Don't Laugh at Me

Bullying isn't a new problem.  It's been with us probably since the beginning of time, and it isn't likely to go away soon.  We see it in our schools, in our businesses, in our government, and unfortunately in our churches.  We have, too often, given bullies room to do their business, and too many people suffer as a result.

I know bullying from first hand experience.  I was bullied as a child, laughed at, and I endured it, largely because I wanted to fit in.  This included the church and my good Christian friends who thought it fun to laugh and make fun of certain idiosyncrasies.  I probably have engaged in bullying myself, though it's more difficult to see it in ourselves.  Bullying is, in part, about power.  Nations bully other nations, which is why they compete to have the biggest arms stockpile -- yes, I'm talking about the nation I love!

Bullying is dangerous, because it makes places that should be safe, unsafe.

But bullying isn't the only way that we help create unsafe spaces.  Even if we're not bullies, we may be complicit in perpetuating stereotypes and stigmas.  There is a stigma attached to disabilities, to ethnicity, to sexual orientation, to mental illness.  Think about it -- if you experience depression, how likely are you to share with your community, whatever that community is, that you are seeking therapy or taking medication.  Aren't you concerned about the stigma that's attached?  So how can we remove the stigmas so people can live safely and productively in our communities?

Yesterday, I participated in the Glazer Institute on Judaism program at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills, MI.  It's an annual lectureship that dates back 70 years, when Temple Beth El sat catty-corner from Central Woodward Christian Church (my congregation) on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.  The topic was mental health, bullying, and suicide.  It was an enlightening event -- more so that I probably expected.

During the presentation by Rabbi Daniel Syme, we watched a powerful video of a Peter, Paul, and Mary song entitled "Don't Laugh at Me."  I had never heard it, but it is, apparently the anthem of the Special Olympics.  I was touched by the song and its accompanying video, so I wanted to share it with my readers.  I want us to consider together our complicity in the problem of bullying.  I want us to think about how we contribute either to providing safe places for people and how we can also create unsafe places.  We are all guilty, to some extent, in saying things (perhaps unknowingly or unintentionally) that contribute to making schools, public spaces, and religious congregations unsafe.

So watch, listen, and, contemplate the message:

To help you begin your reflection, here is the opening verse and chorus of "Don't Laugh at Me":

I'm a little boy with glasses
The one they call a geek
A little girl who never smiles
'Cause I have braces on my teeth
And I know how it feels to cry myself to sleep
I'm that kid on every playground
Who's always chosen last
A single teenage mother
Tryin' to overcome my past
You don't have to be my friend
But is it too much to ask 
Don't laugh at me
Don't call me names
Don't get your pleasure from my pain
In God's eyes we're all the same
Someday we'll all have perfect wings
Don't laugh at me  
(For the remainder of the lyrics, click here)


David said…
Many parents are more concerned that their kids are tough, rather than compassionate. Thanks, I never saw that video before.

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