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A Word About Bullying

I heard this morning on the news that The Weinstein Company is coming out with a new documentary on bullying, and saw a clip of an unsuspecting 8-year-old boy being punched in the head. There was a quick cutaway, and I wondered, as I sat blindsided by the early morning image that was now planted in my head: What happened next? Did he make it to his next class? Did he have a hemorrhage? Brain damage? A third-grade sense of terror that will follow him his whole life?

It made me think of a strange experience I had a few years back as I was pulling out of a parking garage in NYC. This one had just a single entry/exitway, and as I pulled up to exit, a woman went off on me verbally, thinking I was ripe for bullying. Let’s just say she was mistaken. She was talking to her son about how “some idiot” -- meaning me -- was pulling out the wrong way. I politely said “Excuse me, ma’am, but this lot has only one outlet” and well, she wouldn’t entertain anything rational. She let loose a verbal barrage that showed me just how frightened and out of control she was. My response? I don’t recall exactly what I said, but instead of getting caught up in her craziness, I was clear and direct, but also chose to blindside her with kindness. It took her off balance in a good way, and I remember thinking I may have made an impact somehow. It was a nice unanticipated result. But who knows about these things. What was really strange though, was after the exchange I saw her walk down the street, red-faced and rife with repressed quirks built up after years of abuse she’d probably gotten herself -- to get in line for, of all things, The Martha Stewart Show. Only in NY. It made me think she was missing some beauty in her life, and trying in her own way to measure up to an external standard she didn’t feel inside. I don’t really know what her story was. It made me curious.

The woman’s son was about the same age as the boy I had seen today on the documentary clip. I remember driving back home on the Henry Hudson Parkway after that event and shedding a tear for her son, and for the woman, and the core part of me that remembered what it was like to feel I didn’t have a voice to protect myself. I may have had mine that day, but she obviously didn’t and hadn’t experienced it in the world she came from. What’s worse, she was confusing her son, and perpetuating the pattern.

I wondered how the world got to be so off track on these things. Whatever happened to politeness? To courtesy? Is it just me? For the sake of the children of this generation, I hope there’s a way out. I’m searching for a tipping point, but it’s not currently in my line of sight.

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