Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

The Thing About Bullying

I've come to a disturbing realization this week.

As much as I'd like to think otherwise, it seems to me that it is part of human nature to bully. This doesn't mean I'm condoning the act of bullying--I find it repulsive and inexcusable in a society that claims to be intelligent--but the evidence is overwhelming. It seems that for some people, the only way they can feel good about themselves is by standing on the backs of others, or belittling anything that doesn't agree with them.

This past week a 16-year-old boy with autism named Maxwell Webb committed suicide. While Maxwell did not leave a note, his parents say the suicide was "fueled by bullying" (click the link for a news report on his death).  Maxwell's story may not be unique in our world where too many young people find no other means of escape from the cruelty they face everyday, but his story touches me in a very different way because, while I don't remember if I ever met Maxwell, I did know his sister. I lived in Independence, KS for a short time. I taught at the Junior college where Maxwell ended up taking classes. I read many essays from students about the bullying they experienced in local area schools. I did some drama workshops in a local high school (not the one Maxwell went to) where it became clear that one of the most prevalent issues in that school was bullying, much to the surprise of the principal who came in to observe.

[caption id="attachment_7297" align="aligncenter" width="720"]Can you tell who in this picture has experienced bullying? More than you think. Can you tell who in this picture has experienced bullying? More than you think.[/caption]

Why was it a surprise for that principal several years ago? How is it possible for the Superintendent of the Independence school system to say that the school had investigated Maxwell's claims, but found no evidence?

The answer is simultaneously simple and complex. I believe that we don't want to confront the darker truth of ourselves--that we thrive on pushing down the underdog and claiming our rightful place in the hierarchy. It's the "boys will be boys" attitude (although in this case the bullies were girls) or the attitude that the strongest will survive. To admit that bullying exists would force people to question their own behavior and wonder, am I a bully?

It's an attitude that permeates our society. The behavior of the fiasco we call a government at this very moment proves that. A small group of bullies has shut down the entire government and the people who suffer the most from that shut down are the ones with the least power to fight back. I, personally, don't see how this bypass will end--but it almost doesn't matter now. The damage has been done and, in their own way, the bullies have already won. They did one thing they set out to do, shut down the government and hurt a lot of people along the way--the people they think are insignificant and do not matter.

That's what bullies do, they justify their own dark existence by stepping on everyone else and making life uncomfortable for everyone but themselves. Is there any hope then, if the nature of humanity is to bully our way into getting what we want?

Part of me says no, because this system of behavior has existed from the beginning of mankind and nothing seems to change. But then there is the hopeful side of me--the one that wants to believe in the basic good of people, the one that has met incredible people throughout the world who realize that life is made up of different perspectives, attitudes, people, ideas, dreams, colors, religions, and so on.

I'd like to think there are more people in this world that value the idea that difference doesn't invalidate your own life; that we can all think, be, love, and live differently without hurting each others. I'd like to think that, but it does no good unless our voices become louder and stronger than the bullies. We can't make change until we no longer allow the hidden voices of the bullies to have control.

Does that mean we have to become bullies ourselves?


In P.O.W.ER, Andra BetScrivener and friends learn how to combat the bullies of the world, by joining together and supporting each other.

For each book sold, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to causes that support women and children around the world.