How do you teach a child to combat bullying? How do you teach a child to even identify and understand it? Native American author has experienced his share of bullying – obviously as a Native American he fights for the timeless identity of his people – but as a conservationist and defender of Mother nature. Here are his thoughts on bullies – seen and unseen.
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THE BULLIES OF MOTHERLESS
By Gabriel Horn
White Deer of Autumn
Bully: overbearing. Intimidate; domineer. Cruel. A man hired to do violence. One who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people. To be loudly arrogant…. Terrorize, tyrannize.
In MOTHERLESS, bullies come in different forms. The shadow men in the cover of darkness who dumped toxic waste into a creek, killing indiscriminately, and crushing the hearts of a little girl, and a bus driver from Jamaica. “Ain’t notten’ gonna bring God’s little creature back,” he said. “It’s dead. It got stuck tryin` to hop itself outta dat –” and he couldn’t think of a word that wasn’t swearing to describe what he was seeing and smelling in that ditch. “Wi don’t know why sum’ady done dat…. Oh Mon, I am so sick ah dis. Now, come on, Sweet child, it ain’t good wi breedin’ dis shit.”
Bullies can be kids.
The school day began with an assault at the bus stop, not a physical assault, like somebody punching and kicking another human being, or hurting an animal for no good reason, but the kind of assault that uses words to hurt you personally. Words to demean and belittle you. Words shot into your brain that can never come out….
“You’re only part Indian, not a real Indian,” declared Terrance Walcott, standing on the highest point on the sandy shoulder of the two-lane road. He was an eighth grader, who some say should have been left behind in seventh like he was in third.
“Look at your skin,” he said, and pointed with his fat finger at the sixth grade girl. “It ain’t even red.”
With her fists clenching, her lips pressed together, Rainy raised her dark brown eyes and looked up at Terrance. Though she appeared more than angry at the ugliness of what he had said, the betrayal felt worse, as did the embarrassment. Bullies.
They can be parents.
“And why the hell would you care about Indians, Chubby? You’re not sweet on that little half breed squaw I heard you talkin’ to your mom about?” Terrance smirked and shook his head vehemently. “No,” he said.
His stepfather reached into his pocket and held a wad of bills. Slipping a ten out, he gave it to Terrance. “Now here. Go by some war paint or somethin’. Get yourself some burgers.” He snickered. “I hear squaws like their burgers like they like their men.”
Terrance stared at the money. Couldn’t make sense of his stepfather’s gibbering. “Thanks,” he said, wide-eyed with possibilities.
“Now, bring me another tall one before you head out and do something stupid.”
Bullies. They can be school administrators and principals….
“I told Rainy about genocide, Dr. Lawson…. But I didn’t tell her all of it.” Dr. Lawson’s face flushed red, like she could’ve blended in with the stripes on the miniature flag near the phone on her desk, and she cleared her throat. “Yes, Mr. Peek, but Rainy is not a full Indian, only part, am I correct? You did legally change her last name?” She sorted through some related papers on her desk: memos, school records, and letters.
“Yes, the idea was to make it easier for her in school.”
“Of course, Mr. Peek. We realize she has no parents.” She lifted one page from the shuffle. “A question of negligence apparently came up when she was in fourth grade.
I understand there was an incident.”
He stared at her. “Yes, there was an incident, but I never heard of a complaint against me.”
“Well, it was probably something over that age old discussion of whether grandparents were capable of raising small children, and you being a single grandparent….”
Bullies. They can be teachers.
“No, Sir, indeed,” he said, standing upright, like a big bellied soldier at attention, holding a textbook instead of a gun, the dark frames hiding his bushy grey eyebrows, the shiny bald head reflecting the light from the ceiling. His thin lips tightened, so that it appeared he didn’t have any, and his head nodded agreeably. In his mind, he had reestablished his dominance….
Disturbed at what she was doing, the Colonel had stepped in front of her desk and leaned over so close to her face she could smell his creamed coffee-stale breath.
“Miss Peek, is it?”
He knew her name…. just by acting uncertain of who she was, he could make her feel less significant to him. Not empower her. Keep her off balance. His intention did not go unnoticed. His smelly breath, his violation of her space, and his obtrusive cold blue magnified orbs staring from behind the thick glass lenses in black frames, enabled her to already assess the kind of man he was, just as Koda would have done, as wolves (and a lot of dogs) will do with all men they can see, men they can smell, or hear, or sense in any number of ways, the ones not hiding behind a rock or a tree a football field away, downwind against their pale faces, concealing their human scent and malice, their dead eye taking dead aim through a telescopic scope….
“Yes, Sir,” she said, glancing up at his blue gumball eyes….
“You should have better things to do than doodling, Miss Peek,” he said in a low hard voice, his mouth inches from her ear, and pointing to an image on the paper.
“What is that? My Lord, is that… a snake?”
“It’s Kulkulcan, the Feathered Serpent.”
“No matter what you call it, Miss Peek, it is doodling” – if not downright improper and heathen, he was thinking but didn’t say.
Bullies. They can be fat cat politicians on the take.
He had heard it on the local news from the detached anchorwoman before the announcement of the storm …, Influenced by big oil, state legislators push to lift the ban restricting offshore drilling.
When the words first struck him, he closed the Mayan art book in his lap and let out a painful moan, like a person expressing sudden deep grief after learning of a loved one’s death and not wanting to believe its truth. Then he clenched his fists.
“Greedy bastards,” he murmured to himself. “It’s never enough for them. Never enough….”
He spoke in a low primal growl, almost as low as his breath, so that Rainy could not hear above the rolling thunder of the shaking sky. He would step out onto the front porch, as she lay in bed, his heart pounding in his chest the way a heart pounds when something terrible has happened, and he would step down into the front yard and over to that special place where he had found the eagle feather, and where he had made tobacco offerings while speaking to the Great Mystery, and he would collapse to his knees as the weight of his anguish became too much for him to bear, and, embracing the need to be closer to the Earth, he bent further until one side of his face pressed against the sandy ground.
A light rain would begin to fall, his fingers clutching the sand, his tears mixing with the rain, a weeping grief-stricken child that is an old man grasping hold of the Mother that he loved with all his being, and, for the moment, feeling too small to protect her from more of what was coming, and what she had already begun to know of those who didn’t know the Way to live.
Bullies. They can be as cruel as anything on Earth.
The answer to bullies? Fight with your mind, your body, your life: …
“Your rescue of endangered sea turtles, and other marine life, at the risk of your own, was nothing less than heroic.”
The faculty seated in their swivel chairs, and in their sympathetic civility, could not hear the terror in primal voices on that blazing dark night in the Gulf. They could not hear the honking of great herons and egrets, the squealing of the gulls, the terrified panic of pelicans flapping wings too heavy with oil to fly. They could not hear the turtles in their screaming silence burning in water that was on fire.
Coastal fishing and shrimp trawlers had used tubes and buoys to make another burn box, encircling a large area of the water, and trapping the oil. The bird and animal rescue crew shouting back from their smaller vessel that there were birds and dolphins and turtles trapped inside. The BP ship’s captain yelling at the rescue crews to “get out!” and then shouting the orders to the trawlers, “Light it up!”
The faculty could not hear in that horror of flaming darkness, the warnings of the other rescuers and the crew for her not to dive in; “Rainy!” they cried. They could not know what had mysteriously protected her as she rescued the turtles, drawn together desperate for refuge, until a rescue net tossed from the bow of the boat began dragging her own body back as she rolled in near unconsciousness over a dead dolphin towards the desperate and outstretched hands of her anxious sea mates and friends. They could not know why her skin hadn’t charred beneath her wet suit, why her beautiful hair did not singe in the searing water, why her heart remained still beating….
Bullies are the MOTHERLESS.
“If they don’t stop their behavior soon, if they don’t stop violating her body and learn to respect her, and they don’t stop taking from her without love, and without gratitude, then the energies of all that they have destroyed will return…. And all their anger; their greed; their violence; their prejudices and intolerances. The carbon. The plastic. The toxins. And the spirits of all the innocent….
“The Ah-nuh must protect the water…. It is what we must do. It is the purpose of our existence.” There was of burst pulse, like another soft squawk, and another whistle ….
“Maybe then they will listen….”
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