Mothers and sons

I went to Scottsdale Community College recently to see the latest offering in the anti-hate film series they present each year with the Anti-Defamation League.

The film, titled “Bullied,” recounts events leading up to a court case involving a Wisconsin student who’d been brutally harassed during middle and high school because of his sexual orientation.

A title can be a telling thing. Given the name of the film, I expected to learn more about bullying and the challenges facing LGBT youth — and I did.

"Mother & Son" by Stephen Armstrong

But titles rarely reveal the whole story, for I found this film to be first and foremost a profound glimpse into the precious relationship of a mother and her son.

After the film, someone commented that “coming out is really something that happens for the whole family.”

The film “Bullied” beautifully portrays the impact of bullying on Jamie Nabozny’s entire family, and everyone around him — including other targets, bullies and bystanders.

We’re often reminded that “it takes a village to raise a child.” But “Bullied” reminds us that “it takes a village to protect a child.” If you’re not doing something to prevent bullying in our communities, you’re part of the problem.

The film offers ways that those who experience and witness bullying can stand up and reach out. During a post film Q & A session, a tall and slender young man from Africa stood to recount his family’s own experience with brutality.

We spoke a while near the close of the evening about his mother, Rose, and a film sharing their story — which I’ll feature in a future post.

I was especially moved by comments he shared earlier with the 100 + people gathered at SCC, noting that objections simply shouted in the street are easily ignored.

The real key, according to John Moise, is for parents to discuss bullying in their homes — even with their very young children.

Bullying will be banished only when each of us take responsibility for teaching our children that it is wrong to hurt others or to simply stand by as others cause harm.

I shared with Moise some of the words I’d helped my young children formulate when they were barely knee-high, so they’d know how to advocate in the moment for kids being teased or harrassed.

Telling our children they have to stand up to injustice is all good and fine, but too often we fail as parents to actually give them the concrete tools they need to do so.

Parents and teachers eager to learn more about bullying prevention have plenty of resources — including the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

As folks from the ADL pointed out after the film, bullying that goes unchecked too often escalates to violence — even genocide.

I was also moved during the Q & A session by a father who spoke of his work as a Christian minister, and how often he’d preached hatred toward homosexuality before learning that his own son was gay.

Life is plenty challenging for LGBT youth. But imagine what it’s like for those rejected even by their own parents.

As the mother/son story in “Bullied” makes clear, it’s our job to love and protect our children — and the other children of the world — no matter what.

— Lynn

Note: I also chatted after the film with a woman who does “Holocaust tracing” for the American Red Cross — who told me about the recent reunification of family members from Poland. I’ll share more of her story in a future post as well.

Coming up: Art speaks louder than words

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