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Bullying has changed, but it’s been around forever

January 3, 2012
Marshall Independent

To the editor:

This letter on bullying is about a young girl who was bullied way back when. Before the media broadcast suicide of victims of bullying. Before cyberbullying. Before school shootings that we hear about nowadays. Not everyone who is bullied shoots up a classroom of people. So what happens to those who don't lash out?

This brings to mind Vivian, the little 7-year-old girl who had polio in 1923 and was in an iron lung for a time. By the time she was 9 she had the burden of wearing heavy leg braces and using crutches.

Because of the limping from the short leg, she developed a curvature of the spine, which caused a huge protruding hump on the left side of her back at her tender age.

Oh the disease was bad, but the humiliation of being called "hunchback" and "limpy" - that's hard to bear when you're 9.

There were three boys who thrived on tormenting her. They would pull away her crutches (yes, pull away her crutches) on the way to school. Of course it affected her, but she would try to pretend it didn't matter.

Vivian didn't have the lightweight plastic braces or therapy of today. Rather, it was the hard metal and leather braces of that era.

Do you know what happens to leather as it rubs against warm moist skin? It turns green. More name calling.

Why? These boys had strong legs. Why would anyone torment someone afflicted. A mean spirit!

Vivian's parents tried to come up with another method of her trek to school. Have her brothers pull her in a wagon with her crutches in tow. Alas, that didn't stop the bullies, they just tipped the wagon over.

I was a kid when one of the boys was an adult and I often wondered why he didn't have more compassion, as he had siblings affected by mental and physical conditions. As I remember him, he was a brawler and a fighter up into his older age. I never knew the other two boys, but I know one had a successful business.

Vivian was my mother and as she related this story to me, I could see how the anguish of that sad memory lingered and robbed her of some peace.

No, not everyone lashes out at the world around them. Instead, they carry the pain, the hurt, the shame. They carry that burden everywhere, and in their prayer they cry for help and healing of their mental anguish. Not all have the same recovery or back-up system. Some bounce back easier, some will struggle for life, and some will not survive.

I'm sure there are countless bully stories out there, even worse then what I'm sharing.

So, what's the purpose of this writing?

Let's put some sensitivity back in the young people.

Adults, ask your youth if they know any cripples (handicap nowadays). Do they know any dorks or nerds? (that might be to their benefit). How about anyone with unusual features or weight problems, how about race or religion? Are they nice to kids whose parents don't have financial gain? Are they nice to those who do have more?

Don't assume they are! Question them, check it out.

Ask them tonight.

Ask them again and get their thoughts. Let them know they don't have to be best friends, but to be considerate of people's feelings, because they do not yet know what they may encounter in their life.

Did I say sensitivity should be instilled in young people? They have to note it in the adults first.

Once again, don't let someone go home with a heavy heart because of what you said or did.

Darlene Plageman Denison




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