It is hard to believe it has been seven years since the first words of Sticks and Bones were typed onto the screen. It was a difficult journey of research and relationship building. There was a time when I did not think it was possible to finish the story; let alone one day publish it.
Since first publishing the novel in April of 2011, the topic of bullying has become popular in the mainstream media; and for good reason. Bullying is a hateful act that never seems to have a good ending.
Bullying awareness is something that needs to be kept at the forefront of everyone's mind. It is not just the bullying in middle and high schools, but into the colleges, and even the work place. I recently read a report that said bullying is becoming an epidemic in the United States. For reasons, not yet fully understood, we love to hate each other more than we ever have in our living history.
It used to be, hate at this magnitude was of a more generalized nature, now it seems to be on the personal, one-to-one level, where anyone can become a target at any time, for any reason. That is a pretty scary thought when we see what is happening in our country. Is it possible that one leads to the other?
In middle and high school we give it a childlike title: Bullying; in the work place we call it a more adult themed phenomenon called: Mobbing. The common thread in both is the results seem to be identical. The stress of long-term exposure to bullying, or mobbing, can have devestating effects on the victim. Some adults, who have been exposed to long-term mobbing (1 year or more), find themselves debilitated to the point of no longer being able to function in any working environment. A young person exposed to long-term bullying can, and often do, find themselves unable to function in any social, or educational, environment.
The two most unfortunate outcomes, but least acted upon, is 1.) revenge tactics such as school violence, or work place violence, and 2.) the taking of one's own life. Both of which are generally carried out without warning.
While developing relationships with the young people involved in Sticks and Bones, I made a discovery of my own: bullying is learned behavior. We adults like to think the children are learning this from each other, but they aren't. They are learning it from the adults in their lives.
Most young children do not see the things we have deemed as the protected categories of life. If a child exhibits behavior of hating someone because they are gay, they didn't learn it all by themselves. It wasn't something they picked up on-line, or even in the video games they play; they learned it from an adult in their life. The same goes for race, national origin, familial status, economic status, disabilities, age etc. Hate is something that is learned. Disregard for human life is learned.
Some kids who bully never grow out of it. They carry their unchecked behavior into colleges, and sometimes become work place mobsters. The sad part of it all is kids don't just suddenly become haters. It is developed over years of exposure to adults practicing hate on a daily basis.
We, as a society, need to get our hate in check. Props to Lady Gaga, Ellen Degeneres, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil, Tyra Banks and the myriad of other celebrities and well known people who make a point of saying, "Hate is NOT ok." It's not. It never will be.
Let's all try to treat each other with kindness, respect, and love. These three things make for a beautiful world. Let's try to focus on that; it sure beats the alternative.