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Bullying prevention, not just a month

We recognize National Bullying Prevention Month in October. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Jan Kays/Released)

We recognize National Bullying Prevention Month in October. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Jan Kays/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Nine years ago in October National Bully Prevention Month started. I bet you didn't know that, but if you did, kudos to you for knowing things. I was unaware of it. Granted, I was even unaware we had a month in which we focus on not bullying people. I mean bullying is so childish, right?

Every so often I see in the news that there was a 'bullying incident' at a school and somehow it makes national headlines. But it isn't real for me, in my mind I can see images of Biff from 'Back-to-the-Future' and I almost smile at the absurdity of people like that existing. My concept of bullying is so skewed by the amount of entertainment media I have consumed, that it is hard to take stuff like this seriously. I don't think about bullying because it isn't part of my world by the definition I have come to understand it. That isn't to say I haven't experienced it in one of its many forms.

So what is a bully? I googled 'bullying' and my good friend 'Wikipedia' was quick with the answer. I was surprised that it's rather simply defined. Bullying is anytime that force, threat or coercion is used to intimidate or dominate others. I am pretty sure I don't do that, at least I don't think I do.

We have all heard the saying, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" and I think on the flipside "a bully by any other name is still a jerk". Just because you don't give it a name doesn't change what it is.

As I mentioned previously, my personal experience with any form of bullying is extremely limited, however, of late I have seen way too many forums and blogs that contain the telltale signs of bullying. We have all seen the posts, whether it is a video about stolen valor, or a photo post of fat shaming, it all falls into the same general category - bullying. These internet forum flame wars are absurd in the best of times and destructive in the worst.

"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me", whoever crafted that clever saying was obviously lying. Words are one of the most destructive forces shy of physical violence.

Bullying isn't just something that middle school children experience, and with the advent of technology, bullying has become easier. It isn't a new problem, and I am sure it can happen in the Air Force with greater frequency than we would like to admit. Preventing bullying isn't contained to a month, and everyone knows that, but we get so lost in our own little worlds that maybe, just maybe, we need that month to force us into some self-reflection. If you don't believe bullying is a problem, just type a few words into the 'google machine' and see what turns up, you won't be disappointed - or rather, you probably will be. And, at the risk of sounding overly 'Air Force', be a good wingman, but be a better person.