The problem with bullies
This column began when I woke up this morning pondering the question: Where does evil come from?
What prompted this train of thought was a copy of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone sent to me by my son, John Matthew Hamilton. As the blurb on the book jacket tells us, the orphan, Harry Potter, is leading “… a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley – a great big swollen, spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.”
Harry Potter, as the reader learns, is the personification of goodness. And, even though he discovers that he has magical powers, little Harry doesn’t have an evil bone in his body. Yet Fate has placed him at the mercy of a bully. And even when Harry goes off to study at Hogwarts, a school for wizards and witches, he finds there are bullies lying in wait for him there as well.
While society cannot condone in any way the string of recent school shootings that began with Columbine in Colorado, there seems to be a common thread. The shooters were outsiders and loners who were not part of their school’s “in” crowd and, in many cases; they felt bullies were picking on them. Moreover, their parents or parent were absorbed by work or other interests and paid little or no attention to these troubled children.
So one begins to wonder what makes bullies want to make other children miserable by calling them names, using physical force to deprive them of their possessions, stealing their homework, punching them around or even just laughing at them or calling attention to the way they look?
Are some bullies simply born as “bad seed?” Or, are they products of a home environment that causes them to want to hurt others who are weaker than they? Either way, bad seed or products of abuse or neglect, their evil, if you will, begets more evil when their victims bring firearms to school and seek retribution.
Western movie plots almost always include a bunch of bad guys terrorizing the decent farmers, ranchers and townspeople who, at some point, have had enough and take up arms against them. The decent folks are never the physical equals of the desperados. But the six-gun is a great equalizer. Even the woman surrounded in her lonely ranch house by a gang of randy riders could even the odds with her Colt .44 Peacemaker. To her, “gun control” was defined by how steady she could hold her weapon.
But if the victims of bullies in today’s society are to be deterred from using lethal force to balance what they feel is an unfair playing field, then we need to examine this bully business and do something about it.
Stephen Hunter’s thriller,Black Light, digs deeply into the notion of the “bad seed.” Making Black Light of additional interest to this observer is that some of the characters grow up in Anadarko and Lawton, Oklahoma.
But Hunter’s major focus is on that strip of historically lawless land along the Arkansas-Oklahoma border. Evidently, there is no shortage of “bad seeds” in that area. It’s a land where the Boss Hoggs are in control and think nothing of eliminating those who get in their way. The law is just something to be manipulated, life is cheap and, when not granted, sexual favors are taken. Seems like there was a President from over that way.
While the school-age shooters must be punished – as a deterrent more than anything else – society should also look at the root causes of these outrageous behaviors. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to rid us of bullies. But as long as school officials and parents tolerate the behavior of bullies, we can expect to see and hear more gunfire in our schools.
William Hamilton is a nationally syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today.
©2000. William Hamilton.