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Posts Tagged ‘bully

How I Know That People Aren’t Taking This Seriously

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I’ve been trying to write this one for over a week.  Obviously, other things took precedence.  I had alluded, in an earlier post, that I had just learned beyond a shadow of a doubt that the epidemic we’re seeing of bullying and bully-related teen suicides wasn’t being taken seriously and that I would explain “…in my next entry.”  Well, then all hell broke loose last week, with an explosion of 6 teen suicides in a 48 hour period, and this one got put on the back burner.

So, what happened to assure me that it’s not being taken seriously?  I grew tired of waiting for the movie, Bully, to come to a theater near me here in Maryland, so I started checking around to see where I could go to see it.  What I found was discouraging, to say the least.  In the county I live in here in Maryland, the movie is playing atone theater, AND it plays one time per day!  That angered me.  Once I got to the theater, that anger was fused with discouragement.  With a movie of this magnitude being shown in one theater one time per day, one would think that the theater would be packed.  Nope.  Including myself and Marty, there were SIX people viewing the movie.

What I came away with was the reality that, whereas there are obviously those of us who DO care about what’s going on, quite obviously there aren’t enough people who really give a damn.  And, that in itself gives partial explanation as to why it’s easy to get the feeling that not enough is being done.  I came away with the attitude of “not enough is being done because not enough people care!!

How do we change the general apathy that right now permeates our society as it pertains to bullying and bully-related teen suicides?  I wish I could answer that.  I can’t.

“Bully” is most definitely a must-see movie. (if the scene that this picture was captured from doesn’t rip your heart right from your chest, you heart beats icicles.)
  • The story of Alex Libby is woven throughout the movie.
  • Kelby Johnson, a 16-year-old openly lesbian, was completely outcast by her school
  • Ja’Meya Jackson was incarcerated for brandishing a gun on a school bus after being relentlessly bullied
  • Ty Smalley ended his life because of bullying, as did
  • Tyler Long
Originally, I was going to do more or less a review of the movie.  However, I don’t want to do that.  Rather, I want to challenge everyone who has NOT seen this movie to go do so the very first chance you get.  Take your kids.  Take your nieces and nephews.  Take your neighbor’s kids!  Call every school in your district and find out if they have a copy of it yet.  If they don’t, demand that they show it to the student body immediately.  It’s a must-see movie.  It’s a must-see movie because it shows a lot of real-time bullying and what these kids are really dealing with.  It’s a must-see movie because it shows the tragic aftermath of what families and friends are left to deal with once one of these young people have taken their lives because of the bullying.  It’s a must-see movie because it clearly illustrates how officials, from school officials to police officials, thoroughly fumble the whole process of dealing with bullying and its affects.  And, it’s a must-see movie because, sadly, two of the real-life characters are already gone.
In the larger picture, the mission here is to make every effort to get people to take this much, much more seriously than it’s currently being taken.  “Kids will be kids; boys will be boys”.  Try telling that nonsense to the parents of one of these young people who have ended their life because of “kids being kids”.  If you were to read some of the things that I’ve read, if you were to read the cyberbullying posts that one mother of a recent suicide victim shared with the facebook blog page and the pure evil-spirited venom the words contained, it would be clear that the “kids will be kids; boys will be boys” mentality must be eliminated.
The five “characters” in the movie aren’t characters at all:  they’re real-life people.  The two sets of families and friends grieving the loss of their love ones aren’t actors playing a role:  they’re real-life people devastated by a preventable, life-altering tragedy.  It’s time to get serious.  It’s time to demand that the authorities get serious.

They Wore Blue: Grace McComas, 15-years-old, Death by Suicide

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Last week, while we here in Maryland, and around the world, were mourning the suicide of Kenny Wolf, there was yet another event here.  Fifteen-year-old Grace McComas, of Glenelg High School, ended her young life because of cyberbullying two days following Kenny.  Both were laid to rest within moments of each other Saturday, April 14th.

Specific details of the cyberbullying were not reported by The Baltimore Sun because of an ongoing police investigation.

What is apparent was that blue was Grace’s favorite color.  Her friends started a cyber campaign, #blue4grace, which quickly went viral and attracted the attention of such notables as Lauren Alaina, the 2011 “American Idol” runner-up and Baltimore Ravens’ running back, Ray Rice.  Mourners were asked to wear blue for the visitation, but it didn’t stop there.  People as far away as Ireland and the Czech Republican were participating in the event.  The message is getting out:  this has to end.  And, to be sure, there ARE many people doing a lot of great things in an effort to end the bullying that’s claiming far too many teens’ lives.  One teen suicide because of bullying is one too many.  I’ve had 2 here in my own backyard within the past 10 days.  Enough.

Footballer Ray Rice has become proactive in the campaign against bullying.  He’s hosting an anti-bullying event in Howard County, where Grace was from.  I’m in the process of getting more information about that right now.  I’ve messaged Ray via his personally-run facebook page.  And, as the information becomes available to me, it will be passed along via the blog and on the facebook blog page.

It’s been said in conversations I’ve had with some people that today’s young people should have thicker skin and just understand that bullying is a part of growing up.  When I hear that, I seeth as I listen to their opinion.  But, listen, I do.  See, on the one hand, I do understand where they think they’re coming from with this logic.  Bullying has been around for as long as I can remember and, I’m sure, well before that.  My own dealings with the bullying and violence is well-documented here.  And, speaking from a personal standpoint, suicide wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary when I was a teen.  I coped.  I moved on.  But, as I’ve been figuring out over the past 10 years or so, I didn’t really “cope”.  The subconscious scars were very slow to heal.  And, that’s because I didn’t even realize they were there until, well, 10 years ago or so.  So, that said, it isn’t just a matter of today’s young people “getting over it”.  It just needs to end.  Period.  Parry Aftab, an Internet privacy and security lawyer who advises Facebook and MTV on online safety, had this to say about it:

“I don’t want the kids to be more resilient”. “I want the kids who are doing it to stop. I want friends of the kids being bullied to stand up and say, ‘I am with you.’ The popular kids, the smart kids, the big kids need to stand up and say, ‘Stop.'”

That’s the correct answer.  Damned needing tougher skin!!  They shouldn’t have to be dealing with it at all.

And, of course, there have been naysayers who believe this is all much ado about nothing.  To them, I say “think again”.  This is a real-life, real-time problem, and it’s costing lives.

In the most recent report, released March 31, the Maryland State Department of Education cited nearly 4,700 incidents of bullying, harassment and intimidation in the 2010-2011 school year, up from about 3,800 in 2009-2010 and 2,100 in 2008-2009.(The Baltimore Sun)

What that statistic clearly shows that bullying has increased in each of the past three school years in Maryland, alone!  Understanding that that’s only from the cases that are reported really puts it all in perspective.  We’re in the midst of a crisis that’s causing teens to end their own lives.  And, even in the cases where they aren’t committing suicide, sometimes the psychological scars they’re left with can last a lifetime.

A lot is being done, now, and by many people, to address the issue.  However, a lot more needs to be done, and by many more people.  And, we start by a.) re-educating the adults; and, b.) making sure our lawmakers and school officials understand that this issue needs to be taken with the same gravity of, say, an outbreak of a deadly viral infection that’s hitting teens around the country and around the world.  How quickly would “they” find a cure if that were the issue instead of bullying?  That same intensity needs to be focused on the issue with bullying.

To the family and friends of Grace McComas, I’m so sorry that you’re having to go through this.  My heart and condolences go out to you.  And, to you, Grace, the world will now never know what gifts you had to offer.  Rest in peace.

Asperger’s and Being Bullied

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There was a very sobering video posted today on the facebook blog page, courtesy of Wipe Out Suicide and Wipe Out Homophobia.  Sobering because it was a mother telling how her 5-year-old son had been bullied to the point where he wanted to die.  Five years old!!!  There can’t be a more resounding wake-up call than that.asperger4The story of 5-year-old Aden is both heartbreaking and familiar.  Heartbreaking, for obvious reasons.  When you have anyone feeling so much emotional pain because of the actions of a few people who carelessly abuse them because they are “different”, that’s a problem.  When you have a 5-year-old saying he wants to die because of the treatment he’s getting, that’s a 5-alarm blaze.

I could connect with this because Marty, my 23-year-old surrogate son, deals with the same issue.  Like Aden, Marty is not your average Joe.  He’s uniquely Marty.  And, that’s okay.  He’s highly intelligent, as I’m sure Aden is.  He yearns to be accepted by his peers, like Aden; yet, because he’s perceived as different, it’s a constant challenge for him to gain acceptance .  As a result, he struggles with social anxiety.  Like Aden, all he yearns for is to be accepted, by his peers, by anybody…simply for being Marty.  That’s not asking too much.  Isn’t that what we all want?  Sure it is.  And, sadly, like Aden, Marty has voiced on occasions that “I don’t belong in this world”.  I’ve worked hard for 3 1/2 years to show him that he’s wrong.

Like Marty, Aden will grow into the understanding that there IS a place in this world for him.  He’s got an incredible mother who, right now while he’s still very young, is Aden’s “voice”.  On that, alone, he’s got a leg up on Marty.  But, that’s a whole different story.  Like Marty, Aden will grow into the understanding that Asperger’s is simply something he has to deal with in his life, but it’s not who he is.  In the 3 1/2 years he’s been with me, Marty has done nothing but grow.  It’s amazing what positive reinforcements can do for a person.  It’s sad, though, that he had to wait until he was an adult before he had someone who would take the time to give him that daily positive reinforcement.  And, that gives Aden a major leg up!!!  His mother, in speaking out with this video, should win “Mother of the Year” accolades!!  Asperger’s isn’t a death sentence.  It’s just extra luggage to carry as you embark on your journey through life.autism

Here’s the real problem.  How is it that five-year-old kids can be so intolerant and mean as to make one of their peers want to end his life!?  That’s a REAL problem!!  And, there’s no way you can blame a 5-year-old for that behavior.  I’ve said it a thousand times but, obviously, it needs to be said tens of thousands more times:  the issue of bullying isn’t just about the young people, IT’S THE ADULTS WE HAVE TO FOCUS ON!!  The young people are learning this level of meanness and intolerance from people much older than themselves.  Take that to the bank.  And, perhaps, it isn’t the parents, directly.  Maybe it’s the older siblings.  However, the link still goes back to the parents.  Adults are the root to this whole bullying problem, like it or not.  The issue with Aden makes that woefully clear.

I challenge every single adult and, especially, parent to monitor themselves.  Do it for a week.  How are the young people in your life seeing you deal with other people, people you perceive as different?  How are they hearing you talk about a different ethnic group than your own, about members of the LGBT community, about someone with a disability?  How they see and hear YOU deal with people you perceive as “different” is how they are taught to deal with them.  Plain and simple.  And, as is made obvious by this video and 5-year-old Aden, they learn young.

Spread love.

Embrace diversity.

Teach acceptance.

It’s the only way we’re going to change this culture of hatred and intolerance.  As Aden’s mother stated poetically in the video:  “Love…cures.  Hate…kills.  Be nice to others.  It starts with you.”  It’s really just that simple.AutismAwarenessHeader

Written by Ron Kemp

April 12, 2012 at 7:13 am

Playing Politics with Teens’ Lives

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An unidentified 15-year-old girl has succumbed to bullying in Livingston County, KY.  Her suicide brought the number of teens in Livingston County who have committed suicide to 3 in the past 5 months.  Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers recently struck down a bill that would’ve strengthened the anti-bullying laws there and could’ve saved her life.

Parents in Kentucky are picketing for zero-tolerance for bullying.  I applaud them.  I also think it’s time to get very serious with our political machine and let them know that their politics are costing lives.  I can’t put it any clearer than that.

Following the suicide of a 13-year-old due to bullying in October 2011, a 14-year-old girl testified before the House in an effort to get the bill passed that would provide greater protection for all students.  Sadly, however, Rep. Sam Waide (R) had this to say about why the bill was struck down:

House Republicans …blocked passage of the law on grounds it would place “gay rights in our schools,”

I’m of reasonable intelligence, with better-than-average reading comprehension skills.  What they said was that it’s more important to uphold their own anti-gay beliefs than it is to pass measures that will save lives!  HOW is that possible?  How is it that we’re allowing our political “leaders” to place their beliefs over human lives?  And, this isn’t exclusive to Kentucky.

  • Stacey Campfield, Tennessee, is still trying to pass legislation in Tennessee essentially disregards the existence of LGBT teens.  Worse, he wants to pass legislation that will sanction the bullying of LGBT teens.
  • There’s legislation in place right now, awaiting passage, in several other states that will also sanction the bullying of LGBT teens.  To clarify, the language of these bills basically says that it’s ok to bully an LGBT teen as long as it’s done for “religious, political, or philosophical reasons.”
  • And, we can never forget the disaster of Anoka-Hennepin.  The culture of hatred and intolerance towards the LGBT community there created by Michele Bachmann and her religious, ultra-conservative followers created what amounted to an outbreak of LGBT teen suicide in her district.

These are just a few of the extreme cases that we know about.  Whereas these three instances are bad enough, (and, make no mistake:  they are atrocious!), you can rest assured that there are more around the country.

Recently, one member of the facebook blog page voiced his concern that I was “bashing” the Republican Party on the page in the blog posts.  I’m all about equality for all members of our society.  One party tends to be for equality for all people; one party tends to want certain groups of people to, well, disappear.  Do your own math.  It really isn’t that hard to figure out.  That’s not bashing; that’s just reality.  And, trying to spin it any other way is as reckless and dangerous as their actions.  Period.

When protecting one’s political and/or religious beliefs become more important than protecting the lives of the people they were elected (read: hired) to protect, especially when said people are teens, it’s time for them to find new occupations.  Clearly, they don’t understand their job description of public servant.

Meanwhile we, the concerned and compassionate citizens, can afford to wait no longer.  Far, far too many lives are being lost, friends and families being destroyed, to continue to sit back and let this continue.  It doesn’t matter if “they” agree or disagree with one’s sexual orientation.  When “they” are willing to pass legislation that is proven will cause great harm to or, in this case, block legislation that will protect all of their citizens rather than just the ones “they” approve of, it’s time for “them” to go.  It’s that simple.  A life is a life, gay or straight.  They don’t get to play God and choose who gets to live and who doesn’t.  And, while on that subject, the argument of “it’s against God’s will…”?  Yeah, save that.  In that same Bible that “they” use to bash people, it also says that only God can judge.  If a person’s sexual orientation is truly against God’s will, let them and God deal with it on Judgement Day.

Rest In Peace, Lennon Baldwin, 15: Suicide from Bullying

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Wednesday was a bad day.  In addition to the 12-year-old in West Virginia who ended his life due to bullying, Lennon Baldwin, 15, of New Jersey ended his young life as well.  Police in Morristown are investigating the suicide for the possibility of bullying.lennon-baldwin2-300x199

By all accounts, Lennon was a very well-liked, happy young man with an infectious smile.  I’ve witnessed, as well, that he was a very gifted, blooming artist.  A friend of Lennon’s posted this video as a tribute to his fallen friend.  A rising star now dimmed by suicide.

Unlike some other jurisdictions, the authorities in Morristown are on record as saying they are doing a “full investigation” into the suicide.  At this point, it is unclear whether bullying was the cause or not.

Teen suicide, whatever the reason, regardless of their sexual orientation, is an issue that absolutely has to be addressed with the same urgency as a recently reported “epidemic” of teen smoking.  If not moreso.  After all, we can get teens to stop smoking.  No one has figured out how to stop anyone from being dead.  Once the suicide attempt is successful, that’s it.  A young life is senselessly and needlessly snuffed out.  Dreams are extinguished.  Families and friends are left with hearts ripped as they try to make sense of it all.

What is the solution?  I wish I could answer that.  Right now, no one can.  However, there are things we can do to put a serious dent in what’s going on.

For starters, we can work as one in convincing the people who lead that teen suicide is a very serious issue in our culture, not only in our country but worldwide.  It is a plague that deserves the full-attention of every politician, every religious leader, every school administrator across the board.

The scourge of bullying, which is at the root of far too many teen suicides needs to be met head-on and dealt with.  In some ways, that’s easier said than done.  Why?  Because on one level, it’s very easy for us all, including myself, to call for the heads of those who bully another human being to the point where they feel the only way to make it stop is to end their own life.  And, indeed, I do feel that those who continually and willfully bully a person should be held accountable if that person commits suicide because of their actions.  It’s no different than the bully holding a gun to that same person’s head and pulling the trigger.  They are just as dead either way.  The difference is, in this case, the one who pulled the trigger is obviously charged with murder.  So, why should bullying someone to the point where he or she feels the only way out is commit suicide be any different.  Why?  Because it’s more complex than that.  See, on another level is the reality that we, as humans, are not born to hate.  We are not born intolerant.  The exact opposite it true.  That means that they are taught these emotions and behaviors.  And, unfortunately in this case, a young person’s brain is a sponge.  They learn well.  So, to get at the root of bullying, it is imperative to start with the adults.  If Johnny constantly hears his dad, his religious leader, or political leaders constantly express their disdain, their intolerance and hatred of certain groups of people, whether it’s different races or people of a different sexual orientation, he’s learning from them that it’s ok to treat these people like they don’t belong.  It’s ok to call them the most degrading names.  It’s ok to bring physical harm to them.  No!!  It’s NOT ok!!!  And, everyone, from the adults to the young ones, needs to understand that.  Every single life is precious.

Another big contributor to teen suicides is mental health issues.  Leading the way in this area is depression.  Knowing the symptoms of depression is a crucial first-step.  Knowing how to deal with teen depression can be life-saving.

We can only hope for a speedy solution, one that will lead to a reduction and eventual end to the bullying/teen suicide epidemic.

Unfortunately, all of our efforts will be too late for the family and friends of Lennon Baldwin.  All we can do for them now is wrap our arms around them and support them as they struggle mightily to make sense of this.  We can go to the facebook page set up in Lennon’s honor and leave our condolences.  And, we can pray that he now finds the peace he was denied while he was here with us.

IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS BEING BULLIED, SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY!!  DON’T STOP SEEKING HELP UNTIL YOU FIND SOMEONE WHO WILL LISTEN AND TAKE ACTION.

IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW ARE SUICIDAL, PLEASE SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY!!  THERE ARE MANY, MANY RESOURCES AROUND FOR YOU.  

Suicide Support 

STOP Teenage Suicide  

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  

UPDATE:

I erroneously stated earlier in this that Lennon was an artist “as seen in this video”. The artist in the video is his friend, Andrew, who drew the picture of Lennon as a tribute.  Sorry for the confusion.

Written by Ron Kemp

March 31, 2012 at 4:10 am

Spreading Hate

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I was working on a different story that’s pretty important, itself.  Then, this story was presented to me.  Couldn’t wait.

To understand the importance of why so many people are working so hard to change the cultural landscape of this country, and around the world!, when it comes to the LGBT community, one needs to look no further than this.  There is a 21-year-old undergrad student from Germany named Sophie Miriam Herold.  Remember that name.  She is not your friend!

Sophie’s mission in life is not only to “out” every LGBT person she can.  She’d rather see us eliminated.  Reading her menacing ramblings on her tumblr account was nauseating at best.

I am not hiding. I’m not afraid of you gay people. I will fight you as long as I can.
I know that by putting me out there I will be harassed and threatened. That is the price I have to pay for telling the truth about gay people. But I am not afraid of being physically harmed or killed. You may break my bones, but you can’t change the facts: that homosexuality is abnormal and disgusting.You are what you are and have to deal with it, like everybody else. Stop trying to pretend to be “better” than others because you consider yourself “transsexual”. You have to play your gender role, you have to do what society expects from you. If you don’t, you have to suffer from the consequences.

“Better”?  I don’t remember that ever being part of the dialogue, but you’re welcome to correct me if I’m wrong.  No.  Rather than presenting ourselves as “better”, we’ve simply, repeatedly and persistently, stated that we only want to be seen and treated as equal.  And, there’s a very good reason for that:  we are, in fact, equal.

Anyway, the sheer ignorance of her rantings goes on and on ad nauseum.  Rather than spend time repeating what she said, I think everyone needs to read it for themselves.

She’s just terribly ignorant in her views, especially as an undergrad student, and it’s a black-eye to her generation that someone as young as she would have such warped views.  Yet, there it is…right there in black and white for the world to read.

The bigger issue is that this bring to light the reality that there are a whole slew of “Sophies” in the world who have nothing better to do with their own life than to try their hardest to make other people miserable.  That’s a problem.  That’s the hurdle we must clear as we work towards acceptance and equality.  To an even greater extent, there are people who are far more influential than a 21-year-old hate monger who uses tumblr as her main forum to be concerned about.  We have a Presidential candidate promising to eliminate LGBT happiness, if elected, by reversing all same-sex marriages in this country.  We have lawmakers in several states working still to pass legislation that will essentially sanction the bullying of LGBT teens.  You get the picture, though.  They’re out there.  They’re filled with hate.  And, they’re out there in great numbers.

It goes without saying that hatred and intolerance were in play in the murder of young Trayvon Martin in Florida.

What’s most important in our ongoing struggle for equality and acceptance is that we continue increasing in numbers of people who are willing and able to let their voices be heard.  Our voices need to be strong and confident.  Our message needs to be clear and consistent.  But, the one thing that we cannot waver on is continuing to show and spread love.  In the end, love will conquer hate.  It’s the very reason I constantly spread messages of love on the facebook blog page.

Sophie is consumed with hatred.  And, she’s not alone.

Now, let’s send her an email to cheer her up.  Hey, she wants us to!!!  She put her email address right there in the madness she posted, in black-and-white.

Written by Ron Kemp

March 24, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Satire Mirrors Reality

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I got caught up in the moment.  Guilty as charged.  Yesterday, someone posted a link to the facebook blog page that caused a whole lot of controversy.  It was titled Top Ten Reasons Why Gay Marriage is Wrong.  Ok, I took the bait.  I read a little of it and became irate at what I was reading.  But, I shied away from writing about it because it didn’t pertain to either teen suicide or bullying.  Then, I read the line that broke to camel’s back.  THEN, I wrote about it.  And, then I found out that the whole thing was a satire.  A spoof.  And, upon closer examination, and with a much calmer mind, I was able to see the satirical angle to it. (I’m just happy that only 10 people read the blog post before I pulled it down!!)

The question that begs to be answered, though, is what exactly was it about that piece of satire that triggered such ire and from so many people, including myself?  Well, the answer is easy.  The piece echoed the diabolical diatribe that we’ve been hearing for far too long from the very people the satire was directed against:  the “fundamentalist Christians”.  And, it goes deeper than that.  It showed just how fed up we are, as a collective whole, of hearing their unbridled ignorance.  For me, personally, when I read the line “A normal child should be harassing and teasing gay kids and calling them “faggots”, not trying to be friends with them or enable their lifestyle”, my anger shifted into overdrive.  And, for good reason.  That mentality really IS pervasive amongst those who give true believers of God a bad name.

We must not lose sight of the fact that there really ARE so-called Christians who really do espouse that very same mentality.  There are politicians trying to pass laws that would sanction the bullying of LGBT teens.  And, as we saw in Anoka-Hennepin, the combination of religious and political “leaders” who share the same narrow-minded, hate-filled intolerance towards the LGBT community has a devastating effect on LGBT teens.

In hindsight, that piece of satire was actually brilliantly done.  It was almost TOO well done, actually.  Obviously, it struck a nerve.  It mirrored the reality that we face today in a society that still, in 2012, has people filled with hatred and intolerance.  Not only are they filled with hatred and intolerance, they are more than willing to spread their ignorance as “truth” in accordance to God.  When satire mirrors reality that closely, sparks fly.

Written by Ron Kemp

March 23, 2012 at 5:23 am