Born 15 years ago in Bedford, England, Phoebe Prince immigrated with her mother and siblings from a beach town called Fanore in eastern Ireland to South Hadley, Massachusetts in the autumn of 2009. By mid-January, just several months after her arrival, Phoebe would be dead of a self-inflicted hanging -- the result of incessant bullying that pushed an innocent girl beyond her emotional limit.
Phoebe is not the first deeply wounded teen to commit suicide, nor, quite tragically, will she be the last. Like most, I have not endured anything quite so suffocating. Yet I have known taunting, abandonment, gossip and defamation, passive aggression, psychological manipulation, a couple of the most hardcore whisper campaigns ever, and ad hominem fallacies of numerous sorts, all of which are driven, as far as I can tell, by a self-centered neurosis that feeds on the perception of weakness.
I wrote of not one, but five personal experiences specifically for this post that have shaped me forever -- instances that could have led me to a fate similar to Phoebe's. Yet I opted at the last minute to keep them to myself. Close to me or not, to hell with my aggressors (and their Pavlovian dogs).
Some of the worst acts of iniquity in recorded history began with a smile and friendly word. Justice is slow and rarely certain. Not everybody gets a happy ending. Believe me, a smile hides much.
"Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life, but define yourself."
-- Harvey Samuel Firestone (1868-1938), founder of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company and one of the leading industrialists of his time.
"Do not be bullied out of your common sense by the specialist; two to one, he is a pedant."
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), one of the great writers of the 19th century and a native of the area where Phoebe met her fate.
"If you let a bully come in your front yard, he'll be on your porch the next day and the day after that he'll rape your wife in your own bed."
-- Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973), 36th President of the United States