When I was a child I was bullied.
Brace yourselves. I am about to do that irritating thing where I tell you a story from my life that you probably aren’t interested in, and then apply it on a wide scale, even though it’s kind of like comparing apples with orange monsters that want to maul your face off.
The bullying started with a few kids, and it spread. There was a song the whole class would sing when the teacher wasn’t in the room. It wasn’t a particularly offensive song, just a childish one. And it wasn’t the words that hurt so much as the laughter and the crushing weight of numbers. With the wider class, the song was as bad as it got, but the original bullies didn’t back off that whole year.
I’m not writing this to blame them. They were kids. I don’t know what was going on with them. I was also a kid. Initially I tried fighting back (with words). It was unsuccessful, or seemed so, but perhaps a blow or two landed and perhaps they don’t have fond memories of me either. I don’t know. But I do hope they are doing well with their lives, and if they remember it at all, I hope they learned something positive.
They’re just apples. Apples aren’t monsters that try to maul your face off. This isn’t about them.
This is about the day I tried to get help.
It took me all year to work up the guts to say something. I was afraid of being labelled a dobber, but I was more afraid that nothing would happen. That I would be told that the bullies weren’t doing anything wrong. That I deserved it.
So I waited until the end of the last day of school for that year, figuring it was the safest time. I dawdled while the other kids left. Then I went up to the teacher.
(She was one of the better teachers. She was friendly and fun and she taught well. She was a favourite of a lot of kids. I liked her.)
I learned a lot of things at school. I learned times-tables, spelling, and how to write a sentence.
And I learned that I was on my own.
Nobody would help me. I learned that the bullies weren’t doing anything wrong. I learned that I had deserved it.
I had seven years of schooling left, and I never spoke up about being bullied again.
(Silence killed the dinosaurs.)
But I did speak up for other people.
Like I said, I learned a lot of things at school. I learned about hypotenuses, writing essays and the Cold War. I learned that it is a powerful thing to tell someone that they are on their own. And, by extension, I learned it was an even more powerful thing to tell someone that they are not alone.
As a child, you think growing up fixes everything. I thought that when I grew up and left school and left home and left my hometown, I would be free.
But then I did all that, and I found that the world is still a frightening place full of monsters that shouldn’t be compared to apples. And the orange monsters in the adult-world have the power to cause destruction on a large scale.
Trump’s expressed opinions of minority groups are concerning. His promised and actual legislation against some of these groups is alarming. But it is the manner he does it—through dehumanisation, blatant lies and the deconstruction of science and truth—that is truly terrifying. Not just for America, but for every democratic country.
It is easy to feel helpless.
But there’s always something. And it is heartening to see so many people finding it.
Perhaps, as I had left it to the last day of the year, the teacher did not have any authority to enforce consequences for the bullies. Even if she did, perhaps it would not have stopped them.
But there is always something. There always is. And I know there was then, because if I could rewrite that scene I know exactly how it would go.
Because it was wrong. I didn’t deserve it. And I shouldn’t have had to be alone.
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