Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Serious Business

Bullying is serious business today but why so much more now than in year’s past? Why does it take the form of extreme violence instead of children being children? I can honestly say that I have been on the receiving and the giving end of bullying more than once. Allow me to tell you of a few of these “atrocities”.

My first instance came when a chubby little third grader named Brad something or other caught me walking home to a lunch of hot chocolate and cheese toast in Rapid City, South Dakota, snow about two feet deep, and pushed me into a drift. I had on my blue parka, galoshes and gloves so no serious physical damage was done but it darn sure ruined my lunch because all I could think about was if and when ol’ Brad was going to catch up with me on the return route, like he said he was. He never showed and I made sure our paths never crossed again. I hope he flunked the third grade and married a mean, ugly woman. Well, that’s a little harsh. I’ll settle for mean.

Things went fine until the fifth grade when Keith Chastain sat on me on the playground of Cherry Street School. He hit me one time in the face and I cried so hard it scared him into running home. Keith didn’t mess with me after that because I got glasses. He was fairly smart and probably ended up being a successful businessman. Maybe he went bankrupt. Well, that would be a high price to pay for just hitting me in the face once. Perhaps he got laid off; I’d settle for that.

It was in the sixth grade when I got my turn to be the bully. Ronnie Faircloth was his name and he had a bag full of the most beautiful marbles you’ve ever seen. Ronnie was a year younger than me and the Ramirez brothers and a little spoiled by his grandmother, who bought him the marbles. He had cat eyes, pearls, crystals, (solids were looked on as being cheap) and steely boulders, which he would get from his dad who worked in a paper mill. We set our sights on getting Ronnie’s marbles by playing a game called circles. But, you couldn’t get more than a few playing circles since you only got what you shot out of the ring and Ronnie would stay lucky long enough to keep most of his marbles, which was a lot.

We had spent our summers playing baseball, while Ronnie played with his grandmother’s parakeet. We knew how to throw, he didn’t, so we made up a game called “pots”, where you put a lot of marbles in a hole, get way back down the alley and throw for the hole. Needless to say, Ronnie lost his marbles and went home crying. His grandmother called my mother and I had to return my share. Don’t know what the Ramirez brothers did with theirs, probably fought over what was left. Ronnie became a Deacon, Richard and Dennis, successful businessmen. We still see each other from time to time and seem to have left childhood with few scars and fewer marbles.

Makes you wonder what’s happening out there today on school buses and playgrounds. Well, for one thing we watched as Andy told Opie to be honest. We watched as Mr. Wizard taught science with ethical insights, and as the Rifleman showed his son what being a real man was all about. And we had role models right there at home who exhibited work ethic and high moral standards. Compare that to what we see today on television and at home and is it not a wonder our children feel “led” to act out in a way that’s both scary and perplexing? This problem is fairly simple really. Children come into this world as a blank slate (Rousseau) and we, the “adults” make them what they are by giving them various experiences in childhood. They’re not like an “Etch a Sketch” however and shaking them won’t fix this problem. If that’s beyond our abilities to comprehend, we have indeed lost our “marbles”.