A Chanukah Lesson In Standing Up To Bullies

Everyone gather round.  It’s story time.  Today, we’re going to hear the story of the Maccabees.  You see, a long time ago, the Syrians ruled the land of Israel.  The Jews were allowed to go about their business until Antiochus Epiphany came to power.  Antiochus decided that the Jews should all worship the way *HE* told them to worship.  Or else.

Some of the Jews went along with the order.  They dropped their old religion and began worshiping Zeus because it was easier than standing up to the king (and his army).  The Maccabees, though, refused to change their beliefs simply because someone threatened them.  They believed that they had the right to worship as they saw fit and they were willing to fight for that right.

And fight they did.  The Maccabees gathered a group of Jews who believed similarly.  They were outnumbered and outgunned (in a manner of speaking – guns weren’t used back then), but they had the advantages of surprise and knowledge of the terrain.  They used these to drive the Syrian army away and reclaim their religious freedom.

This story is chock full of lessons.  Usually, people take the obvious moral of religious freedom from it.  The Syrian king was wrong to impose his religious beliefs on others. People should be able to worship whatever god they want (or no god at all) however they choose.  Recent events, though, have led me to take a slightly different lesson from the story: Don’t back down to bullies.

Antiochus was a bully, albeit one with an army at his disposal.  He wanted to set the rules for others to follow and, if they didn’t follow it, he demanded they be punished.  He couldn’t stand to see people doing things that he personally didn’t approve.

Many of the Jews, when faced with the bully, backed down.  They gave in and just did what the bully told them to do.  This is the quick and easy path.  (Sorry, the geek in me couldn’t help quoting Yoda.)  The Maccabees didn’t give in, though.  They stood up to the bully.  They refused to let the bully silence them or dictate the terms of their lives.

As a victim of bullying growing up, I promised myself that I would never let myself be silenced by bullies again.  Once I became a father, I knew that I wanted to teach my sons not to back down to bullies also.  This doesn’t need to mean physical violence, but it also doesn’t mean you should cower in fear.

Recently, I found myself sitting in silence.  A bully that had targeted me in the past had turned her attention to others and I didn’t want to speak up lest she turn her eye back to me.  I wasn’t cowering in fear, as this particular bully has no power over me.  Still, I just didn’t want to have to deal with her antics again .  Then it struck me: Would the Maccabees have done this?  More importantly, do I want to teach my sons to keep quiet when someone is bullying someone else?  The answer to both is a resounding NO!

Over the past 18 months (off and on), I’ve been the target of a bully.  I won’t go into her history too much.  You can read about that elsewhere.  Instead, I want to talk about her current activities.  She’s begun targeting bloggers, specifically review bloggers as well as blogger networks like MomCentral, MomSelect, Business2Blogger, and MyBlogSpark.  She’ll claim that they are fakes, will demand they take down their blogs, and will try reporting them to companies.  Amazingly, some companies are listening to her!

In this woman’s mind, all of these blogs and networks are run by a group of 4 or 5 people to steal products.  Her evidence?  She was told this by God.  Yes, she is a self-proclaimed prophet of God.

You can read more about her here:



As I said before, I’m through staying silent.  If you’ve been threatened, please speak up.  If you haven’t been threatened (yet), please send this information to every blogger you know.  Spread the word.  Let’s send the message that we bloggers don’t take kindly to bullies and will protect our fellow bloggers if threatened.

Speak Up, Support, and Never Give Up

There are three stories swirling around in my head that I want to blog about.  They might not seem related, but I believe they are.  The first relates to the Penn State story.  By now, everyone knows the details.  Jerry Sandusky is alleged to have abused a number of children and Joe Paterno allegedly knew this was happening but didn’t contact police.  Instead, he contacted University higher-ups who opted to keep things quiet.

Listening to this story, I can’t help but think about my experiences with bullying and how they seem similar.  Bullies will often dictate the terms of the bully-bullied exchanges.  They will tell the bullied that they can’t tell anyone or else.  It’s a way of gaining additional power over your victim.  Besides, if you set the rules, you’re assured that you will always win.

When one is bullied or when one is confronting a respected icon, the social pressure is very similar.  There is constant pressure to keep quiet.  To mind your own business and not get involved or, if you are involved, to not seek outside help.  After all, those are the rules and you must obey the rules!

Even after I escaped my bullying scenario, I felt this pressure.  One time in college, I returned to my dorm room to see a door open and a guy and a girl play-fighting.  The guy got her into a hold she couldn’t escape from and she called to ask for my help.  I started to go in that direction and the guy told me to leave them alone.  I immediately turned around and headed into my room.

While I don’t think anything bad happened, I still, to this day, regret that decision.  Someone asked me for help (even if it was just play-fighting) and I should have helped.  While I can’t correct past mistakes, I can prevent future ones.  I can learn not to give into societal pressures to keep quiet and I can teach my boys the same lesson.

The second story on my mind involves a ten year old girl who committed suicide after being bullied.  I shudder at the thought of this happening to my boys.  When I was bullied, I believed that I had to handle it myself.  I didn’t think that I could talk to my parents or teachers about it.  That isolation got to be almost more than I could bear at times.  I would dread going to school because of the mental torture that that building held for me.  I never got to the point where I considered ending my life, however.  We’ve already spoken to NHL about bullying as, sadly, he’s experienced it first hand.  How do you talk to your eight-year old about suicide, though?

In the final story, a special needs child who was bullied by her teachers.  The teachers, principal, and even superintendent called the girl a liar for the “stories” she told about the teachers’ tormenting behaviors.  The superintendant even had the gall to tell the father that he was bordering on slander and harassment by making these claims.  Their investigations, they asserted, showed that these were made up stories that the girl was telling.  (Never mind that their “investigation” consisted of nothing more than asking the accused teachers what happened.)

Thankfully, the father didn’t back down.  He hid an audio recording device on his daughter and recorded 7 hours of verbal abuse.  Once presented with recordings, the school finally acted.

How do these three stories tie together?  I think they all illustrate how we need to react and teach our kids to respond to bullying.  First, we can’t allow ourselves to be silenced by societal pressure.  If you are being bullied, speak up.  If you know someone who is being bullied speak up.  Break those bully-set rules and get loud about the abuse.

Secondly, we need to support our children when they are bullied.  Not just in our actions to resolve the bullying situations, but also by sitting down with our kids and talking about what was happening.  The more support our kids receive, the better they’ll be able to deal with the situation.

Finally, never give up.  If the teacher won’t act, talk to the principal.  If the principal turns a blind eye, go to the superintendent.  Keep going higher and making more noise.  Threaten to go to the press.  Follow through.  Don’t take “no” for an answer.

Here’s hoping that no more people keep quiet, that no more boys or girls take their own lives, and that no more kids need to grow up knowing the torture that is being bullied.

Terrorist Bullies and Superhero First Responders

I didn’t really want to write about this.  I guess mainly because I like to avoid bad subjects and focus on good ones.  After seeing all of the 9-11 coverage and thinking about it, though, an idea popped in my head.  No matter how much I wanted to write about other things, I kept thinking back to 9-11.

When I first heard about the planes hitting, I was in my office.  It was like a bad movie come to life.  I kept feeling like at any moment, there would be a climatic battle, the good guys would win over impossible odds, the credits would roll, and then we’d see everything go back to normal.  Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

As the planes hit and the towers collapsed, I was worried about my father and my friend, G.  My father worked in New York City at the time and, while he wasn’t near the World Trade Center, we didn’t know if all of New York City was going to be attacked.  G, meanwhile, actually worked in the World Trade Center.  I couldn’t remember if he was in one of the towers or other buildings.  I got on AIM and connected with some ex-co-workers of mine and G’s mom.  She hadn’t heard from him.

Then, I heard that the towers collapsed.  At first, I thought that the person meant that the top few floors collapsed, not the entire building.  As the enormity of what was happening sank in, I began to panic thinking that G had been killed.  Finally, we heard from him that he was ok.  He got out of the subway, saw the two towers smoking and got as far away as possible.  (I found out later that he worked in one of the other WTC buildings.)

Ten years later, I was thinking about the attacks during NHL’s first day of Hebrew school.  I was thinking of how I would describe 9-11 to NHL when, suddenly, it hit me: Terrorists are bullies.  Bullies in a school setting rule by fear.  Whether it is fear of being beaten up, fear of being excluded from social cliques, or fear of being embarrassed in front of your peers, bullies thrive on fear.  They attempt to define the rules to position themselves at the top of the social heap at the expense of others.  Often, bullies don’t even have the muscle to enforce their threats.  However, they rely on fear to magnify their perceived power.

Terrorists are like the grown-up, international versions of bullies.  They want the world structured a certain way.  It isn’t.  They could work within society, but they honestly don’t have enough power to enact the changes they desire.  So, instead, they rely on fear.  They use fear to magnify their perceived power.  They use fear to get people to do what they (the terrorists) want.  They use fear to get their way (or else).

Meanwhile, I thought back to my feelings during the events of September 11th.  I remember feeling so helpless.  There were so many people that needed help and I was powerless to do anything.  I remember thinking that, if only I was a comic book-style superhero, I could help out.  I could activate my power ring or quickly change into my costume and then fly there at supersonic speeds to rescue people when they needed help the most.

Sadly, I don’t have super-powers so I was forced to sit on the sidelines watching it all go down on TV.  There were real superheroes there, though: The first responders.  Think about it.  If Spider-Man, Batman, or any other superhero saw a building on fire, what would they do?  They would hurl themselves into the building without a thought in their head about their own safety.  They would do their best and push themselves beyond all normal (and superhuman) limitations until everyone was safe.

On 9-11, firefighters ran up the stairs of the burning twin towers.  They ran up holding a hundred pounds of gear and without any thought of their own safety.  Yes, many people were killed that sad day, but 20,000 were saved.  This is in no small part thanks to the firefighters and other first responders.  Toss a cape and mask on them and you had a legion of superheroes saving lives.

Field of Vision: A Story of Bullying and Magic Cameras

As a victim of bullying myself, I was quite interested in the synopsis of the upcoming P&G and Wal-Mart Family Movie Night collaboration Field of Vision.

Through mysterious footage captured on an old malfunctioning video camera, Sinclair High School’s star quarterback, Tyler McFarland, learns that some of his teammates have been bullying Cory Walker, a troubled new transfer student.  Aware that sharing this information with the coach might get his friends kicked off the team and ultimately cost the school the state championship, Tyler must choose what’s more important: winning or doing what’s right.

Here is the trailer:

The story opens to introduce Tyler, his family and community.  Tyler plays for his high school’s football team.  His sister is a bit of a bookworm, devouring any books she comes across from a small shop owner.  The shop owner shows her an old, temperamental video camera.  It works, but only when it wants to.  More than that, it begins to show her footage of horses and other things.

Meanwhile, Cory Walker starts his first day at the high school.  He’s a foster child, having lost his mother years ago and never having known his father.  He is a quiet individual who hides a keen mind.  It is this keen mind that winds up getting him into trouble with a couple of players on the football team who bullies him for “making him look bad in front of his friends.”  Cory’s crime?  Answering a teacher’s question when asked to after one of the players couldn’t.

Tyler, the team captain, asks the football players who deny any involvement, but then finds out his teammates were lying when the video camera shows him just what went down.  Yes, this camera seems to have a bit of magic in its old circuitry!

Tyler’s then faced with the prospect of just how to respond.  A big game is coming up and the football players involved are needed to win.  Should he do the right thing and doom his team to losing (thus making himself an outcast as well)?  Should he turn them in only after the big game is over?  Or should he ignore the whole thing because this kind of thing has always gone on?

As a victim of bullying, I identified with much of Cory’s character.  At one point, he obviously knows the answer to a question in class and blurts out an answer without thinking.  When the teacher asks him for clarification, he hems and haws, uncomfortable with the spotlight that will likely lead to another bullying confrontation.  After the incidents, he is close to tears over the entire situation.

During high school, I felt that way many times.  There were many times that I wished that I could just shrink myself down until I’d disappear or hide myself somewhere to cry without giving my bullies more ammunition to use against me.

The bullies in the movie also use a tactic I’ve seen real-life bullies use: Framing the situation to their benefit.  They will attempt to dictate what the appropriate responses the bullied individual (or bystanders) can take to their actions.  Of course, these “bully approved” actions either solely benefit the bully or come at great cost to the bullied/bystander.  This can leave the bullied feeling like they have no choice and no options.  Isolation is a bully’s best friend.

Without spoiling the movie, I will say that I found the ending a tad unrealistic, but this is, after all, a family movie and not a hard-hitting expose on bullying.  I didn’t really expect plot threads that lingered for years or decades and issues that went unresolved for the rest of the characters’ lives.  In a movie like this, everything is tied up into a neat little bow by the closing credits.  Expecting that, it was quite entertaining and I would definitely recommend for people to tune in.

The premiere of Field of Vision is on Saturday, June 11 on NBC at 8pm ET/7pm CT.  More information is available from their website and Facebook page.

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Dad Central Consulting on behalf of P&G and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Aloha Friday: Bullying, Reactions and Friendship

I’ve been itching to write about this for awhile, but wanted to wait while we assessed our options.  (Besides, B already wrote about this last week, so I figured it was high time I address it.)  On Thursday, April 28th, NHL was punched in the stomach by another student in his 2nd grade class.  NHL was sent to the nurse with bruises on his stomach/ribs.

One interesting wrinkle to this story was NHL’s reaction.  While in the nurse’s office, he was crying, sad that he had upset the child and had hurt his feelings.  NHL blamed himself for the bullying incident even though he had done nothing that warranted a punch in the ribs.  He even, over that weekend, listed the child as his friend.  Yes, the kid that punched him in the ribs was still a friend to NHL.

As you may recall, I was bullied a lot when I was growing up.  One incident in particular happened in middle school  At the risk of retelling a story I’ve blogged about before, I only had one person that I considered my friend at the time.  That was RH.

The only problem with RH being my friend was that he would stab me in the back.  Literally.  With a pen.  He would bully me for awhile and then would play the victim, claiming that he had heard from a third person that I had said something bad about him.  Then we would be friends again until he decided to bully me again.

Why did I keep taking him back as a friend when he kept bullying me?  Simple.  I felt like I had no other friends.  If I admitted to myself that RH wasn’t my friend, I was left friendless.  At the time, a horrible friend seemed better than no friend at all.  It scared me to see this scenario playing out again in NHL’s school.

Then, in a display of good timing, I saw a tweet from @sociallysmart (aka Corinne Gregory) about the covering up of bullying incidents.  To summarize the article (which is a must read for all parents), school administrators across the country are turning a blind eye to bullying because it makes them look bad if they admit there is a problem.  Of course, this is a case of short term gain-long term loss.  What the school administrators gain in the short term (saving face and avoiding bad PR), the kids lose in the long term (higher incidence of bullying with little to no consequences).

The only solution is for parents to know their (and their children’s) rights and stand up for them.  It might be tough to do at times, but it is essential for our children’s well being.

My Aloha Friday question for today is: Have you or your child ever been bullied by someone you/they considered a friend?  How did you/they react?

Also, don’t forget to enter my Aerobie Sprint Flying Ring giveaway.  It’s ending in four days and has a very low amount of entries (as I write this).

Thanks to Kailani at An Island Life for starting this fun for Friday. Please be sure to head over to her blog to say hello and sign the McLinky there if you are participating.

Aloha Friday by Kailani at An Island Life

Aloha #87

1 2 3 4 5