22 Oct October
The phrase “October’s bright blue weather” is used in one my favorite children’s books, The Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes. This is a book about a poor little girl named Wanda who tries to fit in with her cruel and bullying classmates by telling them about the hundred dresses she has at home.
I’m thinking now about this story because we are in the middle of October’s bright blue weather, and because the mean girls who bullied Wanda did so in 1944, the year the book was written. And because we’re still trying to prevent bullying, 68 years later.
We used to think of bullying as something children did to each other, and now we recognize that adults do it, too. As a communication device it is fairly consistent as to results: others get hurt. As for purpose, I think there is less consistency. Some bullies claim not to be bullying, just expressing themselves in strong, unambiguous terms. Some claim teasing, and blame any resulting hurt on the overly sensitive rest of the world. Others don’t make any claims – they just have malicious intent.
It’s this fuzziness of purpose that gets in the way of reducing bullying, if we try to approach it from the side of the bully. That, and possibly an increased tolerance for meanness. There seems to be a lot of both in the words of the world these days, and few who get in the face of the bully to say “Stop it!”
Wanda’s defense was to win over her tormentors by sharing with them something they admired. We seem to be way past that.
Some say that in tolerating bullying we act like wild animals. I’m not sure I would so malign wild animals.
And, coincidentally, this is Wolf Awareness Week.