#WATWB – Your Monthly Shot Of News That Doesn’t Suck

Back in the day, when I was a wee lad in school, I caught a lot of shit from jocks because of my weight. While it only came to blows a few times (including an epic arm twist by yours truly), it was a constant problem. What jackass is going to pull my pants down today or try to beat me up so his buddies will think he’s cool? On and on and on. To this day, if I ever ran across one of my tormentors, I’d have to struggle with myself to not smash his smirking face in.

And therein lies the real danger with bullying. The physical injuries usually heal up pretty quickly, but the mental injuries stick around for a very long time. Forever in some cases.

My son’s school – and apparently most of the schools in the country – have taken a zero-tolerance approach to bullying. Bully someone and you’re done. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars. Get your things and get the hell out.

This is a good thing. Also, it’s a good thing that seems to be working. According to the Harvard Medical School, fewer teens (ages 12-18) are reporting being bullied. In fact, the number is down by a full third. So, either the bullies have become so successful that no one wants to rat them out or bullying has become so intolerable that fewer people are engaging in it. I guess it’s also possible that kids who were once bullied are fighting back.

The very last time I took a bully to task was after he jumped me from behind. I flipped him over my shoulder and told him in no uncertain terms that if he ever messed with me again I would kill him. Understand, this was a heat of the moment kind of thing when I was just a kid, so I wouldn’t have actually killed him, but bullies are dumb and weak and he believed me. For the rest of the year, every time that kid saw me, he took off in the opposite direction.

For those of you less inclined to resort to violence and threats, the world at least seems to be changing for the better. It shouldn’t hurt to be a kid and you definitely shouldn’t have to put up with dumbass jocks shaking your down for your lunch money.

Read Harvard Medical School’s post here and feel a little better.

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Our co-hosts for the month are the lovely and talented:
Sylvia McGrath, Sylvia Stein, Shilpa Garg, Eric Lahti and Belinda Witzenhausen

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And now, your moment of Zen.

Book Review – Joshua’s Island by Patrick Hodges

Normally I don’t go in for YA fiction, and Joshua’s Island is YA with a capital Y, meaning the characters are primarily in 8th grade. But the subject matter captured my attention and my son is heading toward that same age-range. I also caught no small amount of crap from some of the bullies in my Junior High, although my experience was nowhere near Joshua’s level. I was big enough to be a threat so there wasn’t as much beating up so much as a few guys threatening to beat me up.

The scars from those experiences run deep. Deep enough that if I ever meet those guys again it will be a serious temptation to introduce them to the inner mysteries of Kenpo. I won’t do it, I’m sure. Partly because it wouldn’t do any good to demonstrate just how much fun a dislocated shoulder or broken ribs can be, but also because there’s little chance I’ll ever come across them again.

Still, I know I can handle them if the situation should ever occur, and that’s a warm feeling.

Bullying has become an ever larger deal recently. This is due, I’m sure, to the fact that a lot of people had to deal with it when they were growing up. The bullies themselves have moved on to selling used cars or door-to-door life insurance and picking fights in dive bars. But no matter how miserable the bullies wound up, the fact that it happened at all is still a serious issue and, fortunately, schools appear to be taking it seriously. Finally.

Joshua, the titular character in Joshua’s Island is small enough that there’s no way he can handle himself against three larger kids. Truth be told, I don’t care good you are, three on one is not good odds. His bullying went far beyond anything most of us will ever have to deal with – to the point that the bullies basically ruined his life for years by spreading vicious lies and beating him up regularly.

If you recall what 8th grade is like, when the popular kids say something everyone takes it as fact. No matter how ludicrous it is. When you turn your back on those same popular kids, they can get pretty nasty and use their power to turn the rest of the school against you. When you couple this primal need for power with an administration that just flat out doesn’t care, bad things start happening with alarming frequency.

There is no one, simple answer to the bullying issue, and Patrick’s novel takes that into account. It would be easy to say Joshua just met his aggressors, one by one, in a dark alley with a lead pipe, but that’s simply not realistic. Joshua takes his licks and keeps going, year after soul-crushing year. Until he finally meets one person who takes the time to look through the lies and see the scared kiddo hiding underneath the veneer of falsehoods. Eve, ultimately, is his savior. It’s also fair to say, in many ways, that Eve has her own bullying to deal with. Although Eve’s attacks are less physical than Joshua’s, they’re no less devastating. Together, Eve and Joshua find a safe place of sorts and their relationship buds in the way that 8th grade relationships tend to bud.

Joshua’s Island is not always an easy story to read, but it’s an important one and it should be read and the lessons should be taken to heart. Unfortunately, the people that really need to be reading it – the bullies of the world – will never read it or, likely, understand it.

Fortunately, for those people, we still have dark alleys and lead pipes.

joshuasisland

Get your copy on Amazon

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