Opinion: Being bullied: A different perspective on the Chardon High shooting
Robert Thomas Young
This topic I am about to discuss is controversial, and I preface it this way in order to sway any initial reaction to a more intelligent and equitable discourse of the events that took place in Chardon this week. I want to acknowledge the tragedy of those killed or injured. However, while I condemn these acts, I would also like to explain them from a less heard perspective: that of the bullied.
I remember the Columbine attack that took place almost 13 years ago. It held the country’s attention for weeks and months and eventually faded into more of a historical fact than an existing discussion. How many times does this need to happen before we address the issue of bullying as a moral society?
The Columbine attack resulted in 12 dead students and one dead teacher. Twenty-four people were injured before the two young men committed suicide. Yet this is only the fourth-deadliest school massacre in the United States. This week’s tragic event won’t even make the top 20. Why does this keep occurring?
Bullying has been at the heart of most of these shootings. The perpetrator is always an outcast, who was persecuted and harassed by other students. This was the motive behind the shootings at Columbine High, Virginia Tech and now Chardon High.
When I first heard the stories from the Virginia Tech shooting, I felt an odd confliction of feelings. On one side, I felt sympathy toward the victims and their families, but I also felt an odd feeling of sorrow and empathy for the gunman.
I was bullied when I was younger, both physically and emotionally. I remember living in fear every day. My stomach always hurt, and my self-esteem was nonexistent. I went from an ‘A’ average to a ‘C’ average in one semester because I was afraid to come to school.
The emotional damage was even worse. I was told I was ugly, poor and worthless. They made fun of me for my clothes. They made fun of how I looked. They made fun of my family. I remember hating those people for years. The thought that they could go off and live great lives without a thought to the cruelty they put me through made me angry.
So, when I hear about kids or young adults going on shooting sprees in their high schools, I feel an odd identification with their state of mind, as I’ve been bullied too.
Again, I think the actions are atrocious, and I condemn violence in most cases. Nonetheless, I can’t help but empathize with both the victims and the perpetrators.
It took me years to reflect, grow, gain self-esteem and move on to let go of my anger. Now, I even feel sorry for those who bullied me. I was able to turn my experience into fuel for bettering myself. However, some kids get teased a lot more and may not be able to channel such persecution and victimization into something positive.
Some of these people commit suicide. Others live their entire lives unhappy, with no self-esteem. A select few will take a gun to school with plans of vengeance. The really sad part is that bullying doesn’t even get discussed until someone commits suicide or goes on a shooting rampage.
Every politician in the country is going to condemn this shooting and quickly move to sympathy for their families, and they will do this without giving 10 seconds to the issue of bullying or the fact that this kid was most likely harassed and persecuted daily, possibly by those he targeted.
I am not trying to detract from the sadness and compassion felt toward those afflicted. I couldn’t anyway because the media will juice this story until it oversaturates into the background like every other event the media exploits to increase viewership and thus, advertising revenue.
Instead, I would like to reflect on both tragedies that transpired this week, acknowledging the suffering of the victims of the shooting and the suffering of the victim of the bullying —with the thought that both could have been easily avoided if we taught our young people to respect and love each other.
Our culture is lacking in virtue, and it shows in the morality of our adults and our children. No person should have to worry about being shot at school, but no person should have to worry about being bullied or teased either.