Bullying sucks. In all shapes and forms. There’s no need for it. There’s no excuse for it. Some might argue that you’ll find stronger animals preying on weaker ones throughout the wilderness. But in human beings, bullies are inevitably those who have no true strength compensating for their insecurities by attacking the ones who are different – who are special. It’s the weak lashing out at the vulnerabilities of the stronger in spirit. Or to paraphrase Gore Vidal, it’s not that it’s enough to win; everyone else has to lose. Schadenfreude gone wild.
You can tell by what’s been released about him since his suicide that Jamie Hubley was a special kid. What’s burned most in my memory is the photograph of him in a dress shirt and bowtie with his father’s arm draped over his shoulder, both beaming with pride. You can see the love there. It could be a picture of any father and son. What’s particularly sad about Jamie’s loss is that he was not someone who was passively taking his bullying, he was trying to make things get better. He had tried to set up a gay-straight alliance at his school only to see his posters torn down by ignorant half-wits.
In the aftermath of Jamie’s suicide and the subsequent media coverage, a group of Conservative MP’s and senators released an “It Gets Better” video. A lot of criticism and discussion resulted, questioning both the sincerity of the statements and the cheapness of the production, given that some of this party’s MP’s have gone on record with some pretty ugly homophobic remarks in the past, and that they would have likely spared no expense if this had been an ad attacking the Leader of the Opposition. I suppose they could have done nothing at all. But it is a bit rich to see a party who have made it a habit of governing by bullying now claiming that bullying is wrong and trying to tell kids that it really does get better – unless you’re elected to the House of Commons.
No one is born with hatred inside. Like one’s ABC’s, it is taught – impressed upon innocent, unknowing children by parents or institutions who are sadistically cognizant that the only way to spread the flame of prejudice is to nourish it with a constant diet of fear. “Those people aren’t like you.” “They’re the ones responsible for everything that’s wrong in your life.” “It’s your duty to attack them, to bring them down.”
Leadership starts by example and it is a responsibility vested in all of us. What example are children to take when the next kid tries to start a gay-straight alliance in his school, and adults try to squelch such organizations on the justification that “we don’t have Nazi groups either,” as was the case with a prominent Catholic District School Board chair earlier this year? Equating a club of teenagers trying to promote tolerance and understanding with the most genocidal regime of the 20th Century, no matter how “off the cuff” the remark, only reinforces and helps to spread attitudes that should have died in Hitler’s bunker. Every ignorant remark by a grown-up creates another bully somewhere.
How do we stop it? Sadly, it’s too late for Jamie Hubley, but the rest of us have to start trying a hell of a lot harder. The answer is in, as my father once told me, finding the courage to break the bully’s nose. It’s in the kid who sees the smaller kid being picked on and decides to step in instead of hurrying past, hoping not to be noticed. It’s in the refusal of the silent ones to stay silent; it’s in their resolve to stand up for the victims instead. It’s in not pretending that it will just go away. It’s in not letting the bully win, ever – whether in the schoolyard, at the office or in the government. It’s calling them out. It’s shouting “I’m here, I’m special, and you can shove your taunts and your lies up your lily-livered ass.”
It gets better when we make it better. Let’s make it better.