Is Nature Fighting Back?

A commentary about the environmental abuse

National Geographic’s recent article, To prevent pandemics, stop disrespecting nature, states:

Some people are viewing the pandemic as nature fighting back against all that has been and continues to be done to it. But it is human behavior and disrespect for nature that have been the cause. Furthermore, as we cope with the pandemic, climate change is marching ahead. It’s causing strong ripples of change in all ecosystems and probably tipping the balance in favor of pathogens currently unknown to us. The wise way forward is to invest in conservation and science, and to embrace nature and the glorious variety of life with which we share this planet. A healthy future for humanity and a healthy biodiverse planet go hand in hand.

Perhaps, science is catching up with Indigenous spiritual teachings since Indigenous people have been telling us since first contact to respect the earth. For example, Big Thunder (Bedagi) Wabanaki, Algonquin is credited with the quote: “The Great Spirit is in all things. He is in the air we breathe. The Great Spirit is our Father, but the Earth is our Mother. She nourishes us. That which we put into the ground she returns to us.” There is an ancient Indian (Indigenous) proverb that says, “Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.” There is a Cree prophecy which says, “When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.” On the Assembly of First Nations website it says,

Indigenous peoples are caretakers of Mother Earth and realize and respect her gifts of water, air and fire. First Nations peoples’ have a special relationship with the earth and all living things in it. This relationship is based on a profound spiritual connection to Mother Earth that guided indigenous peoples to practice reverence, humility and reciprocity. It is also based on the subsistence needs and values extending back thousands of years.

Indigenous people have always believed the earth to be a living organism. Now even some scientists are saying the earth is alive. It is called the Gaia hypothesis, first articulated by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, and argues that Earth’s physical and biological processes are inextricably connected to form a self-regulating, essentially sentient system. Check it out in the Astrobiology Magazine.

In another National Geographic article titled, Traditional indigenous beliefs are a powerful tool for understanding the pandemic, it states:

While this pandemic is presenting an opportunity to find meaningful ways to connect, it’s also a wake-up call with important lessons for the future. “If we don’t learn from now,” warns Mindahi Bastida Muñoz, general coordinator of the Otomi-Toltec Regional Council in Mexico, “then another thing, more powerful, is going to come.

I’ve  (#blog, #blogger, #YA, #authors, #somseason) always argued that this pandemic is a wakeup call for humanity. To borrow a phrase from singer Jidenna’s song, ‘Bully of the Earth,’ we humans cannot continue to bully the earth. Let’s call it earth bullying (#antibullying, #bullying), and by that, I mean, exploiting and abusing the planet by polluting the air, ignoring climate change, pouring plastics into the ocean, deforestation, and pouring tons of chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, etc.) into our environment. If the Gaia hypothesis is true, and the planet is a living organism, then we humans are killing Mother Earth.

Yet, we humans continue with the earth bullying. The New York Times has an article, The Trump Administration Is Reversing 100 Environmental Rules, listing all the environmental protection rules that have been or are in the process of being eliminated. CBC News’ article, Alberta regulator’s move to suspend oilpatch monitoring sets dangerous precedent, reports that oil companies say the environmental suspensions are necessary to maintain COVID-19 guidelines. In essence, the oil companies are claiming it is too dangerous to monitor the environment, yet it is not too dangerous for hair dressers to cut hair. The argument is weak to say the least, yet our provincial government fell for it. CBC News reports in their article, Alberta rescinds decades-old policy that banned open-pit coal mines in Rockies and Foothills, says the provincial government is cancelling environmental protections that have been in place since the 1970s,  making it easier for open-pit coal mining in some of the province’s most ecologically sensitive areas. This move has nothing to do with Covid. This is about corporate greed, and governments enabling companies to do so at the expense of the planet. It is shameful!

Back in 2018, the Guardian had an article, The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us, claiming “climate breakdown could be rapid and unpredictable. We can no longer tinker around the edges and hope minor changes will avert collapse.” There is no doubt for me that continued abuse of the earth will have dire consequences for humanity. National Geographic’s article, Ocean Threats, has a long list of threats to our oceans because of human activities. The Guardian has an article, Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals – study, essentially arguing that humans are the cause of a mass extinction. I’ve seen articles about bird populations declining, and bee populations being endangered. It is all alarming!

Having said that, CBS News’ article, Before-and-after photos show dramatic decline in air pollution around the world during coronavirus lockdown, is eye opening. The earth, whether a living organism or not, has shown an amazing ability to heal itself when allowed to.

A NASA photo

I’ve always argued in my posts that this COVID pandemic is a tool of some higher power—God, Allah, Yahweh, Universe, Source, or whatever you want to call it—bringing about transformation on our planet, creating a simpler, kinder, and more caring world, and that includes the earth. Maybe it is a reminder to humanity to respect and honour the earth instead of being a bully of the earth. The Indigenous people have always said that. If only we of European decent had listened to the Indigenous people instead of bullying them into submission, before bullying the earth.

An Opportunity, Or Back to the Same?

A commentary about Covid

Sonya Renee Taylor is an author, poet, spoken word artist, speaker, educator, humanitarian and social justice activist. I  (#blog, #blogger, #YA, #authors, #somseason) recently saw a quote by her which said:

“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-Corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”

Ms. Taylor reflects my sentiments exactly! From the very start of this pandemic, I’ve always believed that this was some sort of awakening that the Universe, God, Yahweh, Allah, Creator, or some greater power is causing; awakening and nudging us to work together instead of against each other; awakening us to  the “greed, inequity, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack” that is widespread on our planet, and making us aware of human abuse of the planet. Also, awakening us to racism, bullying (#antibullying, #bullying), misogyny, and tribalism in the form of toxic partisanism. Partisanism is extreme loyalty to members of one’s own party, faction, sect, or cause; typically, a political ideology. I continue to believe this pandemic is a wakeup call for the human family. I have always thought that this pandemic is an opportunity to create a better world. However, if I am honest, sometimes I get discouraged and confused; questioning if that is true.

I read a Global News report titled, ‘It’s up to all of us’: B.C. woman speaks out after intervening in racist incident, which reported on a woman who was in the line at a Home Hardware store and witnessed a person yelling at another man in the line who happened to be Chinese, telling him to move away from her, to move back to Wuhan, and that he was going to get her sick.  Time has an article titled, As Coronavirus Spreads, So Does Xenophobia and Anti-Asian Racism, explaining the problem of racial bullying during this pandemic. Many articles, besides the two I’ve sited, make this claim.

When I hear reports of racial bullying towards Asian people because the pandemic happened to start in China, I have doubts if what the world is experiencing really is teaching us; if it really will create a better world. Why you ask? Because people don’t seem to be changing, but then I remind myself that the world didn’t get this way overnight. Change will take time.

Something that caused turmoil and confusion for me was a video I watched showing an Italian leader slamming ‘False COVID-19 Numbers,’ claiming 25000 did not die, and what is really happening was an attempt for some to impose a dictatorship. This made me question what is really going on. You watch it and you be the judge. Here is the video:

This Italian leader says 96.3% of deaths listed as COVID deaths were deaths caused by something other than coronavirus.

Now, I don’t wish to be a perpetrator of conspiracy theories, and that is not my intent with this post, but the video did make me question if what we’re being told by the media and by our governments is accurate. Are we being misled? Are we being told the truth? Is something sinister going on? I don’t know the answer, but when I research about COVID deaths, and how the statistics are reported, my Spidey senses go off. If you aren’t familiar with that phrase, it’s from the fictional character Spider-Man, nicknamed Spidey, who has an ability to sense danger before it can be perceived by other senses. Are conspiracy theories true? Certainly most are not, but Readers Digest lists theories that turned out to be true in their article, 12 Conspiracy Theories that Actually Turned Out to be True.

I have read a lot of articles, and watched videos of health professionals, questioning what is really going on. Some of these have been health care workers questioning the statistics of COVID-19. Many have argued that statistics of COVID deaths are skewed or misleading, and the numbers are designed to instil fear.

Fox News, a news outlet which I consider very bias, has an article, Birx says government is classifying all deaths of patients with coronavirus as ‘COVID-19’ deaths, regardless of cause. It says:

The federal government is classifying the deaths of patients infected with the coronavirus as COVID-19 deaths, regardless of any underlying health issues that could have contributed to the loss of someone’s life.

The Illinois Herald News article, What counts as a COVID-19 death? says,

During Gov. JB Pritzker’s health briefing, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the Illinois Department of Public Health director, said anyone who had COVID-19 at the time of death, even if the person died of other causes, is counted among the COVID deaths. In fact, even if a person is in hospice for other reasons but has COVID, too, that death is still counted among the COVID deaths, Ezike said.

BBC’s article, Coronavirus: Why death and mortality rates differ, says in the UK the Department of Health and Social Care releases daily updates on how many people who tested positive for Covid-19 died that day. This includes any patient who tested positive for Covid-19, but who might have died from another condition (for example, terminal cancer). But the UK’s Office for National Statistics counts all deaths as Covid-19 where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, regardless of whether they were tested or if it was merely a suspected case of Covid-19. Italy counts any death of a patient who has Covid-19 as a death caused by Covid-19, as does Germany and Hong Kong. In the US, any death of a Covid-19 patient, no matter what the physician believes to be the direct cause, is counted for public reporting as a Covid-19 death. The picture is cloudier when patients have not had a Covid-19 test, but are a suspected case. Given that many deaths from Covid-19 are in people who have underlying health issues, doctors still have to make the call on the cause of death.

What counts as a Covid death varies, depending on the country. I couldn’t find how Canada reports a Covid death. It’s all very confusing and in my opinion somewhat misleading. Who knows what is really the truth. Still I ask, are these stats provided to spread fear throughout the masses? Is this to keep us afraid, compliant with rules, and safe, or is this a way to control the multitudes? Even more sinister, is this a way to remove our rights? There have been arguments saying all these things. If it is true, and this is all designed to control the masses, as some suggest, then we are being bullied on a massive scale. In my last post, Bullying Takes Many Forms, I suggested the definition: “If someone feels unsafe, threatened, rejected, or inferior because of another, then they are being bullied.” Are my rights threatened? All this media talk about COVID deaths certainly makes me feel unsafe. Are we being bullied by fear mongering? I don’t know the answer. I am merely asking questions. I am becoming more and more confused, wondering what is really going on, and what I should believe.

I still choose to believe something bigger is happening. I believe humans are being forced in one way or another to stop, think, and decide what type of world we want to live in. Do we want to live in a world where compassion is the norm? Do we want to treat the planet with respect? Sun Tsu, an ancient Chinese general, writer and philosopher once said, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” We, as a human family, have an opportunity to create a better world. Whether there is something sinister happening, like an attempt to remove our human rights so we can be controlled, or something spiritual happening, or both, it doesn’t matter.  Spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, says, “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.” Perhaps the human consciousness is being awakened to something, however, the question still remains the same, What type of society do we want to live in? Do we want a society where “greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack” are the norm, or do we want “to stitch a new garment…that fits all of humanity and nature?” I want the latter!

Bullying Takes Many Forms

A commentary on the forms of bullying

I (#blog, #blogger, #YA, #authors, #somseason) stumbled upon an article, Bullying can happen in many different forms, which made me reflect on my life. The article says that most people accept physical bullying (punching, pushing) as bullying (#antibullying, #bullying), but that other forms of bullying are not as wildly accepted as bullying. In my recent post, Why do Things Have to be Complicated? I suggested that we make the definition for bullying simple, suggesting;  “If someone feels unsafe or threatened by another, then they are being bullied.”  Now I think I should expand that definition to read: “If someone feels unsafe, threatened, rejected, or inferior because of another, then they are being bullied.” The article lists some kinds of bullying as:

  1. Verbal (name-calling)
  2. Physical (punching, pushing)
  3. Social (leaving someone out of a game or group on purpose)
  4. Extortion (stealing someone’s money or toys)
  5. Cyberbullying (using computers, the Internet, mobile phones, etc. to bully others)

The article says all forms of bullying are harmful, but argues verbal bullying, which includes name-calling, is the most common type of bullying. I would have to agree. Never have I had a school yard supervision without some little person running up to me saying, “____called me a ____” You fill in the blanks. Social bullying was also a common occurrence as little ones often came up to me while on supervision saying, “____won’t play with me.”

This article provides an interesting fact (although it gives no reference as to where the fact came from). The article claims, “bullying happens to someone in Canada every seven minutes on the playground.” For the author talks for my book, A Shattered New Start, I use a PREVNet statistic, which is a Canadian authority on bullying research, who say, “75% of people say they have been affected by bullying.” I suspect that number is even higher. The point is, bullying is epidemic.

Another fact the article mentions is; “Other kids are watching 85% of the time when one kid bullies another kid. Adults, like teachers or parents, hardly ever see a bully being mean to someone else.” This is true. Kids are always watching whether you are aware of it or not. For my author talks, I use some stats provided by the Canadian Red Cross, who say; “Over half of bullied children do not report being bullied to a teacher,” and “71% of teachers say they usually intervene with bullying problems; but only 25% of students say that teachers intervene.” The latter stat is concerning.  The truth is, kids perceive teachers as ‘not caring’ or ‘turning a blind eye.” From my experience of a 35-year veteran retired teacher, I don’t believe that is true. It is more likely teachers don’t see the bullying happening. We only hear about it after the incident.

In my last post, I Want to Know, I solicited bullying stories, and I am still doing that. I offered a free promo code to the first 15 people who sent me their bullying story, and in return they could download a digital version of my book, A Shattered New Start, from the  iTunes bookstore. My email is: authorkjsom@gmail.com. The codes are valid until June 1st, so you need to hurry. Since I am asking to hear other people’s bullying stories, it is only fair that I share more of mine, so here goes.

Have I ever been the recipient of verbal bullying?  You bet, even as a teacher. I have been told to, pardon my language, “fuck off,” a few times as a teacher.  Probably the time that stands out most was during my second or third year as a ‘rookie teacher.’  I received in the mail—it was snail mail in those days—a hand written letter from a student, or maybe a group of students, telling me to quit teaching. The author(s) of the letter called me some unkind names. As an insecure ‘rookie teacher,’ that was a blow to the self-esteem. I felt unsafe, threatened, and rejected because of this letter. What might these kids do next, and in fact, my vehicle was “keyed” (scratched by a key) or vandalized around that time, so for all I know it was the same kids.

That letter bothered me for a long time, but I accepted it was kids being kids. As the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says,

Adolescents differ from adults in the way they behave, solve problems, and make decisions. Teenagers occasionally behave in an impulsive, irrational, or dangerous way…[they] don’t think things through or fully consider the consequences of their actions.” That doesn’t make the bullying okay, but it makes it understandable.

A home-schooling friend of ours, who recently read my book, A Shattered New Start, told me that it never occurred to her that a teacher might feel frightened by a student. I have on many occasions. My daughter, who is also a teacher, told me she has as well, and she teaches kindergarteners and grade ones. Students can be intimidating.

Have I ever been the recipient of physical bullying?  You bet. I remember in elementary school—don’t remember what grade I was in—my brother and I were walking home from school. We lived in a small town, so we had to walk to and from school. One of the town bullies was harassing my brother and I, calling us names, etc. What I remember most is the bully taking snow and rubbing it into our faces. My brother and I were scared as the bully was bigger than either of us. It was a humiliating and upsetting experience. We definitely felt unsafe and threatened by this bully.

Have I ever been the recipient of social bullying? You bet, as a non-athletic person. All throughout school, in gym class, I was always one of the last kids to be picked for a team. You remember those times because you feel unwanted and rejected. I felt inferior thinking I was not good enough to play on a team.

Have I ever bullied? I am sad to say, yes.  As a teacher, I once strapped a student. In the early part of my career, corporal punishment was the norm.  I hated it. Inflicting pain on a student felt awful.  The belief was, if you inflicted physical punishment on a kid, it would be a deterrent; ensuring they would never commit the infraction again. It seldom worked though.    I only ever did it once because it was such an unpleasant experience. There was nothing about being a bully—in my case, carrying out corporal punishment—that felt good.

So, there you have it; some more of my experiences with bullying. Please, please send me some of your bullying experiences, and don’t leave out your feelings. If you are kind enough to share your bullying experience, you’ll receive a free promo code to download a digital version of my book, A Shattered New Start, from the iTunes bookstore, but hurry, as the codes expire June 1st.

Email me at: authorkjsom@gmail.com.

I Want to Know

As you know, I (#blog, #blogger, #YA, #authors, #somseason) have been passionately blogging about bullying. Bullying (#antibullying, #bullying) is epidemic in our world and I spent a career dealing with school bullies. I’ve had bullying experiences myself, as a victim, and I’ve revealed some on past blog posts. I began to wonder what other people’s bullying experiences were like. That gave me an idea.

My idea is this. I will give a free promo code to download a digital version of my book, A Shattered New Start, from the  iTunes bookstore to the first 15 people who email me their bullying story. The only drawback is it can only be read on a Mac computer, iPad or iPhone. I hope that doesn’t stop people. My email is: authorkjsom@gmail.com

By emailing me your bullying story, you are giving me permission to publish your story in one of my future blog posts. If you don’t want me to use your actual name, I can use an alias. Just mention that in your email.

Maya Angelou, an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist, says:

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

It will be a healing experience to tell your bullying story. Maya Angelou also said:
People will never forget how you made them feel.
So, if you’ve bullied and regretted your actions, tell your story too. I’m convinced everyone has some sort of bullying story, whether it be being a victim of a bully or being the bully. Doesn’t matter which it is, just tell your story. It is freeing! It is healing! It needs to be heard! Please don’t leave out the feelings either. How were you impacted by bullying? How did the event make you feel? Don’t hold anything back. You’ll feel better, I promise.
So, tell me your story. If you do, you’ll receive a free code from iTunes bookstore to download my book, A Shattered New Start, a story about a high school bully. If you know someone with a bullying story that you think would tell their story, then tell them about this event.
Email me at:
authorkjsom@gmail.com

But avoid delaying! These codes expire in 28 days (June 1st, 2020)

Why do Things Have to be Complicated?

A commentary about what bullying is.

Adam Davies is a former member of Nova Scotia’s Chignecto-Central Regional School Board who writes commentaries. His editorial: Is the word bullying misunderstood? published in the Halifax, Nova Scotia’s (NS) Chronicle Herald asks the question: Is the word bullying maligned, misunderstood or meaningless? This is a valid question. If you google the definition of bullying on the Internet, you get 184 million hits. That is a lot of definitions, and they do vary greatly. Two people can witness the same incident, and one might say it was bullying (#antibullying, #bullying) and the other it was not. Why? Because each has a different definition of bullying.

Mr. Davies says;

Many of us know a textbook definition of the word, such as this from the provincial school code of conduct: ‘Bullying means behaviour, typically repeated, that is intended to cause or should be known to cause fear, intimidation, humiliation, exclusion, distress or other harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem, reputation or property, and can be direct or indirect, and includes assisting or encouraging the behaviour in any way.’

However, he argues that definitions leave gaps. For example, Mr. Davies argues some bullying is dismissed as teasing or horseplay. “Clearly, bullying only means what we want it to mean,” he says. In his editorial, Mr. Davies refers to an incident that occurred in a NS High School. A CTV News report, Several students suspended after alleged assault at Cape Breton high school, describes the incident that Mr. Davies is referring to. It also has an edited video of the disturbing incident, which was a violent incident at the NS high school that was circulated on social media. It shows a grade 9 student being attacked by another student who literally throws the grade nine student across the locker room. The attacked student was hurt in the incident.

The author of the editorial argues that many news reports described the incident as an alleged assault but there were others who described it as bullying. Yahoo News’s headline, Assault caught on video at Cape Breton high school, calls it an assault, while the Halifax Chronicle Herald’s headline, Bullying incident in Coxheath shines light on complex issue, calls it bullying. So, the question is: Was it bullying or was it an assault? It’s both. An assault is a physical attack, and that clearly happened in the NS incident.

Before COVID-19, I (#blog, #blogger, #YA, #authors, #somseason) gave author talks for my book, A Shattered New Start. In that talk, I used a definition for bullying from Bullying Reporting and Prevention (BRIM), a company that develops Anti-Bullying Software. Their definition is designed for children, which is why I used it, and it says, “Bullying is when you keep picking on someone because you think you’re cooler, smarter, stronger or better than them.” Writing a post about the definition of bullying has made me realize even that definition is lacking. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) define bullying “as when there is an imbalance of power; where someone purposely and repeatedly says or does hurtful things to someone else.” Many definitions of bullying say to be bullying, it must happen more than once. The news reports fail to report whether the NS boy was repeatedly assaulted either physically (using your body or objects to cause harm), verbally (using words to hurt someone), or socially (using your friends and relationships to hurt someone). Based on my experience with school bullying, and using definitions like Oxford’s definition, “seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce someone perceived as vulnerable,” which makes no reference to repetition, the NS youth was definitely bullied.

Mr. Davies sites a 2019 research study on student well-being and experiences at school which was commissioned by the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Their report, based on survey data from more than 54,000 students in Grades 4 to 12, did not use the terms bullying or bullying behaviour. Instead, students were asked if they felt unsafe or threatened at school within the past month. According to the survey, 19% of students felt unsafe or threatened at school, with 35% for students with physical disabilities, and 36% for those who identified as LGBTQ. The survey revealed that students were most worried about gossip, pranks and being left out by their friends and peers. Most disturbing to me was 61% of students surveyed reported feeling physically threatened and about half of those surveyed were concerned about cyber threats, including online gossip, hurtful messages and the spread of inappropriate photos.

The survey on student well-being and experiences at school reveals a lot of other things about school life, but the fact that 19%, or approximately one in five students, feel unsafe at school is alarming.

The Canadian Red Cross has a simple definition of bullying. It says, “bullying is a form of aggression where there is a power imbalance; the person doing the bullying has power over the person being victimized.” That is a good definition because it is simple, yet it encapsulates what bullying is. Perhaps there is an even a simpler definition of bullying? Maybe bullying should be defined as when a person is made to feel threatened or unsafe by another person. It’s simple, yet says what bullying is all about.

Bullying typically is defined by three elements: aggression, a power differential, and repetition. I have a problem with the repetition part. If a person feels threatened or unsafe, because of another person, even one time, then in my view, bullying has occurred. Under no circumstances should a person ever feel threatened or unsafe because of another individual. Many will argue that bullying is complex and you can’t define it as I just did, but perhaps that is the problem. Maybe we humans want to make everything more complicated than it has to be. To me it is simple. If a student, or anyone for that matter, feels unsafe or threatened by another, they are being bullied.

Names Should Never Hurt

A commentary on how one’s name can make you a target

Most of us like our names and believe others do as well, but that is not always the case. CNN’s article, Tom Hanks writes to bullied 8-year-old named Corona, is a story about Corona DeVries, an 8 year old from Queensland, Australia, who told reporters that he had recently been called “coronavirus” at school. He told them, “Coronavirus — they kept on saying that, and I get really mad.” The 8-year-old wrote to Tom Hanks, a well-known American actor, and his wife Rita Wilson, wishing them well and saying, “I heard on the news you and your wife have caught the coronavirus. Are you ok?”

What is special about this news story is Mr. Hanks wrote the young boy back, addressing his letter, “Friend Corona.” The actor expressed gratitude for the 8-year-old’s concern about his and his wife’s health. In the letter, Mr. Hanks says, “Thank you for being such a good friend — friends make their friends feel good when they are down.” The Oscar winner, who collects typewriters, sent the 8-year-old a typewriter saying, “use it to write me back.” At the bottom of his letter, Hanks added the handwritten postscript “You got a friend in me!” — the name of the “Toy Story” theme song.

The likelihood of this young man being bullied because of the name Corona would be close to zero under normal circumstances, but because the world is presently experiencing a viral pandemic with a virus called Coronavirus, he was targeted. I was touched by this story because of the kindness shown by Tom Hanks. Even more, just when I (#blog, #blogger, #YA, #authors, #somseason) think I’ve heard it all, I hear about another ridiculous reason for bullying. It is not this 8-year old’s fault that this virus is called coronavirus. It shows how insensitive bullies are.

Bullying  (#antibullying, #bullying) a boy, because his name is Corona, is outlandish, just as outlandish as people relating Corona beer with the virus.  CBS News put out a story in early March titled, Survey finds 38% of beer-drinking Americans say they won’t order a Corona. It says 38% of American beer drinkers surveyed said they wouldn’t buy Corona “under any circumstances” at the moment. Among regular Corona drinkers, only 4% said they would now refrain. Refraining from drinking a beer that has been around for years because its name is the same name as a virus is ridiculous.

Getting bullied because of your name is nothing new. It has been happening forever. I too, was harassed because of my name. All throughout elementary and junior high school, I was made fun of because my last name was Sommer. I was called summer sausage, which is a sausage that has been dry-cured, smoked, and hardened. I grew up eating summer sausage as it was one of my dad’s favourites. I hated being called summer sausage, and at the time, I didn’t think of it as bullying. The kids that called me that thought it was funny, and they laughed a lot calling us summer sausage. The reality is,  my siblings, cousins, and I  didn’t like being called that, and that makes it bullying.

ABC News did a story, Boy who changed his name from Trump, about Joshua, who lives in Clayton, Delaware, who began using his father’s last name, rather than his mother’s, due to the relentless bullying he experienced after Donald Trump began campaigning in the 2016 presidential election. Joshua’s mother, Megan Trump, no relation to the president, said that other kids would curse at her son, calling him stupid and an idiot. He hated his last name and felt sad all the time. Since the bullying got so bad, the school district agreed to change Joshua’s name in the school system when he began Middle School. I feel for this 11-year-old. It is not his fault he had the same last name as the current resident of the U.S. White House; a man who makes it easy for others to ridicule him when the U.S. leader makes statements such as, covid-19 patients might be cured by treating them with injections of disinfectant and applications of ultraviolet light.

A 2011 Daily News’ story, Lea Michele: I had to change my last name because I was bullied in school,  is a story about “Glee” actress, Lea Michele, who ditched her surname after being bullied in school. Sarfati, is her real surname, but the actress said. “I don’t use it a lot because I got ‘Lea So-fatty,’ ‘Lea So-farty’ at school.” She said, “When I was little and I went on my first audition they were like, ‘And may we have your name,’ and I was like Lea Michele. And I’ve been Lea Michele ever since.’ ”

Bullying of any kind is serious, even bullying because of a person’s name. When it is relentless and malicious, it can lead to suicide. Wikipedia lists 16-year-old, Sladjana Vidovic (1992–2008) from Mentor, Ohio, as someone who hung herself in October 2008 by jumping from a window with a sheet around her neck. She and her family were from Croatia. Because of her accent and her name, other students called her names like “Slutty Jana” and “Slut-Jana-Vagina.”

As I’ve said in my post, Really? Bullied for Loving Books, there is a very simple solution to bullying, and that is following the Golden Rule which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  However, it is not that simple as hurting people feel better when they take their pain out on others, so the bully’s pain needs to be healed first. As the adage says, “Healed People Heal People.” A bully is a hurting person, so the first step is to acknowledge that. The next step to help them heal. That might be as simple as listening to their story of pain, since many bullies feel unheard. Some may require professional help, so recommending a healer might be a way to help.  Most importantly, show kindness, compassion and love, all which heal. So, instead of condemning those who bully—even though that is our first instinct—try having compassion for them, but make it clear that their bullying is unacceptable.

One World Working Together

A commentary on the creating a better world

This week, a CBS News story titled, March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the U.S. since 2002, caught my attention. This article says, March 2020 was the first March in nearly two decades without a school shooting in U.S. Since early March, schools have been closed as a prevention measure to slow the spread of coronavirus. The article uses data from the National School Safety Center and National School Safety and Security Services to confirm their claim. My immediate reaction to this story was amazement. However, one always has to be careful when it comes news, especially when they involve statistics, so I checked the claim out.

Snopes describes itself as the internet’s definitive fact-checking resource. Addressing the claim that March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the U.S. since 2002, it says what’s true is according to one government database, the U.S. has had at least one shooting on K-12 school properties every March from 2003 through 2009, and every March since (but not including) 2010. What’s False is that the way the various U.S. government agencies and organizations define a “school shooting” as definitions vary greatly, making any statistical claims challenging. Also, by the standards of one key government database, the U.S. had eight — not zero — school shootings in March 2020.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Criminology explains the problem this way.

The threshold of 4 or more deaths is arbitrary, but there are exclusions. For example, if 10 people are shot but only 2 die, the incident is not a mass shooting. Homicides by other means also are not counted. If 5 people are purposely run down and killed by an individual driving motor vehicle, the deaths do not count because a firearm is not involved.

The data used by the CBS article from the National School Safety Center and National School Safety and Security Services used the definition; school-associated violent deaths are homicides, suicides, or other violent, non-accidental deaths in the United States in which a fatal injury occurs. So, if the definition used is one or more deaths resulting from shootings, then it is possible March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the U.S. since 2002. However, Snopes says by the standards of one key government database, the U.S. had eight school shootings in March 2020 which would mean this claim is false.

To me people quibbling about what defines a school shooting, and how many people must die to qualify, is ridiculous. One person dying is one too many. For me, what is more important is why school shootings happen. Obviously, one reason is guns are readily available in the U.S, but there are also emotional and psychological reasons. In other words, mental health is a big factor.

During my school author talks about my book, A Shattered New Start, I talked about a Colorado Sun article titled, Secret Service study: Most school shooters were badly bullied, showed warning signs. This article said that according to a U.S. Secret Service study, most students who committed deadly school assaults over the past decade were badly bullied, and had a history of disciplinary trouble.

PsychCentral’s article, Bullies More Likely to Have Mental Disorder, says bullying could be a component of a mental disorder, according to a study. After analyzing responses from a parent survey, the researchers found that those considered bullies were more than twice as likely to experience depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD).

The article, How does bullying affect health and well-being? by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services says,

Bullying can affect physical and emotional health, both in the short term and later in life. It can lead to physical injury, social problems, emotional problems, and even death. Those who are bullied are at increased risk for mental health problems, headaches, and problems adjusting to school. Bullying also can cause long-term damage to self-esteem.

The biggest issues, in my view, are emotional and mental health problems. These issues create bullies and emotionally damaged victims. Why are there school shootings? Namely bullying. Why is there bullying? Emotional and mentally unhealthy people. Would it be helpful to have one agreed upon definition of a school shooting? Yes. Would school shootings decrease if weapons were unavailable, or at least difficult to get? Yes. What would likely make the biggest impact on school shooting statistics is creating a mentally and emotionally healthy society.

Self-help writer, Edmond Mbiaka, says;

“Let integrity, humility, kindness, compassion, peace, and unity follow you wherever you go. We still have a chance at making this world a better place for us and our future generations. Stop Complaining about all the negativity in this world and start contributing more positive words, decisions, and actions to it.”

When we start caring for others, and being kind, compassionate, generous, and treating everyone as an equal, then we’ll start seeing less mental illness, less bullying, and less school shootings. Or to make it simple! Follow the Golden Rule which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As I’ve said in many of my previous posts, maybe this pandemic is the Universe’s way of transforming the world into one that is simpler, kinder, more compassionate, and more caring. On April 18th , my wife and I watched One World: Together at Home, where more than 70 artists and celebrities gathered around the world for a virtual concert, to honour and celebrate healthcare workers who are fighting against the coronavirus pandemic. I truly felt part of a global village. The entire world  is in this together. The world will only conquer this disease by us working together as a human family. We are one!

It’s Time to Express Our Gratitude!

A commentary on those who deserve recognition during this world pandemic

NetFlix docuseries Pandemic

I found that the news media since the coronavirus pandemic started is relatively quiet about bullying. That could mean one of two things. Either the media is focused solely on COVID-19 news, or bullying has declined drastically since stay at home orders have been implemented by governments.

I did find an article, published in March, in Education Week which is an independent news organization providing coverage on K-12 education. Its article titled, How Teachers Are Talking to Students About the Coronavirus, tells of information available for educators to help them challenge racist comments related to the coronavirus in the classroom. Its creator says teachers should confront bullying behaviour since it is counterproductive when bullying is trying to find a “scapegoat” for a global health crisis. In a recent post, I pointed out how the U.S. president at one time was referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus,” claiming he does this because it was where the pandemic had its roots. This is laying blame on Chinese people and encouraging racial bullying against people of Chinese or Asian descent. Teachers are expected to counter bullying of any kind.

Haim Ginott, an Israeli child psychologist, psychotherapist, and a parent educator, once said; “Teachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools. The miracle is that at times they accomplish this impossible task.” I see teachers criticized more than valued.

I’m happy to see many wonderful posts thanking doctors, nurses, and other essential workers during this pandemic. These people deserve our recognition and gratitude, not only now but also during normal times. Here is a recent post I’ve seen:

Next year I don’t wanna hear about the Oscars, Grammys, Tonys or Golden Globes. I don’t want to see a single pathetic actor, actress, singer, celebrity or sports person on any red carpet!!!

Next year I want to see nurses, doctors, ambulance crews, health care support workers, shop workers and truck drivers, all essential workers, grocery store workers having free red-carpet parties with awards and expensive goodie bags. If this doesn’t happen it will be the biggest injustice ever!! Thank you! All of you that are working hard to keep us safe and allow us to have food on our table.

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always believed there is too much value placed on celebrities of the performing and sports worlds. These people get paid outrageous amounts of money to entertain us. I have never understood why child care workers, for example, receive next to nothing for wages when these people care for our precious children. For me, it feels like our priorities are “out of whack.”

Our teachers are another group overlooked when it comes to receiving gratitude. As a retired teacher, I know how much work it is to teach in normal times. School closures due to the current world pandemic have forced teachers all over the world to teach differently. Suddenly, educators are forced to teach through technology. For some teachers, this is not a huge adjustment as they already post assignments and lessons online. These would be mainly high school teachers, but for elementary teachers, this is a huge shift.

My 29-year-old tech savvy daughter is one of them. She finds implementing creative ways to teach kindergarteners and grade 3 math students to be overwhelming, highly stressful, and time consuming, often working 12-hour days. She has calmed teachers in tears, overwhelmed with the technology. These are committed people who care about their students.

I’ve seen posts paying tribute to the graduate class of 2020 who will not experience a graduation ceremony. There are Facebook posts from the school I once taught at telling their students that they miss them. I’ve seen signs on school windows saying “we miss you.” As a former teacher, I have no trouble believing that teachers miss their students as my students were my family. After all, a teacher spends 6 or more hours a day with them.

bl020717Teachers are essential workers! They are the ones keeping a child’s education going during this crisis. I read all sorts of posts saying parents are home schooling their children, and in part they are. But true home schoolers prepare the lessons and evaluate their child’s progress. Most parents are ensuring their child is learning, but it is the teachers who are preparing and teaching lessons virtually, and are the ones evaluating the child’s progress.

My wife was out walking in our local park, and came across a grandmother. Practicing physical distancing, the grandmother said her daughter who is now homeschooling her children, was doing great. My wife responded, “You do understand that it is the teachers preparing the lessons, right?” This grandmother could not grasp what she meant.

CBS Boston’s article, Teachers Find Creative Ways To Reach Students During Coronavirus Closure talks about the challenges teachers have during this pandemic. A Fox News’ article, Parents praise teachers, say they deserve ‘billion dollars’ while homeschooling kids amid coronavirus outbreak, reveals the many U.S. parents who are grateful for their child’s teachers. I have not come across any Canadian articles, other than articles saying teachers are hosting virtual lessons, expressing gratitude for Canada’s teachers. This saddens me. I was happy to find that Buzzfeed, an American News outlet, has an article called, 23 Teacher Appreciation Tweets In Response To Schools Being Closed And Kids Being Quarantined At Home, showing tweets of gratitude for teachers.  French-American historian, Jacques Barzun, says; “In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.” We don’t see the impact of a good teacher until children are adults. I have had many students approach me long after they graduated to tell me the effect I had on their life.

It is time to include teachers in the list of essential workers during this time of world crisis. It is time to express gratitude for the work teachers do. They are doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by teaching virtually. They are doing their part to ensure your children and grandchildren’s education continues. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, allegedly said, “Teachers, who educate children, deserve more honour than parents, who merely gave them birth; for the latter provided mere life, while the former ensured a good life.” In my view, teachers are invisible frontline workers!