Memorializing Memorial Day

Yes, tomorrow is Memorial Day.  Many of us think of it as the official start of summer.  Perhaps it's marked by the Indy 500 race (which is today, BTW).  Or, if you are from the South or are very aware of fashion etiquette, it's also the first day ladies may decently wear white shoes.

All of these may be true, but the real message behind Memorial Day is often overshadowed by the celebrations and festivities.  It's a day to remember.

Since our country was founded more than 200 years ago, many people have dedicated themselves to keeping us safe and free. For some, it meant giving their lives in the process.  It is these people whose memory we honor on Memorial Day. While tomorrow is an American holiday, it's one we need to keep in our hearts regardless of where we are.

At present, I'm in Grand Cayman on business (and sneaking in a little vacation, too, if I'm to be completely honest!). What we have planned for tomorrow is to host an "old-fashioned American Barbecue" for some of our Caymanian friends.  Steaks, potato salad..there may even be an Apple
Pie in it somewhere, along with "home-shaken buttermilk ice cream (thanks, to Food Network Magazine for this one...we have portable ice cream that will be a blast for the kids to take turns "shaking" it to chill).  However, at some point during the fun, we will be making a toast to the fallen and thanking them for their sacrifice.

For me, though, I'll be remembering someone else, too, who left us last Memorial Day.  No, he didn't serve in the military, but he was the son in a military family.  Christian Taylor took his own life last Memorial Day as a final escape from the bullying that had been tormenting him for years. I've written about Chris before and have gotten to know his mother, Lisa Williams quite well in past several months.  I know Memorial Day is supposed to be about the military men and women who have left us, but there's room in my heart for Chris and his family as well.

Yes, "Happy Memorial Day" is one aspect of this holiday we've been granted, and there is certainly a lot to celebrate. But, if we consider that one of the definitions of "celebrate" means "to honor (as a holiday) especially by solemn ceremonies or by refraining from ordinary business" (source: it's clear that spirit of the day is to pay our respects and honor those who have died so that we can remain safe and free. That sentiment travels well and doesn't require any excess baggage fees so I encourage all Americans -- whether "home" or abroad, to take a moment and "celebrate" the memory of those who served and the legacy they left.

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Bullies and Bystanders — three years later

This morning I reposted an article that I wrote three years ago on the SocialSmarts Facebook page. This article, entitled "Bullies and Bystanders Beware" was featured on Huffington Post and, as a result, made its way into many different venues, all across the world.

The article was highly acclaimed at the time of its publication, generating hundreds of comments and emails from people all around the globe.  The sentiment was generally the same: "oh, my gosh, we didn't know things had gotten so terrible, something MUST be done."

That was three years ago...

What strikes me, when I reread the article today, is how little progress we've really made in the three years since then. In fact, while awareness of the problem has grown, so has the amount of money spent, laws enacted, and, at the same time, the damage path of anti-social behavior and suicides from bullying. (more…)

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Thirty documented bullycides – when is it “enough?”

So, over the weekend, on the heels of "celebrating" what would have been Christian Taylor's 17th birthday, came news of another tragedy.  Cassidy Andel, a 16 years old at Griggs County Central High School near Bismarck, ND, committed suicide last week. Early indicators show this was a case of cyberbullying.

So, that brings the body count to 30.  Thirty documented cases of bullying suicides in the last 7 weeks. And those are only the ones we know about.  I suspect there are many more.

Reading the news sucked the life out of me this weekend.  I guess I should be a little less emotional about it -- after all, my entire business is about preventing tragedy, but that means that tragedy has to exist in order for it to need preventing.

But what's hard is the "reaction" to these incidents.  People at the school are already scrambling to put better cyberbullying task forces in place. They plan to put up posters and to wear blue wristbands as a sign of safety. Good...awareness is good. But, it is a largely helpless response; posters and wristbands matter little to people who think it's ok or even good sport to taunt, harass, or humiliate other people whether in person or through technology.

We need to solve this problem at its source and again, as typical, I see little movement in that direction. (more…)

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