I have not been very vocal about the recent tragedy at Lebanon High School. I didn’t really know the latest victim of the bully culture. I had seen her around school, passed by her in between classes, but I didn’t know who she was as a person. I’d never taken the time to get to know her.
I didn’t feel like it was my place to speak out after her death, but I have changed my mind. I think as students of Lebanon High School, we are all at fault. As a whole, we have all contributed to the bully culture that exists at Lebanon High School. At some point, we have all had some sort of role in bullying others. Whether it was to seem cool, fit in or something just as simple as you’re having a bad day and want to bring someone else down with you.
Think about it. We’ve all at least once seen or done something that could be someone’s last straw. Maybe it was something little. Maybe you just laughed along as you or one of your friends made fun of someone’s outfit even though you didn’t know he or she didn’t have enough money to afford anything nicer. Maybe you watched someone throw food at a table of kids who are considered “weird” or “odd.” Maybe you were the kid who threw something at those kids. It was funny right? You giggled and your friends thought you were cool.
But what if that “weird” kid went home and killed him or herself? Is it still funny? Maybe you were sitting in class, and the teacher called out the wrong name of a kid who no longer identified as the gender, which is associated with their name, and you and a group of friends laughed. Please tell me what is so funny about someone choosing to be who they really are despite the social hardships, which come with their courageous decision to be who they really are. But once again let me ask you, what if the transgender kid in your class then goes home and kills him or herself? Is it still funny? Was it really ever funny?
Maybe when you had that class with an LGBTQ couple, you ridiculed and laughed at them because they were different than you. You didn’t agree with their “choice.” Right? You thought that they “chose” to be ridiculed and laughed at just because they were courageous enough to be who they were. You thought it was funny to shout homophobic slurs at them. Right? It was OK. Right? Your friends thought it was funny; they laughed; they thought it was cool. Right? Let’s say he or she went home that night and killed his or herself. Is it still funny? Was it ever funny?
Does it still matter that your friends thought you were funny that day while you were walking laps in the gym? Maybe you made fun of that heavyset girl in your lunch. You thought that it was funny to call her names because of her weight. Right? You and your friends thought it was funny when she walked past, and you called her a “cow,” a “whale,” a fat ass. Right? So she then goes home and kills herself, and it’s still funny. Right? Was it ever really funny? When you wake up the next day and the butt of your funny joke killed herself, is it still funny?
How about that girl you walked past in the hall, the one who’s a “whore,” but you barely know her. You and your friends made fun of her based off of rumors. You slut-shamed her. She went home and killed herself, and at this point you know the impending question. Is it still funny? Was it ever funny?
No. You were wrong, we have all been wrong. Maybe not all to the extent of these examples, but we’ve all at least seen it and not stopped it.
Our student body as a whole has become so OK with using others as our jokes. We have become so OK with using the “odd kid” or the transgender kid, or the LGBTQ kid, or the “fat kid” or that “whore” as our joke. The language in which we speak about each other is not OK. It has to stop. No one from our school should feel so alone, so ridiculed, so left out that they don’t want to live.
When one of our classmates is hurting, it is all of our responsibility to help him or her. This is our school, and if we want to save others from feeling so alone that they believe the only way out is dying, then we need to all change the way we treat each other. The bully culture we have all created at Lebanon High School is our fault. We created this.
Let’s start treating others with kindness, despite our differences. Let’s quit lifestyle shaming our classmates, and instead find the good in others. Let’s stop spreading rumors, and instead start spreading kind words. Let’s not throw things at that “weird kid” in lunch. Let’s instead get to know them. Let’s not laugh at the transgender kid in our class. Let’s instead sit next to them and start a friendship. Let’s not ridicule the LGBTQ kids in our gym class. Let’s instead share a smile, a kind word. Let’s not make fun of the heavyset girl in our lunch. Let’s instead offer a friendship, a compliment, a positive gesture. Let’s not slut-shame the girl we walk past in the hallway. Let’s instead get to know her, offer her a friendship and a compliment.
Imagine how much nicer it would be to be at a school where, instead of spreading hate, we encouraged our classmates, complimented our classmates, accepted our classmates and even go as far as loved our classmates. Now, I don’t think we can all change in a day. I don’t expect to come back from fall break and everyone be kind. But why not try?
Let’s make a difference; let’s start with you.