“BULLY” – Kelby’s story

Kelby Johnson

(This is part four of a five-part series about the movie “Bully,” which opens tomorrow. Read parts one, two and three.)

FAGGOTS AREN’T WELCOME HERE

Kelby lives in Oklahoma. As with Alex, you immediately we see what’s “wrong.” Kelby is about as butch-looking as a high school girl can be and to her credit, she does nothing to feminize herself. She is who she is. She’s not “flaunting” anything; she’s just being Kelby. But in Oklahoma, girls like Kelby aren’t allowed to be who they are, at least, they aren’t allowed to self-identify openly as lesbians, which Kelby has.

You’ll love Kelby’s friends and family. Her friends admit that everyone assumes they are lesbians too but they aren’t, except for one cute petite girl who says she’s “K-gay” which presumably means gay for Kelby. Later in the movie we see Kelby and the K-gay girl walking arm-in-arm.

Kelby relates a story of being harrassed by six jocks in a car, so she steps in front of the car to confront of them. Instead of slowing down, they speed up and the next thing Kelby knows, she’s flying across their windshield. We don’t hear if charges were pressed – we assume not – or the extent of her injuries. Instead, Kelby deflects by saying she couldn’t get hit by something cool like a jeep, she had to get hit by a mini-van.

Kelby tried suicide three times. She’s cut herself.

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“BULLY” – Alex’s story

(This is part 3 of a 5-part series about the movie “Bully,” which opens nationwide this Friday. Read parts one and two.)

AND THEN THERE’S ME

If the film has a main star, it’s Alex. He’s featured most prominently and his story begins immediately after the opening credits. The opening number is brilliant. As a bus rolls to school, you hear children’s voices sing an arrangement of “Teenage Dirtbag. The bus in this film is a torture chamber. For 12-year-old Alex, in Sioux City, Iowa, that’s not a hyperbolic description.

The first thing you notice about Alex is that he’s not a cute kid. He’s in junior high and just by looking at him, you know. You think, “That kid is really going to be picked on in school.” What this movie does so well, however, is that it shows you the world from Alex’s point of view, what it’s like to be that kid who is picked on at the level of abuse he endures.

Alex tells us he feels good when he’s in his house and with his family. He introduces us to his family, his four younger siblings and Mom and Dad. He introduces himself last and when he says, “and then there’s me.” His voice drops as if he is so ashamed he can barely add himself to his own narrative.

He’s going to back to school. The camera follows him as he waits for the bus. The dreaded bus. You can hear his labored, terrified breathing as he approaches the other boys waiting at the stop, who are already sparring with each other and swearing. When Alex approaches they start to watch something on a smart phone and Alex moves over to see it too. One says, “Don’t even think about watching. I’ll kick the crap out of you, I’ll break your Adam’s apple.”

“Oh okay,” Alex says.
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“BULLY” – Ja’Meya Jackson’s story

(this is part 2 of a week-long series about the movie “Bully,” which opens this Friday nationwide.  Part 1 is here.)

IT FEELS LIKE EVERYBODY JUST TURNED AGAINST ME

In Yazoo, Mississippi, you’ll meet Ja’Meya Jackson, age 14. Ja’Meya’s story is unique among the five young people in “Bully“; she lashes out at her bullies in a dangerous way with negative repercussions.

Her actions surprise everyone. She is a quiet, unassuming teenage girl who, for reasons  not readily apparent to me, became the target of condemnation and ridicule of everyone on the bus. Ja’Meya says:

“It feels like everybody just turned against me. Nine or ten of ’em just calling me stupid, and dumb, and they started throwing things at me. One of the guys said what he was going to do to me, and everybody would laugh, and I tell him to be quiet, and he kept talking, and that’s when I got up.”

Unfortunately for Ja’Meya, her school bus had a camera that recorded her actions and what she did was far more visual than the verbal harrassment she suffered. Ja’Meya took her mother’s handgun and brought it on the bus with her. When she finally had enough, she stood and brandished it in front of everyone. All of this is caught on camera.
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“BULLY” – Tyler Long’s Story

(“Bully” focuses on five young people. I will feature one each day this week. This is part 1 of 5)

The movie “Bully” opens on Friday the Thirteenth, ironic because for many kids, “Bully” depicts the real horror show of their lives. You will not enjoy this movie, but you must go see it. There’s a problem in our country that must be fixed. This movie offers no concrete solutions but it gives you a rare opportunity to see the problem from the perspective of the children.

I KNEW HE WOULD BE VICTIMIZED

The movie opens on the father of a young man, Tyler. “I knew he would be victimized at some point in time,” says Tyler’s dad. (Tyler’s story was also featured in a segment on ABC’s 20/20)

Why is that? Is America so cold and predictable that we just know, and tolerate, certain levels of child-on-child abuse?

Tyler's parents

“Tyler was never the most athletic. When he was in P.E., he was always the last one to be chose. Nobody would be on his team, ’cause they said he was a geek and he was a fag, and they said they didn’t wanna play with him.”

I recounted these words about myself in my memoir and judging from the number of emails and letters I’ve received by men of all ages, this is an emotional epidemic. Stop allowing boys to pick their own teams in P.E., okay?! You know who is going to pick whom so go ahead and make those assignments before class. This system, where Coach chooses the two best athletes, and they get pick their teams was designed with one purpose in mind – to identify the gay boys and the other outcasts. (I’m kidding, but it IS an unintended effect of the process). Did I ever get a chance to force the untalented, unintelligent jerks to stand in humiliation while I chose actors for the school play? Okay…actually I sort of got to do that one time. But it wasn’t the same thing. Just stop this, it’s an easy fix.

Tyler’s dad continues. “The last couple of days we had heard that he had his head shoved into a wall locker. Some kids had told him to go hang himself, that he was worthless. And I think he got to the point where enough was enough.

“If there is a heaven, I know Tyler’s there and all I can do is have the faith that I’ll be able to see him again. That’s what I have to live for and I have to live for my other two kids. I have to make their lives as pleasant, and as comfortable and peaceful as I can.”

Tyler Lee Long, April 25, 1992 – October 17, 2009.

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The Illusion of Happiness

After a friend and I had a discussion about what constitutes happiness, he came up with an idea for my next book. As a professional writer, he scans many blogs daily and suggested I take a look at them, and tell him my reaction.

“I’m going to vomit” I wrote, after reading one particularly sappy link he sent me.

I’m torn because I don’t want to begrudge anyone else her or his happiness, but I believe that happiness is genetic, ie chemical. I know. I used Ecstasy in the nineties. Some good stuff too. What that taught me was that happiness, whether its origin is purely natural or synthetic, is the result of chemical reactions in the brain. We can either take a pill that causes our serotonin to rush across our synapses or we can experience things in our lives that produce the same reaction, but it’s still primarily neurological.

I write “primarily” because I also believe there is a component to happiness that is psychological. I think (I’m happy); therefore, I am (happy). A line I love comes from the Pulitzer-prize winning musical, “Next to Normal.” Suburban mother Dinan Goodman says, “People who think they’re happy haven’t thought about it enough.” (She also says many gems like “Valium is my favorite color.”) The founder of the school where I grew up had a famous saying that was posted around campus: You don’t find happiness by looking for it; you stumble over it on the road to duty. Although most of what I was taught as a young person has turned out not to be true, there’s much truth in that little line.

Unfortunately, the search for happiness has become quite an industry in America and it’s my belief that the constant barrage of happiness-seeking advice creates an expectation of happiness, a level that for most of us is unattainable. Like everything else about us, happiness has an evolutionary purpose. If you love tasty strawberries, as I do, you feel happy when you eat one and that’s a reward for doing something healthy. That reward goes back hundreds of thousands, or more, years. “But Rich,” you say, “As you pointed out, Ecstasy makes you happy and that’s not good for you.” Right, neither are processed sugar or polyunsaturated fat but they didn’t have Ecstasy or most fats or sugars we eat a hundred thousand years ago. That’s my point: If Ecstasy – perpetual happiness – had existed among our primitive ancestors, none of us would be here because happy humans aren’t as motivated to hunt and gather as anxious, fearful or ferocious humans. And if we think our current diet of “comfort (a close relative of happiness) foods” is sustainable, I’ll sell you some stock in the Neanderthal Dow.

I don’t know where this is going. “No shit!” you say. Maybe at the end of this Happiness Illusion Project there’s a book. Maybe I’ll give some of these crazy happiness suggestions a good honest try. Because at the end of the long day, I want to be happy too, I just want my happiness to be real.

$700 Million and a leaky hull

It’s a religious holiday weekend but no doubt some of you are taking advantage of the time to do your taxes. What would Jesus think?

As you re-sort those receipts into piles after the dog has barfed on them, wondering if there’s a way you could justify deducting the little critters (2 out of 2 IRS auditors say you can’t), don’t you want to know where your tax dollars are going? You’re no dummy. From the picture to the left and the heading for this post, you’ve probably figured out this is about a ship.

In January, the USS Coronado was christened in Alabama. By the time we buy 20 of these ships, the cost of each “should” be below $400 million. That’s actually a steal for a US Navy combat vessel. But right now, that’s not the way things are looking. The two that exist presently have cost $700 million each. Do you realize that even if you had won the lottery last week all by yourself, you couldn’t have bought one of these boats? Which is exactly what I wanted to do with that money! So, we really don’t know right now what the final cost of each ship is going to be.

Of the two ships on the high seas, apparently one has a cracked and leaky hull. I lived on a US Navy amphibious ship for six months. I don’t think leaky hulls are what they’re going for.  “The story of this ship is one that makes me ashamed and embarrassed as a former Navy person,” Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and onetime Navy pilot, said in late 2010, citing billions of dollars in cost overruns. JOHN McCAIN! The man who picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate without any sense of embarrassment is embarrassed by this ship!

Right now the Navy has 285 ships, making it, as Mitt Romney points out, the smallest Navy since 1917. We can expect Romney to make a big deal about this, as if it’s President Obama’s fault, never mind the reality that ship programs takes decades and today’s ships can do far more than ships could do in 1917. But part of the problem is also the program itself. Ships aren’t supposed to have cracks in hulls. We’ve been building ships as a nation for centuries. Why, taxpayer, is this still happening?

Jews are not God’s chosen people…WE ARE!

Whenever I’m at a loss for something to write, which isn’t often, one reliable source to break through my writer’s block, my personal brand of Drano if you will, is World Magazine. I don’t know much about World Magazine except that I don’t have to search the website much to find something utterly disagreeable. Thanks to Twitter I don’t even have to visit their overly-crowded homepage; usually, they showcase their most profound nonsense via tweets.

Today’s prize goes to Alex Tokarev and an article titled “Religion in Politics.” Tokarev makes the usual religious claims that the founding fathers wanted religion in politics. That’s complete bullshit but rather than dive into a discussion of why, I’ll refer you to a excellent book on the topic by Garry Wills titled Head and Heart: American Christianities. America exists only because a group of wise men designed it to keep religion out of the government. Period. End of discussion. That part of Tokarev’s tripe is stale and uninteresting.

Another part of his piece also isn’t new – the Christian church has been making the claim for 2000 years – but you don’t see it as often these days. He writes: “Christ was crucified, the gospel rejected, the Church persecuted. The temple was destroyed, the nation of the old covenant was scattered, the priesthood was taken away from the Jews, and the Christians became the new chosen people.” (bold typeface is my addition)

Here are the facts and reasonable assumptions we can take from this article:

  • Tokarev has chosen a specific type of the Christian lifestyle.
  • He believes that only those who have also chosen this lifestyle are “God’s chosen people.”
  • Because God has chosen Tokarev and others like him, they, more than anyone belong in positions of national leadership.

America is a nation of many people and many different religions as well as people who have no religion. Believing that you are God’s chosen people, and are divinely ordained to rule over everyone else, is the height of arrogance. If we ever need “Exhibit A” for why religion has no place in government, Tokarev and World Magazine would have a purpose.

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