This weekend, the movie everyone should have heard about starts playing in theaters. No, I’m not talking about having some kind of bonding moment with your teenaged daughter as you watch Titanic in 3D. I’m talking about the other movie coming out this weekend, “Bully.”
I haven’t seen it. I’ve only seen short clips of it because it isn’t being aired here in the town where we grew the kind of hate that ties a gay man named Matthew Shepard to a fencepost. From what I have seen, I’ve been forced to fight back a flood of emotions. As I look at those five kids that this movie profiles, I am amazed by their bright eyes and minds. I am drawn by their lovable hearts. I am also reminded of the photos we’ve all seen, of children who found reason to hang themselves in lonely closets after the hateful treatment of their peers drove them to believe they were unlovable, unworthy, and unacceptable. With horror I remind myself to hug my child a little closer tonight.
I hear that there has been a debate about whether kids should even watch this movie, and I think that any parent who doesn’t realize that their kid is already a character in this movie is blind to the ways of American society. This is reality TV at it’s most powerful because this is reality TV being real. It seems to me that if this is the reality our kids are facing, it’s our job to do what we can to deal with it. My kids are eight and six years old and are too young to watch a heavy PG-13 movie, but that doesn’t mean that I as a parent can walk away from the opportunity it brings for conversation.
It is important to remind our children of all ages that this issue that they probably see every day, and maybe even become a little bit numb to, or accept as a given reality of their life, doesn’t have to be that way. Unlike many other social issues of the day, this is the one that can, and will be, solved by our children. They cannot do this if we do not tell them that they have this power and give them the tools and responsibility to make things better.
As a parent, ask yourself, which role does your kid play? None of us wants our kid to be bullied, nor do we wish them to be a bully. I am at a loss for a definite answer as to how to help either of these kids, but I have a theory. What if we assume all kids are the kid who has the capacity to change the whole thing – the one who sits in silence? What if we give every kid the power to stop this dead in their tracks?
Studies have shown that it’s the kid who watches but does nothing that can change the whole dynamic of a bullying situation by simply refusing to tolerate bullying behavior. It only takes one child to stand up for another and the tide begins to change. I’m suggesting that inside every bully, and every bullied kid, and every silent whiteness resides a righteous kid who is tired of this. If that kid stands up and refuses to allow hatred to rule, then our problem is solved.
Now stop. Think. Which kid do you want your kid to be? I say it doesn’t matter who they were when they left school last Friday. It matters who you send them back as next Monday. If your child is old enough and you have access to the movie, consider taking the time and seeing Bully together. As you watch it point out to your kid that the fact is that there wasn’t a damn thing about any one of these children, the ones who lived through it or the ones who didn’t, that makes them deserving of this nastiness. No matter what your child’s age make the expectations clear. Tell your kid that you are a grown up version of that kid who has decided to stand up and refuse to allow hatred to rule, and stand by that till you raise a kid who does the same each and every day.