biffy started to cry and scream that I was hurting him so I jumped up and ran away as fast as I could.

My best friend lived close by and I ran to his house.

I don't know why exactly but I was crying. I don't remember if it was a happy cry or a sad one or even if I knew the difference.

Biffy never picked on me again. That incident was never talked about or brought up.
In fact, many years later while I was a bouncer at a local bar in North York Biffy came in as a customer several times and we got along just fine. We chatted like old pals catching up on things.
The bullying times were never talked about but have always been in my head. Even with the satisfaction of their conclusion the negativity of the times has stuck in there.

I am ashamed to admit this but I also remember that there was a boy that I bullied as well. I'm not positive how long it went on or when it stopped but I do remember that it wasn't as long a period as I was picked on by Biffy.

I'm betting the reason for this was because this other boy told his parents what I had done and they acted on it by talking to my parents who made it quite clear to me that I was not going to do it again.

I didn't ever tell my parents about Biffy.

Why the heck not?? Who knows.
He probably threatened me not to tell on him but so what? If I told my parents they would certainly have acted upon it wouldn't they?

Imagine if one short conversation with mom and dad could have spared me almost seven years of hell.

It happens far too often where an individual endures torment at the hands of others and never tells anyone about it.
After suffering in silence, many victims finally reach a breaking point and resort to drastic measures.

It rips my heart out to think that nobody was able to reach out to them in time. Sadly, too frequently because the victim either didn't reach out, didn't know how to reach out or reached out to find that no-one would take their hand and help them.

I would like to think that it's a new day and that modern society is such that the events of my past could never happen today but that would be foolish.
Casey's video is clear evidence that it does still happen.

Maybe it always will.
I know that the society does not tolerate bullies when it is aware of them.
Our schools have made it clear that there is zero tolerance for this and that punishment is severe and immediate.

Cheryl and I are very lucky that we have an excellent level of communication with our sons.
The boys do not hesitate to tell us when someone has picked on them or if someone is being picked on.
In elementary school a boy made an abusive comment to T. T told us and we immediately contacted the boy's parents who made him apologize and promise not to do it again.
This isn't the only instance.
Cheryl and I have met with the principal at the boys' school on a couple of occasions to resolve a situation that the boys have made us aware of and the problem was solved.

A few years ago there was a boy that pushed and hit T. In this instance we didn't hear about it until we were called to the school by the principal to talk about B's actions.
What happened is that T's brother B saw this other boy push T and gave him a punch to remember.

I'm confident that T would have told us about what was happening to him but didn't have the chance yet.

Publicly we told B that what he did was wrong and that he should never hit another person.

Privately I gave B a huge hug and told him how proud I was that he had stuck up for his brother. That will never ever change.

I wonder how many times Casey had been bullied and if he had told his parents?

One comment that I saw in reference to Casey's incident was "pick on someone your own size has taken on a new meaning".
I'm sure we have all heard this before. I know of several old cartoons and television shows that used it.
I think that what it is saying is that if someone wants to pick on another person to at least do it with someone who is equal in stature to make the situation seem fair.
What a stupid, stupid statement.

By definition, "pick on" means to tease or bully.
It doesn't matter if one is bigger or smaller, male or female, animal or person.

"Picking on" is wrong. Don't do it at all.

Or you may have to answer to a Casey.

Stay well,


Kara said...

Hey Tim,
I haven't seen the video, and really don't think I care too either. Sorry to hear you had to endure so many years of that torture. I was also bullied. It was awful. My parents got involved but it only seemed to make things worse. So glad those days are over.
Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Wanderer said...

Excellent post Tim.

I think we all have experiences of bullying and being bullied. One leads to the other.

In my case, I turned to my drums; beathing them rather than the "Biffy" I was dealing with. Throughout the years, he would be dancing to my rhythm, and as high school finished, he complimented me on how good I'd become.

I never told him just how big a role he'd played in my drumming development, but occasionally, when I'm not feeling 100% on stage and need a little extra strength, I'll think of him, allow the anger to grow, and my strength returns.

Rhonda Maccarone said...

Wow, great blog Tim.