The Innocent Face of Terrorism

I was sitting in seventh grade Spanish class when the girl next to me tried to poison me.  Chuckling, she broke her Adderall into pieces and attempted to shove the chemical crumbs into my mouth.  There I was, a shy teen with stringy muscles and serious dental hardware, flailing my arms against a girl named Hercules.  The tiny white pellets littered my body–how was no one seeing this?  Stopping it?  Saying something?  After the medical waste was emptied and their innards sprinkled my body, she turned to the front of the class, smiling with satisfaction.

“What just happened??” I thought, bewildered by this attack.  It seemed somehow different from the others I’d endured.  Never before had someone tried to shove something into me.  They hadn’t even tried to shove me into something.  For me, it was typically only verbal abuse.  Like the time a boy approached me on the basketball court and told me all the reasons why my gender was an issue of suspicion to the rest of my classmates.

“Most people think you’re a guy,” he mentioned casually, as though that could surely be possible.

“Well, most people would be wrong then,” was all I could muster before I walked away.

That same year, the PE class was coming back from an outside session and a different guy–in an attempt to evaluate my femininity–was appalled that I would turn down his hypothetical offer to “eat me out”.

“You mean, if I offered to eat you out right now, you wouldn’t let me?” he asked as we stood outside the metal gym doors, waiting for the teacher.

“No, I wouldn’t.”

“She’s definitely a dude!” he said as he laughed and backhanded his buddy in the chest.  Then the teacher came and allowed us to go into the gym, completely unaware of the conversation that took place moments before.

How far would these kids go?  Why did they choose to bully people in the first place?  I didn’t have the answers to these questions.  Nor do I have all the answers now.  But I do know that bullying, in its truest sense, is merely discrimination that occurs at younger ages.  The words are interchangeable: discrimination in the workplace is bullying.  Bullying at school is discrimination.  They are both the act of isolating someone because of his or her differences.  So, where do we learn bullying?  It makes sense that kids see adults “bullying” each other–perhaps the father disrespects the mother, perhaps both parents neglect the child.  If that’s the case, who is really the victim?  Although it is difficult to side with the bully and understand their point of view, it is necessary to consider that they learned these tactics somehow, somewhere.

Who here has experienced bullying in some way, shape, or form?  Please take a moment to participate in this poll so we can see how prevalent bullying can truly be:

As it seems, bullying and discrimination are a huge issue.  They were problematic years ago and it seems as though the danger is rising.  Unfortunately, in order to get the message to the public, someone has to be the victim.  In most recent news, Karen Huff Klein, a 68-year-old bus monitor served as the primary example.  If you haven’t seen or heard Karen’s story, I have posted the link below (“Karen Huff Klein & The School Bus Bullies”).  As I watched the footage, I couldn’t help but wonder: what would I have done if I were in her position?  How would I have responded if I was another student on that bus?  If I was in Karen’s position, would I have stood up for myself like I did as a child?  Would I retaliate?  Or would I admit that I’m sorry for them–sorry that no one has ever shown or taught them that they could be better than that?

So, as you watch Karen’s experience–or perhaps reflect upon your own–I’d like you to consider one thing: how far would you go to make bullying stop?

Karen Huff Klein & The School Bus Bullies

Also, below is a Public Service Announcement that I created for this particular purpose.  Check it out and stand with me against bullying!

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What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

When we were children, everyone told us we could do anything we set our minds to.  The sky was the limit, they said.  When asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, our answers could be as outlandish or impossible as the outskirts of our imagination, and we would simply receive a smile or a nod of approval.  But at what age do we stop encouraging others to pursue their wildest dreams?  Or, at least, when do we begin to realize that when people say, “You can be anything you want to be,” they really mean, “You can do anything you want…but only if want to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or any other position that receives lots of wealth and esteem. If you want to be something else, change your mind.”

When I was a young girl, I wanted to be an actress, a writer, or a WNBA player. By the time I was about nine or ten years old, I was informed that the WNBA probably wouldn’t even exist by the time I got old enough to play; and, during puberty, I realized that I was way too shy to be an actress.  Not to mention I jumble my words quite frequently, which might hinder a career in performing arts.  But in high school, the question changed.  People started asking, “If you won the lottery tomorrow and didn’t have to work a day in your life, what would you still do with your days?”

Even then, I’d write.  There was no question about it.  So here I am, lottery-less but writing.

Last week, I spoke with a writer friend about this.  We met over coffee and she confessed the hardest thing she ever did in her profession was tell people that’s what she did for a living.  And I can certainly understand what she was saying–we have passed that age of childhood dreams, it seems, and very few people have tolerance for “risky” professions.  Somehow people just can’t believe that you would choose a lifelong dream over the stability of cold, hard cash.  Usually when I tell people that I’m a writer, they look as though I just admitted to having a dead body stashed in the trunk of my car.

“What’s that?  You want to write?” they ask confused or appalled.  “You realize that every Tom, Dick, and Harry are doing the same thing as you…that you’ll never have any money…that you’ll probably end up homeless and starving and your life will end in pitiful doom.  You know that, right?”

Well, before I started admitting my passion for writing, I had only heard those words in my head.  It’s strange–but very common nowadays–to hear them in a voice other than my own.  So in response, yes, I guess I do technically “know” those things.

Later, on the same day, I visited my fiance for lunch. One of his coworkers approached our table and we all started having a friendly chat.  Then he asked the dreaded question.

“I’m a writer,” I told him.

A guffaw rose from the depths of his belly and filled each corner of the room before he turned to my fiance and cried hysterically, “You better get a much better paying job!”

But where would the world be if not for those who courageously pursued “risky” endeavors?  This man, who claims to be a Christian, would not know the Bible if someone hadn’t put ink on paper.  Actors, filmmakers, artists–where would we be without these people?  And yet, they get scoffed and scolded.  Their worth just a little less, based on secular evaluation, than someone of a more “noble” pursuit.

So, when others ask what I want to be when I grow up, I channel the little girl inside and proudly tell them who I am.  Who I’ve always been.  And who I will continue to be.

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