Posts tagged with: violence
In this year’s Oscar telecast, host Seth MacFarlane started off strong, bantering with “Captain Kirk” actor William Shatner, but quickly lost ground with so-called jokes that were nothing more than sexism and racism. To make room for that, the Jaws theme was played to cut off award winners mid-speech.
As the evening went on, I kind of wished someone would cut Seth off.
Watching my Twitter feed during the telecast showed most viewers were of the same opinion – that MacFarlane’s misogny wasn’t funny at all. But there were some who thought it was great fun to hop on that train and bash people one tweet at a time.
Favorite target? Kristen Stewart. Thousands of tweets insulting everything about her from her lack of facial expression to her need for a hairbrush. I’m sure everyone thought they were being funny. But imagine being Kristen and reading thousands of hate messages like this. I don’t care how secure you think you are, that kind of negativity weighs on you. Let me point out the obvious – most of you are not directors, so your opinions on her acting skills don’t really matter, do they?
And that was merely the beginning. It got worse.
Let’s trash the dresses! Let’s make fun of the hairstyles! Let’s call nine-year-olds vile names and make her the butt of a Clooney joke. Let’s sing about boobs – including the ones seen when somebody hacked a phone – classy. Very classy.
Here’s a series of tweets that says it all from author Kari Dell:
My take on award show hosting, for what it’s worth: we tell our kids, “Don’t be bullies, don’t be cruel.”
Then we have someone get up in front of a huge audience and make very cruel, very personal jokes and call it humor.
Then we’re all flabbergasted by what kids will put on Facebook. Mixed messages, much?
Which only proves we never grow out of being bullies. We just dress it up as wit.
In the week after the Oscar telecast, Anderson Cooper ran a special called The Bully Effect, which follows up on the stories first introduced by Lee Hirsch in his documentary called BULLY. Bullying awareness is at an all-time high due to coverage like this, but bullying itself? I think it’s worse than ever because Kari is right – we send mixed messages and then call it wit. We tell kids to be nice and treat people as we’d like to be treated, but then watch TV shows where people are humiliated as ‘entertainment.’ Everybody from chef Gordon Ramsay to American Idol judges, fake ‘real’ housewives, and probably the worst offender of all, The Bachelor/Bachelorette. Let’s tell movie and TV producers we’ve had enough humiliation.
I’m going to propose something radical here – The Academy Awards don’t need jokes. No jokes! Seriously. I’d love to see an Oscar ceremony that’s an homage to the magic of movies, the talent of the writers, actors, and crews. Bring in an elegant host, a gentleman or a truly elegant woman. Patrick Stewart, Julie Andrews, for example. Focus on the craft. That’s why I watch. Without ridiculous I Saw Your Boobs songs, perhaps there would be more time to spotlight why the nominees were honored in the first place. Give us more behind-the-scenes insight. The entire Oscar production is a peer award system. So let’s actually hear from the peers… how amazing would it be to see a clip of Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson telling us what she thinks of Adele’s Skyfall theme or Jack Nicholson talk about Bradley Cooper’s performance? Think about that for a moment.
According to host Seth MacFarlane, this year’s telecast actually did have a theme. I think it was supposed to be the musical. I propose that next year’s show have this theme:
It happened again.
On Monday, I nearly lost my friend Bill Cameron when a gunman opened fire at the Clackamas Mall in Oregon. Barely four days later, the entire world was sickened over the deaths of elementary school children — babies — sitting in their classroom in Connecticut.
How many times has it happened? How many more times will it happen before anything changes?
I spent most of yesterday sobbing in front of my television, trying to answer why. And then author Gayle Forman posted this:
The WHY has always confounded me. What makes people snap? And why, when they do so, do they take it out on innocent people? The New York Times has an interesting article on rampage killers that I read (thanks to Kristina Martin for posting the link) and realized Gayle is right — screw the why. Killing in any form — heat of the moment, rampage, whatever — it will never make sense to anyone but the killer.
The HOW on the other hand — that’s what we need to address and fast. I’m going to piss off a lot people, including the gun-loving members of my own family, but guns are a big part of the HOW. Our country grants citizens the right to bear arms. Okay. Why? Let’s discuss the WHY here — for hunting? For self-defense? For shooting the tails off squirrels because it’s fun? Why does the average citizen NEED a gun? Better question — why does the average citizen need semi-automatic ones?
I’ve heard all the old songs — guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Or my personal favorite — people can murder with cars — should we ban them? That argument is stupid — cars are not weapons. Any object can be mis-used and turned into a weapon. But guns have only one intended purpose. Guns are designed to kill the most targets with minimal effort.
This is why they appear to be the preferred weapon of the rampage killer.
I want to point something out to people who oppose stronger gun control laws — the Second Amendment is not the only right that exists in this country. We also have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet citizens can’t shop in a mall, can’t see a movie, and can’t even attend kindergarten classes safely due to a large extent to the ease with which guns can be obtained.
If you like guns, if you own guns, and enjoy exercising that right, why aren’t you outraged by that? Why aren’t you the first one to fight for stronger laws so that your right isn’t affected? Instead of arguing for rights when people are burying their children, why aren’t you grieving along side them, and working with elected officials to stop the carnage?
Here’s what I think we should do.
First, if you want to own guns, I think you should be federally licensed. A license — not a permit — that includes mandatory training and psychiatric evaluations that must be renewed periodically so that I and the rest of the nation can be assured you’re not the next rampage killer.
Second, if you own a gun and your gun somehow finds its way into the hands of someone who uses it to kill, you should be arrested and charged as an accomplice in that crime. I see little to no accountability in most of the stories of massacres. The Columbine killers took weapons from one teen’s grandfather. The Connecticut shooter stole his guns from his mother and used them to kill her, as well. Why was that so easy?
Third, we need to do a much better job of evaluating mental health and providing solutions to families that know they have a problem on their hands — for example, a child with a diagnosed disorder who refuses to take his medication, or a child with uncontrollable rage. In many of the studied rampage killings, the signs were there. They were either ignored or simply not recognized as such. Read this story to understand my position.
I don’t pretend any of this is going to be easy. But it’s certainly easier than facing twenty parents to tell them their five-year-old is dead.
In the wake of the Connecticut tragedy, Twitter lit up with expressions of sympathy, prayers, well wishes from people who support tougher laws. But you know what I saw from those who oppose tighter restrictions? Whining. Nothing but “Oh, here we go again! All the crazies will want to take away our guns.” There was only one person in my Twitter feed who said, “I’d gladly give up my guns if it would bring back one of those children.” Why aren’t gun owners the first among us to stand up and demand tougher laws that ensure guns stop falling into the hands of the wrong people?
On September 11th, terrorists turned four jet airplanes into weapons. Yes, it’s true that no one demanded that we outlaw the airplane. However, I stand by my earlier argument — an airplane was not designed to be a weapon. No one anticipated that attack. A gun was intended to be used to kill. Further, weren’t widespread changes immediately enacted to ensure that can’t happen again? Airlines installed bars on cockpit doors, put air marshals on flights, expanded the TSA, and even made you take off your shoes to board. We’ve sacrificed many rights — chief among them was our right to privacy — to continue airline travel and guess what? The world didn’t end.
We can certainly do more, a lot more, to toughen up the gun laws and make it damn hard for anybody BUT the people who enjoy their second amendment rights to own one. Tougher laws are working in every other country, so they’ll work here when our elected leaders finally stand up and act.
This scene from the end of SEND was the original confrontation between Dan and Jeff. It was cut during revisions for a few reasons — chiefly, because my editor suggested it was too violent and also because the Big Reveal here needed to come from a main character, not a secondary one, to advance the plot.
“Dan! Wait up.”
Paul’s face was tight, pale. By the time he jogged over, he was panting. “It’s Dean, man. He’s coming for you. Now. I already called the cops.”
I frowned at Paul’s news. It shouldn’t surprise me and it didn’t, not really. I think I was more deflated than surprised. I’d really hoped Jeff Dean would understand, would stop before he got himself so deep into trouble, he couldn’t escape it. Like me.
Kenny was instantly by my side. “Dude, heads up.”
I turned, saw Dean and his pals coming for me. He nudged one of his pals and jerked his head toward me. It was a look I’d seen many times while I served my time. Alpha dog just gave the pack the command to flank and prepare for attack.
“Paul? Head inside, find the principal. Fast.”
Paul whirled, followed my gaze and shook his head. “Not leaving you.”
“I know how to handle this, Paul, you don’t. Get inside.”
Paul ignored me. “Lisa, you go.”
She hurried into the school’s main entrance.
The four boys tried to look intimidating as they approached me. You almost have to admire their nerve.
“Move away from Paul.” Kenny reminded me. “They’ll use him against you.”
I took a few steps and angled my body to protect Paul, if necessary, watching as three of the boys hung back, making way for their leader. The kids I’d dubbed Buzz and Zoolander weren’t with him today. I didn’t recognize these goons; probably team mates.
“Dude,” Kenny jerked his head toward Jeff’s right arm, “blade up the sleeve.”
I noted the stiff posture, the unnatural swing, and my lips twitched. Did he really think he might get the jump on me, a seasoned veteran? I quickly shrugged out of my hoodie, leaving my left arm in the sleeve.
You learned to use whatever you could to protect yourself in juvey.
“Hey, guys. How’s it going?” I forced my lips to curve up.
“You know, it was a shitty day,” Jeff said conversationally,” and now it’s gonna get a whole lot better, once I tell you what we just heard.”
My ears prickled. I knew Jeff Dean was trying to play me, but the way his eyes drilled into me – through me – made me stand up and take notice. I feigned disinterest. “There isn’t much you can say that I’d care to hear – except maybe an apology to Brandon for terrorizing him.”
Jeff waved his hand like even the mention of Brandon’s name was a little mosquito buzzing around his head. “Oh, you definitely won’t want to hear this. It’s not good news. Danny. Which is why my day just got a whole lot better.”
I didn’t miss the way he emphasized my name. He knows. Holy God, he knows. The blood clotted in my veins. I hardly noticed the step he took toward me.
“Head in the game, moron!” Kenny’s mental slap woke me.
“Like I said. I don’t care.” I shrugged and then he lunged, the blade tucked up his sleeve suddenly gripped in his hand. With my right hand, I clutched the empty sleeve of my jacket in front of me, and stretched the fabric taut, like a shield. When he thrust the knife at me, I wound the cloth around his arm, and whipped his arm behind his back. I ignored his grunt of pain and twisted his thumb to bend his wrist until he dropped the knife and just to make my point, I cranked his shoulder a bit. When one of his pals took a menacing step, I cranked it again until he yelped loudly.
“Stop there, or I’ll break his arm.” I said, my voice steady. Astonished, I realized I was calm, unfrightened. Concerned, yes, but no longer frightened. His pals froze, exchanging what-the-hell-do-we-do-now glances.
While Jeff’s arm was twisted uncomfortably behind his back, I figured I had a captive – haha- audience. Kenny whistled. “Not bad, man. Couldn’t have done better myself. Okay, now do it. Break his arm, come on!”
Shut up, Kenny. I thought.
“Okay, Jeff. Here’s what’s gonna happen. Before you make another dangerous mistake, I’m gonna do you a favor. I want you to take a good look at me. See the muscle, Jeff? It’s not for show. It’s real. I’ve broken arms before on others who’ve tried to do what you just tried to do and they came at me with a lot more than a few light weights who think playing XBox games can actually prepare them for a real fight. So, think carefully, Jeff.” I tightened my grip on him to make my point. He sucked in a breath but didn’t cry out. “You can keep coming after me and I can break your arm here-“ I put pressure on his elbow. “And here.” And more pressure on his shoulder. He grunted in pain. “And then I’ll do the same thing to them. And after they put your arm back together, they’ll send you to juvey, Jeff, just like me. Or, you can let it go right now and I’ll make sure the police know you cooperated when they arrest you. Should be here in about a minute or so. Pretty sure someone already called them.”
“You’re the one who’s gonna get arrested. You touched me. You’re on the list. You’re a convicted sex offender and you’re not allowed to lay hands on a kid – I’m still seventeen. I looked it up. They’re gonna send you back now.” He panted, still fighting my hold, still pumped full of self-righteous gas.
Paul was within hearing distance of the sex offender part and didn’t budge from my side. I was grateful.
“Not exactly. I can’t touch you without an invitation. You invited me, when you came at me with a knife. It’s called self defense. Maybe you should have looked that up.” I grinned and twisted his arm a bit harder. “Oh, they’re gonna love you inside.”
His eyes widened a bit, but he gave no other indication he was scared.
I heard footsteps running toward us. I didn’t have to look; the guys’ faces told me it was the cavalry.
“Break it up. Let him go. Mr. Dean. Put your hands up. Now.”
Mr. Morris was there with two security guards, one holding a metal detector. A siren wailed in the distance, and the panic mounted on the kids’ faces.
“I didn’t do anything! He attacked me!”
“Then you won’t mind putting your hands up, will you?”
The security guards approached and flanked the boys. I released my hold on Jeff and he rubbed his arm, staring at me. The siren drew closer. Jeff’s eyes burned with such hatred, I almost shuddered. His pals weren’t so tough. They already had their hands on their heads.
Later, as I watched the police cruiser took off with Jeff handcuffed in the back seat, I knew all eyes were on me; I could feel them burning into my back.
“Wah.” Kenny said.
Shut up. I am SO not in the mood.
“So stop whining then. This is your life. Get used to it.”
Paul first, I decided. He’d stood by my side, knowing what Jeff Dean was capable of, knowing what I am. He could have walked. Hell, he could have switched sides. I squared my shoulders, pulled in a deep breath, and prepared to lose a friend.
He twitched at the sound of my voice, turned to look at me.
“Can I talk to you for a minute?”
He nodded, his face slack, and followed me off to the edge of the crowd that had formed.
“You heard what Jeff Dean said.” It wasn’t a question. I already knew he had.
He nodded and I sucked in another breath but it wasn’t doing much to stop me from sliding deep into that well of shame inside me.
“It’s the truth, man. I am on the list.” I shoved my hands into my pockets and stared at the ground. “So. If it makes you uncomfortable and you don’t want to – or you can’t – I um, I get it, okay? I wouldn’t hold it against you.”
He didn’t move, so I nodded and took a step away.
I turned around.
“What did you do?” He shut his eyes and I saw his hands curl into fists. He was disgusted, I could tell. “Did you… rape somebody?”
“No!” I answered, appalled. “I got nailed for distributing porn.”
His eyes shot open and his lip curled. “Come on.”
“No, really. I posted a half-naked picture of a kid in my gym class on the internet.”
He angled his head and snickered. “That’s it. That’s all you did and they put you on the list for it?”
He shook his head. “I had no idea that was illegal. Jesus, I’ve done that, dude. I sent this girl a picture of me once and I could have-“
“Yeah. You could have.”
Now that he knew I wasn’t a deranged rapist, Paul seemed to be cool with me having a sex offense on my record, but I had to be sure. “Paul, there’s more. I have to ask you for something. If you can’t do this, I need you to tell me right now because I’d have to make plans.”
His eyebrows knitted together but he nodded.
“I need to ask that you not tell anybody. When people find out about the list, they freak. And they take it out on my parents. Rocks through the window, slashed tires. People even spit on my mother at the supermarket. We’d have to move again, if you… you know, can’t deal with this.”
Paul stared at me, his jaw clenched. “Dan’s not your real name, is it.”
I hesitated a moment and shook my head, waiting for him to run away, screaming.
Instead, he held out his hand. “Dan. I’ll keep your secret.”
I shook his hand, grinning like a fool. “Great. That’s um… “
“Great. You said that.”
“I know, it’s just– you don’t know what it’s like. Being friends with me, I mean. People will turn on you when this gets out.” And it will get out. It was just a matter of time.
SQUEE! ! ! !
Please forgive the abuse of exclamation points but SEND HAS A COVER AND IT’S THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING EVAH!
Do you love it?!? Tell me you love it. Lie to me if you must.
It’s really happening. My precious is A REAL BOOK! *happy dance*
I um… *coughs*… went a little overboard and created a video cover reveal. Sincerest thanks to Abby Mumford and Laurie Boyle Crompton for sending me SEND pics and to the GENIUS at Sourcebooks. You guys are ROCK STARS!
Also did a playlist of Dan’s favorite songs — and the songs Kenny would play to annoy him. Apologies: I messed up the sizing and can’t figure out how to fix it. There are about 14 songs total; just hover at the bottom of the list.
My Bookhungry book club formed over a year ago around The Hunger Games book – in fact, it was our first book review. So, what better tribute (ha ha, pun intended) than to review the movie? Warning! Spoilers ahead.
We saw the movie during its opening weekend and discussed it. I took my son even though he’d seen it on opening night.
Brief aside: Karla, Abby, and Kelly, thank you so much for letting my son join our discussion. He really enjoyed talking to all of you.
As a book club member and an author, you can well imagine what a book worm I am. It’s not often a movie adaptation pleases me. The Twilight movies kinda sucked… pretty boys to look at notwithstanding. The Harry Potter movies were excellent, as were The Lord of the Rings… but even still, there is usually so much story slashed out of the scripts that the movies suffer.
I did not find that to be true for The Hunger Games. This movie remained very true to the book.
My son and I talked about the groups of people who would see this movie. In one group, there are the book fans – The Purists. This is the group that read all three books and fell in love with the story, the characters, before a movie studio executive even heard about them. The Purists are a movie’s harshest audience. Then, you’ve got your After-The-Fact Readers. This is the group that will pick up the book after they’ve seen the movie, only because it was a movie. They’re usually easy to please. And last, you’ve got your Movie-Only people who have no interest in books at all. This group is also hard to please because the movie has to stand on its own merits so that they understand all the nuances and character flaws and subplots as they’re portrayed on screen with no inside hints.
I classify myself as a Purist.
When I learned about movie plans, I worried. Please God, don’t let it be another Twilight. I LOVE the Twilight books; I’ve read them all more than once. But the movie? Meh, even though it had Robert Pattinson. (I’m a big fan!) When the cast of The Hunger Games was announced, I was immediately pleased. Jennifer Lawrence was nominated for an Academy Award for her last role so YIPEE! our Katniss can act. As for Peeta and Gale, I was less concerned with the final selections for their roles because for me, the movie — like the book it was based on — is all about Katniss. I am neither Team Gale nor Team Peeta… I didn’t really care who she ended up with – only that she survived.
Purists understand Katniss is a strong, brave, determined and fiercely loyal girl. We also understand she’s a teenager. This is a tough balancing act – creating a hero who is at once brave but afraid, strong but vulnerable, tough but kind. Jennifer Lawrence couldn’t BE more perfect in this role. I had to clap a hand over my mouth to prevent my sobs from disturbing other theater-goers during The Reaping scene. I’d already forgotten she was an actor – to me, she WAS Katniss, protecting her sister. But the most potent scene in the movie was in the moments before Katniss must enter the tube that will transport her to the game arena. She talks to Cinna, quivering in her shoes, and can barely speak. Her tension and fear were so palpable, I wasn’t at all surprised to discover I was also shaking and struggling to breathe.
The movie did the book proud. The scenes where the movie deviated from the book worked well. The book is told in Katniss’s first person POV but the movie treated us to the Game Makers’ behind-the-scenes strategizing, which further drives home the Capitol’s horrifying persecution of the very people that support it. However, for the Movie-Only crowd, I’m afraid some of the subtleties were lost, like why Katniss’s mother is so unemotional, or why Haymitch is barely sober. There were a few glaring issues for me – first is that Katniss used the wrong hand to salute Rue after her death. The three-kissed-fingers salute uses the left hand according to the book, yet she used her right. But overall, the deviations didn’t detract from the story. As proof, read Kelly’s review: her husband has not read the books but found the movie enjoyable in its own right.
If forced to find fault, I’d pick the shaky cam action — it actually made me ill. And also, the lack of on-screen violence. Remember, this is a horribly violent story. Kids are competing to the death and they do die. But the battles were pretty sanitized in order to win that PG13 rating. Some members of the team thought it was better to force us to imagine these gruesome ends instead of witness them. I agree, but I do think we should have seen at least the survivors’ reactions to these deaths. Twenty-four enter but only one leaves. This has GOT to be a terrifying thing to know. To support my argument, the scene where Rue catches a spear through the stomach is out-freakin’-standing… one of the most well-acted and poignant moments in a movie for me.
Like the book before it, I give the Hunger Games movie three kissed fingers of the LEFT hand and a standing O.
Please read the rest of the Bookhungry reviews:
We’re six months away from the release of my novel, SEND, a story about a former bully learning to cope with the suicide he caused when he was thirteen. When I began writing SEND, the plot was made up — born partly from my own fears as a mother of teens and partly from an overactive imagination. Today, however, my plot is a statistic, as headline after headline announces yet another tragic end to a life spent tortured by teens who hijacked technology to maximize their victims’ suffering.
You can imagine my joy upon reading this uplifting article about two young men in Colorado who used technology to stop a suicide. A friend sent me the link last weekend, during a time when I swore bad news was circling me like vultures over a freshly-dead carcass. Instead of using social networks and cell phones to torment kids, these young men recognized the signs of an imminent tragedy and did whatever they could to prevent it.
Yes, they did prevent it.
Teens Turned Community Activists
I had the enormous privilege of speaking directly to Danny Manes, 17, and Gary Ramirez, 20, the subjects profiled in the article. Together, Danny and Gary recently launched a website called Hopeline4Teens, where they (along with their partner, Cheyenne) offer advice to teens on any issues troubling them. Suicide, sexuality, rape – no topic is off-limits. Even parents can request advice if they feel powerless to deal with a teen struggling through a problem.
Danny and Gary are two guys on a mission to help others. When I asked them why they do this work, I expected to hear trite things like “It’s the right thing to do.” Instead, Danny surprised me with two stories. First, he told me about the many suicides – plural – that left his Colorado community reeling with loss and pain. I’m in my mid-forties and I don’t know anyone who’s committed suicide; by 17, Danny has already faced such loss more than once. He’s now committed to ensuring other teens do not. If that’s not enough of a reason, how’s this: Danny admitted that in seventh grade, he was a bully; teasing a classmate because everyone else was. When it escalated to a fist fight and Danny understood how deeply he hurt this boy, he decided, “That’s not who I want to be.”
Gary contemplated suicide himself after suffering through some heavy issues. Though he is not gay, he was bullied because classmates said he was. Around this same time, he also lost his grandmother and suffered a series of anxiety attacks that required anti-depressants to correct. “I know exactly what it’s like to feel that low. I’m living proof that it gets better. That you can be happy again. I have a job. I train (Gary enjoys mixed martial arts) and compete in grappling tournaments.”
Sincerity rings in every word. But I wondered if the boys worry about saying the wrong thing, or doing something that makes a situation worse. Turns out they’re already addressing those worries. “We know we can’t save everyone,” Danny admitted. “We’re working with our local suicide prevention hotline. They’re giving us professional training.” In fact, Danny and Gary may soon answer calls on the hotline’s Teen Line as well as operate their website. “Teens live online.” Danny said. “They, especially the guys, prefer to text and blog and message instead of talk directly, so they can hide their pain.”
I can’t help wondering if SOPA and PIPA would block Danny and Gary from connecting with teens who need help — or hope.
I mentioned a recent Rolling Stone article in which a suicide outbreak took nine lives in a community where religious extremism created a vehemently anti-gay environment. Gary told me, “That makes my blood boil. I was bullied because people said I was gay even though I’m not. There’s no reason for this discrimination – it’s 2012. I have gay friends and there’s no problem with that. People need to know it’s okay to be friends with gay people even if you’re not gay. People need to stop being afraid.”
How Does Hopeline4Teens Work?
If you’re a teen, go to the tumblr site and post your problem. It’s completely anonymous. All Danny and Gary ask for is your age and gender. You can ask for Danny or Gary by name, but most problems are routed depending on the issue. Danny was once a bully; Gary was horribly bullied. Danny knows the pain that suicide causes; Gary nearly took his own life. The guys instinctively know who’s better suited to handle certain problems. “Danny is pretty religious, so he handles any problems relating to that. I want to reach out to the gay community.” Gary said. “Even parents can ask for our help dealing with a teen they don’t know how to handle.” You can chat on Facebook or call a private line, depending on your needs. “Girls might feel more comfortable dealing with Cheyenne.” Gary added.
If any advisor feels he or she can’t give you the help you need, they’ll refer you to experts who can. “We won’t just tell you what you want to hear.” Gary said. “We’ll give you the reality check.”
How Can I Help?
My son, also 17, asked me to ask how he could get started helping out. “Just do it.” Danny answered. “Nobody knows what they’re capable of until they begin.” Gary added, “If your heart is in it, the rest is easy.”
For an author whose novel focuses on the negative side of the internet, I am hugely impressed by these young people who showed us its positive side and hope readers will see them as examples worthy of emulation.
Do you know any teens doing extraordinary things? Tell me about them.
If you’re a teen or a parent of a teen who needs advice, here’s how you can contact Danny or Gary:
UPDATED MARCH 13, 2012. Hopeline4Teens is changing its name to ENCOURAGE THE YOUTH. SOME LINKS BELOW REDIRECT AUTOMATICALLY, BUT OTHERS DO NOT. PLEASE BEAR WITH ME WHILE I FIND THE NEW LINKS.
The following blog post was written by my oldest son, Rob, and pre-empts this weekend’s usual chocolate post because the subject is too important to trivialize. I warn you – this is not easy to read and as Rob’s mother, I promise you, it’s even harder to bear because each time I read it, I am hit in the heart by the thought of just how close I came to losing him.
Jamie Rodemeyer was right when he said it gets better. Unfortunately he didn’t listen to his own words. For those of you who don’t know this name, Jamie Rodemeyer was a 14-year-old boy from Buffalo, NY. He had been bullied for over a year online because he was gay.
Jamie killed himself last weekend.
A year ago, Jamie posted a video on the “It Gets Better Project” YouTube page, encouraging other gay children who are being bullied to be strong and know that it does get better. But sadly, Jamie didn’t listen to his own advice.
I was even younger than Jamie when I was bullied. It was sixth grade and I was tormented pretty much constantly the entire year, not because I was gay, but because I hit puberty first. The reason doesn’t really matter – kids bully for their own amusement.
I used to be a very outgoing kid. I would say hello to anybody and I was never shy around new people. But I was physically developing much faster than the other kids were, and I guess these five kids didn’t like that about me. Anthony, Mike, Travis, Nick and A.J. were their names.
I had a lot of acne as a preteen, and also was already shaving. When you’re the only kid like that, things can be very awkward. There were days in lunch when the five of them would get bored and play a game. The game was “Count the pimples on Rob’s face.” Each day they would see if they could top the previous day’s number. I remember one day they got up to about 90 before I finally had enough. I don’t know why I sat there and took the abuse for so long, but I did. They made fun of my growing facial hair, my changing voice, and my hairy legs. Nothing was off limits to them. They also told me that nobody would care if I died. And after you hear that for a while, you start to believe that.
Now, I can imagine that none of that is as bad as what Jamie must have gone through. But, like most kids who are bullied, I didn’t handle it well, and hid my feelings from those around me. Some nights, I stood in the kitchen, holding the largest knife in the drawer just staring at it. I wondered what it would be like. What would death be like? Would it be easier than what I was currently going through? Would it hurt? Would anybody even miss me?
There were many nights like that throughout that year, but every time, I put the knife back in the drawer and continued on like nothing was wrong. And I made sure that my family members did not know about those nights.
I finally did talk to my parents and ended up going to counseling, but even with that, I still couldn’t handle it. I got into a fight with one of the kids near the end of the year, hoping that it would finally put an end to it. But it still continued on into the summer time.
Near the end of the year, my counselor finally gave me good advice. She told me that it would get better, that eventually I wouldn’t ever have to see those kids again and I could put all of this behind me. She was right about two things: it did get better, and I didn’t see them again. But I still haven’t been able to put this behind me and every time I hear about a kid like Jamie, it brings it all back.
It’s tough to move on and put this behind me when kids are still being bullied. It needs to stop. We must end it.
People always say, “Well, why doesn’t the school step in and do something?” Unfortunately, there isn’t much the school can do from what I have seen. They can take the bully aside and give him or her a stern warning. They can suspend the student doing the bullying. Or they can talk to the parents.
But all three of those actions will most likely end the same way. The child will say “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was actually hurting him, and I promise I won’t do it again,” and then they will leave, go find the student they’ve been bullying, and make things even worse for the kid. It will always get worse after that point. It’s just the way kids are.
Instead, every state needs to adopt a zero-tolerant anti-bullying law that will put the bullies in jail. A simple suspension from school does nothing to these kids. It doesn’t teach them a lesson. It gives them a week off from school. Jail time will teach them a lesson. Jail time is needed. Though I’m not a Lady Gaga fan, she is correct about this – Bullying is a hate crime, and it should be treated as such.
Until an anti-bullying law is adopted, we have to try to end bullying ourselves. If you see someone being bullied, step in and put an end to it or tell someone who can step in if you’re afraid. If you’re a parent, talk to your kids even when they don’t want to – or just can’t – talk to you. Tell them they’re worthy and special and how proud they make you even though they failed a test or forgot to mow the lawn.
But most of all, we need to keep telling these kids that it does get better. We need to get them to believe that, because it is the truth. It does get better. If only Jamie listened to his own words.
Rest in peace, Jamie.
While I was writing my first YA novel some years back, I wrestled with the best ways to straddle the too much information fence. I may be writing for young adults but their parents are likely the ones buying books and it’s hard trying to please everybody, particularly when it comes to writing realistic scenes. Love scenes, dialogue, fight scenes – how could I write them with enough detail to feel real without causing offense? How much information is too much?
I really obsessed over this question. I finished that first novel the way I thought it ‘should’ have been done, with no tongues in the kisses and ‘screw yous’ instead of ‘fuck yous’ in the dialogue. But it wasn’t the story I wanted to write.
You know what? That showed.
I’ve learned a thing or two since then. First, I’m not alone. Crossing this arbitrary line is a big concern for a lot of authors, even those who don’t write YA. Check it out:
Call me depraved, but I like full disclosure in my love scenes, raw language in my dialogue and below-the-belt hits in my fight scenes. That’s because I like realism. When characters face a critical emotional challenge, I’m lifted right out of the story if the hero utters an “Oh, dear” or the bedroom door closes just as the couple gets busy. (Breaking Dawn, anyone?) It stops feeling real and when it’s not real, I don’t care as much.
On the other hand, I’m a parent. I understand the need to protect children from content they’re not mature enough to understand, let alone handle. My teens are big fans of metal music – the heavier, the better. Before iPods, I was buying CDs and scoured the parental warnings on lyrics and Wow! did they churn my gut. I sent my youngest to his room when certain ten o’clock programs aired. I was diligent but I also knew they were seeing, hearing, and facing exactly the issues I was trying to protect them from on a daily basis. As my sons grew, there were many topics we had to discuss because they were there – such as what “molest” means after the school alerted us to a sex offender in the area. There’s that damned fence again - we want our kids to stay innocent but the only way to protect them is to face some of these issues head on, together.
The reality is kids are doing drugs, having sex, drinking and driving, or contemplating suicide - or have friends that doing these things. I don’t write fairy tales. I write contemporary young adult fiction. I think that requires an in-your-face attitude.
So, what’s the answer? I’ve decided to let my characters and my story direct me. There are people in my life I’m sure would wash out their own mouths with soap if they ever uttered an F-bomb. It’s just not in their nature. That’s how I approach the writing. If it fits, if it feels right, I’m going with it.
I think I fear as much as I hope a novel I write will end up on some banned book list one day because that means I wrote a story that appealed to people on a very real level.
Because that’s a compelling story.