Bullying is nothing new. Cowards have always tried to hide behind their own insecurities and fears by deflecting and projecting what they feel onto others. I was very lucky when going through school – especially high school, which is quite often the worst time in one’s life – because I just honestly didn’t care about social circles and/or trends (still don’t,) and due to that I’ve always been fortunate enough to have good, real friends, quite often much larger than I, therefore I was nearly always untouchable-by-proxy. The few times when I did get picked on, I’d roll with it and throw a punch or two. Yes, I’d take a fist, or knee, to the solar plexus and double over like Stephan Bonnar and Anderson Silva every now and then, but, for the most part, that would be the last time that particular bully, or group thereof, tried to mess with me. Not because I was, or am, a great fighter, but simple because it’s easier and more preferable to pick on someone who offers no offense at all.
Of course, everyone by now has read about the terrible tragedy that occurred about a week ago – a 15-year-old girl by the name of Amanda Todd had tragically taken her own life as a means of escaping the bullying that had robbed her of her youthful innocence and dragged her very soul into a black pit of despair and hopelessness, a pit that will soon be filled by the majority of her tormentors once they grow up a little and fully comprehend the entirety and finality of what their actions had wrought. I read about it last Thursday on various news sites and was struck by how horrific the situation was, especially once the details of her life started trickling online. I read she once lived and went to school in Maple Ridge, and my immediate reaction was to think of my own 15-year-old sister, and how I would react if I found out she was being bullied like that.
When I got home that evening, my sister was already in her room, with the door locked, so I assumed she was sleeping. I slightly overslept the next morning, so when I woke up, she was already in school. This was the day when the details of the bullying started coming out, and I remember my class-mates and I had discussions over the seriousness of bullying, and the need for strict, anti-bullying legislature to be introduced, all throughout that day.
I got home that evening, a little earlier than the previous day, so my sister’s door was open. I went inside to ask her about her day, and was very surprised, shocked and worried to see her sitting alone on her bed in the dark, no laptop (which on most days seems to be surgically attached to her hip) in sight – tears silently running down her cheeks. What little light there was, was stemming and cutting through the window and shades from the other side of the room, bouncing off her face, making her tears sparkle like diamonds.
Before I had the chance to say anything, she looked at me and whispered:
“Why did they have to keep bullying her like that? She made one mistake, and she apologized for it. Why couldn’t they just leave it alone?”
It turns out that Amanda Todd was a good friend of my sister’s, and she was supposed to come visit us that very weekend for the first time.
It’s one thing to read about tragedies such as this online, and see the ramifications of it on TV, but it’s not anywhere near the same as experiencing something like that personally, even if it is by proxy, through the look of pain and grief of a beloved family member. People are intrinsically selfish, to a degree. Even the best of us. When something terrible happens to someone you don’t know, no matter how hard you can try to emphasize with those affected, there is always a little voice in the back of your mind being thankful that it didn’t happen to someone you love.
But sitting with my sister that evening, listening to her talk about Amanda’s life, feeling the despair emanating off of her in waves, it brought a whole new dimension to the issue. It is so very unfortunate that it feels like people become more savage and cruel in direct proportion to how good the standard of living is. Those who have never been bullied, who have never been in want for anything, who have had a good life, cannot possibly understand empathy and compassion while in teenage years. It has to be taught, hammered in: life is precious.
Social media, I believe, plays a large part in this, as well. Being behind a monitor, and a moniker, erases all humanity and decency. The comments left online on websites such as YouTube are testament to what happens when the “human” element gets taken out of human interaction, leaving just a username and text, maybe an avatar with a picture of something other than the user’s actual face. The Internet hasn’t been around long enough for the appropriate studies to be done regarding the correlation between a possible lack of empathy and time spent in a digital, unfeeling world. I fear that this upcoming generation may be affected by an unforeseen consequence of technological evolution.
Obviously, it is impossible to imagine the pain Amanda’s family must be feeling, the overwhelming grief that must be suffocating them – I can only offer my deepest, sincerest condolences, and let it be known that she wasn’t alone, she did have friends, but when times are that dark, it is often impossible to see any light at all, seemingly the only constant in life is darkness, and the only feeling: pain.
Something has to be done
How many tragedies do we, as a Canadian society, have to endure before we take measures to mitigate this growing wave of teenage indifference to the pain of others? Several MPs have very recently introduced a motion to the federal government, one aimed at creating a non-partisan committee to develop an anti-bullying strategy. Whether anything will come from this is unknown, but regardless, this issue isn’t new, and it should not have taken such a tragedy to spur politicians into action.
I say, why not make those teens accountable for their actions? Bullying has to be equated with assault, and those that bully have to be tried in court, with a possible sentence in juvenile detention if the situation is serious enough to warrant it.
I am so very, very sorry that it took the death of an innocent, beautiful young girl to bring this ongoing crisis to the forefront and open the lines of dialog again. Amanda’s unheard cries for help, and her final, desperate attempt to make the pain stop, is a failure of each and every one of us. Of every single Canadian in this country. There have been far too many such tragedies over the years for us to have any kind of excuse left.
I am so sorry that it took the death of an innocent, beautiful girl for us to pay attention. The very least that all of us, as a collective, can do now, is to make sure this kind of thing never happens again. To make sure that no teenager has to ever go through this again.
I didn’t know Amanda Todd, but my sister did. The look of pain on her face will haunt me for all my days.