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RICH IN THOUGHT - Sticks And Stones
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I’m taking a chance by voicing an unpopular, politically incorrect position on a contemporary issue, but from me, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Over the last couple of years the subject of bullying has become a hot conversation piece. So much so that so called “anti-bullying” legislation has become an exploited and hot topic in much of the media.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for protection against any physical attacks, preventing harm being done to another, opposed to threats of credible violence, and despise the destruction of someone’s property. No one should have to endure being beat on, having their safety threatened, or their possessions destroyed.

However, in this day of “everyone’s a winner” and “there-are-no-losers-so-we-all-get-a-trophy” our now hypersensitive society has been able to institute anti-bullying “laws” governing what normally would be historically considered as no more than crass, boorish, or even tactless behavior and speech.

By all means, in cases of defaming slanderous or libelous speech there should be civil ramifications for those actual damages incurred. But if we are ever to overcome the politically correct rancor that now permeates the public, we must fight against the crying of “bully!” any time someone hurts another’s feelings with words.

There is a difference between true bullying – the big kid hitting the weaker one, physically ganging up on an individual, threatening harm, cruel rumor mongering with malicious disclosing of personal secrets resulting in public embarrassment – compared to just being rude, disrespectful teasing or calling someone names.

We need to start teaching our kids to have some self-confidence and self-reliance that is based on reality, not based on allowing their view of themselves to be surrendered to the subjective opinion of another who most-likely happens to have their own poor self-esteem. Unfortunately, in today’s everyone-has-to-be-nice culture so called “bullying” is based on the subsequent feelings of the victim and not the actual actions of the accused.

Current anti-bullying legislation, usually by those that believe we all need to have a nanny, have the added (and often unconstitutional) component of prohibiting “mean” or “offensive” speech. Better to prevent anyone from saying something mean than risk hurt feelings – Am I hearing this right?

We have a group of people proposing laws based on how someone’s action makes another feel? We can’t allow laws to be based on the subjective “feelings” of another. That’s narcissism with added stupidity.

Those disagreeing with me can state that life should just be full of love and acceptance of others, but is that really practical? Life is not unicorns jumping over rainbows with Kumbaya being sung in the background while everyone is getting a group hug. Life can be challenging with conflict, hardship and letdowns in this cold, cruel world that we live in – oh the injustice of it all.

Get over it, not everyone will like you and bad, sometimes mean things may be said.

So how should bullying be defined? How should it be quantified?

When do you chalk it up to children engaging in age level behavior of teasing, ridiculing, and picking on one another?

When is it a boorish adult just being a mouthy idiot or ignorant?

I think we’d all agree that “bullying” crosses the line when there is credible threatening or physical violence, but you don’t need a special bullying law or school policy to prohibit that. We’ve done just fine and don’t need more laws based on the reaction to a topical issue.

I’m not justifying the behavior. Parents should still teach manners and respect, but also encourage their kids to stand up for themselves. Someone doesn’t like you, calls you names, or is verbally mean; that’s their problem, don’t make it yours.

Even in the tragic case when a person subsequently commits suicide due to a perceived bullying, it’s not accurate, and in my opinion irresponsible, to imply the bullying was the direct and sole cause behind the suicide.

All suicides are tragic and complicated and teen suicides are especially distressing because we recognize all that lost potential, but people commit suicide because of a variety of reasons. It is a treatable problem with a preventable outcome. There is no scientific evidence that the bullying itself causes suicide.

My judgment on the whole anti-bullying topic may be based on my old-school upbringing. I’m a product of the ‘70s where my group of friends all competed against each other in sports or played rough-housing games. Because of the physicality, sometimes a kid would get hurt and occasionally angry or hold a grudge. Sometimes a fight would break out or we’d just call each other foul appalling names for weeks.

When we were name calling, and not just during the fighting, most of the time we’d focus on some physical oddity, appearance factor, shortcoming, etc. and use it to further degenerate our foe. And in the end we’d try to think of a better comeback or end up laughing.

No one went home to cry about being called names, the school or police weren’t involved and if anyone had, those that couldn’t hang quickly would have been shunned and outcast.

Given today’s definitions I guess I would be classified as being a bully and those in disagreement with me will now classify me as a bully because I hurt their feelings.

Toughen up America; we’re creating a generation of spineless confectionary-posterior victims.


Richard Paloma is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.