Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

“FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!”

Think back to your school days, and chances are at least one time, you heard that particular chant. Depending on your age, decades ago, you either gathered around, crowding around the two combatants, or, like today, you become a cinematographer to post the fight on line.

This behavior, often dismissed as a “phase” all kids go through, translation… “we aren’t going to do anything about it”, referring to the often start of the melees, bullying. I am fifty-five years old, and I can confirm this has been going on for five decades. I was involved in the process, but usually on the losing end, a victim of the bullies.

Why was I such an easy target? Besides the fact that I was short, and age-wise, I was much younger than the majority of my classmates, I was an easy target. I was raised “to turn the other cheek.” In other words, walk away from a fight. All that resulted from that, was I would get hit in the back of the head. And for anyone looking to finally break into the spotlight of being a tough guy, I was an easy mark for them to begin their journey.

There was one problem with that thinking, on both of our parts. One day, I would finally have enough, and snap. Back before the days of Columbine and Parkland and Newtown, and so many others, in other words, before the internet, that meant with my hands. And I finally fought back. It caught everyone off guard, including the recipient of the first punch.

I did not feel good about doing that, because that is not who I was, nor how I was raised. But I had enough. And there are long term effects from this behavior. Kids who bully in school, often become bullies as adults. According to the website bullyingeducation.org , adults who were bullies often inflict their “power” on others in adulthood. Many, will have involvement with the law, and statistics are only for those that have gotten caught. But according to Olweus(an anti-bullying program) in 1993, stated that one in four students identified as bullies by the age of eight have ended up with at least one conviction by the age of 30.

And what happens to the victims. Before I get to the personal story, here are the facts. According to Medical News Today, “victims of childhood bullying are at risk of poorer outcomes in adulthood, not only for psychological health, but also physical health, cognitive functioning and quality of life.” The act and results of bullying is not a phase. It is intentionally causing developmental harm to the futures of both victim and the bully.

One of the main issues that I struggle with as a result of my frequent beatings and harassment in my youth, as an adult, I fight EVERY battle. Have you ever heard the expression “choose your battles”? I don’t. Every fight to me, no matter if it is even a minor one, I see as an opportunity for someone to try and get an edge over me. To me, the little things lead to the big things. And I cannot let it happen again.

I try to look at the bright side of this attitude. This mental toughness that I developed has helped in some aspects of my life, most noticeably, in the fight for my health. I am tenacious. I do not give up. There is no quit. By the same token, I have lost friendships because I have not been able to let some things go. Co-worker relationships were ruined because I could not walk away from a supervisor acting like a bully, only to have the supervisor ramp up their efforts to crack down on my co-workers.

The point is, the effects of bullying are not a “phase.” The effects have major and permanent impacts on the future of a child, no matter the victim or the bully. So, why does society still continue to allow this “tradition?”

So two weeks ago, an incident happened in a local high school, and a portion of a cell phone recording, was released publicly. The claim, along with what was reported to news sources, was that two Caucasian girls jumped a girl identified as Muslim. It was also reported that there was a vocal exchange prior to the assault by the two girls, indicating that this likely should be considered a hate crime. While the entire incident lasted more than half of a minute, only nineteen seconds of the fight has been seen publicly (this was all that was recorded on the cell phone, school surveillance has not been released of the fight).

All that can really be seen of the fight, is security rushing in to break the fight, separating the three girls, only to have one of the combatants break free from her the burly grip of the guard and lunge at one of the two other girls. This student was on “fire.” Who could blame her? Especially if she was attacked by two others at the same time as reported. You can actually hear her yell at the two girls, “you think you’re a bad ass bitch? You think you’re a bad ass bitch?”

Now this is where it gets a little more complicated. During the fight, the Muslim girl’s hijab had been pulled from her head. While that might be a “normal” occurrence, similar to pulling hair, it was security’s actions that made things a bit more difficult. As the girls were separated and led away, the Muslim girl’s hijab was not returned to her as she was escorted out of the cafeteria. Anyone familiar with the tradition of the hijab, knows how important this article is to those who wear it. If you are not, then you may not understand the level of upset created. As the student spoke during an interview, she had felt “naked” that boys were able to see her without the hijab, something discouraged in the Muslim faith.

To their credit, the district and high school admitted the lack of awareness and in denying the restoration of the hijab to the girl. The school and district is also going to be moving forward with other cultural educational and informational programs so that more are aware of the concerns of certain populations, and the respect deserved.

Again, we are limited by a 19 second video, as opposed to the full 32 second video of the school. Understanding the girl was upset by the fight, and I feel justified in supporting her defending herself as she should have, I do have a problem with what we did hear. And I feel this way no matter what faith you practice. And I am not saying you can’t have a foul mouth if you are religious and in the middle of a heated fight. Absolutely, it is part of the fight if you throw out an F bomb or two or three. And I don’t care if you are Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Lutheran, Budhist, whatever, “bad ass bitch” is not a phrase mentioned in the hallowed temples of any faith. It is used in any number of pop culture media such as songs by Tyga with Drake, or most recently the song “Peaches” by Justin Bieber.

So, while the argument over the removal, and not allowing the recovery of the hijab is legit, someone who is as literate in current cultural verbage not used in religious tenets, loses a bit of credibility when leaning on religion as an excuse to fight back.

As a school board candidate, bullying was one of my main platforms. And I still feel as strongly about it today as I did back in 2011 and 2013. When I spoke to voters, who expressed their disappointment that seemingly forever, nothing gets done about bullying in schools, and it doesn’t, I offered this solution, make it a criminal act. If the school or district does not want to deal with it or correct it, then change it from a civil situation to a criminal situation. Assault and harassment are crimes, no matter what age. If the family of a bully really wants their child to have a criminal record by allowing the behavior to continue, according to statistics, the will see the law eventually anyway.

In the above mentioned scenario, police were called for this fight. And currently, the investigation is ongoing, now two weeks later. Rumors an innuendo abound, that while the two Caucasian girls said something racially insensitive, the Muslim girl responded in kind. This was before the fight began. So again, I am not begrudging someone of faith from cursing their head off in the heat of battle, but before a blow is thrown, a cooler and stronger faith head should have prevailed.

The district and school did their part. We are waiting for an official release from the police and the media. Then again, enough time may pass, that we are expected to “forget about it” happening. The thing is, if any or all of the participants did in fact, make this a racially involved fight, that must be dealt with. Ignoring or forgetting it does not make the hatred go away.

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