“You’ll be fine.” “Toughen up.” “They’re just being themselves.”

I came across a news story a couple of nights ago about a thirteen-year-old boy in Staten Island, N.Y., who was attending a private Catholic school. His name was Danny Fitzpatrick. Danny was bullied. Danny was bullied mercilessly. Not only did he feel his “friends” failed him, but the adults Danny went to at the school and asked for help from failed him. Danny felt he himself failed too. So, six days ago, he took a belt, went up to the attic in his home, and hanged himself.

Thirteen.

I’m betting everyone reading this right now is well over the age of thirteen. Can you imagine only living thirteen years? Many of you have children. Can you imagine them only living thirteen years? It’s a drop in the bucket of what so many of us have experienced in life.

There’s a video included on the news page that Danny’s father made and posted on Facebook. It’s 18 minutes and 37 seconds long. I watched it. I watched every second of it. I cried during it. It was one of the hardest videos I’ve ever had to watch. There’s an entire range of emotions this father goes through, and, towards the end, he announces that he’s wearing his son’s shoes so that he knows what it’s like to walk in his child’s footsteps. He also gets something in the end that you would be surprised so many people still don’t; bullying is NOT okay.

We’ve all experienced bullying of some kind in life, and, if you’re reading this, you survived. Others haven’t. I was an only child in the 1970s whose father was a police officer, pretty much two strikes against me right there. I didn’t know how to defend myself against my peers because it didn’t occur to us that I’d have to. And the bullying I went through up until I graduated high school by a few people soured me on the overwhelming majority of my graduating class.

I never went to my 10 year reunion. I didn’t go to my 20 year reunion, but my husband all but forced me to go to the 20 year pre-reunion party. It was cathartic because we’d all grown up. People changed. And I didn’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt in that respect. I’ve since reconnected with many of them, and I’d even messaged the guy who’d made my life a living hell during those junior and high school years, and asked him why. He didn’t remember me.

The people who bullied Danny Fitzpatrick won’t be so lucky to grow up and not remember the impact they had on his life. Why? Because he names several of them in the letter he left behind along with teachers who, in his words, allowed the attacks to keep happening—although he does name one teacher who did help him. I’m sure some parents of these kids and some of the teachers will take what happened to heart. They’re going to have to live with it too.

But some won’t. I imagine some parents taking their child to a therapist who will tell them they weren’t responsible for the actions of a depressed kid. Why in the world should they accept responsibility for their actions in pushing that kid into a depressed state in the first place? Our culture has become quite proficient in not accepting responsibility these days, and we need only look at both of our presidential candidates as proof of this. Presidential candidates. It’s almost like a bad joke.

“Toughen up.” “Kids are kids.” “It gets better.” “You can’t let them bother you.” “You’ll be fine.” We’ve heard these. We may have even said some of these ourselves. Nobody should have to say them, though, because the bullying shouldn’t be happening. And yet it does. Even in the author world. Believe it or not, bullying goes on between authors, and even between readers. And bloggers.

You’d be astounded to read some of the comments bloggers will leave on each other’s posts, the name calling, and the nastiness. Why? “Oh, they’re just saying it like it is.” “They’re just being themselves.” I’ve read them. Those aren’t excuses. I’m just glad I’ve avoided having things written on my posts like I’ve read on others. What if one of these blogs was being written by a thirteen-year-old boy from Stanton Island, N.Y.? Would you be saying that then?

According to SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) and based on information from the CDC, one person in the US commits suicide every 12.3 minutes. Not all of these are thirteen-year-olds. Not all of these are from bullying. But suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. Wouldn’t it be something if by making some changes in areas we can, like bullying, we could knock that number down?

It won’t save Danny Fitzpatrick now, but it could save someone you know and love. Look at the father in the video again. Look at the pain and suffering on his face. Would you want to feel the way he does? Can you for a second imagine the kind of hopelessness his son must have felt that the only way to stop the bullying was to take a belt and hang himself? And could you live with yourself knowing you contributed to someone doing what Danny did?

Thirteen.

Views: 2409

Comment by JMac1949 Today on August 17, 2016 at 10:50am

Finding our way through adolescence is tough enough.  Platitudes are little help.  I found a few friends in my senior year and between music, booze and laughter, I managed to escape from the tyranny of the limits of social BS in the burbs of Houston, Texas... San Francisco 1967, probably saved my life.

Comment by Kage Alan on August 17, 2016 at 11:03am

Amy, I 'knew' I was gay back when I was 8, but didn't understand what it meant. And then I fought it all the way through college and closed my mind off to it until I was 24. I 'knew' what I was, but refused to be what these people teased me about, and what others talked so badly about. Gay people were monsters. I wasn't a monster, therefore I wasn't gay. Even though I knew I was. I officially came out at age 24.

Sorry, long answer, but complicated question.

Comment by Zanelle on August 17, 2016 at 5:14pm

Bullies.   I havent been bullied and I never bullied.  Im searching my memory for denial but I think that is true.  My heart goes out to people who cant be themselves  I dont like the others who use their power to make people feel bad.   

My ex told me he used to taunt the gays on the streets of his Seattle neighborhood when he was a high schooler driving around in cars.  Im glad he is my ex but he is a very kind person, born again now and trying to love everyone.  

Comment by nerd cred on August 17, 2016 at 9:50pm

I don't remember bullying or being bullied in my childhood. I remember girls in the girls' school standing around making fun of other girls' clothes but I don't think the other girls were aware of it. Because I was stuck in that particular social group, that was a big impetus moving myself, against my parents' wishes, to public school for senior year and there I found, much to my surprise, that, sans uniforms, no one bothered with any one else's clothes. Too many poor kids for that to be viable.

The neighborhood bully went after me once and directed some of his taunts at my 2 year old brother who I was holding at the time. So I picked up a 2x4 and hit the kid in the head with it. Then he remained in love with me until he got married. He was quarterback at the public school when I went there and he went around telling everyone how I had beat him up. Served him damn right, too, is what I said. He never mentioned the 2x4.

I remember a fight with the girl bully in the neighborhood but not what it was about. The part i do remember is that we were on opposite sides of the picket fence and I had her hair through the fence and just pulled and pulled and pulled. Don't even know why I stopped pulling but she sure was screaming. Don't remember her bullying me after that. She was never too fond of me.

When I was 12 or 13, during the time I was most desperate for acceptance from the other kids, especially the cool kids, (which feelings actually do give me some sense of what Danny Fitzpatrick was going through,) we were all at the park and everyone was going after Claudia. Claudia was the notoriously dirty girl, with her beautiful red chopped up hair all matted and flying all over, with her missing or black front tooth next to the gold or silver tooth. Someone said she had told them her mother's boyfriend made her give him blowjobs. I didn't know what that was. For that matter a mother with a boyfriend was pretty strange to me. I felt sorry for her. I didn't intervene but I didn't join in. I felt guilty but I didn't want to be friends with Claudia either. I was at the park with everyone! I remember her running away crying, toward the train tunnel. I don't remember her after that. It was summer. Maybe it was the end of 7th grade. I'm sure she wasn't in school for 8th grade. I do wonder about her still.

I don't remember anyone thinking anyone was gay in grade school or girls' school though we all knew the gym teacher was. A number of my classmates have come out. (I graduated in 1967.) At public school there was a gay kid. I think everyone assumed he was gay. I don't remember it being talked about though he was a cheerleader in a school where boys weren't cheerleaders. I saw him years later outside an AA meeting looking very, very flamboyant. It's entirely possible I had no idea what his internal life was like.

My son was always paired with the most unliked kids in middle school. All his teachers said because, "he's the most tolerant kid." The girls each had one big experience of being bullied and one of stopping their friends from bullying someone else. When they were being bullied, both on the school bus, I knew about it before long and we worked it out. They didn't confide in me but I saw they were troubled and I found out other ways and they weren't left to deal with it.

I really don't understand committing suicide because kids tease you. So many of these cases seem to amount to little more than that. I'm not saying it's ok.

I remember reading a facebook post by a mother whose kid's bullying incident was well  publicized. The first thing she said she did seemed like mourning with the kid. My immediate reaction was very angry. She was telling her kid this was really important. She was confirming her kid's misery. My reaction to both my daughters was, "what's wrong with those girls?" "Let's find a way to stay away from them." (I didn't ask if they wanted me to go hit them with a 2x4 but now that I think of it ...) The last thing we were going to do was give a single solitary shit what bullies thought of them.

Of course my mother was such a huge bully I may have got my fill of it at home.

Sorry for the length. I start meandering and now I'm too tired to edit.

Comment by Julie Johnson on August 18, 2016 at 6:08am

I have mixed feelings about this. 

Comment by greenheron on August 18, 2016 at 7:23am

This is a heartbreaking story. Comment stories too.

It seems the internet provides a rich potting soil to enable those with bullying tendencies to flourish, grow stronger and meaner than in past decades. Not that bullying wasn’t awful when I was in high school–it was–but the bullied seemed to find social support, whereas now the bullied seem to feel utterly isolated and alone. My friend M who was gay, and me, an artistic oddball, were mid-level victims of bullying. We hung out together, talked on the phone for hours, nurtured our crushes on Mark Lindsay, and were able to keep one another laughing and afloat. Now bullied kids are behind their little glowing screens, feeling alone. It’s harder for them to find a posse, or even know that it's possible.

My experience as a bully was more about simple aggression. I bit Cheryl Greenwald on the hand when she grabbed a red crayon I was using on a drawing in progress in kindergarten. There was some blood I think, and my mother was called to pick me up. I like to remember the incident as early dedication to my craft. The irony I found out later was that Cheryl also went on to becomes a working artist. Knowing that, if I could go back for a do over, I'd give her the red crayon. When you need some red, you just need some red!

Comment by Kage Alan on August 18, 2016 at 8:31am

I apologize for the late response, Joisey. I haven't had a chance to sit down and type my thoughts about this until now, plus I wanted some time to think on what you said.

First, I do try to read posts on here, but like many others, they are ones that stand out as being interesting to me as the reader. Not that all the posts aren't interesting, but I have a limited amount of time to spend, so I do pick and choose. That being said, I cannot comment on comments by Amy that I've not read. Have I seen some in the past? Yes. Have they struck me as bullying and several adjectives I'm going to leave off? Yes. Have others called her on comments? From what I've seen, yes.

While my preference has been to let comments stay on a page, if someone is being verbally abusive, the author of the blog has the power to delete those comments and state comments of that nature will not be allowed. Period.

Now, regarding her comments "religious people can be and are some of the biggest bullies on earth.

You see they have these fictional novels (titled Bible / Quaran / Torah) that tells them it is perfectly okay to be that way.

P.S. Interesting that you find yourself totally innocent of ever bullying someone. I know that even I, and I'm sure Kage will admit to it as well, have done it to others, so that you haven't ever makes you pretty "special"."

In the grand scheme of things, this strikes me as somewhat tame based on other comments I've seen. Case in point, her second response, the one to you in which she refers to you as your "ignorant ass". Still, what 'could' have been a discussion about differences in beliefs did come across as a slight. And she goads Zanelle with her last bit about being "special".

Now, what am "I" going to do about it? I'm going to say this to EVERYONE who leaves a comment on a post I've written; please be respectful. If you aren't, I will delete your comments. Continue to write comments that bully someone, I will delete every single comment sight unseen. If you choose to no longer read my posts, I'm fine with that. If you want to take me to task for something I've written, I'm fine with that too.

If someone wants to tangle with me in private messages, I'll go toe-to-toe with you. I'm not afraid.

It's easy to insult someone. As an author and a smart ass, you have no idea how easy I find it. But I choose not to. My expectation is for people who comment on my posts to do so with human decency. If you can't, you aren't welcome here. In turn, I will respond to other posts with the same human decency. If enough people do this, others will catch on. If they don't, they'll just be deleted, and they'll eventually get the hint.

Comment by Julie Johnson on August 18, 2016 at 8:47am

If I could 'like' a comment, ^^^ this would be it. 

Comment by Kage Alan on August 18, 2016 at 9:05am

Thank you.

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on August 18, 2016 at 9:35am
Fine... whatever.

I'll save you the effort of deleting my comments, Kage. I'll also take your suggestion and not bother with you any longer. Me doing that, however, is simply me flipping JSR, you and now I guess JJ the bird for being such a bunch of condescending asshats because if you look at the VAST majority of my comments they are not "preemptive, out of the blue" bullying, they are responses to comments that are either self-excusatory or out and out attacks from others. Sorry for not keeping my mouth shut when attacked or when people insult my intelligence with total bullshit, but that is as it is.

...but like I said, "whatever..." in my mind now you all are now just like your fellow asshats KS, Wolfman and NC... a total waste of my time and your insults and insinuations are so, so easily ignored.

P.S. That is the third recent time you've gone out of your way to write snarky, insulting ganging on comments about me, Kage. Don't your think it is a bit disengenous to criticize others for their comments? I'd ask if you knew what that makes you, but I'm guessing you already know.

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