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Backing Down the Bullies

We the Media may not always do the right thing or do it at the right time, but occasionally we get it right. And sometimes occasionally we’re just good for getting the word out.

Take the recent focus on bullying, for example. Bullying is as old as the hills. I’m sure one caveman started the whole thing off by bullying the weaker caveman living next door. We’ve lived with it for years and, unfortunately, will probably continue to do so forever to some extent. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fight back, and at least in this respect the media is helping to sound the alarm.

Take the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin case. You may have head a little something about this if you’re a sports fan (ahem) or probably you know what’s going on even if you’re not a fan. Basically, one alpha offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins (Incognito) began a systematic bullying of a weaker Dolphins lineman (Martin). This is certainly no open-and-shut case as the two were reportedly friends and the question of whether this was ordered of Incognito by his bosses has arisen. Regardless, the mental beat down of Martin, including some horribly racist and threatening text messages, is classic bullying.

Then there was the case recently of 18-year-old Shea Shawhan, a student at Plano West Senior High School. Shawhan is a cheerleader and softball player who has the mental capacity of an 8-year-old. Apparently, that was enough for a group of classmates to begin a hate campaign, sending text messages such as these:

“People at West don’t want her, that’s the reason she has seizures because that’s karma.”

“Shea is so annoying but cute I want to do more than just kiss her I want to rape her then kill her. That will finally make sure she goes away for good.”

That is bullying taken to a horrifying extreme. In this case, the media attention spawned a Facebook page in support of the girl and she is getting the final laugh, though police have yet to be able to trace these texts.

The worst-case scenario occurred in Florida as two girls, ages 12 and 14, cyberstalked and bullied another 12-year-old to the point that the victim took her own life, spawning the chance of federal anti-bullying legislation in the coming years.

It’s said that bullies back down when confronted. This isn’t always true, but the more word gets out about what’s going on the more people there will be to confront these people. Bullies pick on those who are weaker, but there is strength in numbers. Bullies tend to like to work anonymously and in secret, but with all the attention the problem is getting these days it’s harder for these dregs to remain anonymous.

Schools have begun anti-bullying programs with classmates stepping up to watch out for others. It happened at Plano West as a group of students dawned “I’m with Shea” t-shirts in support of Shawhan. I’ve seen innovative programs locally, as well, to make sure bullies can’t get comfortable.

I was bullied a bit when I was a kid, especially when I moved into a new town. I was all of a sudden the smart kid in class and some of my fellow classmates didn’t appreciate it. It was nothing major, but it was enough to foster a life-long contempt for those who do the bullying, no matter what level.

I bumped into one of my bullies a few years later and let’s just say it was a different story this time around. Flash forward another 10 years and I bump into that same guy in a restaurant and the dynamic had totally changed. Bullies have a limited window in which to operate, and that window is beginning to close on a wide scale. Let’s make sure that window stays closed.

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