Tag Archives: bullies

Empathy

Go ahead. Criticize this comic. I dare you.

Go ahead. Criticize this comic. I dare you. Your opinion means nothing to me. Unless you like it, in which case your opinion means everything.

Usually, I don’t use people’s real names in my comics out of respect for their privacy, but in this case, I feel the need to write the name. If, by some magical coincidence, that dude recognizes himself as the perpetrator and wants to apologize for the 3 years of hell through which he put my vulnerable, pre-adolescent self, he’s welcome to step up. I get that I was an annoying kid, that I was weird and a know-it-all and and a tomboy, that I dressed all wrong and didn’t comb my hair enough and had zero ability to read social cues. So you know what would have been cool, if you found me so terrible? Leaving me the hell alone. Not calling me names, not encouraging everyone else to call me names, and definitely not punching me in the face on the school bus. I can attest that it actually does not kill you to be compassionate toward people you don’t like. I do it all the time and have not yet died from it. Sometimes, if you’re really compassionate, you can offer them a few words that may actually help them become less odious. Sometimes people really don’t know what they’re doing wrong, and they could use a little help.

But we still get people like the ones in panel 6, who go around justifying their own jerkiness with circular reasoning. You know how you could stop bullying? By not being a bully. It’s so simple. If it’s not simple to you, then guess what: you are what is referred to in popular parlance as a sociopath. Unless you actually believe that you’re the only real human being in the world and other people are merely set pieces for your drama, you can reduce the amount of suffering in the world by not causing it. Don’t hurt other people to make yourself feel better.

Obviously, there are always going to be narcissists, but we have a choice. We can bow down to the tiny percentage of cruel humans out of fear that we might be singled out as the next target, or we can stand up to tyranny by protecting those who have less power, because there are actually more nice people than horrible ones, and there is power in numbers. We don’t have to fight. All it takes is a few kind, honest words. If today’s kids get anti-bullying lessons (i.e. are taught empathy and compassion) then maybe tomorrow’s adults can fix the terror of a world that wants us to believe that might makes right and that self-esteem is a zero sum game where you can only win by taking from someone else.

I’m not thin-skinned, but bullying is just another form of abuse, and like all abuse, it leaves its mark. It’s an indelible trauma. Yes, it will happen, but no, we can’t ever normalize it. The crimes of childhood have to be forgiven, because children’s brains aren’t done yet, but for adults to condone awful behavior is not forgivable.

Having grown into my dragonhood, I’m over my childhood, but I’m never to going to be over the childhoods of people who are still children. I’m never going to stop protecting people from monsters.

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Dragon Comics 59

The real-life girl was promoting the idea of giving the cartoon girl a flame thrower in panel 4, but I feel that negates the message of the comic.

The real-life girl was promoting the idea of giving the comic girl a flamethrower in panel 4, but I feel that negates the message of the comic.

People who meet me as an adult don’t necessarily believe that I am a true introvert, and many of them are surprised to learned that I was, for many years, a friendless outcast silently suffering an endless campaign of bullying. I was one of those super-hated kids who got it from both sides, the boys and the girls, in public school and Hebrew school, physical and emotional, and furthermore, there were a couple teachers who I felt were pretty mean for no good reason. Sure, I was probably an insufferable know-it-all who talked about weird and esoteric topics and didn’t realize that others judged me on my external appearance, but what I really would have liked was to be left alone. Like many super-nerds, I made it to college (I graduated high school early and started college literally 2 weeks later; that’s how desperate I was to get out, even though the bullying subsided by sophomore year), worked out some social skills, and suddenly found that the haters were in the minority and I was a relatively well-liked dragon.

Still and all, when the girl started complaining that she was being bullied in school, I suffered a couple weeks of PTSD with her. When I was a kid, there was no response to bullying from school administrations. I doubt they could have done much; when 50% of the 7th grade is involved in perpetrating terror, it’s not like they’re all just going to stop because you tell them. Once, a boy punched me in the nose on the school bus and my mother called his mother, which had no effect on his behavior, and there was nothing else to do. That’s not the case now. Most schools brag about their zero-tolerance policy for bullying, and while anyone who knows anything about children can roll their eyes with the knowledge that adults can’t keep a promise like that, at least they actually try.

Ben’s Bells is a beloved Tucson institution, working toward the goal of strengthening communities through kindness awareness. They have a lot of programs, and offer effective kindness education to schools in the region. Most school participate, include the girl’s. When the bullying began, her parents and I tried to offer her some tools for standing up for herself and getting away from her tormentor, but she wasn’t able to wield them effectively, so I contacted her teacher, who immediately brought several administrators on board, sent the girls to the school’s dedicated kindness counselor (can you imagine? how different would life have been 30 years ago?), and immediately ended the problem. Just like that.

So, I didn’t give the girl a flamethrower, because you don’t have to fight fire with fire. It’s actually more effective to overwhelm it with water: compassion.

What are you doing, Dragon? Part 2

OK, I lied yesterday. This is at least a 3-part comic. Maybe longer. Apparently I can get away with whatever it is I’m doing here, because yesterday was this blog’s best-ever day for page views.

Yeah, the snake's sort of a jerk.

Yeah, the snake’s sort of a jerk. We’ve all met the snake. 

So: conflict! Is Dragon just going to lie down and take this crap? Can she retaliate? Who let that snake in, anyway? Come back tomorrow for more answers.