Amanda Todd. Phoebe Prince. Jamey Rodemeyer. Megan Meier. Ryan Halligan. Billy Lucas. Tori Swoape.
I type these names with tears in my eyes, knowing there are so many more that never made it to the papers, or to YouTube, or the local news stations. These names are just a few of the many thousands of teens who have taken their own lives in recent years -- all of them bullied. All of them beautiful, young, unique individuals who were treated so poorly, beaten so badly, stalked, harassed, humiliated, ridiculed, and tormented, that they could not face another day. Some of them continue to be bullied, even after their deaths -- a recent 4Chan post on Facebook had this to say about Amanda Todd:
"Ok, well let's just get this all out of the way so you all can stop your bitching about this dead girl. A lot of what is posted in her video and on her page is fabricated to make her look like she was an angel. Think again."
And that's the nicest part of the message.
Was she an angel? Were any of these kids perfect? Probably not. I sure the hell wasn't at that age. You probably weren't either. We all made stupid decisions, we all did questionable things. That's part of growing up, and anyone who claims otherwise is either lying, or has completely forgotten what it's like to be a teenager. And, regardless of anything any of these kids may or may not have done, they did not deserve to die. I don't think I can possibly emphasize that enough: THEY DID NOT DESERVE TO DIE. They had their whole lives ahead of them, they had countless more mistakes left to make, they had proms to attend, friends they'd yet to meet, people to fall in love with, parties to go to, lives to be lived. But because of a cruel few, they chose instead to kill themselves. Because of a cruel few, those futures ceased to matter. Because of a cruel few, the thought of a rope around their neck, or a bullet in their face, was easier to handle than another day on this earth.
I could rage on about those cruel few, but I won't. I must temper my anger, and realize that they are also kids, sensitive to the words of others, and that they are, deep down, probably no more confident, no more mature, no more sure of themselves than the kids they bullied. These kids know what they've been taught -- that becomes particularly obvious in the case of Megan Meier, who was bullied not only by students, but by one of their mothers, as well. It is we, the adults, that should be fucking ashamed of ourselves. It is we who should feel guilt and remorse and anger for what happened to these kids. We failed them. Schools failed them. Teachers failed them. Counsellors failed them. Parents failed them. We taught these kids all they know, and apparently what they know is cruelty and hopelessness.
Being a teenager isn't easy. Maybe some of us have forgotten that -- maybe we look back at our pasts and remember only that we didn't have to pay bills, didn't have to work 40 hour weeks, didn't have to make our own dinners or do our own laundry. We look at their shitty fashion and potty mouths and feel obliged to comment. We see them drinking in a park and wonder where their parents are. We see them smoking cigarettes and shake our heads in dismay. We think to ourselves, "they should know better", that they should be better. We forget that we were once those kids. We forget about the pimples, the popular kids, the jeers, the heartbreaks. We forget the many lies we told our parents to drink that beer and smoke that cigarette. We forget the many stupid mistakes we made to fit in, or the many times that we ourselves felt hated and hopeless.
I am asking you to remember.
I am asking us all to remember. To have a little compassion, to have a little patience. To teach these kids something different -- something better. I am asking that we say the things they really need to hear. Not bullshit slogans about bullying being bad and suicide not being the answer, but honest, heartfelt truths that they can carry into the future. Truths that will allow them a future. It is not enough to say bullying is wrong -- we must show them it is wrong, we must teach them that different is okay and that their own self-worth cannot be gained through belittling others. It is not enough to say suicide is not the answer -- we must offer them hope for their futures. Whether the bully or the bullied, the cruel or the meek, the all-star or the academic, these kids only get what we give them.
And they deserve better.