When I was a wee lad, only in preschool, I had a bully. Not only did I have a bully but the entire class had one. The bully did the normal bully things: stealing toys, pushing people, stabbing kids in the ear with a Play-Doh knife. You know, the usual. My mom told me I was not allowed to be bullied. If this little punk – who will not be named, but I remember you so you’d better hope you never see me in a dark alley – ever accosted me again I was to hit him back and say, “Dylan don’t play dat!” To my chagrin, the phrase still comes up at family gatherings. Fortunately, I survived this brief period without having to say it myself.
Fast forward to elementary school. I was never bullied, but one day I got in a fight which started a long line of troubles with a single individual. My mom was not satisfied with the “boys will be boys” reasoning I used to shrug off the situation and told me if that little punk ever tried to pick on me again I was to hit him and say, “Dylan don’t play dat!” or some variation thereof. As boys will be boys, the issue soon resolved itself without further conflict and to this day I can say I’ve never punched a person in anger. Ok, I haven’t punched someone who isn’t family in anger – sorry Connie, but I’m sure you deserved it. Bitch.
The rest of my schooldays were bully and incident free. I believed everything was so good I went as far as to tell my mom I had never witnessed bullying in action while in high school. It was sometime during my undergrad years when I had my “oh shit” moment. I realized with the swooping feeling of both regret and disgust that I had been a witness to bullying. Not just stuff you in the locker bullying, but pressure you into a fight so we can say you agreed to getting beat up. Then we can hold you down and have someone rub their ass on your face. I witnessed this and did nothing. Called it hazing, boys will be boys after all. Even worse, I forgot about it and had the audacity to say I had never witnessed any bullying at all. Ever.
I was never a “cool kid” but I also was never someone who was picked on. I don’t know what I could have done at the time and, even looking back on it I think about the social grief it would have caused me to step in; especially to help someone who I honestly didn’t like either. In a world of wolves, sheepdogs, and sheep I was the latter. Even though I was raised by a woman who was against bullies and not opposed to violence to stop them, I did nothing.
This week saw the video with Keaton pop up. The Tennessean youngster who tearfully asked his mom why would anyone be a bully? Why would anyone take time out of their day to pick on someone? Well I just want people who are or have been bullied to know it’s not because of who you are or what you do. It’s not for your failings that you suffer, but those of the bully and those who stand by and watch. Don’t be like me, don’t be a sheep. If you see someone getting bullied step in, with violent intent if necessary. Don’t worry about any social costs because they will be far outweighed by the reward of doing the right thing. I can only say this after looking back with regret of my own inaction.