Jul 30, 2014
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Bully Pulpit: High Water Pants Make You a Target

Some clouds are over the Garden Community after a student admitted to making a bomb threat because police say he was being bullied. Patch Columnist Mike Vickery shares his experience of being bullied back in the 1970s.

Bully Pulpit: High Water Pants Make You a Target

As far as PR goes, this has not been Greendale’s best week.  Bomb scares and bullying are generally not the reasons you want to show up on the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Yet, here we are. Remember those simpler times when really tall sunflowers got us in the news?

This turn of events is not a bad thing. Turning the lights on a problem is always positive action.  The illumination reveals blemishes best exposed – and then duly dealt with. 

For this moment, the heck with our ‘Garden of Eden Community’ reputation.  We have troubles, right here in Greendale.  “Trouble” – that starts with ‘T’ which rhymes with ‘B’ and that stands for bullying.  In hind sight, the bomb scare, while wrong, is a symptom of the larger problem. We are Greendale and we will deal with this. 

Let’s roll up our shirt sleeves and get to work.  There is work to be done.  There always is – we are a work in progress.

No one, of course, condones The Bully.  As behaviors go, bullying is down there with racism and a poor hygiene regimen.  It is mean and it stinks. Bullying is sharp ignorance with a rusty edge.

Bullying happens.  It can pop up anywhere.  Think back on your own life and you may recall being the ‘target’ – or the ‘gun’.  If you have a moment, share a bullying story at the bottom of this column.  It can be incredibly comforting for ‘targets’ to know they are not alone.  It can be a catharsis for ‘guns’ to say “I goofed up and I am sorry”.

I got a story.

Rewind back to the early 70’s and see a polyester-clad 14 year-old - who obviously missed the memo on the evils of high water pants - roaming the halls of Bay Port High School.  That clueless freshman is me.  I am about to get hit in the back of the head with an incredibly thick Algebra book.  Hit the pause button…

Getting hit with an Algebra book is not the worse form of bullying.  There are far more damaging, nuanced and long-term forms of bullying that do deeper psychological damage.  That said, I do use this incident to explain my irrational fear of math and my love of paperbacks.  Hit the play button.

“Thunk!”.  Or was it “Bam!”? I do not really remember. I do recall The Bully calling me some names (“Dork” springs to mind and frankly fit) and then I found myself sprawled across the hallway floor, wishing student backpacks had been invented – which would of prevented all my scholarly possessions from wildly scattering for what seemed like a mile of corridor. 

Dazed and surprised, I did figure out that - along with the one on the importance of pant length - I missed the memo on Freshman Hazing.  The 1970s could have really used Twitter.

There was some laughter at my expense.  There was some gathering of my notebooks and my once proud Bic pen collection. My head was all Twilight Zone.   I tried very hard not to cry as well as fight back the sweaty nausea I was feeling.  No one could look less cool as I did, struggling to find an exit and get some air.  But I did – and got a detention for leaving the building during class time.  Not my best day.

But not my worst day either.  Any day that I was insensitive or less than helpful to any victim would be a worse day.  I have had those too and am less than proud about that.

How about you?  Got any stories you care to share?  Go ahead – that is why “Comment” space was invented. Unload.

We always have each other.  Sometimes bad, but most often great, it is all about community. We will get through this and we will get better.

Click here to read the most recent update about the Greendale High School student who wrote a bomb threat in the boy bathroom because police say Olson was bullied.

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