Friday, December 19, 2014

Defeating bullying requires more than eloquent words

1/20/2014

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

— Martin Luther King Jr.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

— Martin Luther King Jr.

 

No truer words have been spoken than those by Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. They should be at the heart of all that Americans say and do. Sadly, too many people today have a skewed sense of right and wrong, resulting in bullying at nearly every turn. What once might have been considered rude banter resulting in ostracism is the norm and rarely fazes others. As a result, some people habitually call others names and rationalize it as their blunt candidness rather than acknowledging how hurtful such remarks can be.

We’ve always had bullying, but it seems worse today. Perhaps that’s because in the past a child could take a different path to school or classroom to avoid a bully, but today one bully’s voice is amplified and takes on a sense of permanence via social media, which also intensifies the victim’s sense of shame and humiliation.

Syndicated newspaper columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. remarked in a recent column that people routinely overstep the bounds of civility because they don’t abide by the “home training” (also known as manners). Either people aren’t learning that at home anymore or they are ignoring those lessons. Is it any wonder so many people don’t know how to talk to each other in conversational, non-offensive dialogue?

This weekend’s annual Ottawa Martin Luther King Jr. recognition included essays on bullying and how to avoid it. Many children emphasized the importance of standing up to bullies on behalf of yourself and others, as well as reaching out to the bullies who often are expressing their own pain onto others. One writer reflected on King’s focus on love winning out over hate. While racism isn’t as violent as it was 50 years ago when King gave his “I Have a Dream Speech,” some behaviors he wanted to see overcome, such as bullying, remain today. That bullying goes well beyond physical violence to include emotional, verbal, covert and cyberbullying.

All the essayists from Central Heights, Ottawa, Wellsville and West Franklin school districts played an important role in looking deeper at the problem of bullying and thinking strategically about how to do something about it. Of course, words aren’t enough without action. We trust these writers will act on their words because that is the most important step in making a change.

As King preached: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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