Cindy Potts over on LiveJournal posted this, and I felt a great need to ask permission to repost, rather than just linking as I usually would. I love Cindy's fiction, but her blog is really awesome. This post rings with TRUTH in a way that's very rare to read. I wish I could round up all the people who think that bullying is "just kids being kids" or that it's "only words, just ignore it" or that "if you ignore the bullies, they'll get bored and go away" and tie them to chairs and read this aloud to them, until they get it.
A Note on Personal Responsibility
And so, it is said to me, you can't really bully someone to death. You can certainly make them miserable, but that choice, that ultimate final choice to end it all, to leap from the bridge, to borrow Daddy's gun, that's out of your hands. That's beyond your power, beyond your responsibility, beyond anything you could conceivably be held accountable for. The blame in suicide lays always upon the person who kills themselves, for they always have another choice.
A fatal reclamation of personal power, as it were.
I read all these stories of freshly dead children and I say bullshit on that.
Around here, there are what are called (by me, at least) coy dogs. A mix of coyote and good dogs gone bad, feral creatures, they live on the fringes of society, not wholly wild, not nearly tame. No one cares for them. They are self-sufficient, or they die.
Coy dogs are generally small and scraggly. They stand perhaps two feet tall at the shoulder - a few bigger, some very few smaller. They're perpetually thin. On their own, they'll get by. There's garbage, there's house cats, there are slow bunnies and roadkill and dinner snatched secondhand from pampered pet's dishes.
When they work together, though, they can feast. A pack of coy dogs will go after larger prey - goats, sheep, llamas, calves, ponies, deer. It's here, in the hunt, that the coy dogs are at their most primal. You don't see even vague vestiges of the creatures that would once happily follow people around, begging for scraps. Here, it's speed and pursuit -- chasing, chasing, chasing. And coy dogs bark when they hunt -- not like wolves, who mostly keep silent. Coy dogs keep up a constant cacophony of death, announcing imminent demise with every stride. One coy dog will keep in close pursuit, the others hanging back and resting, preserving their strength until it's their turn to take point, to present some fresh new horror, to add another element of terror to the chase. They all take a turn.
They don't actually bite the prey all that much. A nip at the heels, a few ambitious leaps to worry shoulders, haunches, beefy necks. They don't have to. Once the blood starts running, all they have to do is keep the prey moving, moving, moving, until exhaustion and fear do their magic. It doesn't take long. The point will come where the prey doesn't have the strength to fight anymore. The hooves that should kick away, flinty hooves that can crush a skull, if the strength is there, do not have the strength. It's over, the coy dogs have won, and the end of the game is as much surrender as capture -- even fighting to the last, the prey's been run too hard, too long, to win.
That is what bullying is. Pure and simple, what we're seeing is humanity taking on that coy dog aspect. No one person has to do that much -- what's a comment? what's a shove? what's possessions trashed, families threatened, rumors started, video shared? It is the aggregate effect that kills, the preponderance of hate, delivered daily, hourly, inescapably. Animalistic behavior, the basics of human decency abandoned for the thrill of the chase, the toxic exhilaration of pursuit -- and above all, the embrace of the group, the knowledge that you have a place in the pack. You don't have to do so much, really. Take a turn in point position, if you've the stomach for it, but that's not even truly necessary. All you have to do is hiss little comments. Or laugh. Or look away and do nothing.
And at the end of it all, is there blood on your hands? You can look in the mirror, examine your muzzle, look for the flint-scented evidence that yours was the hate that mattered the most. Will you see it? I guess it depends on the light you choose to stand under.
But deer don't run themselves to death.
Funny thing, that.
Note that it's worth reading the comments too, particularly this thread.