Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Bullying”

A Request Of The President, Other Elected Officials, And All Americans

Mr. President,

This is certainly one of the most trying times in our country’s history.  And as you deal with the myriad of issues that need to be considered in dealing with this crisis, one thing I think you and I can agree on, is that things do not need to be made worse.

And that is why I am asking you to stop referring to the Covid19 or Corona Virus, as the “China Virus.”  I know that you give the logic that it is okay because that is where the virus originated.  And while true, it is unnecessary.  The virus has both a scientific name and a common name for the public to recognize it, Covid19, Corona Virus.

You claim to have one of the highest IQ’s ever.  And if that is true, then you are definitely smarter than I am.  And if I can recognize the problem with referring to this crisis as “the China virus,” with you being smarter, then that means that you have to recognize that as well.

There is a reason viruses and crisis are not called certain names.  Because it would be offensive.  Using the logic of geographical location is wrong.  We do not refer to AIDS as “the African virus.”  We do not call colon cancer “Ass Cancer.”  Mr. President, it is just as offensive to refer to the Corona virus as “the China virus.”  In fact, it is not just offensive, it is downright dangerous, especially to those of Asian ethnicity.  And why is it dangerous?

Whether you are doing it intentionally or not, those words, “China Virus” act as a “dog whistle”.  A dog whistle produces a sound that only a dog can hear, not the human using it or anyone else.  When blown, the dog reacts.  And that is what your words have the danger of creating, only it is not dogs reacting.  There are those who are racially biased that go by several names and each time you invoke the words “China Virus” as the President of The United States, these individuals hear only one thing, that their president supports their cause.  Because these white nationalists look for any reason to support their cause, for an all-white society.  And your words will incite these individuals to act in negative and violent ways.

I know that you do not believe you are doing anything wrong.  And no, you are not actually participating in the acts.  But because certain individuals will react to the use of the certain words you choose to repeat over and over, simply stopping the use of the words is something you can do, to prevent any more attacks on the Asian community, which have already occurred.

Again, a dog whistle is only meant to be heard by a dog.  The words that you use, are the same thing.  Intelligent people know the correct and harmless (if you can use the word with this virus) way to refer to the virus.  But those with racist motives will hear only one thing, that you are saying that the Chinese are to blame for all the ills caused by the virus, which simply is not true.  Certainly there were things that the Chinese government did that were wrong, but so has other countries, including the United States.  But that is no reason to blame an entire ethnic group of people.

So before things get any worse for our country, by disrespecting and mistreating an entire population of our country, please refer to this awful crisis by the names that it has been given, Covid19, or the Corona Virus.  Again, your claim of intelligence versus many, including mine, even I know this is the right thing to do, which means then, that you should know that as well.

Did You Just Call Me “Weak”?

One of my favorite movies, is “An Officer And A Gentleman,” starring Richard Gere and Louis Gossett, Jr.  A scene early in the movie has a recruit (Gere) in line with other recruits.  The drill sergeant (yes, I spelled that correctly), played by Gossett, Jr., proceeds down the line of the recruits, stops at Gere and asks where he is from.  Gere responds, “Texas.”  Gossett, Jr. returns, “only two things come out of Texas, steers and queers.  I don’t see no horns on you, so you must be queer.”

So, this is a weird way for me to start a post.  But I do so as an analogy.  The other day, I responded to another’s post about the current Corona virus pandemic.  The individual wrote, “80% of the people won’t even be affected by this, only the old and the weak.”  You can see why I began the way that I did.  Clearly Gere did not have horns on him, but that also did not give the drill instructor the right to insinuate and insult Gere’s character with a homophobic slur.  Later in the movie, Gere would most certainly prove Gossett, Jr. wrong.

I am 54 years of age.  By any definition, that in no way makes me old.  So, as many times as I have had to defend myself during this virus crisis, I am definitely considered high risk.  But that is not what the ignoramus wrote.  He said, “old or weak.”  And if I am not old, then I must be “weak.”  I pride myself in not letting comments made about me, bother me.  And as I mentioned in previous posts, I have issues, survivor guilt, in accepting my longevity.

But this snarky comment, “old or weak” lit a fire under my ass that I have never felt before.  I know what I have gone through over the past 30 years was no easy task.  I have never looked for an “attaboy” or a pat on the back for what I have been through.  I most certainly do not brag or complain.  This moment was different, my tongue, or in this case, my fingers, would not hold back.

My reply:

“Weak?  Seriously?  You are calling me weak?  Because I’m certainly not old.  I know you are clearly inconvenienced along with the 80% you made reference to.  But you do not get to call me weak.  I have dealt with cancer.  I was exposed to several toxic chemicals as part of my chemotherapy.  I was exposed to four times the lifetime maximum of ionized radiation.  I have had operations on the two main arteries to my heart because of my treatments.  I have permanent damage to my left lung from my treatments.  I was rolled out of my house at 4am on a gurney into an ambulance, dying from septic pneumonia.  Nine months later, I had another episode of that pneumonia.  I have no spleen (thanks to my cancer) which makes me more susceptible to illnesses.  There is more, but you get the gist.  I have a much higher risk of contracting Corona virus, or perhaps another term that might be used, more vulnerable.  But “weak?”  This is not the animal kingdom and survival of the fittest.  If I succumbed to the virus, to you, I would be no different than the 20% of the weakest part of the herd.  FUCK YOU!”

Okay.  He definitely struck a nerve with me.  Perhaps I was being a bit sensitive, or was I?  Clearly he was not a writer, or he would have thought more carefully about the words he was using.  Or perhaps his thinking was that simple as “survival of the fittest.”

For being as high risk as I am, and honestly, I can only claim that for twelve years of my thirty, because it was not until my first heart surgery in 2008, that I learned that I had all these factors determining my risks.

After the berating I gave, I decided on a second reply, not simply “editing” my previous reply.

“I have gone through annual virus outbreaks such as SARS, bird flu, swine flu, Zika, MERS, and of course, the annual flu outbreaks.  I worked with biological hazards as part of my employment, much to the displeasure of my doctors who felt I should not expose myself to those risks.  And yet, after all this, to this date, I have not developed anything, in spite of my being high risk, vulnerable.  Why is that?  Because I know my risks.  I know the procedures and the things I must do to minimize any chance of exposure.  And guess what?  That does not involve anyone else, other than myself.  That’s right, I don’t put that responsibility on anyone else, other than myself.  Dealing with this Corona virus, my attitude is no different.  But even my daughters understand this simple concept.  It is those around me that I have no control over, that can affect my risk.  I am talking about vectors.  You probably have no idea what I am referring to, so I will simplify it for you.  A vector is a carrier.  And that, is what 80% of you have the potential of being to the 20%.  You will either have slight flu symptoms, or just carry the virus, and interact with someone whose body cannot fight off the virus.”

That’s right.  No matter the many precautions that I take, my main threat is going to be the “strong” people, who carry the virus.  I have made my most difficult decisions to reduce my exposure to healthier people.  The most painful was to cancel travel plans to see my daughters.  I was to visit them for a birthday, but they live in an area that is being dealt with very strictly to control and contain the outbreak in their area.  For me to travel there would be like walking into a hail of gunfire and expecting not to get hit by even one bullet.  But I have also had to cancel their trip to visit me in a few weeks, for fear of carrying the virus.

You do not get to refer to me as “weak.”

I am using my head during this crisis.  I am not panicking and running out buying out all kinds of supplies.  I am not sharing any false information such as conspiracy theories of origin or cure.  I am educated and informed.  And I am hoping the end result for me personally, is that my experience will end just as all of the other viruses I have gone through.

I am a high risk for the Corona virus because I have cardiac issues, pulmonary issues, diabetic, and have no spleen.  I am vulnerable if you must insist on separating who should be concerned about Covid19, and who is just being flat out inconvenienced, do not call us “weak.”  Thinning out a “herd” is not an acceptable concept for humans just because you are being inconvenienced.


S2SS – Safe 2 Say Something

1974… “I’m gonna kick your ass after school!”

2020… “I can’t take any more.  I have a list of kids and I am going to kill them all.”

In nearly fifty years, this is where we are at today.  I know first hand this is the progression of a problem ignored.  And I also realize it was around before I ever set foot in a school.  Television shows like Happy Days and movies like American Graffiti all glorified “rumbles” to deal with territorial or bullying issues.

Clearly, I was a troublemaker.  Smaller than nearly everyone in my classes from the first day of kindergarten, younger than everyone for sure.  I was also quite shy.  Being the early 1970’s, since no one really talked about divorce, no one was aware that I did not have a male influence in my life, as it would take no time to become obvious with my lack of sports experience, as well as sticking up for myself.

Being such a high risk for being a bully and exhibiting the aggressive behavior of such, kids took the offensive and preemptive position to strike first, and make sure I got put in my place.

So between the description of my childhood stature and personality, and the sarcasm pointing to the threat I obviously presented, you can gather, I was not actually a bully.  Instead, I was a victim, often, and many times.  And there were several times that in spite of my ability or my personality, things were always able to be made worse for me.

Options I was given ranged anywhere from “ignore them” to “go to the principal,” both of which resulted in an escalation of not only incidents, but a variety of participants.  Soon, it was not just other boys coming at me, soon, even girls (I was taught early on, never to fight a girl – so I allowed it to happen), and even multiple assailants.  Instead of learning subjects in my classrooms, I was busy plotting ways to avoid what I knew would be waiting for me either during recess, or worse, on the way home from school.  I had to decide which stairwell to take, and then which roads or alleys would be safe that day.

When things finally got bad enough, requiring intervention, those in authority took the following position, “it’s just a phase… all kids go through this stuff.  You just need to start sticking up for yourself.”

I never resorted to the most extreme acts of “snapping,” which back in the 1970’s would have been me actually just breaking a nose.  But I definitely get the mindset of students today, who feel they have no other choice, and sadly feel the need to respond in the most violent of ways.  I am not speaking for those back in the 50’s and 60’s, but since my days in school, though things have been “tried,” and I put that in quotes, because I honestly do not believe any honest full hearted approach has ever been put into dealing with the chronic condition, clearly not a phase.

The results from my history involved with bullying are not scientific, but they are fact.  I do have a huge chip on my shoulder, one that results in zero tolerance for impacting me negatively in any aspect of my life.  I suspect every one of trying to get one up on me, and I will not allow it to happen.  For those that were the bullies, many ended up with a criminal history.  Some raised bullies of their own.  And those that made it through adulthood, continued the aggressive dominating behavior leading to their “success” today.

This is not healthy.  Back in my school days, there was no solution to bullying, and there was no interest in it.  Even a school shooting involving a classroom near where I lived in the 1990’s, a bullying victim finally had enough, walked into his classroom, and murdered his bully in cold blood in front of his classmates.  I want to be clear, I am not talking about school shootings or gun rights or anything like that.  I honestly do not believe I will ever see any solution to this type of violence in my lifetime as it has now become a regular assumption, our children go to school every day, prepared to be the next victim.

WHAT THE FUCK!!!  I never went to school thinking I had a chance of being killed.  Now, it is just a way of life.

When I became a father, the two places I felt my children were supposed to be safe from the hatred and violence, was church, and school.  Early through their childhood, I know the school district did make an attempt to take on bullying with an anti-bullying program called “Olweus” which in spirit was a good program, because it made many aware of the problem, but it also held those accountable.  Two problems, program was tedious to maintain and no one had any interest in doing it, and of course, the “not my kid” parents, quick to threaten lawsuits defending their child’s rights to a public education.  Olweus, disappeared.  The option of dealing with bullying at the lower levels, still could not be handled.

Over the last couple of years, schools have come up with a different plan.  Having no choice anymore, given the stakes involved, an option once considered a reason for further abuse, “narcing” on someone, with the help of technology, students are now able to request help, and report concerns, without fear of reprisals.  An anonymous tip sets off a response of school officials and local authorities, hopefully to preempt a legitimate threat or event.  This resource is called “Safe 2 Say Something.”  Clearly a statement opposite of an attitude long gone by, “don’t be a narc” or in the late 90’s “snitches get stitches.”

The risks, and dare I saw it, the rewards, are immediate.  With our children being ground zero, not just in the environment, but likely first to find out of such concerns with involvement in social media, and knowing that they do not want to be the next headline, there is now a safe outlet for them to report a concern or threat.  And this program is not just about dealing with bullies or a full-blown violent event, but even helps in preventing students who have concerns of hurting themselves.  If a friend is concerned for another who has recognized a negative change in behavior, that friend may just make that necessary call to get their friend help.

Does “Safe 2 Say Something” work?  When it is used, yes, it does.  Because one the authorities are involved, they can respond before something has the chance to happen.  At the least, the authorities can determine if any threat is of real concern, or just someone venting.  What this means, we are now at a crossroads, where we have to stop saying “it is just a phase” when something happens.  Whether the threat is real, or “I was just joking, I wasn’t serious when I wrote that,” these acts need to be taken seriously.

I have talked with both of my daughters about this program, and actually every time an incident occurs.  I get the emails from both schools when there was a perceived threat, and I discuss with the girls their feelings about what happened, and how it is being handled.  They both know about the “Safe” program, though I respect their privacies not to ask if they have ever used it.  Though they do admit to knowing some who have.  But I do believe that both would do the right thing if they were faced with knowing a potential harm.

It will be another post, but parents need to be more involved when concerns are raised.  We also need to do more to deal with emotional needs of our students.  And though I recognize that legally, school districts are often restricted in information that can be made public, there is more that can and needs to be done to keep the spotlight on a zero tolerance in accepting any violence against themselves or other students.

Please in almost fifty years, we should have made more progress in dealing with violence in our schools, than just giving a “safe” way to tattle on another student.  Bullying in school was never a phase.  It was a symptom of a bigger problem, and it is still happening today.  Knowing the problem is not enough to make it go away.  Decades later, we know this.


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