Just this past week I was involved in quite a personally significant conversation with a friend. In a very round about way we arrived at talking about our respective childhood’s and each of our schooling career’s — if a half-assed, uninterested effort qualifies as a “career,” then I had a glorious one! When she informed me of her experiences during high school being bullied.
In a directly related aside, also this week, I received a mailing from ZCommunications, detailing ZMagazine’s January’s 2011 issue containing Michael Bronski’s piece Glee and Queer Bullying.
It’s precisely what everyone, “Gleek’s” particularly, really should take a few moments to read and truly think about…
That said, not that I need more reasons not to like what I think is one horrible television show — which may not be fair, I’ve only ever seen parts of a couple episodes — it is seriously a provocative article. In terms of adding some much needed context to the perceptions of that show. Do check it out.
Anyway my friend being bullied, as far as I could tell — only from what she was able to tell me — was a result of her being only slightly different from the other kids in her class. And I’m not talking about anything a normal “awkward” teenager doesn’t, at one time or another, have to deal with. I am happy to say her being picked on as a teenager hasn’t seemed to negatively affect her ability to be a wonderful, absurdly caring and warm mother, partner and friend.
But it was this whole back and forth that had me thinking about certain aspects of my current life and the time I did in school. What about those kids who happen to be much different from their fellow students? What if I had to go to elementary or high school in this chair. I doubt I’d have made it. Elementary school at least. We had a refreshing amount of exposure to disability and it’s impact on an individual throughout high school. I was largely hoping to drive at a point. Being different counts for way too much in our society. And not in a good way. Or in a way that should really matter, at least.
But why is it am I so sure about my schooling remarks? I’m using “Christie” (not her real name) as my basis of measurement.
Christie was a girl who I went to school with. Granted I don’t recall her being in many of my classes, besides grade 6 that is (more on that below), but she attended my elementary school. And I seem to recall her going to school throughout my entire 8 year stint. Grades 1 through 8, I believe. She was always very polite, kind and sweet towards me. And I’m sure that behaviour wasn’t anything she paid to me alone. I saw her acting the in exact same manner with everyone else.
Then along came grade 6. Please, keep in mind, I’m reciting this purely from memory as I type this, and not from anything I have first hand knowledge of, either. But there were these 2 boys — I suspect there were more, but I can’t reliably remember the details — one was the typical popular kid, enrolled and relatively successful at all he applied himself to. Sport especially. But the other was a text book bully. Poking and prodding everyone, it seemed, just because he could. I’m pretty sure there’s something to it, but I don’t know for sure, so I’ll stop there.
But when we, the second boy and I were were “friends,” which merely meant we hung around the same people and places together, I vividly remember constantly being at odds around him. With his character. He was always so abrasive. Always looking for the edge up on everyone. Now that I’m thinking about it, a few years after our falling out and he moved away, I saw him again at a mutual friends house. He was in town for a weekend visiting. It seems what he really had in mind, after seeing me at least, was to pick up right where he left off. Getting on, and riding, my very last nerve. I wouldn’t be surprized to hear he’s now a career criminal or, more likely, working in high finance. Not really my point.
I recall knowing about these two boys picking on Christie. Again, I have no specifics, I am pretty sure I never witnessed anything, but as such, I was still complicit in allowing it to go on. I never stepped in to stop it.
You see Christie was different. With respect to her physical ability. Not only was she afflicted with a condition (I wouldn’t do her right by guessing what her condition was so I won’t provide her another dishonour) which made walking and talking “different” than our counterparts, but she had to deal with us. “Friends” who didn’t care enough to stop other friends from harassing her. She didn’t deserve that. No-one deserves that.
Make no mistake, the irony of all this isn’t lost on me, trust me. Christie and the respect she wasn’t paid isn’t something I just started thinking about since my accident, say, or from a subsequent point in time years later. I assure you it’s always something that has always bothered me. Ever since the day those two boys stood up in front of the class and helped her run for class president. Something happened. Someone stepped in. But nothing was ever said. And I’m grateful attitudes were changed. Even if they were forced. But that doesn’t ease my conscience any. It wasn’t me. and it could/should have been. All of us!
I’m so very sorry we let you down, “Christie.” If I could go back and change it, please know, I would.
I guess the moral of the story is, there is a pretty good chance if I often think about and absolutely regret something that happened nearly 25 years ago, yet I wasn’t directly involved in, people who were responsible do, too? Or that is my hope.
At least for Christie’s sake…