Is the Cure Worse Than the Virus?

A commentary on COVID restrictions.

The Washington Times has a September 15th opinion piece titled, America’s pandemic: Why the cure has become worse than the virus. I (#blogger #blog #somseason #YA #authors) happen to agree with the commentator. Especially for young people, the cure is worse than the virus. The mainstream media (MM) continues to tout the dangers of COVID-19, instilling fear by constantly telling us that COVID numbers are on the rise. Yet, the article states that coronavirus COVID-19 has killed 0.058% of the U.S. population, assuming they were actually COVID deaths. As I stated in previous posts, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has admitted that 94% of people said to be killed by the virus had two or more other health conditions which likely contributed to their deaths. The opinion piece goes on to state that the Associated Press, for months has said: “For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a few weeks.” 

I intend to remain neutral, not pointing fingers or judging the decisions that our leaders have made. Instead, I carefully analyze the information available to me, asking questions, drawing my own conclusions, and speaking my truth. It may not be your truth and that is perfectly fine.

I recently saw a September 23rd Calgary Herald article titled, Opioid deaths more than double in Alberta during COVID-19 pandemic.  This article states that more than twice as many Albertans died of opioid overdoses in the second quarter of 2020 than the first, an increase of 28%, according to new data. Finally, the MM and the province’s government are starting to talk about the effects of COVID restrictions. Alberta’s associate minister of mental health and addictions, Jason Luan, stated, “The past few months have led to increased fear and anxiety, isolation, disruption to in-person services, job uncertainty and more.” He admitted that these problems are not unique to Alberta as the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Ontario have seen a similar rise in overdose deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The Huffpost’s September 24th article, Statistics Canada Reports Record High Level Of Youth Not In School Or Work, reveals that Statistics Canada found that 24% of Canadians aged 15 to 29 were “NEET” ― not in employment, education or training ― as of April of this year. That’s double the rate in February, before the pandemic. The article also states that the jobless rate for youth was 23.4% in August, compared to 10.2% for Canada as a whole.

Are our youth affected by COVID restrictions more so than adults? The information suggests so. I would even go so far as to say our youth, more so than any other demographic, are being bullied (#bulling #antibullying) because of COVID restrictions. I have to wonder if COVID restrictions are really necessary?

CTV has an August article titled, How deadly is COVID-19 for children? Here’s what we know. According to the article, one death out of 7,888 cases in children and teenagers means that less than 0.013% of young COVID-19 patients in Canada have died. In the US, only about 0.2 % of patients under the age of 17 have died, according to the article. A study of 100 children who contracted the coronavirus in Italy, a country touted is one of the worst affected by COVID back in March, found that no children died. In China, a study reveals only one of the first 2,135 pediatric patients to have contracted the virus later died. Research from Ontario concluded that it is “rare” for children to die after contracting COVID-19 in high- or middle-income countries.

I have to ask: If our children and teens have a less than 1% death rate because of coronavirus, then why are there such harsh COVID restrictions placed on them? Are these restrictions—forced masking, social distancing, insisting they sanitize their hands before entering school rooms, and fear mongering affecting their mental well-being—a too high of a price?  Shouldn’t our youth’s mental health be priority? The cure—at least for our young people—is far worse than the threat of the virus.

The Daily Signal—not a MM source—has an September 29th article titled, COVID-19 Linked to Rising Suicide Rates Among Teens. The article states:

Many experts say that the stringent social distancing measures put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19 have significantly worsened teen mental health. Because teenagers are social by nature and developmentally reliant on their peers, the pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues among an age cohort already vulnerable to begin with. 

I can tell you as a retired teacher who worked with children and teens for over 35 years, that our youth are emotionally fragile at the best of times. The most important thing for a teenager or child is being with their friends, and with COVID restrictions, this is being taken away from them. It seems to me that decisions concerning our youth are being made out of fear of the virus when decisions should be made from the perspective of what what the data says and what is best for young people.

The New York Post has an August 13 article titled, One in four young adults in the US contemplated suicide during pandemic.  The article sites a CDC study that states:

The percentage of respondents who reported having seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before completing the survey (10.7%) was significantly higher among respondents aged 18–24 years (25.5%)

In another article by Health News Florida titled, The Pandemic Has Researchers Worried About Teen Suicide, it states:

“Teenagers are in a developmental space where it is critically important that they have regular contact with their peers and are able to develop close and ongoing relationships with adults outside the home, such as their teachers, their coaches, their advisers,” says Lisa Damour, an adolescent psychologist.” And I worry very much about what it means for that to be disrupted by the pandemic.”

Are COVID restrictions, said to be implemented to protect our children and teens, worth damaging their mental health when the death rate of the virus is less than 1%? Forcing kids to wear masks and social distance is harming them more than the virus threatens them. The cure has become worse that the virus for our youth. That is bullying. In one of my May posts, I suggested a simple definition of bullying, which was; ‘when a person is made to feel threatened or unsafe by another person.’  Now I would define bullying as: ‘When a person, or group of people, are made to feel threatened, unsafe, or restricted by another individual, group of people, or authority.’  COVID restrictions are affecting young people’s mental well-being, so they are being bullied. The question remains: Is protecting our children and teens from a virus where less than 1% are said to have died from COVID worth causing 25% of young people to consider suicide because of COVID restrictions? I say NO. It is illogical. The data says NO. And most of all, NO because it is bullying. That is my truth!

We’re All in this Together

A commentary on the need for hope.

I saw a video recently which made a lot of sense. The video was talking about our chaotic world which every human is experiencing; a world facing an apparent pandemic, the Black Lives Matter protests, protests against Covid restrictions, mask confusion, human trafficking, missing children, ever changing messaging, and the list goes on. Here is the essence of the video.

The video emphasized that we’re all enduring this storm together no matter what our beliefs and personal truths are. Everyone has their own truths and beliefs, but we are all navigating these confusing times together as best we can. For many, it may feel like we’re divided, polarized, and fighting against one another. Many feel confused and frightened about what is going on. Despite this, the speaker says to pay attention to how you react and respond to other humans, to your knee jerk reactions, and to avoid asserting that someone is wrong. There is no right or wrong. Practice being neutral.

The speaker goes on to talk about neutrality. She says you can navigate through the chaos with neutrality. You can still have your opinions, beliefs, and your own truths, but see and respect other people’s truths as well. That is what neutrality is. We are all experiencing our own human journey together amongst the chaos, so pay attention to your response to others, having more compassion for them since we don’t know what other people have experienced or what they’re going through. How kind can you be to others? We can be unified with our differing thoughts, beliefs, and still retain our individuality. Be kind, as everyone is doing the best they can.

The message in the video resonated with me. My beliefs about what is happening have not changed. However, I’ve realized that I may have failed to be sensitive to other’s perspectives and beliefs, pushing my perspective without considering other perspectives and beliefs out there. I may have forgotten that many people are fearful; fearful of the virus, or afraid that something sinister is happening in our world. The video reminded me that every human is navigating the chaos as best they can and that now is a time for kindness. If ever there was a time for unity and hope, it is at this time.

Having said that, the speaker did talk about the importance of considering other perspectives, to question everything, and to be skeptical about what we are being told. Be a truth seeker!

In May, I (#blog, #blogger, #YA, #authors, #somseason) wrote a post titled,  An Opportunity, Or Back to the Same? In that post I quoted the author, poet, speaker, educator, humanitarian and social justice activist, Sonya Renee Taylor, who 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.”

From the very beginning of this alleged pandemic, I’ve always felt strongly that the world is going through an awakening or reset; that the Universe, God, Yahweh, Allah, Creator, or some greater power is orchestrating this, and awakening us to  the “greed, inequity, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack” that is on a global scale; awakening us to racism, bullying (#antibullying, #bullying), misogyny, and tribalism. I believe this now more than ever.

Recently, I saw a post on social media that said:

Don’t Give up on this year.

Keep fighting for the good.

Keep showing up.

Keep loving.

Keep giving back.

Keep being kind.

Keep being brave.

Keep caring.

Keep trying new things.

Keep showing grace.

Keep on.

This world needs you to believe in the good.

How true that is. The fact is, it doesn’t matter if we believe that the mainstream media is imparting fear causing a steep rise in suicides and drug overdoses (see Opioid deaths double) or not. It doesn’t matter if we believe our governments are taking away our rights. It doesn’t matter, as we are free to believe what we want. What does matter is for humanity to be united, to believe in good, and to practice kindness.

Idowu Koyenikan, in his book, Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability, said: “There is no denying that there is evil in this world but the light will always conquer the darkness.” Author, Ken Poirot, says, “Light can devour the darkness but darkness cannot consume the light.” In John 1:5 of the Christian scriptures it says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Several major religious festivals use light to acclaim the power of spiritual hope. Christians decorate Christmas trees with lights to symbolize Jesus Christ as the light of the world. During Diwali, a Hindu festival, fireworks displays and candles are used to celebrate the hope of spiritual victories. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, or “Festival of Lights,” is a festival of hope, that teaches us that there is no limit to what we can accomplish when we let God—or the Universe, Yahweh, Allah, Creator, or whatever you want to call it—be our guiding light. The festival encourages everyone to shine light in the darkest places of our lives and in our world.

Science tells us that light overpowers darkness since the photons (small packages of light) can dispel darkness, but darkness cannot dispel light. This principle can be seen simply by entering a dark room and turning on a flashlight. The light is visible in the midst of the darkness, even if there’s just only a small amount of light in a great amount of darkness. This same principle applies spiritually, as the light of hope is always stronger than the darkness of discouragement, fear, despair or even evil. I choose to believe we are living in a time of hope; a time where light is overtaking the darkness in our world, even though it doesn’t feel like it at times or even if we don’t believe it.

The South African Anglican cleric, Desmund Tutu, is known for his anti-apartheid and human rights work. He said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”  What the world needs most, right now, is for humanity to have hope that there is light entering our dark world.  To believe we are experiencing a cleansing; a time of light entering our world. Perhaps we’ve been living in darkness—“greed, inequity, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack,”—and we didn’t even see it. The world needs to have hope that what we are all experiencing will end and that we will end up with a better world. Perhaps this experience will create a strong desire to build a better world instead of returning to what was. I choose to have hope and to no longer live in fear. You should too.

Are We Being Bullied? (Part Two)

A commentary on the reality of our world.

Columnist Molly McCann wrote in one of her columns titled, Mandatory Masks Aren’t About Safety, They’re About Social Control, “Mandatory masks are a critical predicate conditioning us to accept abuses of our liberty.”  Columnist Lee Smith shared McCann’s piece on Twitter and wrote, “Masks aren’t about public health but social control. Image of Biden in black mask endorses culture of silence, slavery, and social death.” President Donald Trump shared a tweet that argued the mandated use of face masks to control the spread of the coronavirus represents a “culture of silence, slavery, and social death.” I couldn’t agree more with these statements. This shouldn’t surprise you since I’ve written about the mask debate in previous posts. The question is: Why are authorities mandating mask wearing and why are politicians and the mainstream media pushing masking?

In the May 21st edition of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) it states:

We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.

Even prestigious medical journals are saying masks are relatively ineffective. So, again I ask: Why are authorities mandating mask wearing and why are politicians and the mainstream media pushing masking?  To me, It seems evident it isn’t to protect us. The only logical explanation is to control the masses.

Dr. Jeffrey Barke MD, a doctor I referred to in part one purportedly said:

We should never require a child to wear a mask. Not only is it ineffective but it could actually be harmful. It increases learning disorders. It increases anxiety. It reduces the ability for that child to bond with their teachers. It is a form of child abuse to require face coverings on a small child in a school setting. Stop scaring the public unnecessarily.

I (#blogger #blog #somseason #YA #authors) couldn’t agree more. Masking children is abusive! This is bullying (#antibullying #bullying) plain and simple. I recently substituted in the school I once taught in where students are forced to wear masks because our government mandated it, even while sitting in their desks. Dr Barke is right! As a teacher, I had difficultly identifying the students and it was tough to develop any kind of relationship with a faceless student. I had no way of knowing if they were struggling with an assignment, or upset, because I could not read his or her facial expressions.

During a press briefing in August, US Presidential Candidate, Joe Biden stated the following:

“Today, I want to talk about one thing, straightforward. Doesn’t have anything to do with Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, it has to do with a simple proposition. Every single American should be wearing a mask when they are outside for the next three months at a minimum.” (source: Biden)

Did you catch that? Joe Biden would make mask wearing outside mandatory. Why? Ken Rice of Pittsburgh CBS affiliate KDKA interviewed Joe Biden in June. Rice asked Biden if he would use the federal leverage to mandate the mask use, to which Biden replied: “Yes, I would from an executive standpoint, yes, I would.” Rice then asked: “So you would, in effect, mandate the wearing of masks.” Biden replied: “I would do everything possible to make it required that people had to wear masks in public” (source: Biden). Joe Biden, if elected president of the US, would mandate wearing masks outside.

Why would a presidential candidate do this? Does he have an agenda? Does he want to keep the masses fearful of the virus? Or, is it about power and control?  Whenever I see someone in a mask, I see them as muzzled; as having their voice taken away. It is like we are symbolically silenced. Is that what is happening? It sure feels like it to me. A few weeks ago, I saw this video on social media. Please listen to the entire video as this person raised some thought-provoking points. You can access the video by clicking on Savanna’s video

Savanna didn’t address another element of masking, and that is: How mask use affects criminal behaviour. If ever there was a prime opportunity for the criminal element of society, it is now. All a criminal needs to do is put on a face mask and a pair of sunglasses. By doing this the lawless person becomes unidentifiable. Don’t believe me? It has already occurring. Have a look at the news articles Anonymous and emboldened: How mask use affects criminal behaviour and  Gloversville man used large face mask to hide identity, commit crimes, say police. I guess we should be grateful that these criminals have our safety in mind since they are protecting us from this so called deadly virus.

The statistics that Savanna gave in the video come from an article titled, Child Abduction Statistics for Parents from Parent’s Magazine. The most shocking statistic for me was:

Every 40 seconds in the United States, a child becomes missing or is abducted.

Now let that statistic sink in.

Beautiful People Magazine states:

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, roughly 800,000 children are reported missing each year in the United States. Sounds a little bit too much? Think of it this way to realize the whole situation – that’s roughly 2,000 per day!

Yes, pedophiles are taking away our children. They are being sold on the rich black market. Powerful people worldwide are buying them as they would buy groceries or anything normal.

Wow! Pedophiles are buying children. Pedophilia is the ultimate kind of bullying because it is  the abuse of innocent children. My Cognitive Dissonance just kicked in. If this is true, why is this not the biggest story in the mainstream media (MM)? Why is that? The Hollywood elites have been eerily silent on the topic of child sex trafficking. That wasn’t the case after George Floyd’s death when the Black Lives Matter movement exploded. Why are the Hollywood elites silent on human trafficking? Why aren’t Hollywood stars taking up this cause? Why are our government leaders, for the most part, silent on child sex trafficking? Is the MM intentionally trying to keep us focused on the pandemic to distract us? Are they hiding something? Is human trafficking what they don’t want us to focus on? Are our governments trying to keep us fearful of covid with all their talk of second and third waves, and another possible lockdown? If they are, why?

I mentioned in a previous post that I saw this meme on social media:

The Media isn’t silent on Child Sex Trafficking because of the Children, it’s because of who the Customers are. Read that again please.

Could that really be true? When I begin to think about all this, my brain says: “Stop that, you’re thinking nonsense,” but isn’t that Cognitive Dissonance?

Just in case you are unfamiliar with that, allow me to explain. When a strong core belief is presented with evidence that challenges the belief, our brains refuse to accept the new evidence. It creates a feeling that is far too uncomfortable for us to stomach, and this is known as, “Cognitive Dissonance.” This happens because we have a need to protect the core belief, so we rationalize, ignore, and deny anything that fails to support that core belief.

You will experience this just as I have, once you start critically looking into things. The English novelist and poet, A. S. Byatt is quoted as saying: “Things are not what they seem.” Don’t take my word for it. I challenge you to do some of your own research. As Atisa, an Indian Buddhist religious leader, once said: “The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.”

Selective Pandemic Attention

Rajneesh (born Chandra Mohan Jain, also known as Acharya Rajneesh, Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh, and later as Osho, was an Indian mystic, and founder of the Rajneesh movement. He was asked about 40 years ago during AIDS: How do I avoid an epidemic [pandemic]? “You’re asking the wrong question,” Osho replied, “the right question should be: How to avoid the fear of dying caused by the epidemic [pandemic]? Because it is very easy to avoid the virus, it is very difficult to avoid the fear in you and in the world. People will die more from this fear than from the epidemic (pandemic). There is NO virus in this world more dangerous than FEAR. Understand this fear, otherwise you will become a dead body before your body dies. It has nothing to do with the virus. The scary atmosphere you feel in these moments is collective madness…It has happened a thousand times and will continue to happen. And it will continue if you don’t understand the psychology of crowds and fear. You usually keep your fear at bay, but in the moment of collective madness, your consciousness can be completely lost. You won’t even know when you lost control of your fear. Then fear can make you do anything. In such a situation you can also take your own life or the lives of others. So much will happen in the coming times: Many people will kill themselves and many people will kill more. Attention, be mindful. Don’t watch news that triggers fear. Stop talking about the epidemic [pandemic], repeating the same thing over and over again is like self-hypnosis. Fear is a kind of self-hypnosis. This idea will cause chemical changes in the body. If you repeat the same idea over and over again, a chemical change is triggered that can sometimes be so toxic that it can kill you. During an epidemic [pandemic], energy around the world becomes irrational. This way you can fall into a black hole anytime. Meditation then becomes a protective aura into which no negative energy can penetrate.” (Source: Journalist Eye)

Osho’s answer to the questions makes a lot of sense. Are we being ruled and controlled by fear of this pandemic? I wrote about this in my last post The Real Pandemic. The mainstream news media is solely focused on the pandemic, instilling fear into the masses. As Osho said, “Don’t watch news that triggers fear.” My question is: Is this intentional? Are there people who want to keep us in fear? That is the question that needs answering.

It reminds me of something I (#blogger #blog #somseason #authors  #YA) used to do with my students when teaching about the brain. Watch the video below and follow its directions.

The first time I saw this video, I failed to see the gorilla, and the majority of my students did as well. When we focus exclusively on one thing, we fail to see what is really happening. Could people be so focused on Covid; so caught up in the fear of dying from Covid, that they miss things? When we’re solely focused on Covid, we fail to notice that more people are dying of suicide and drug overdoses than Covid deaths. Isn’t this what Osho said, “Many people will kill themselves…” I mentioned in my last post, the US director for the Center for Disease Control, Robert Redfield, says,

“We’re seeing far greater suicides’ and ‘deaths from drug overdose’ than deaths from COVID, and prolonged school closures may be more dangerous than coronavirus.”

Interestingly, the mainstream media is relatively silent on this topic. Why is that? Do they want us fearful? I’m merely asking the question.

When we exclusively focus on the pandemic, we fail to notice that our rights and freedoms are slowly being taken away from us. We no longer have the freedom to gather in large groups. We no longer have the freedom to enter many places without having to wear a face mask. We no longer are able to run our businesses and schools as usual. Numerous countries have suspended fundamental democratic rights such as freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and protections against warrantless searches and warrantless arrests (source Forbes).

When we’re solely focused on Covid, we fail to notice that our democracies are threatened. In my province (Alberta) the government passed Bill 32 which reduces picketing rights, limits arbitrators’ discretion, lowers the legal age of work to 13 years old, and provided employers with opportunities to evade paying overtime premiums. According to research from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, at least 56 countries have delayed national or regional elections due to the coronavirus pandemic (source Infogaphic). Here in Canada, the House of Commons voted to suspend full parliamentary sitting until September. The argument is the virus is too dangerous for elections and for parliament to sit. Is this pandemic so dangerous that democracy has to be suspended, or even removed?

When we exclusively focus on the pandemic, we fail to notice that humanity is more divided than ever; pro-maskers verses anti-maskers, pro opening the economy verses keeping it closed, those who believe the media verses those who are accused of being conspiracy theorists, and pro police verses those who advocate defunding the police. TMZ reports that the pro-police group, Back the Blue, and some Black Lives Matter protesters brawled in Fort Collins, Colorado. It reports the Back the Blue crowd went after the BLM protesters. If ever there was a time for humanity to be united and working together, it is now.

There is something else we’re missing when we solely focus on Covid; something that I have been reading a lot about recently, and once again the mainstream media is silent about it. What I’m referring to is human trafficking and missing children. According to The National Crime Information Center (NCIC), 448 090 people under 21 and 161 108 over 21 went missing in 2019 in the US.  In Canada, with a much smaller population of 37 million (2019) 40, 425 reports of missing children in Canada was reported by the RCMP using numbers provided by the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) in 2019. (source the Missing Children Society of Canada). One child missing is too many as far as I am concerned.

Fact Retriever’s article, 56 Little-Known Human Trafficking Facts, says:

  • According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over the past 30 years, over 30 million children have been sexually exploited through human trafficking.
  • Nearly 80% of human trafficking is for sex, and 19% is for labor exploitation.
  • Human trafficking around the globe is estimated to generate a profit of anywhere from $9 billion to $31.6 billion. Half of these profits are made in industrialized countries.
  • Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises because it holds relatively low risk with high profit potential. Criminal organizations are increasingly attracted to human trafficking because, unlike drugs, humans can be sold repeatedly.
  • Human trafficking is estimated to surpass the drug trade in less than five years.

Now I can only speak for myself, but these statistics are alarming! This is bullying (#bullying #antibullying) on a grand scale. What I don’t understand is why this is not being reported by mainstream media. I do not understand why there is not a huge outcry on this planet, like the one we saw with ‘black lives matter,’ over missing children and human trafficking. Black lives matter! Indigenous lives matter! Don’t Children’s lives matter? (#ChildrensLivesMatter #SaveOurChildren #ChildTrafficing)

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

A commentary on weight bullying

It never ceases to amaze me the excuses bullies give for bullying (#bullying #antibullying). Back in March, I (#blogger #blog #somseason #YA #authors) wrote a post titled, Really? Bullied for Loving Books, about a boy who was bullied for loving books. Well, I recently came across a story about 15-year-old Lizzy Howell from Milford, Delaware, who posted herself dancing on Instagram which resulted in the video going viral. In the 10-second clip, Lizzy is spinning on her toes, practicing a classical ballet move called fouetté turns. What caught my attention was the dancer was bullied because she did not have a typical dancer’s body.

The Huffpost’s article, This Teen Dancer Went Viral For Her Body Image, says:

Fouetté turns take a great deal of skill and years of practice to master. But it was not only her impressive execution that resonated with the public ― it was her size. Lizzy is overweight.

Here is the video I saw of her story. Lizzy speaks about her bullying experience.

Why would a bully target a victim because of their weight. I have to admit, I too have judged—not bullied—overweight people. Why? In a CNN article, Obese kids more vulnerable to bullies, it says:

“Children pick up behaviors from adults, so we always have to keep in mind how we’re modeling respect for others around multiple issues, including weight…Imagine how many signals kids get about weight just by hearing conversations by adults or seeing advertisements on TV. The messages are everywhere in terms of trying to control weight and be a different size than you are right now.”

I don’t remember my parents being judgmental about overweight people. I had relatives who were overweight, so I can’t imagine they would. However, I know this to be true, and I’ve said it in other posts before. I do believe society as a whole is to blame. The research supports this.

2017 study of females between the ages of 18 and 25 showed that greater Instagram use was linked to increased self-actualization and body image concerns, especially among those who frequently viewed fitspiration images. Those are images intended to inspire people to become physically fit through rigorous exercise and diet, usually with the goal of attaining an attractive body.

In another 2017 study, it determined that school-age girls are three times more likely than boys to consider their bodies “too fat,” and that adolescents who were cyberbullied were nearly twice as likely to refer to themselves as “too fat” as opposed to those who were not cyberbullied.

In still another 2017 study , exposure to thin-ideal media images was related to a significant increase in body dissatisfaction among young adult indigenous women.

YMCA research in 2018 found that more than half (55%) of children say they had been bullied about the way they looked. For 54% of those victims, the bullying had started by the age of 10. Researchers surveyed 1,006 young  people aged 11 to 16 across the United Kingdom (UK) and carried out focus groups in 12 different UK locations. It found that of those who had experienced appearance-based mocking, 60% had tried to change the way they looked, 53% said they became anxious, 29%  said they became depressed, and 24% said they had reduced the amount they ate. Body-shaming  is criticizing self or others because of some aspect of physical appearance.  Bullying centred on weight sometimes is referred to as “weight teasing,” but I will call it weight bullying. Weight bullying is a huge problem.

National surveys carried out in 2017 found among overweight middle-school aged children that 30% of girls and 24% of boys experienced daily bullying because of their size. These numbers doubled for overweight high school students, with 63% of girls and 58% of boys experiencing some form of bullying due to their weight and size (source: Eating Disorder Hope).

There are many reasons for being overweight. Healthy behaviours such as a healthy diet and regular physical activity verses unhealthy behaviours is a big one. People tend to base decisions about lifestyle on their community resources. For example, if stores in your community carry a lot of processed foods, that encourages overeating. Some people experience strong food cravings or addiction, especially when it comes to sugar-sweetened, high-fat junk foods which stimulate the reward centres in the brain. Plus, junk food producers are very aggressive marketers. In some areas, finding fresh, whole foods may be difficult or expensive, leaving people no choice but to buy unhealthy junk foods. Researchers believe that excessive sugar intake may be one of the main causes of obesity. Genetic factors influence how people respond to a high calorie intake or changes in the environment. High insulin levels and insulin resistance are linked to the development of obesity. Diseases, such as Cushing’s disease, can lead to a person becoming overweight or obese. Medications, such as antidepressants and steroids, can cause weight gain.  So I ask: Is it fair to bully people because they’re judged as being overweight, when we know nothing of their circumstances? As the American Indigenous Proverb says, Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.”

Some advertisers, such as Unilever who make Dove products are attempting to change attitudes about body image. In Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty, It says:

We want to redefine beauty standards and help everyone experience beauty and body image positively. We care about the future generation: helping girls build positive self-esteem through the Dove Self-Esteem Project, ensuring the world they enter is removed of toxic beauty standards.

Bustle’s article, 9 Body Positive Social Media Campaigns That Are Changing How We Perceive Beauty Both In And Outside The Fashion World, lists other companies with similar campaigns. At least some companies show compassion. All advertisers and media people need to take on this philosophy, and then maybe the weight bullying will decrease or even stop. After all, as the idiom says, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

In the The Huffpost’s article I mentioned earlier, it says, “Like all teens, she [Lizzy Howell] hates being misunderstood.” In the article, Lizzy is quoted saying, “You don’t know me, you don’t know anything about me…You just saw a video of me dancing and you are making all these assumptions about my life.” Well said Lizzy!

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.

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.