Thursday, September 29, 2011

We Are All Weird

Recently, I read We Are All Weird by Seth Godin. While this book focused a lot about marketing, I started to think a lot about people and how this really applies to them. Leila hates the term weird; she hates being called weird; she will never really embrace the word. I love the word. I revel in the fact that I am weird and I am not afraid to wear it as a badge. To me, weird is good. Normal is boring.
What would happen if people really started to embrace their weirdness. Would we have as much bullying in the world? I am sure there are always going to be the people who enjoy pushing around other people. I don’t see this ending any time soon. Could there be, should there be, more people standing up for each other? If more people were comfortable with their weirdness, would these people be more willing to stand up, to get involved when they see someone bullying?
I think about recent cases of young people committing suicide after being bullied-Jamey Rodemeyer, Phoebe Prince and Tyler Clementi. In some cases, the bullies don’t even stop after the suicide; they continue to be bullies towards the family and friends of the deceased. What goes through these people’s minds? Why do they feel they have the right and the duty to bully someone who is different and comfortable enough with their difference to announce to the world they are, in fact, different?
The thing is, we are all different. No two of us have the exact same beliefs, the exact same experiences, the exact same outlook on life...this is what makes our collaborations so impressive and important. We are all different...some of us choose to accept and embrace these differences, some of us choose to flaunt these differences by trying to be as different as possible and some of us choose to hide these differences, burying them away and trying to dress and act “normal”. 
Since we are all different, doesn’t it only make sense to be a little more accepting of other people’s differences? Everyone doesn’t have to get along, but we also don’t have to hate other people because they may have a different sexual orientation, skin color, religion, belief system, political party, favorite sports team or anything of the like. Are any of the above reasons to hate people or make their lives hell by bullying them?
If more people were comfortable being weird, would they be more likely to speak out if they see bullying? Would they be more comfortable standing up for those being bullied? The It Gets Better Project  is a great way to let people know that life isn’t always as hard, but the fact that we even have to do this project is sad. With young adults continuing to commit suicide from being bullied, shouldn’t we also be doing something to actively stop the bullying? Once one person takes their own life, kids will be kids is no longer a mantra we can stick to. 
Bullying has to stop. How do we go about doing this? Some people would like to see the parents held responsible in these cases. I agree that bullying may often start in the home and it is the parent’s responsibility to help raise their children to be civil, respectful teenagers and adults. Sometimes, I think it is more than some parents can do on their own. Since our education system needs some tweaking anyway, we need to find a way to make embracing and becoming comfortable with others differences a part of the curriculum.
There are always going to be parents who don’t want their children exposed to anyone “different” as is evidenced with the number of books banned by public school districts in this country. There are parents who don’t want their kids embracing others differences any more than they do. This shouldn’t stop us from doing what is right. Learning about people who may be “different” is one of the first steps towards being accepted. Would so many Americans be afraid of Muslims if they knew a little more about the Islamic faith? Start in the schools by teaching children about other cultures and lifestyles.
We must have teachers who are accepting of others. There are many schools where the teachers not only turn a blind eye to bullying, but support it, either quietly or publicly. This has to stop. If children aren’t learning to be accepting in the home and they aren’t learning to be accepting in their schools, do we really think they are going to become adults who accept others? We are failing our children by holding on to any prejudices, by corrupting their minds as they grow and by letting them feel it is okay to bully someone for being different. Our children should be growing up to become better adults than us.
We owe it to the memories of Jamey, Phoebe, Tyler and every other young adult who has committed suicide because of bullying to make this world a better place for everyone. We Are All Weird. We are all different in our own little (or big) ways. We all have the capacity to think for ourselves and do the things we want to do and believe the things we want to believe. We have to embrace these difference, be proud of our differences. We have to show the youth of today that being different is a great thing. We have to show the youth of today that humans are able to do creative, mind blowing, amazing things by being different. We see things in different ways and this drives progress and change. Since we want people to respect our differences, we must learn to respect the differences of others. This is the only way we will be able to make the world a better place.

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