Of late, this blog has been about oratory. The power of the spoken word to make change. The past couple of weeks has gotten me to think about what happens when voices are silenced. When words are misunderstood or twisted and used again the speaker.
In preparation of a lesson on the Fourth Amendment, I tripped into a movie that is haunting me. The documentary is called Bully (this link is to the movie's website) and follows the lives of students and parents for whom bullying is a reality. The camera follows them on the bus, in juvenile jail, as they hang out with their friends. It follows the parents as they navigate school systems which miss the point and a justice system which looks at bully and victim with the same lens. It is haunting to hear the parents of seventeen year old and eleven year old sons grieve and look for meaning in senseless loss.
The numbers from the CDC say that, on average, 4000 teens commit suicide each year. An Australian survey (I would argue out numbers would be similar) found that half of all teen suicides are the direct result of bullying. 160,000 students stay home from school each day as the result of bullying (physically or emotionally unable to attend).
The quote in the title is the result of a conversation between a boy, Alex, and his mother. She is asking him why he doesn't report all the bullying on the bus. She asks if the hitting and punching and stabbing don't hurt. The title is his response. He refers to the boys as 'friends' and she counters that, if they are so vicious, they aren't his friends. His response: "If you say these people aren't my friends, what friends do I have?"
At the end of the documentary, they follow the father of an eleven year old boy who has committed suicide as the result of his bullying. He actually lives about two hours from Wichita and has started a Facebook page Stand for The Silent. He is trying to make sense of the senseless by raising awareness and challenging teens to stop being bystanders to tragedy.
Oratory calls for change and I'll admit that I don't know what changes I need to make and advocate for. My first step is awareness. I keep you posted on the next one.