A human being often finds it difficult to relate to something they have not experienced. To be able to judge someone we first need to walk in their shoes. This is not just a saying, it is a reality. Many times we are quick to pass judgment on others without taking some time to look at the whole picture. And sometimes our lack of empathy can have repercussions as serious as death.
Brandon Elizares. El Paso, Texas.
Such was the case for Brandon Elizares. On June 2, he took his own life because he had been bullied for two years. This young man was harassed to the point that he saw no other alternative but to leave this world. Yet, there are people who feel no remorse in rationalizing harassment when it comes to “different” kids. Brandon was not the first teen to commit such a desperate act, and sadly it does not seem like he will be the last. His name is known by many today because he represents a problem that faces our youth. But the sweet and creative teen that we know today may become just another statistic tomorrow.
There are many organizations dedicated to helping the victims of bullying. There are also plenty of documentaries filmed on the subject, and dedicated people fighting the good battle so that these kids do not have to suffer anymore. Yet, the problem continues and it is time for all of us to consider why. Why, despite all the efforts made to eradicate bullying, are kids still dying? Maybe we are simply not attacking the real problem. It is not until we forget the “politically correct” part that we will finally be able to admit what the problem is. Until we face reality, the body count will continue to climb.
Last week I watched a video that took me back to my high school days, when I witnessed bullying first hand. And as I watched this so called conservative 14-year-old speaking about social issues and the “liberal conspiracy” (whatever that is), I could not help but notice how passionate he felt about showing gay kids their wicked ways. Caiden Cowger first told his listeners that bullying is wrong. He then went on to say that preaching to gay students, convincing them that their natures are inherently evil and will cost them eternal suffering, should not be considered bullying. Bullying, by definition, is an act designed to make an individual feel bad about themselves in some way. It appears, by his words, that young Caiden does not even understand the term.
What will it take for people to realize that to bully someone, you don't have to lay a finger on them? There are plenty of studies that demonstrate that verbal abuse causes anxiety and depression. The invisible scars, as some people call them, may be a factor that is yet to be addressed in schools. Brandon did not get a chance to develop these scars, and while he might soon become a number to most, there are people who will be haunted by his tragedy for the rest of their lives, simply because some are too afraid to be seen as “politically incorrect,” even if that means saving our children.
There are different shades of gray, different shades of love and hate. We have different forms of bullying, but only one form of cowardice. Inaction often equals complicity.