How to Beat a Bully: Start by Changing Their Parents

Categories: Schutze

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Two stories in the news just now offer encouragement on the bullying front. In today's New York Times is an account of a new policy adopted by a big suburban school district north of Minneapolis.

Christian conservatives there had been fighting against an effort to protect gay students from beatings and other forms of torture favored by the Christians. But a lawsuit and federal civil rights investigation pushed the district to adopt new policies requiring the district to teach and affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students.

The other story making the rounds has been about the efforts of director Lee Hirsch to overcome a censorious rating inflicted by the Motion Picture Association of America on his new documentary on the subject, called simply, Bully.

That one caught my eye for a couple reasons. First, it sounds like a must-see on the subject. Second, I wrote a book by the same name, Bully, published in 1997 by William Morrow, and made into a movie in 2001 by avant artist/photographer/director Larry Clark.

My book was no treatise on bullying. It was strictly a true-crimer. It did involve a bully, but in that case, a true story, the teen-age bully was savagely murdered by his teen-age victims, all of whom subsequently did richly deserved sentences in the pen.

In fact, I never really understood how twisted the bullying issue was in that story until my book had been out for some years. I didn't meet Clark until after the film came out, because of certain complications involving my compensation for movie rights, none of which had anything to do with Clark.

He was in Dallas doing publicity for the movie. We had coffee at Café Brazil. Clark, who is three years my senior, was accompanied by an unspeakably gorgeous, disturbingly youthful actress of non-European descent (Philippines?) whom he described as his girlfriend. She was sullen and mute during most of our chat -- so much so that I became concerned she might be plotting an escape. I was on the verge of offering to call 911 for her, when she finally blurted out what was on her mind.

"You guys," she said, "you're just two old white guys who don't know shit."

bully.jpg
A scene from Lee Hirsch's documentary Bully.
Clark and I exchanged glances and nodded immediately, each agreeing right away that the other was an old white guy who didn't know shit. She went on to make her case.

Clark grew up in mid-century Tulsa. I grew up outside Detroit. Neither one of us, she said, understood the culture clash between immigrant and native-born kids today. The plot point I completely missed in my book, she said, and Clark completely missed in his movie, was that the kid they killed was the child of immigrants and his victim/slayers were not.

But he was the bully, I blurted. She shook her head impatiently.

"That's the point, Sherlock," she said.

I decided right then and there she was older than she looked and could go call 911 by herself if she wanted.

She said she was an immigrant kid. Most of her friends were immigrant kids. They were all are taught by their parents to despise American-born kids.

"Why?" Clark and I asked in unison.

Because, she said, their nightmare is that their own kid will turn into one of them. To immigrant parents, American kids are lazy, soft, over-indulged, without goals or the ability to delay gratification for even an instant in order to achieve goals.

Man, light bulbs started going off in my head. She was right about one thing. The bully/victim in my book was the son of Iranian immigrants, and he was the only kid in his circle in South Florida headed anywhere but downtown to buy more dope. His father was pushing him to finish school and go into business at the same time. Most of the American-born kids in his circle from high school were early-onset losers.

He picked on them. They killed him.

So here's my deal today. I look at stuff like that Minneapolis story in particular, where the Christian parents fought unsuccessfully against rules to protect gay kids from beatings. I think of my own sort of haphazard experience in the area. And a unifying theme emerges.

Kids become bullies as expressions of their parents' values. They think it's OK -- actually, they think it's a good thing -- to knock a gay kid's teeth down his throat down by the gym because their parents have signaled to them it's a good thing. Blood on their cuffs when they come home at night means they won't turn gay themselves. They must kill the thing their parents fear. Like turning American. Or black. Or white. Whatever.

The Minnesota settlement takes a smart approach to all of that by doing two things. It requires the school district to put down a bright line saying that all children share common qualities of dignity and human worth. But it also requires the district to have personnel in place whose mission is to get out into the halls and look for it.

I just hope when they're out there looking, the anti-bully police will be smarter about it than me and Larry Clark. If adults look only for the instances predicted by their own life experiences, they may miss the important new ones.

Ultimately there's only one answer -- a universal belief in universal human dignity. But who can wait for that to happen? In the meantime, lawsuits and criminal prosecutions are good intermediate measures.


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104 comments
Mike
Mike

Do not children find any number of reasons to pick on other children? The discussions on religion, homosexuality, and immigrant status are a tiny, tiny, piece of the differentiators. What about the big nose, being smart, being stupid, cannot throw a ball, cannot catch and numerous other differentiators? On this one, stop blaming the parents. It is just inherent in primates to establish pecking orders. Every primate understands it is easier to push the primate down that it is to push yourself up. Consequently kids will think what they want.

The corrective action has to be on behavior. If a child assaults another child, then they get the ton of bricks on them. Teach them if you do not like someone, do not associate with them, play with them, etc. Do not call them names, pull stunts, or obviously, hit them.

Live with the fact that people will always find reasons to dislike people, but no reasons exist to verbally or physically injure someone. Time to put Kumbaya away. Time for Helen Reddy "Leave me alone!"

Larry
Larry

Should be "..CHARGING the parents"  I mean, for cryin out loud, if we lock up the parents for children's truancy, then....

Anyway, your book and the bullying causes stand alone, but the immigrant/native born is sure an interesting modifier. 

OldEastDallas
OldEastDallas

For all those commenting with 'how about <insert group="" here=""> stop hating <insert group="" here="" other=""> first?', etc., etc.  Try this simple step instead: you be responsible for  treating everyone else with respect no matter what. I'm not saying you have to agree with them - heck you can think they are completely natters if you want - but you still treat them with respect either way. </insert></insert>

Ricky Hollywood
Ricky Hollywood

I find it interesting that a lot of people on here talk about what a hack Mr. Schutze is, and yet, his articles consistently rank in the top for comment count on local news sites.  You might think he is a loser, but he is getting you to read his article and comment on his ideas.  Some would argue that that is the main goal of a reporter.

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

For all the protestations of liberal sentiment hereabouts, there is still a lot of religion-bashing (as opposed to faith-bashing) going on. So we're comfortable with a vague sort of God-consciousness or whatever so long as it doesn't embody any actual doctrines or beliefs? 

Daniel
Daniel

Tiffany Limos is her name-os. Man, is she ever gorgeous. She's also about 40 years younger than Larry Clark. What a creepy lech he is. Truly a dirtball. How I envy him.

Omar Jimenez
Omar Jimenez

Westboro is a good poster child for this.

40ozs&amp;abagofjellybeans
40ozs&amp;abagofjellybeans

Heck, I welcome immigrant children(and even the native born ones) to look at my life and scoff at it. Hopefully, they won't make the same mistakes I have and continue to make. If it betters their life, I feel like it's bettered mine. The only thing I ask of them is to please don't kick me(physically) while i'm lying down....they can kick me(verbally) all they wish, though. Stick and stones, really do hurt.

JimS
JimS

Titus Groan below says he doesn't get the causal link between immigrant kid status and being a bully. Albert says he doesn't get why I hate Christians.Albert first. Sloppy writing. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. The world would be a horrible place without good Christians. I meant to write only about bad Christians. Too broad a bush, and maybe not my first offense. Titus: I didn't fill that in, did I. She said many of her immigrant kid friends tended to adopt domineering attitudes toward their American-born friends, sometimes even to the point of bullying them, because they regarded them as weak and inferior.  

Collosus
Collosus

 Profile: white male, 35-55, hates father (physically present/emotionally abusive), listens to lots of talk radio, works at home, likes to call Jim a Libtard, thinks changing handle and flushing cookies will stop us from I.D.-ing him. Keep going, brother.

randy
randy

I'd like to hear more about the "unspeakably gorgeous" girlfriend.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

welp here it goes, religion is a ponzi scheme, you will never get back from the church the original investment you put in.  Im just tired of people holding their religion high above their head when it suits them, yet bury deep inside while ripping a line of coke of the coffee table or sitting at a bar passing judgment on everyone else.  If its so much about living the certain religious lifestyle to make it to heaven, then why is everyone so worried what others are doing.  keep your religion to yourself, my life doesnt affect you getting in to heaven or whatever mystical place you think you are going when you die

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

1 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 6 VERSES 1-5...

Look it up!

 BTW this is just random FUN scripture quoting .

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

Jim, I still don't understand how the victim's immigrant status is germane to his death.  He bullied others because Tiger Mom (Dad, whatever) bullied him?  That doesn't track.

JimS
JimS

Well, the second link was intended to go there. I bet I'm missing a point here. Please feel free to tell me what it is, and I'll see what I can do.Also, I thought the settlement forced the school district to give up on its position of, "Gay students may or may not be fully human,  but that's not our department." I thought the policy adopted as  part of the settlement was requiring them to assert that all offspring of human parents are human, in spite of what Albert and his Christian friends believe.

Daniel
Daniel

But then the pressure of one's boilin' opprobrium builds up inside until one vents anonymously on the web, ocassionally lashing out at the natter-niks.

I read it in Psychology Today.

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

Schutze is frequently wrong,* but he's no hack. A hack wouldn't draw anything like the kind of readership that follows this blog and his columns in the Observer. Even when he's wrong, he's usually entertaining. If all those who criticize him could summon up even half of his wit and flair, we'd have a real blog going here.*And when he's right, by the way -- as in the column we're all bloviating about-- he's profoundly right.  

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

There used to be a sports writer on here, Richie Whitt. Just about everything he put out, and he posted 3 times a day. What I'm getting at here is that just because you have 50+ comments, doesn't always mean the content is exceptional. Most of the time it means people completely disagree with you and call you a hack for putting a blog out just to get web hits. The Sportatorium blog is still up in case you'd like to check it out for yourself.I do like Jim most of the time though. He drew me offsides this time.

cp
cp

I'm completely okay with religion bashing. 

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

Yeah, he definitely got younger at that position.

Albert
Albert

Fair enough, Jim.

You're back on my Xmas card list.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

Why are you so hung up on ip addresses and calling people out?Are you the hall monitor here?

Albert
Albert

Reviewing the thread, Collosus, it looks like I'm the only one taking Jim to task for his bigotry. That being the case, I kinda sense this cute little attempt at psychological profiling is directed at me.

If so, you failed miserably. If not, carry on with your experiment.

RWNJ
RWNJ

You wanted to say, "listens to Rush Limbaugh."

That adds a lot to the profile!!! 

RTGolden
RTGolden

Scott, you're correct in part, and guilty of the same mistake Jim is guilty of at the same time.  Religion, in most cases, IS more of a social control organization than a spiritual one.  Faith, however, is personal, between a person and their God.  Having faith will not automatically make one a rabid homophobe, prowling the night with riot guns.  Neither will going to church.  You and Jim are both failing to make this distinction.

Come on people, I come here to get away from mouth-breathing, rigid, everything-a-phobic, social retards.  The whole point of going to liberal news source is to get information from people who, though from different backgrounds than I, with different values than I have, I can accept for who they are and they can accept me for who I am.  I didn't start coming to UP to trade one socially claustrophobic box for another.

GBG
GBG

I understand your point, but it doesn't mean "religion is a ponzi scheme". Especially by the measure of financial-in versus financial-out. Religion is about much more than what is invested as far as money. 

Getting into the much more aspect, well, if you don't already know that, then I cant help given time constraints. 

Regardless, God Bless You! 

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Religious Chris Chrises! Christ Christs?

Albert
Albert

You can always ignore them, Scott.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Again, making the assumption that all Christians are bigoted, elitist, brutish snobs  paints you in the same light as your narrow-minded, republican nemeses (proper plural??).  You have hated what you view as the closed-minded conservative christian view for so long, and railed against it so diligently, you have built for yourself a fortress of closed-minded liberal elitism.  Leaving behind the liberal tenets of judging each person based on their merits and not on the color of their skin, their beliefs, or their economic station, you have become the conservative you despise so much.

Albert
Albert

Except the ones who are killed in the womb, they're just tissue.

JimS
JimS

This was supposed to be a response to Paul.

Daniel
Daniel

Summon up half his wit and flair and go by their full given names. Can't forget that part, Bmarvel.

And no, Jim Schutze is not a hack.

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

cp,That tells us  whole lot about you, but not so much about religion.

LH Robert
LH Robert

Albert: You are correct on all counts. Jim is too smart for this sort of blanket bigotry. I simply do not understand where he is going with it. I was born and raised Southern Baptist, enjoy my religion and my fellow heathens. But no one has ever trained me to "hate women or gays or Muslims" or anyone else. I do dislike hypocrites who claim to be "bigot free" while hating Christians and making up "facts" but I got that on my own and not at Church. Have a good day.

JBone
JBone

I couldn't agree more. Its is imperative that we embrace the greatness of our differences. That is how we grow and learn, both good and bad. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Sorry for the mouth breathing evrything phobia speak. Didnt mean it that way. Glad you got my point though.

cp
cp

Religion and faith are two different things. Organized religion (especially the Catholic church) is a pretty large corporation. It's very existence (going allllll the way back to 300 AD) is simply a means to control people. 

cp
cp

Yeah they're really easy to ignore when thy're at a fallen soldier's funeral shouting and waving signs that read "God hates fags"...

Mavdog
Mavdog

hmmm, read the piece multiple times and haven't been able to find anywhere in the article the phrase "all Christians", just a reference to "the Christians there" in the school district.

Yet over and over in this comment section Jim is attacked under the premise his article is about "all Christians". clearly he's not guilty.

"me think you doth protest too much" comes to mind.

Eam0061
Eam0061

Perhaps all Christians are bad, but they certainly keep electing really horrible people to represent them in office. Just a thought.

Paul
Paul

 I'm sorry Jim, I can't count.  It is the third link, the one that is at the beginning of the third paragraph.  It is also pointing to the same location as the second link in the story, the one in the second paragraph.

As far as the rest of my post went, I guess I was being a bit obtuse.  My theological education is that faith and religion are supposed to provide a reference point for acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

That being said most behavior and attitudes expressed by some "Christians" seems to be anything but that.

In regards to the argument espoused by the "Christians" in the school district for their opposition to homosexuality, I believe that their position is not only discriminatory but decidedly un-Christian.  One does not have to read very much of the new Testament to see what Jesus' viewpoint was on homosexuals.

The second point that I was trying to make is that the school district is not providing any reference point for what is to be socially acceptable behavior.  I feel that this is a primary purpose of not only education (be it public or private) but also of parenthood.

The last three paragraphs of the policy statement by the school board seems to be a complete abrogation of the school's responsibility to instill acceptable behavior.

The last paragraph talks about the dignity and self worth of all students with respect to several conditions of which sexuality is one.  While Kinsey showed us that there is no such thing as "normal sexual behavior", how does one then address such subjects as bestiality, pedophilia and sadomasochism?  Granted this may be considered an extreme conclusion to the logical extension of the policy.  I think it shows that we do have to consider what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

The other item that concerns me is that the list of protected groups keeps getting longer and longer and longer.  Can't we just say "Be very very nice to everyone you meet."

As far as I am concerned, true happiness is in seriously short supply among the human race.  Anything that can be done to alleviate that is fine with me.

cp
cp

Most of the people in my own family meet this profile. 

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

I'm sorry for the way you were treated, it's not right, not now, not then, not ever. Bullying whether someone is gay, or nerdy, or weak, or anything, is unacceptable. I grew up Catholic and was never told homosexuality was wrong(later found out our priest was gay; served at my church for 30 years up until his death--and no finding that out didn't change how great he was). The thing is here, it takes someone to take a stand, make a change. If the people giving the message retard it and noone stands up to stop it, whether it's in church or with a group of guys, it won't change. We have to stop the hate whether it's racism, anti-homosexuality, abuse, bullying, etc.

Politico
Politico

I hope you now understand that all that BS you were told and thought about yourself is not true. I surely hope you are proud of who you are. All that matters is your a good person to others. Nothing Else. 

Be proud of yourself. 

mark zero (Jason)
mark zero (Jason)

Let's swap anecdotes, Robert. I also grew up Southern Baptist, in a church in North Dallas that has since changed names. Maybe you weren't, but I was told Mormons were anti-Christians, Catholics prayed to false gods, etc.  But most importantly, they told me how bad homosexuality is.

Here's the thing, though: I grew up in the closet. In fact, I'm still in the closet with my very conservative and religious family. The first word I knew for what I was was "fag," and I learned that in day school, when I was about 5. Not 15, 5. That's when other kids asked me if I was, and I said no, of course not! Then I asked what it was, and when they described it, and I thought and said, 'oh, maybe I am,' because of things they knew were happening with and to me in the bathrooms at the school, both willingly and by coercion. (It took until college for me to finally hear the much more accurate word "bisexual." [edit: and also to know that it wasn't my fault for what happened, and that didn't "turn me queer"])

All through childhood I was bullied for being soft, or girly, or not macho enough. I learned to hate even my own voice. Worse, I was told not to fight back, but to turn the other cheek -- at church, at home, and by the teachers who saw what was happening and did nothing. The last time I seriously tried to kill myself, I was 9. At church camp, I got pulled aside by a kid when the adults and the other boys had left the room and asked, "you're not a homo, are you?" And when I tearfully said no, of course not, having spent years trying to hide my identity even from myself, I was reassured, 'good, we were just all worried about you being one." Not just for my eternal soul, but also they didn't want a fag sleeping in the room with them. And on it went.

Since your name has LH in it, Robert, I'll mention something else. I moved into the Lake Highlands area in junior high, and not only was I ridiculed for being overweight and effeminate (I remember the coach in the gym in junior high leaving sometimes, and the kids deciding to play a "smear the queer" version of dodgeball), I was also ridiculed sometimes for being a nerd. In fact, in either my junior or senior year of high school (I no longer have the jacket so can't be sure), The Academic Decathlon team (of which I was a member) was given letter jackets by a very pleased and supportive vice principal. But then we were given a pep rally in the gym, because he wanted us to show them off. Guess what happened when we went out there? We were booed and laughed at, at least by the jocks.

So, Robert, I'm glad your childhood was great, and you never knew anyone like that at your church, or at school. Maybe Jim wasn't writing about anyone you know. (We must not have attended school at anywhere near the same time; I graduated from LHHS in 1989.) But I know the kinds of people about whom he writes, and I can assure you they exist, and there must have been a great many of them once, for when I was young, they filled the nightmares from which I could never quite wake up, and I knew every face, because they were real.

Albert
Albert

I like Jim, always have. Enjoy his writing. I can disagree with his leftist positions, but he never struck me as as this much of a bigot. Hence my heated reaction.

For the record, I am an agnostic at best, was not raised in the church, work at the corporate headquarters of a multi-national corporation (Verify through IP addy, Observer folks), listen to talk radio about 15 minutes a week on way to lunch, if that, have never ever used the word "libtard" in speech or writing (until this moment), have changed handle once about a year ago, have never flushed cookies from any computer, for any reason.

I know many practicing Christians.

None, none meets the profile that so many leftist bigots describe. Maybe they are thinking of radical Islamists?

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

The first part about Jesus abolishing religion was wheels off, but the guy's heart is in the right place. Came across him while I was doing sports research on Mo Isom.

cp
cp

Interesting... because THEY sure think they are!

RTGolden
RTGolden

Westboro baptist church is not a christian organization.

Mavdog
Mavdog

Wow, stooping to the level of parsing a sentence in an attempt to prove your point? tsk tsk, not proper in the least...

the complete sentence is "Christian conservatives there had been fighting against an effort to protect gay students from beatings and other forms of torture favored by the Christians."Jim uses an article preceeding "Christians", "the", to specify who it is referring to, which is "Christian conservatives there". Pretty basic stuff for people who understand the english language and how to construct a sentence.

As for reactions to comments in this section, satire is certainly "in the eyes of the beholder" as it were....

RTGolden
RTGolden

"effort to protect gay students from beatings and other forms of torture favored by the Christians." Line in story, does not specify 'the Christians there prefer these activities, just "the Christians"

"Does it make you want to do the Christian thing and sock me in the mouth?" Comment by JimS in the thread. Does not specify any particular Christian group, rather implies a general 'christian' thing.

"... assert that all offspring of human parents are human, in spite of what Albert and his Christian friends believe."  Comment by JimS in the thread.  Assumes that Christians assume LGBT children are somehow not human.

Shall I continue?  My point is, I have a Christian FAITH, but do not belong to any formal religious sect.  My beliefs on this particular subject line up pretty close to Jim's.  I believe we are all sinners, and thus, all deserving of Hell.  It is but by the grace of Jesus that we can attain salvation.  Jesus did not travel into the Highland Parks or Upper East Sides of the Holy Land.  Jesus did not dine with the self-righteous or holier-than-thous.  Jesus said "suffer the little children to come to me, for of such as these is the kingdom of God made."  In the many different translations of the Bible I've read, I've never seen that line translated to include "but only the straight, white little children."  It is my charge, my goal, to rid myself of prejudices, and this is the highest of the liberal virtues in my eyes.  I'm not always successful at it, but when I fall short, I don't compensate for it by transferring my guilt to some other group that richly deserves it, which is what Jim has been doing in this post and this thread, until he was called out for it.  Read a little bit further on and you'll see, even Jim copped to it and revised his statements.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Even though the percentage of people in American claiming to be christian has declined steadily, it is still over 75% according to the most recent surveys and polls I can find.  This would indicate that a fairly good sized chunk of Obama's votes HAD to have come from Christians. I would guess this applies to most current office-holders as well, regardless of which side of the aisle they sit on.

Care to rethink or restate your poorly thought out comment?

Paul
Paul

 As I said below, I believe that it is a combination of schools and parents to teach socially acceptable behavior.  The schools are able to introduce children to other children of different backgrounds and talents.

hth

JimS
JimS

They only tauight me: "Don't hit the real big kid."

cp
cp

"The second point that I was trying to make is that the school district is not providing any reference point for what is to be socially acceptable behavior."Hmmm... I learned "don't hit others" well before Kindergarten.  

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