The Vacuum Left Behind by Absent Parents

The whole phenomenon of human nature devolving under pressure brings to mind the “Lord of the Flies” by Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding. Now mostly relegated to high school literature classes, the insightful and very topical work tells the story of a group of British boys stuck on a deserted island who try to govern themselves, with disastrous results.

 

“The vacuum left behind by absent parents

and home lives where empathy is unknown, supervision is absent

and moral compasses are unavailable”

 

At an allegorical level, the novel is a study in conflicting human impulses: to embrace civilization, live its rules, peacefully and in harmony, or, to live simply guided by the desire for power and the will to dominate.

Themes include the tension between groupthink and individuality, between rational and emotional reactions, and between morality and immorality. The narrative carries the story of how these juxtaposed impulses play out, and how the different characters respond.

There is something of “Lord of the Flies” inherent in the gang and youth violence crisis in America and in the vacuum left behind by absent parents and home lives where empathy is unknown, supervision is rare or absent and moral compasses are either unavailable or considered a luxury not to be sought. This mentality, fueled as we discussed by the combination of news and entertainment industries, helps smother neighborhoods, then schools, then our children.

As we turn our attention to the similar yet distinctive bullying crisis, it is clear that whatever measures we can take to protect our children will require a multi-pronged campaign. And that includes a demand for changes within the business community, from elected officials, school authorities and, perhaps most especially, the individuals and the collective industry that controls not just what is marketed to our children but the tone with which it’s promoted.

That’s a very tall order indeed, but we have to start somewhere. That’s why we advocate for what most good athletic programs or events do to maintain an acceptable level of civility and in most sports, that means a whistle.  Bullying in every venue will continue until someone “blows the whistle”, stops the play, and assesses a penalty before the game resumes.

We need to offer a set of rules.

And we need to give out those whistles to as many people as possible.

Because bullying does not just happen in one venue.

Children have been exposed to bullying since the dawn of recorded time. But while past generations were bullied in various settings most of it didn’t come complete with bullies who carry guns, travel in gangs or have a multitude of willing and tech-savvy followers who have become adept at character assassination through social media.

So, begin here — stand at the starting line of developing empathy for a generation of kids under pressure. Have that empathy both for the bullies and the victims.

And let’s open our hearts to solutions, which need to be applied throughout the school, the community, and in your own home. It is with this understanding that we begin.

Thoughtful and more in-depth journalistic coverage is threatened as newspapers collapse. The majority of people now get their news almost exclusively from the TV, the Internet or even smaller screens. And all the while, the once solid line between news and entertainment continues to blur.


Bobby Kipper and Bud Ramey have co-authored two books and numerous articles on the crisis in youth violence plaguing our culture, addressing “best practices” for making a difference in the gang crisis and bullying epidemic that is impacting an entire generation. Over 4,400 young people committed suicide last year, largely due to the bullying epidemic. Their books, No BULLIES : Solutions for Saving Our Children from Today’s Bully and No COLORS : 100 Ways to Stop Gangs from Taking Away Our Communities, offer advocacy for at-risk youth.

Bobby Kipper, Director and Founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, is a career law enforcement officer with extensive experience in the area of preventing youth and community violence nationwide. His background includes working on a number of key national initiatives with the White House, Congress, and the Department of Justice.

Bud Ramey is the 2010 Public Affairs Silver Anvil Award winner of the Public Relations Society of America—the highest public affairs recognition in the world. His grassroots public affairs and humanitarian successes and advocacy for at-risk youth stretch across three decades. 

Hostility is Commonplace

Look at our political process. Much of our television broadcasting is filled with negative, angry, name-calling political ads that seek an attack platform instead of common ground. In many local and regional races, where there’s less oversight, these candidates don’t just want to win an election. They want to destroy their opponent.

Our kids digest this behavior as part of a steady diet.

Incredibly, the news media gave a little ho-hum back page coverage to the October 2011 revelation by the FBI that membership in gangs has increased 40% in just two years as the national economic picture declined and more young people gave up on the idea of being a contributing member of a society that leaves them out.

Ho hum.

But let some of those expanding numbers of gang members take each other out, and even more newsworthy, do some collateral damage in a drug related shootout, and it’s a different story. One that actually gets some coverage.

Our news media now puts its 24/7 offerings together on the news placement priority of “if it bleeds it leads”, an approach deemed more likely to attract the less than attentive eyes of most viewers. Or worse, even the media gets jaded with so much violence and manages to transform some celebrity divorce or the latest update from the people in a reality TV show into a major story despite the domestic war zone going on all over America.


Bobby Kipper and Bud Ramey have co-authored two books and numerous articles on the crisis in youth violence plaguing our culture, addressing “best practices” for making a difference in the gang crisis and bullying epidemic that is impacting an entire generation. Over 4,400 young people committed suicide last year, largely due to the bullying epidemic. Their books, No BULLIES : Solutions for Saving Our Children from Today’s Bully and No COLORS : 100 Ways to Stop Gangs from Taking Away Our Communities, offer advocacy for at-risk youth.

Bobby Kipper, Director and Founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, is a career law enforcement officer with extensive experience in the area of preventing youth and community violence nationwide. His background includes working on a number of key national initiatives with the White House, Congress, and the Department of Justice.

Bud Ramey is the 2010 Public Affairs Silver Anvil Award winner of the Public Relations Society of America—the highest public affairs recognition in the world. His grassroots public affairs and humanitarian successes and advocacy for at-risk youth stretch across three decades. 

How Bullying Got Out of Control in America

Children are bullying each other in frighteningly effective 21st century ways. These are not your father’s bullies. Armed with social media and supported by a culture that seems to glorify bullying throughout a wide spectrum of activities, today’s kids experience bullying behavior in every direction they turn.

“Many parents are numb to bullying

because they experience it every day at work”

Many parents are either numb to bullying or far less sensitive than they should be because they may experience it every day at work. The bullies of their own childhood have grown up and become their co-workers and supervisors.

Too often it seems that the least compassionate and most domineering get ahead.

Some would say it’s always been that way, that the media has simply expanded and amplified the nastiness.

Our history lends some truth to that assertion through political campaigns that introduced us to contentious behavior and outright ugly moments shortly after America declared its independence.  The earliest days of the republic also saw intimidation and domineering behavior incorporated into military training and discipline.

In fact, there is substantial historical record to suggest that the very people who sacrificed so much to escape harassment in the old world, brought bullies along with them. Of course what happened in the slave ships and in the aftermath of their arrival on our shores took bullying to levels of inhumanity.

But while the historical record bears witness to intense and excessive examples of bullying over the years, never before has there been a time when 7.3 million children in America have a parent in the penal system. Or when 1,400,000 youths claim gang affiliation. Or when countless handguns are available even to small children. Never has there been an opportunity to bully a child so brutally using nothing but a cell phone. Things have become different, and they’ve become more serious.

What we can safely say is that bullying evolved to the place where we find it today and it serves little purpose to explore exactly how it arrived.  What matters is that it’s here.

Hostility is commonplace.

Look at our political process. Much of our television broadcasting is filled with negative, angry, name-calling political ads that seek an attack platform instead of common ground. In many local and regional races, where there’s less oversight, these candidates don’t just want to win an election. They want to destroy their opponent.

Our kids digest this behavior as part of a steady diet.


Bobby Kipper and Bud Ramey have co-authored two books and numerous articles on the crisis in youth violence plaguing our culture, addressing “best practices” for making a difference in the gang crisis and bullying epidemic that is impacting an entire generation. Over 4,400 young people committed suicide last year, largely due to the bullying epidemic. Their books, No BULLIES : Solutions for Saving Our Children from Today’s Bully and No COLORS : 100 Ways to Stop Gangs from Taking Away Our Communities, offer advocacy for at-risk youth.

Bobby Kipper, Director and Founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, is a career law enforcement officer with extensive experience in the area of preventing youth and community violence nationwide. His background includes working on a number of key national initiatives with the White House, Congress, and the Department of Justice.

Bud Ramey is the 2010 Public Affairs Silver Anvil Award winner of the Public Relations Society of America—the highest public affairs recognition in the world. His grassroots public affairs and humanitarian successes and advocacy for at-risk youth stretch across three decades. 

Bullying Defined

A dictionary definition from more than fifty years ago describes a bully as “harsh” and “cruel”, someone who is “habitually threatening to others”. After half a century the words still ring true.

According to most contemporary definitions, bullying occurs when a person is exposed repeatedly to “negative actions” on the part of one or more other persons.

These “negative actions” refer to one person intentionally inflicting injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words, or in other ways.

Its usually one person trying to gain control over another and there is an imbalance in power, real or perceived, that defines the essence of separates bullying.


Bobby Kipper and Bud Ramey have co-authored two books and numerous articles on the crisis in youth violence plaguing our culture, addressing “best practices” for making a difference in the gang crisis and bullying epidemic that is impacting an entire generation. Over 4,400 young people committed suicide last year, largely due to the bullying epidemic. Their books, No BULLIES : Solutions for Saving Our Children from Today’s Bully and No COLORS : 100 Ways to Stop Gangs from Taking Away Our Communities, offer advocacy for at-risk youth.

Bobby Kipper, Director and Founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, is a career law enforcement officer with extensive experience in the area of preventing youth and community violence nationwide. His background includes working on a number of key national initiatives with the White House, Congress, and the Department of Justice.

Bud Ramey is the 2010 Public Affairs Silver Anvil Award winner of the Public Relations Society of America—the highest public affairs recognition in the world. His grassroots public affairs and humanitarian successes and advocacy for at-risk youth stretch across three decades. 

“It becomes impossible to tell which came first, the anger or the marketing of the anger”

This phenomenon was well defined in the PBS Frontline documentary The Merchants of Cool featuring media correspondent Douglas Rushkoff. He alluded to what we are seeing as the rise of the New American Bully when he declared that youth culture and media culture are now one and the same, and it becomes impossible to tell “which came first, the anger or the marketing of the anger”.*

With the backing of the extensive empire of wealth that supports youth culture, the new style of bullying behavior rarely occurs in isolation. It operates within a context that is supported by the entertainment and fashion industries, professional sports, politics, corporate America and more. The victims of the behavior may at times feel that their abusers are part of society in general, not simply the negative choices and aberrant behaviors of select individuals.

Moreover, bullies today easily feed on peer pressure. That pressure, when combined with the power of popular culture, can sometimes be interpreted as a license to insult, abuse and injure without consideration of the consequences.

These behaviors, which include dismissals, exclusivity, put downs, profanity, threats, and even physical violence may not even be seen as bullying, but rather a normal part of their existence, and in some cases, a means to survival in the growing “in your face” world.

Those of us who have worked in an office or other work setting understand the penalties for creating a hostile workplace. Why aren’t these same “hostile work environment” rules applied in other public and private places?

“The rule book and the whistle need to be put back into the game” 

So how do children and teens escape this new form of abuse?

At one tragic extreme, some have ended their lives. For others, reactions range from depression to acting out.

Finally, for some, they escape by transforming into a bully themselves.

We face relentless pressure that this behavior is the “new normal”.  The bullying culture has become so prevalent and dominant that we feel reduced to bystanders.

To extend a sports analogy, the rulebook and the whistle need to be put back into the game. This need comes from set expectations of behavior and stated sanctions for those who do not abide by those expectations in places where we have a say — at home, in school, in the workplace, in recreational and competitive sports and in our neighborhoods.

The scope is difficult to get our arms around. The State of New York announced a 2011 survey of high school students that showed 18% of them reported being bullied on school property in 2010 and 16% reported being bullied electronically.  That’s more than one third of students reporting a bullying experience. And of course, that doesn’t take into account what’s not reported.


Bobby Kipper and Bud Ramey have co-authored two books and numerous articles on the crisis in youth violence plaguing our culture, addressing “best practices” for making a difference in the gang crisis and bullying epidemic that is impacting an entire generation. Over 4,400 young people committed suicide last year, largely due to the bullying epidemic. Their books, No BULLIES : Solutions for Saving Our Children from Today’s Bully and No COLORS : 100 Ways to Stop Gangs from Taking Away Our Communities, offer advocacy for at-risk youth.

Bobby Kipper, Director and Founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, is a career law enforcement officer with extensive experience in the area of preventing youth and community violence nationwide. His background includes working on a number of key national initiatives with the White House, Congress, and the Department of Justice.

Bud Ramey is the 2010 Public Affairs Silver Anvil Award winner of the Public Relations Society of America—the highest public affairs recognition in the world. His grassroots public affairs and humanitarian successes and advocacy for at-risk youth stretch across three decades. 

The Culture of Bullying — What Is It Really About and Why Are So Many Young People Embracing It?

Everyone is watching. A live audience and millions of national television and on-line viewers are looking on as the announcement is made that singer-songwriter Taylor Swift has won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video. Immediately, Kanye West defiantly invades the stage to grab the award from a shocked Swift as a protest to his perception that she is undeserving. According to MTV News, the crowd is silent and confused.  They don’t know how to respond.

This startling scene from American pop culture left an indelible image that cannot be forgotten by the large numbers of people who saw it. Or can it? Kanye West is still a highly successful music artist, fashion designer, film director and world-class tweeter. In fact, he’s probably even more popular after the incident.

While we can’t blame artists like Kanye and his followers for the myriad reasons why kids bully, we can certainly propose that for many young people the impact of teen culture in American speaks loudly to the attitude of defiance and domination.

In much of today’s society, to be crude, inappropriate, mean spirited, rude and socially unacceptable is now grounds for some type of celebratory award in its own right. The sense of human entitlement and domination has clearly made a dent in, and in some instances even replaced, the ideal of civility.

What was once thought of as an insult or “put down,” a big part of traditional bullying, has now evolved into an overall and consistent “in your face” style of behavior strongly supported by a number of Fortune 500 media giants and sold as “youth or pop culture”.


Bobby Kipper and Bud Ramey have co-authored two books and numerous articles on the crisis in youth violence plaguing our culture, addressing “best practices” for making a difference in the gang crisis and bullying epidemic that is impacting an entire generation. Over 4,400 young people committed suicide last year, largely due to the bullying epidemic. Their books, No BULLIES : Solutions for Saving Our Children from Today’s Bully and No COLORS : 100 Ways to Stop Gangs from Taking Away Our Communities, offer advocacy for at-risk youth.

Bobby Kipper, Director and Founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, is a career law enforcement officer with extensive experience in the area of preventing youth and community violence nationwide. His background includes working on a number of key national initiatives with the White House, Congress, and the Department of Justice.

Bud Ramey is the 2010 Public Affairs Silver Anvil Award winner of the Public Relations Society of America—the highest public affairs recognition in the world. His grassroots public affairs and humanitarian successes and advocacy for at-risk youth stretch across three decades. 

Kids Trying Out Bullying

There are many reasons young people try out bullying and a number of specific risk factors have been identified. But we suggest that one common denominator of an emerging bully, identical to the factors involved with the decision to join a gang, is that underlying lack of hope.

There is a desperate tone in the inner voice of a bully—that there is no hope in fitting in — so why not gain acceptance through dominance?  If you perceive that you aren’t being allowed into the circle, then punish those who you believe are keeping you out.  And all too often, there’s no one there with an alternative.

Our job then, is to infuse hope.

As adults, we need to show the hopeless that there is a better way, fill the voids that created the behavior and help the bully find the better angel within.  But that’s only after we’ve helped provide for or otherwise support the safety of the victim.

And that’s what constitutes a best practice when it comes to bullying.  Perhaps the best practice.


Bobby Kipper and Bud Ramey have co-authored two books and numerous articles on the crisis in youth violence plaguing our culture, addressing “best practices” for making a difference in the gang crisis and bullying epidemic that is impacting an entire generation. Over 4,400 young people committed suicide last year, largely due to the bullying epidemic. Their books, No BULLIES : Solutions for Saving Our Children from Today’s Bully and No COLORS : 100 Ways to Stop Gangs from Taking Away Our Communities, offer advocacy for at-risk youth.

Bobby Kipper, Director and Founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, is a career law enforcement officer with extensive experience in the area of preventing youth and community violence nationwide. His background includes working on a number of key national initiatives with the White House, Congress, and the Department of Justice.

Bud Ramey is the 2010 Public Affairs Silver Anvil Award winner of the Public Relations Society of America—the highest public affairs recognition in the world. His grassroots public affairs and humanitarian successes and advocacy for at-risk youth stretch across three decades. 

Hopeful Kids Don’t Bully

“Popular culture is a powerful force.

We can’t make it go away.

 The best we can do is try to understand it.

Then help our children navigate it”

 

Part of that preparation for the bully who will approach your child requires an honest look at the forces in play. For example, the epidemic of bullying coincides with an epidemic of gang membership in America, a 40% surge according to the FBI’s National Gang Threat Assessment study that stunned law enforcement officials across the country.

Without connecting any dots in a cause and effect relationship, the fact is that our children have the cult of dominance and the allure of the thug life marketed to them every day in music, video games, television, movies, social media, and clothing.

Popular culture, fueled by mass and highly personalized media, is a powerful force. We can’t make it go away. The best we can do is try to understand it. Then help our children navigate it.

Back to gangs for a moment, it’s worth noting that the big league gangs have minor league farm teams. And many of their best recruits can be found among the New American Bullies.

Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles and a leading advocate for young people involved in gangs, addressed a Virginia gathering in May 2012. His words echo today.

“Hopeful kids….don’t join gangs,” Father Boyle offers. “There has never been, in the history of the world, a hopeful child who joins a gang,” said the priest who has for three decades made his life rescuing young people from Los Angeles’ most brutal gangs.

“Our job, then, is to infuse hope,” Father Boyle said.

This same wisdom and the power of hope that it supports are applicable in dealing with the New American Bully and the trail that he or she leaves behind.


Bobby Kipper and Bud Ramey have co-authored two books and numerous articles on the crisis in youth violence plaguing our culture, addressing “best practices” for making a difference in the gang crisis and bullying epidemic that is impacting an entire generation. Over 4,400 young people committed suicide last year, largely due to the bullying epidemic. Their books, No BULLIES : Solutions for Saving Our Children from Today’s Bully and No COLORS : 100 Ways to Stop Gangs from Taking Away Our Communities, offer advocacy for at-risk youth.

Bobby Kipper, Director and Founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, is a career law enforcement officer with extensive experience in the area of preventing youth and community violence nationwide. His background includes working on a number of key national initiatives with the White House, Congress, and the Department of Justice.

Bud Ramey is the 2010 Public Affairs Silver Anvil Award winner of the Public Relations Society of America—the highest public affairs recognition in the world. His grassroots public affairs and humanitarian successes and advocacy for at-risk youth stretch across three decades. 

It’s Not “If,” It’s “When” Your Child Will Be Bullied: And Here’s What Your Child Shouldn’t Do (Part Three)

At fifteen yards I pull up just a bit to motion him on, waving with both hands. Wayne’s face gets even redder. He hesitates, then charges across the final yards running like a bull toward a red cape masquerading as gym shorts. At this moment, for Wayne, I cease to be a person and become simply a skinny, 120-pound irritant to be dealt with.

 What happens next remains to this day the most perfect timing of any physical act I’ve ever attempted.  Astonishingly, my spontaneous plan actually works.

At a distance I would guess to be no more than two or three yards I suddenly slide baseball style but a little more balled up, directly at his feet.

 In this very short space he can’t change direction.  He can only hit my coiled and somewhat protected body, tripping over me at full speed. With a quick glance behind and above me I can see Wayne, all 240 howling pounds of him, airborne and starting to flip over onto his back.

 He lands hard. Everyone there hears what sounds like a belly flop in a swimming pool.  Except the surface we’re on is hard packed dirt with a few patches of grass. There are not many visible places on his body that are not scraped and bleeding and undoubtedly some I can’t see.

 He lies there for a short time with no one even asking how he is.  Then he slowly gets up and begins chasing me for fifteen minutes. The flag football game is over and a new, far more interesting game has begun. I easily stay just out of his reach and I wonder why I didn’t use my greater speed and agility before.

 The Physical Education instructor comes to the gym door, whistles us in and I am once again safely in an adult supervised environment as I change clothes and just barely let myself think of the inevitable consequence of my actions.

 Just as I envisioned it he approaches me after the bell rings. I am resigned to what will undoubtedly be the most violent behavior that Wayne has ever directed my way.  And I don’t even care.  Not after what I saw.  It will almost be worth it.

 I said to him, “you had that coming, you know you did.”

 To his credit, if you can credit a bully, he doesn’t beat me up. Instead, he apologizes for treating me the way he had over the past six months or so and tells me he absolutely respected what I did.

 “You’re right, Buddy. I had that coming,” he says.

 The next day Wayne asks me to join his high school fraternity. The other guys playing ball with me that day never look at me the same way again. On graduation day I get some knowing looks and a few minor head nods as I head up for my diploma.

 That’s it.  I manage to avoid a monumental ass kicking and the bully repents.  A classic Hollywood ending that just happens to be true. But here is where the movie stops and gets rewound on the projector (remember, this is an old movie). We start back at the beginning and play it through in slow motion. What you see now is that everything I did was wrong.  Everything.

 I suffered in silence. I never told my parents, teachers or coaches.  I never shared the pain with my friends. Even when there were witnesses and sometimes co-victims I held back from talking about it.  And worst of all I played to his strength.  Literally.  I took him on in his own physically violent arena.

 Two things made that situation possible.  One, I got lucky and you can’t count on luck when it comes to a bully. Two, Wayne still had something in him, some thread of humanity that responded to my desperate act.  And you definitely don’t want to count on that, either.

 The good news is that school principals, teachers, counselors and coaches are far more on the alert today.  Parents are hopefully more attuned to the bully problem, too. For the most part, the whole world is more enlightened.  There are more places to turn.

 The less than good news is that the new 21st Century American Bully has evolved, too.  And there’s a good chance that he or she is more dangerous than ever with a lot more weapons at hand. 

 These 21st Century Bullies may carry a weapon of some sort, even a gun. They may be in a gang. They may have a technically savvy clique that attacks other kids on social media. They may spread lies and rumors and hatred throughout the school environment and beyond with the flick of the SEND button.

 Go up against today’s bullies and they’re likely to retaliate in a way that Wayne, limited to his own bulk and fists, could never have imagined.

 Today, the action I finally took, which gave me an undeniable sense of redemption and made my dad so proud when I finally told him about it, could be a gateway to horror.


Bobby Kipper and Bud Ramey have co-authored two books and numerous articles on the crisis in youth violence plaguing our culture, addressing “best practices” for making a difference in the gang crisis and bullying epidemic that is impacting an entire generation. Over 4,400 young people committed suicide last year, largely due to the bullying epidemic. Their books, No BULLIES : Solutions for Saving Our Children from Today’s Bully and No COLORS : 100 Ways to Stop Gangs from Taking Away Our Communities, offer advocacy for at-risk youth.

Bobby Kipper, Director and Founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, is a career law enforcement officer with extensive experience in the area of preventing youth and community violence nationwide. His background includes working on a number of key national initiatives with the White House, Congress, and the Department of Justice.

Bud Ramey is the 2010 Public Affairs Silver Anvil Award winner of the Public Relations Society of America—the highest public affairs recognition in the world. His grassroots public affairs and humanitarian successes and advocacy for at-risk youth stretch across three decades. 

It’s Not “If,” It’s “When” Your Child Will Be Bullied: And Here’s What Your Child Shouldn’t Do (Part Two)

At times I thought that maybe there was something weird about me. Maybe I had this kind of treatment coming.  Maybe I was doing something to deserve it.

After awhile it seemed that the bully and I developed an unspoken agreement.  I knew that I was going to be brutalized.  He knew that I knew and simply waited for the right opportunity.

The velocity of life increased every time he picked on me and I realized that most of my thinking was directed toward figuring out how to avoid him. 

And some days I did.  I would actually go one entire, long summer’s day without an encounter, though the fear was always there.  The bully might take a day off but my alert mechanism stayed on the job.  It would be nice looking back to think that I woke up one morning and said I’d had enough. One of those epiphanies when hell yawned and I felt its hot breath.  But it wasn’t really like that.  It just kind of happened.

It was in the fall during a school grounds game of flag football.

Each kickoff was an opportunity for Wayne to run me over at full speed.  On pass plays he followed me instead of they guy who caught the ball. During plays from scrimmage, he ignored the runner and simply ran into me on the pretext of blocking me out of the action, no matter where I was on the field.

No coaches or PE instructors were around to observe that Wayne was far more interested in harassing me than playing the game. Their only presence was the sound of conversation and occasional laughter coming from inside the gym.

So Wayne would knock me down with such violence that I was bleeding from several places less than halfway through the game.  As the opposing team was getting ready to kick off again, a friend said to me. “He’s going to run you down again, Buddy.” I shook my head side to side and said, “Not this time.”  At least I think that’s what I said. I know at least I thought it.

Let me switch to the present tense for a moment to better convey to you the full impact of what happened next:

The teams face off thirty or so yards apart and I make eye contact with Wayne.  I stand up straight and motion for him to come on, waving to him maniacally, challenging him, taunting him, even giving him my best glare.

The kicker launches the ball into the air.

The other players on both sides angle away from the two of us, now running full speed toward each other.  Getting closer and closer, twenty boys are now focused on us and not the football.  Nobody even noticed the boy who caught the kickoff. 

As we get closer I can clearly see that Wayne is red faced and contorted with anger, churning the ground, digging hard, building up enough momentum and speed to injure me badly.  I try not to focus on that now.  I avoid looking directly into his eyes as his frightening bulk gets closer to me.

At fifteen yards I pull up just a bit to motion him on, waving with both hands. Wayne’s face gets even redder. He hesitates, then charges across the final yards running like a bull toward a red cape masquerading as gym shorts. At this moment, for Wayne, I cease to be a person and become simply a skinny, 120-pound irritant to be dealt with.

 What happens next remains to this day the most perfect timing of any physical act I’ve ever attempted.  Astonishingly, my spontaneous plan actually works. 

(Part Three Tomorrow)


Bobby Kipper and Bud Ramey have co-authored two books and numerous articles on the crisis in youth violence plaguing our culture, addressing “best practices” for making a difference in the gang crisis and bullying epidemic that is impacting an entire generation. Over 4,400 young people committed suicide last year, largely due to the bullying epidemic. Their books, No BULLIES : Solutions for Saving Our Children from Today’s Bully and No COLORS : 100 Ways to Stop Gangs from Taking Away Our Communities, offer advocacy for at-risk youth.

Bobby Kipper, Director and Founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, is a career law enforcement officer with extensive experience in the area of preventing youth and community violence nationwide. His background includes working on a number of key national initiatives with the White House, Congress, and the Department of Justice.

Bud Ramey is the 2010 Public Affairs Silver Anvil Award winner of the Public Relations Society of America—the highest public affairs recognition in the world. His grassroots public affairs and humanitarian successes and advocacy for at-risk youth stretch across three decades.