I just started reading Jodi Picoult’s novel, Nineteen Minutes. It is terrifying. Not in a Stephen King: ohmygodthereisaclowninthestormdrain kind of terrifying, but rather: oh my god…this could (DID) really happen.
Peter is a boy who has been bullied for his entire school career. At seventeen years old, he has had enough and goes on a shooting rampage in his high school. The attack lasts nineteen minutes. It’s becoming clear that he targets specific people in his spree, having used his yearbook to “mark” them.
I have read maybe four or five of this author’s books, and I do enjoy them – the twists and turns they seem to take. The first one I read was My Sister’s Keeper and I SO did not see that ending coming. So I read a few more by her and have a list of “To Read” that includes even more.
But this one book has me thinking more than any other so far. I think of my own children, crying because a friend was mean to them, or because they have felt bullied. For the most part, these events are limited and nothing more than “kids being kids”. But where does that end? Where does it stop? When does it turn into real hardcore bullying?
I believe is starts with adults – parents. Adults have our own form of bullying, a lot of it unspoken. It revolves around money, material items, status, and privilege. Here in Podunk, I’ve seen it in action. Parents converge upon the sports fields with our lawn chairs and blankets. We form pods near the dugouts or the benches and we chat amongst ourselves while cheering on our kids. There is a fairly large contingent of SAHMs. Sometimes a child on the team will be late and in hushed tones I hear “Well, you know, his mother has to work and can’t get him here on time.” Or a child will act up and again: “Well, you know, her mother works so she doesn’t get enough attention.” All it takes is for a sibling or another child to overhear that, accompanied by the tone of disgust, to know that they are above that other child. How long do you suppose it takes before that child is targeted with comments like “Your mom has to work”, like it is something to be ashamed of?
When I first got divorced, and for some time afterward, things were tough financially. We went to a birthday party at a friend’s house in late fall. The hostess, a friend of mine from school, was taking our jackets when I saw her oh-so-subtilely glance at the tag inside my daughter’s jacket. I am sure she was surprised to see the Gap tag. I was humiliated. I never admitted that that particular jacket was a hand me down from another friend. Isn’t that a form of unspoken bullying though? She HAD to know where I was buying my kids clothes. Why? Did that make us better in her eyes if they were wearing clothes from the Gap? Unfortunately, I believe it did.
School shopping has been tough for me this year. My kids want the cool stuff: Etnies, Nikes, Abercrombie, and Gap. The stuff isn’t cheap – it’s not like going to Walhell and stocking up on Wranglers and Hanes tees. And I know they want it all because that’s what everyone wears to “fit in”, to not stand out, to prevent them from being teased – or at least have one less strike against them. I understand. I don’t like it, but I understand. So I will buy the “right” clothes and shoes and supplies for them. But I will make damn sure they know they are not above anyone else just because I am able to buy those things now.
Food. Water. Shelter. Air. Sleep. Societal inflation has expanded need into greed. Suddenly the basic survival needs also include a cell phone, cable TV, and French manicured fingernails…. We’ve become the absolute biggest whiners of all human history with the absolute smallest justification for whining. ~Charlie Diekatze