Being ridiculed, hated and threatened isn’t just a phenomenon of gay youth. It’s a phenomenon of anyone who is seen as “other” and it needs to stop. Teachers and administrators need to stop treating bullying as “boys will be boys” bullshit and start treating it like the crime against society that it is. Platitudes need to be backed up by swift and strong action.
Columbine should have been our nation’s wakeup call about bullying. Instead of focusing on the bullying Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold received and how it was ignored by school administrators, we focused on the fact that they were both “others”, guns and violent video games. It was an opportunity lost by those of all political stripes to save lives.
Part of stopping the bullying will require our national political discourse to change. Our political leaders need to stop using dog-whistle terms to invoke the specter of the “other”. When kids see adults ridiculing, hating and threatening others, they think nothing is wrong in doing so as well. This acceptance of bullying puts lives at risk.
We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines and allow bullying to continue. In our homes parents need to let their kids know in no uncertain terms that bullying is unacceptable. In our schools teachers and administrators can longer look the other way when bullying occurs. They must stamp it out with a vengeance. In our legislatures and Halls of Congress, lawmakers must remember that fear is not an acceptable means of uniting the nation, especially when it is fear of the “other”.
Gay, straight, black, brown, white, male, female, young, old, rich or poor, we all have the right to live without intimidation and bullying. Now is the time to eliminate bullying as an acceptable form of discourse. Now is the time to protect the Kenneth Weishuhns of our nation. Are you listening Mr. President and Mr. Romney?