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.

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!

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!

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!

World Leaders Need to be Good Role Models

A commentary on the world’s leadership

I came upon a news article in the Singapore Strait Times called, Bullying wrong, cannot be tolerated: Ong Ye Kung, which reports that Ong Ye Kung,  a Singaporean politician and the Education Minister, who saw a case of bullying on social media at Mee Toh School in Singapore. The case involved Primary 5 pupils who wrote insulting notes, such as “you are Dumbo the elephant” and “you look so ugly and you really turn me down, you make puke.” The Education Minister, Mr. Ong, posted on Facebook that he was “dismayed and troubled” after finding out that a group of pupils at the school had picked on a Malay classmate.  Malays are an Austronesian ethnic group native to an area collectively known as the Malay world. “This is bullying, (it) is wrong and cannot be tolerated anywhere, especially in schools,” the Minister said.

He also said:

“The school will ensure that the students understand the seriousness of their actions, and will follow up with appropriate disciplinary actions. Our values of kindness, respect for others, cohesiveness as a multi-racial society must be inculcated from a young age, with the collective effort of families, schools and community. This should be a lesson for all students to learn from.”

Now that is leadership! This article gives me hope that there are world leaders on the planet who are working to create a better world. This is a true example of a Servant leader who leads with a people-first mindset and believes that when people feel personally fulfilled, they’re more effective and more likely to be good citizens. Thankfully, there are Servant leaders in some of the world’s governments who oppose bullying behaviour and try to change bullying behaviour.

I also read a Washington Post article, How the bully in chief is turning America nastier, which reports on a new report from The Post saying, across the United States schools are reporting increased incidents of bullying and harassment directed at minority children in the time since Trump began running for office. The report says:

Since Trump’s rise to the nation’s highest office, his inflammatory language — often condemned as racist and xenophobic — has seeped into schools across America. Many bullies now target other children differently than they used to, with kids as young as 6 mimicking the president’s insults and the cruel way he delivers them.

It’s not all kids are bullying kids — some of the cases involve teachers telling minority students that Trump will deport them or saying things such as “You’re getting kicked out of my country” (and there are also cases, though much smaller in number, of pro-Trump children being bullied).

This is no surprise to me, as I’ve written posts about this before. Trump’s style of leadership is Narcissistic leadership, a leadership style in which the leader is only interested in him/herself. Their priority is themselves at the expense of others. Such leaders exhibit the characteristics of a narcissist: arrogance, dominance and hostility.

What is disheartening for me being a Canadian, and  living in a country so close to the U.S, is that Trump’s rhetoric influences impressionable Canadians, especially the youth. I read more and more cases of bullying incidents happening in Canada. Being I have worked under numerous principals during my 35-year teaching career, and witnessing how much a principal influences a school, it is not a stretch to imagine how much a country’s leader impacts a countries psyche. A country’s leader can impact their country in a positive way, such as in Singapore, or in a negative way, as in the United States.

It is so important that we elect leaders who have integrity and are Servant leaders.  Ronald Reagan once said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” That is what a Servant leader does. He or she inspires their people to do great things, such as deter bullying. Rosalynn Carter, wife of former president Jimmy Carter says, “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”  She is so right! A great leader—a Servant leader—will lead their people to create a more loving and caring society; one where bullying does not exist. Harold Kushner, a prominent American rabbi, says, “Caring about others, running the risk of feeling, and leaving an impact on people, brings happiness.”  From what I observe, people are stressed, fearful, and unhappy. Is that because people are becoming more narcissistic influenced by Narcissistic leadership?

Jeb Bush, brother to former U.S. president George W Bush said, “But without a caring society, without each citizen voluntarily accepting the weight of responsibility, government is destined to grow even larger, taking more of your money, burrowing deeper into your lives.”  What I experience is government taking more of my money and removing more of my rights. Is that because people are becoming more narcissistic and less caring influenced by Narcissistic leadership? One has to wonder.

Really? Bullied for Loving Books

A commentary on the nature of bullies.

I’m back! I hurt my finger last weekend, so I was unable to type a post. Now that it is better, I can finally write another post.

From: growinghealthychurches.com/

I am beginning to think there are a lot of wounded and hurting people on our planet, and as I’ve said before in other posts, bullies are hurting people who hurt people.  As the adage says, “hurting people, hurt people.”

American author, Joel Osteen, in his book, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential says:

“Keep in mind, hurting people often hurt other people as a result of their own pain. If somebody is rude and inconsiderate, you can almost be certain that they have some unresolved issues inside. They have some major problems, anger, resentment, or some heartache they are trying to cope with or overcome. The last thing they need is for you to make matters worse by responding angrily.”

Joel is absolutely right.  It amazes me who hurting people will target as a result of their own pain. This week a saw a CTV news article titled, 13-year-old, bullied for his love of books. The story is about Callum Manning, a 13-year-old from South Shields, England who set up an Instagram page called Cal’s Book Account where he posts book recommendations. Callum loves reading, and as a teacher I spent a career trying to encourage reading. When his 13-year-old’s classmates from his new school found out about the Callum’s account, they created a WhatsApp group to bully the teenager, leaving him in tears.

Really, being bullied because you love books, and because you want to share your love of books with others is shameful.  Teachers, and parents as well, should be doing everything they can to encourage young people to read.  The article The Benefits of Reading, lists several reasons why reading is such an important leisure activity. Students who are avid readers are dream students to us teachers.

I’ve tried to imagine why someone would bully a kid who is a passionate reader. The only reason I can come up with is jealousy. Cambridge Dictionary defines jealously as, “a feeling of unhappiness and anger because someone has something or someone that you want.” The bullies who bully Callum must be jealous because he loves books and maybe there is a part of them that wants to as well. That is what makes sense to me. If you think there is another reason, please tell me in the comment section below.

Callum’s sister posted a picture of Callum’s Instagram account on Twitter and wrote: “Can’t believe how awful kids are. My little brother [has] made an Instagram reviewing and talking about books and kids in his new school have seen it and have created a group chat calling him a creep, slagging him off about it and added him to it so he could see.” Her tweet has gained more than 180,000 likes and Callum’s Instagram account now has more than 225,000 followers – plus support from high profile authors. That is amazing! As is often said, “Every cloud has a silver lining,” or as Nelson M. Lubao would say it, “Every negative…Has a positive side…”  That tells me there are way more compassionate people in this world then bullies. We tend to only hear about the bullies, because that is what captivates the attention in the media.

I’ve said many times now in previous posts, 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,” and it’s true.  Having said that, telling hurting people to follow the golden rule will not change their behaviour. Hurting people feel better when they take their pain out on others, so you have to remove the pain first.

I came across another adage, “Healed People Heal People.” We have to accept people where they are. That is not easy. A bully is a hurt person, so the first step is to accept that. The second step, in my view, is to help them heal. That might be as simple as listening to their story of pain. Maybe the bully feels unheard. Some will require professional help, so directing a hurt person to a healer might be a way to help.  The bottom line is, I believe kindness, compassion and love can heal. The Dalai Lama says, “We can live without religion. We cannot live without human compassion”.

The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine has an article entitled, How Effective are Compassion-Oriented Interventions in Clinical Settings? The article states:

research is beginning to provide evidence of just how critical compassion is to healing – even some of the most challenging disorders.

So, instead of condemning those who bully—even though that is our first instinct—try having compassion for them. After all, they are hurting and require healing.

As Aesop says, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted,” and as Augie says at the end of the movie Wonder—a movie about bullying—says, “Be kind. Everyone is fighting a hard battle.”