Bullies a lot of time end up being the losers

Published 10:01 am Friday, October 29, 2010

Ed Shannon, Between the Corn Rows

Right now the top topic on several television channels, plus, newspapers, talk radio and some magazines is politics. Thankfully, this stupidity should end in a few days.

Meanwhile, there are other news topics that are still continuing. And the one worth considering is the problem with bullies and their victims.

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I grew up in a town out in east Oregon that had a morbid fascination with the frontier days. Thus, you were expected to be really tough. Adding to this alleged spirit of toughness was the fact that lumbering, logging, ranching and gold mining were then major area industries. The workers in all four categories had to be tough and this, sometimes sadly, seemed to also apply to their sons.

Adding to this was the fact that the city then had four grade schools. As a result, there were hard feelings between the students in these four neighborhoods. Each of the areas around the schools had loose gangs that “protected” their part of the city. (This foolishness gradually faded away as those students grew up and blended together in junior high and high school.)

One could assume that those with alleged shortcomings would avoid being bullied in their home neighborhoods. In my case this wasn’t true at all. As an awkward, clumsy left-hander with deaf parents, I was a super-target for the bullies and tough kids. My memories of that era are still disturbing.

To emphasize more about the clumsy part, I was usually the last one selected or chosen when it came time to line up teams for baseball and other recess sports at school.

I did have a contender in the class for being the last one chosen classification. His name for use in this column will be Jake. He was considered to be both clumsy and the stupidest boy in the class. He was also epileptic.

Jake happened to have a first cousin in our class we’ll call Kendra. They had different last names. Kendra was both pretty and very brilliant.

One day our teacher in the fourth grade told us she was surprised to find out the dumbest boy and the smartest girl in the class were first cousins. She clearly said there was something really wrong in their family for this to happen.

The result of those remarks was that the two families and other folks complained to the superintendent and city school board. That teacher was soon replaced. Sometimes stupidity and an adult version of bullying have consequences.

Despite his being labeled as stupid or dumb, Jake managed to pass along from grade to grade in school. In some respects, especially when it came to science, he was above average in talent. Several of our big bad bully classmates had to repeat a grade in elementary school.

As I mentioned earlier, Jake had the challenge of being epileptic. Frankly, I never saw him have a seizure. However, there were occasions when his parents kept him at home on school days and other times when his mother or father said Jake was having “problems” and couldn’t come out to play.

One day when Jake was a ninth-grader, he was evidently caught off guard and had a seizure in a classroom. The lady teacher panicked and the girls screamed. This was Jake’s last day of school. His epilepsy became more intense and about a year later he had a severe seizure that caused his death.

As already indicated, I grew up in a town where toughness and bullying was a part of life. Yet, when it came time to contend with the Selective Service System (the military draft) and armed forces physical exams, some of those alleged tough boys and sports stars were failures. They were real losers and some of us alleged losers ended up serving in the nation’s armed forces.

Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.