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Monday, November 15, 2010

After the Fire

Few things surprise me anymore. Fewer things humble me, stop me in my tracks and remind me I’m human, I’m fallible, and above all else, I’m one tiny cog in the mechanism of life.

Today, sitting in a rental house, contemplating the months before I’m able to return to my house, a home that will be vastly different, new, absent of the marks fifteen years of life once put on it, I’ve learned a lot. People who love you don’t see the things; people who care about you sift through ashes, the insulation-covered belongings, and roll up their sleeves to put it all back together. And people you see only occasionally step up and remind you that when you give, it comes back to you. I’ve always been quick to donate to those who’ve suffered loss, who go through trying times, to cook a meal for those who need it. Now, after the fire, to have so many people come help us at the house, others who’ve taught for us, who’ve rallied behind us, who’ve offered a thought, a prayer, a heartfelt ‘we’re there for you if you need us,’ renews my strength to overcome this. My house burned down but I didn’t lose my home. My home is with friends, with colleagues, with all the warm messages on Facebook, by email, and phone. I may not have as much as I did before Nov. 4th, but in many ways, I have so much more, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful…

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bullying – A Problem Screaming To Be Stopped

When I wrote my young adult novel Dregs, I’d witnessed a lot of bullying in my school and in my classroom. Some of it blatant, but much more of it subtle, part of an invisible hierarchy. School violence stormed into our world as a full-blown epidemic in the mid-90s. We were horrified. We were disgusted. We were to blame – no other nation has our issues with bullying, with cliques, with the kind of violence seen on the front page of every paper nearly every day. And now, all of that has changed with the internet. Bullying has morphed; it’s virtual, transported through cyberspace. But it still hurts, and for some, it has a lasting, stinging effect. Sometimes permanent. Being a teenager or young adult is hard, and the light at the end of the tunnel is sometimes too hard to see. Tyler Clementi couldn’t see it. Phoebe Prince couldn’t see it. Alexis Pilkington couldn’t see it. Even with the rallying cries of Ellen, their suicides make us question the system, the neighborhoods that perpetuate it, the sports fields that promote it, the schools that can’t or don’t stop it, the internet that hasn’t figured out how to control the cruelty created there.

But it starts so much sooner – the judgmental entitlement, the superiority mentality. A perfect example is a blog in the Advocate. Parents instill their best values in their children. And their worst. The problem is, these belief systems are so deeply entrenched, many of the parents don’t understand what they’re doing. Don’t play with the child of gay parents. Stay away from that Muslim kid. No, you can’t go to the mall with that girl with all the piercings. Hate begats hate. Prejudice starts young, before they have a chance to develop beliefs of their own. So when kids start taunting kids, parents’ mindsets are screaming accompaniment. The worry is, can we silence them, any of them?