Baumhower: An open letter to school bulliesWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | email@example.com
What’s your favorite part of the day besides sleeping or playing video games? Is it going to school? Is it checking Facebook or Twitter? Is it riding the bus? For some kids, going to school, checking social media or even riding the bus is their least favorite part and it’s not because of the homework or the learning — it’s because of someone like you.
I was born with a gift to make others laugh. When I went to school I was always the class clown, the life of a normally boring classroom. From classmates to teachers, my one-liners often entertained those in shouting distance during my academic years. I even developed special relationships with the various principals and deans, when I was sent to their offices for these outbursts. Most of them knew me by name, smiled upon my arrival and chuckled as to why I was sent. I have somehow made a career out of being a class clown — it’s called morning radio.
But there was a dark side of my “comedy” when I was younger, one of the things I am still ashamed of. I made fun of and in my words “picked on” certain classmates, in a very ruthless way and I did it for years.
The bus ride home from school was my venue, my open mic to make my classmates laugh. The laughs were not generated by me telling jokes, practicing some “stand up” or doing “slap stick.” I got my chuckles and attention by making fun of other kids. I’ve since accepted the term that most accurately described my behavior, “bullying.”
I was a bully.
At the time I had no idea I was one. TV had taught me that bullies gave other kids wedgies, flushed their heads in toilets and took lunch money. I was not Nelson Muntz or Scut Farkus. I never punched anyone. I never put my hands on anyone in an aggressive way. I was oblivious to how words can hurt more than fists.
My bullying was so “funny” that it made other kids completely stop riding the bus and walk to school instead. Think about that for a second. My “jokes” were so mean they made other kids so miserable, so hurt, that they chose to walk three-to-four miles to and from school, just to avoid being in my eyesight. During our five-minute bus rides, I would make fun of a kid for how he dressed, for how they sucked at gym class, for any obvious weakness I would spot. I would parody names in an very unflattering way. I was the king of making acne-related jokes; my clearasil references were my comedic home runs. In retrospect I wasn’t funny; I was an a**hole.
I am not a bad guy. I believe I have a good heart. I was young and had no idea nor understanding of the damage I was doing. I did not comprehend that every joke I made at someone’s expense took a piece of my victim’s self-confidence with each laugh.
Some people say “High school is the best four years of your life.” I made that saying not true for many people.
If you are a kid who enjoys making others laugh and you use fellow students as punch lines, please stop. You are a bully. If you think you’re funny and really love entertaining people with your comedy, write your jokes down on paper, study the craft, watch professional comedians. If you play basketball, consider it the same as practicing foul shots. Instead of making fun of fellow classmates, use celebrities like Justin Bieber, the Kardashians or Miley Cyrus and current events for your material. Twitter is a great starting point for you to share your comedic wit and build an audience. I have never read about someone being discovered by a talent agent while riding a school bus.
When you punch someone it often leaves a mark, a bruise. Normally after a couple of days bruises disappear. Our type of bullying leaves a not-so-obvious sign of abuse and that take years to heal.
I’m not your teacher, I am not your parent … I am your future. I am haunted by the thought of what my bullying has done to certain classmates’ lives. Did my jokes rob them of enough self-confidence to keep them from pursuing their dreams, or rob them of the courage to ask their potential soulmate out?
I read the obituaries every day praying I do not see certain names of my past punch lines.
As bullying has evolved to incorporate Facebook and Twitter attacks, victims are no longer have an escape. It is constant. This is why we are seeing so many young people committing suicide, like the 12 year-old Florida girl, Rebecca Sedwick. Rebecca was teased, picked on and made fun of so much she decided to kill herself. She ended her own life because of words being said to and about her.
Can you imagine how it would feel to have someone you picked on take their own life? Bullying is the drunk driving of middle school. It’s preventable and can lead to innocent people’s lives ending.
You can stop any time, so why not right now? Please stop today.
To Cory, Tara and any other victim of my “comedy”…
I am incredibly sorry.
Email Jeremy Baumhower at firstname.lastname@example.org.