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Friday, November 19, 2010

Bullying is For Jerks

Earlier this week, Carrie Goldman wrote an article for Chicago Now, about her daughter, Katie, a year One student, being bullied for bringing a Star Wars water bottle to school.

From the original article:
She wailed, "The first grade boys are teasing me at lunch because I have a Star Wars water bottle.  They say it's only for boys.  Every day they make fun of me for drinking out of it.  I want them to stop, so I'll just bring a pink water bottle."

I hugged her hard and felt my heart sink.  Such a tender young age, and already she is embarrassed about the water bottle that brought her so much excitement and joy a few months ago.

The awesome (and unfortunately not evil enough) Bonnie Burton wrote a piece for StarWars.com expanding on the idea behind the original article, arguing that Star Wars is for fans of all ages, shapes and sizes, and urging Star Wars fans everywhere to show their support for Katie by leaving a positive message for her under the Twitter hashtag #MayTheForceBeWithKatie.

All of this sounds pretty reasonable so far and frankly, we're a bit offended. You can't have a conversation about bullying without speaking to us, the experts. After all, school yard bullies might terrorise a few students but we terrorise an entire galaxy.

Take it from us: bullying is a gateway evil. It's a little thing, so easily dismissed, usually because it starts with kids. "Ignore it and it'll go away" is the most common advice given to kids being bullied. But the truth is, sometimes ignoring it just allows it to grow and become worse. It teaches people like us from a young age that we can push other people around and get away with it.

It's easy to blame parents for the problem, or even teachers, but the truth is it's everyone's responsibility to put a stop to bullying in all of it's forms. Adults (parent, teacher or otherwise) need to do more than just talk to kids about why bullying is just for jerks like us; they need to model positive behaviour. If young kids see you get angry at people, intimidate them, or even just boss people around, you're teaching them it's okay to turn to the Dark Side. Show them instead to be kind, patient and proud of who they are as individuals. It's that kind of person that scares us bad guys the most.

Kids, if you read this, as much as it hurts us to admit this, you can help stop bullying and fight the Dark Side too. The easiest way to do that is to be proud of who you are. Don't be afraid to bring your Star Wars water bottle or Barbie lunchbox or genuine Ewok fur schoolbag to school with you. Guaranteed there will be at least one other kid on the playground wanting to talk to you about it.

And if you do happen to get teased, try to remember the truth is that they're probably just jealous, or angry about things that happened before they got to school, or even just a little bit scared to be different themselves.

It's hard to be different, to be an individual whose beliefs, interests or even just clothing, set you apart from those around you. In fact, we have laws against that sort of thing here. But usually when something is hard, it's also what's right.

Bullying is for jerks like us. You don't want to be like us, do you?

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