“Ugly.”“Retard.” “Nerd.” “Wipe your face off the earth with acid, I’ll even pay for the acid.”“Loser.” “Fat pig.”
I heard it all the time: whether while walking down the hallways, or sitting inside class, skimming through a textbook, while eating a snack, or even while just sitting quietly while waiting for a ride to get back home. This is just the tip of the iceberg: the huge, glacial edifice of hostility and astute hatred ran far deeper, all through High School and College.
It didn’t matter what I did – or didn’t do – I was me, and that was immensely difficult for so many people around me to accept. I set out with my ambitions, I had my dreams. But to them, I was nothing more than a joke, a stimulus for cruel laughter and insults. To them, my ambition was not supposed to be anything besides trying to be invisible, if the earth below didn’t do me a favour by caving in and swallowing me whole.
And in more recent times, there were plenty of things that triggered a return to the emotional trauma those memories left me with.
It is easy to throw these adjectives. It is very easy to sit on that side and pass judgment. It is totally easy to say that someone is ugly, or that someone is a “retard”, or that someone is a loser. Very, very easy. It is very easy to string two harsh words together and stamp it on someone’s forehead, branding them forever.
But what is not easy, is being at the receiving end.
For the one that gets called these unsavoury things, the one that grows up trying to hide or trying to get lost in the crowd in the hallway of a High School or College, the one that tries to meld into the background so they look nothing more attractive than a wallflower, it is always an uphill climb. For years, they hear the same thing. And that is laid over them like dollops of thick cream, until it becomes one with their skin. When they want to try something they think they’re good at, the words they heard thrown against them will swill about in their heads. And so they’ll lie down until the feeling of wanting to give something a shot, goes away. Trusted friends will feel seem like mythical creatures, when people are nice it will feel like they are doing you a favour – or worse still, like they are being nice to get something out of you.
Bullying scars. And indefinitely. What gives anyone the right to brand another person? What gives one the authority to make another look small? Why, really? What lets one decide that the other is “not normal”? Wait – what is normal anyway? If they are the “norm”, I’m so glad to be the exception.
Words are destructive, so terribly destructive that they can leave you crushed under their power. We forget that words are not just a means of communication: but become a verbalization of our thoughts. We forget that words are not just callous utterances that one forgets like yesterday’s news, but are etched in the hearts and minds of the one hearing them. Words. See the power that the five letters have together?
I leave you with one last thought: we are up against a system that legitimised one of the biggest bullies in contemporary times. One that thinks it is okay to grab women by their p****, that wants to shut immigrants out by building a wall, one that is parochial enough to think that bigotry is both, acceptable and normal. One that feels like it is perfectly alright to skulk, indulge in fear mongering and prejudiced ideas. One that chooses to act on these prejudices and divide on the extant fault lines instead of healing them.
Whether you're in High School or looking at the political scenario, a bully is not welcome.If our capacity to dissent is wedded to the quintessence of democracy, let’s make it count.