14 September 2016

God Help the Sensitive Child

I hate the world today. . .
Collateral damage of America's bully culture

Another of these stories – another dead child – a nine-year-old suicide-by-bullying. Make sure you read the local story which is linked to the Daily Mail.

This line:

Baber said Jackson tried to fend off the bullies with humor and sometimes by force although he had lost he desire to fight them in recent weeks. His grandmother also helped build him a clubhouse to help him make more friends.

Got me thinking.

Humor, the last line of defense – don’t kill the funny guy. Humor is the only weapon of the truly powerless: if I can make them laugh, maybe they’ll leave me alone.

But after a while, even resilient kids reach their limit.

They even built Jackson a clubhouse to try and help him make friends. Can you imagine that? What more could these people of limited means do? Arm the kid?

Of course not – nine-year-old kids aren’t allowed to defend themselves with guns. But the bullies have fists, feet, rocks, pipes, any old thing at their disposal. In our culture, we worship bullies because they ‘toughen up’ the pussies; doing society a favor. Or dispose of the weak links, in this case. We love bullies. One of the biggest of them could be our next President.

As for the attacks on Jackson, remember, if no one in ‘authority’ sees it, legally, it doesn’t happen. 

And even when school administrators see it (you will never find a bigger more craven coward than a school administrator) they will most likely do nothing.

And another child dies from bullying. It happens so often now it’s hardly newsworthy.

Why?

I can only speak from my personal experience. I had a few strikes against me as a kid that made me the target of occasional bullying

  • I’m fat – always been, always will be
  • The funny last name. Bullies can do so many innovative things with a person’s last name if it’s not something like ‘Smith’ or ‘Carter,’ or something appropriately non-ethnic. I used to brood in my bedroom asking why I had to be burdened through no fault of my own, with my last name. I hated it.
  • Working class parents in an upper middle class Catholic school. Never the best clothes, snacks, vacations, parent’s cars, sexy jobs, etc. etc. Kids notice every class difference. Wonder why?
  • Overly-sensitive. Do you read books as an 11 year old that are not ‘boy’s books’? I was mercilessly teased for reading World War II history and great literature like ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ Do you like listening to Neil Diamond rather than BTO? When someone insults you, does it show on your face immediately no matter what you do? The pack will find you and make you pay. God help you if someone sees you pick a flower.


There’s more but those are the big ones.

I can remember all the times I tried faking illness so as not to be sent to school. I can remember, one morning, in the third grade, literally crying hysterically not to be made to go to school because on that day for some reason, I knew I was going to get it worse than normal.

I tried to get my mother to transfer me to a public school.

She told me they sent me to Notre Dame because I’d “get the shit kicked out of me” in the local public schools. Yes, my mom said that to me. Again note well parents: children remember EVERYTHING.

So instead of physical bullying (I could get that from dad), I had to be content with constant verbal bullying. I did get into a few fights but did everything I could to shy away from conflict. It has become a lifelong trait – from my dad, my boss, my family, etc. As Mellencamp sang, when I fight authority, authority always pounds me into pulp. Or something like that.

So the big question – did I ever consider suicide as a 10-year-old?

That’s actually a hard question to ask because I experienced such a swirl of emotions at the time.
Then, as now, all I wanted was to be left alone and treated with basic human decency. I wanted to strike out at these kids but I knew I couldn’t so the revenge fantasies stayed just that – fantasies.

I wanted someone in authority to do something. I mean, did they not have eyes or ears? The nicest nun I had the whole time at NDE, Sister John David in the third grade, saw me get beat up over a scrabble game but could only offer a bit of consolation – she did nothing to the kid who beat on me, which sent a message to the whole class.

I could NOT ask my father for help. That would be admitting to him that everything he thought about me was true. He was already wishing he had had another daughter – maybe she would go hunting and fishing with him. My mother listened but always felt that I should be able to handle these situations with words. A local martial arts school opened up and I asked mom about it, knowing that it would not only help my confidence but since everyone always called me names for being fat, it would certainly help that too.

She thought about it for a few minutes and then decided against it. “I don’t want you to get a big head,” she said.

Seriously.

But because of her actions, or lack of actions, she WOULD send me to a shrink at 14 (too late). THAT would fix everything.

Seriously.

At some point, I reached the phase where I wish I hadn’t been born. I remember that. I don’t know when that started, possibly the third grade or thereabouts. Most of the time, I dealt with the whole mess by escaping into my imagination where I would construct a parallel universe in which I was . . . loved, appreciated, befriended.

Or I escaped into the world of books.

My dad had lots of guns. It would have been ridiculously easy for me to have gotten one, loaded it and killed myself. The thought really never occurred to me. I think the biggest reason was the fact that although Notre Dame Elementary was an eight year prison sentence, I knew that if I just could make it to graduation than things would be better. I was like a convict counting the days on the cell wall – which I actually did in my room with a calendar. I started my countdown at 1,000 days to eighth grade graduation.

There was hope. When you have hope of a better future, you can put up with a lot of shit.

I had that then. Jackson, in his world, couldn’t see any hope. I wonder what he did see? I wonder what he felt? We will probably never know as the story mentioned, he kept these things to himself.

Not all kids are built with the same steel. I wish we’d recognize that. But in a place like Raleigh, West Virginia, you have to believe there aren’t many ways out for a kid like Jackson. It’s perfectly believable that he would conclude that his life, as it was now, would forever be.


God help the sensitive child.