Fighting the human vultures

Photos by Susan Price

Anywhere you go along the Gulf coast, a black silhouette of a large bird can often be seen soaring high above offshore islands, sparsely wooded areas and roadways. It may be one of the numerous black vultures looking for a dead or decaying animal carcass.

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Often a turkey vulture with its bright red-hooded head and better sense of smell, locates the carrion first. As one black vulture moves toward the desired meal with its raspy hisses and grunts, others join it and the flock takes over the carcass. Whether it is a turkey or black vulture or called by the common name, buzzard, they are scavengers and unless someone or something interrupts the meal, the vultures will continue picking and picking until only bare bones are left.

Human beings may behave like vultures. It might be in a rural setting, a small town, a big city or on the internet. It could be in a school, the workplace, a grocery or retail store, a playground or even a house of worship. These human vultures may be children, adolescents or adults. They may be employers, parents, husbands or wives. Like vulture community groups, these humans may begin with one person, followed by others joining in until a mob, gang, clique or posse is formed.

They use their perceived power or strength to threaten and intimidate and may be called abusers, tyrants or tormentors but they are bullies and unless someone or something interrupts the aggression, the bullies will continue picking and picking until a person’s feelings of self-worth are destroyed leaving an empty shell.

Bullies, like vultures, retreat when confronted by someone with more strength or a group of supporters but usually are prepared to renew an attack when the victim is alone. So how can these victims be protected? Some encourage them to “fight back” physically or verbally which has resulted in injuries or even death. Others say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” as the suicide rate increases.

Educational institutions set anti-bullying policies, but parental complaints continue demanding schools protect their children from a wide range of being teased, picked on and even harassed. Laws are enacted at the federal, state and local government levels, yet, when intimidation complaints are voiced, the response is often no arrest can be made until physical harm has occurred.

Is it possible for a parent, other family member or friend to help a child or adult who is being teased unmercifully, browbeat or harassed in any way? Mental health professionals encourage positive self-talk to combat negative emotions and increase self-confidence.  If a “vulture” is constantly taking bites from a person’s feelings of self-worth, positive encouragement and self-talk can replace what is being destroyed.

Helping restore a person’s self-concept may seem complicated but it can be as simple as realizing the person’s strengths and consistently repeating them, especially following a bullying incident. A child may need the guidance of a parent, teacher or other significant adult to identify their strongest assets. An adult, young or old, may also benefit from friendly positive suggestions.

Beginning each day with a reminder of these qualities can help continue to build the feelings of a positive self-worth. It might be reading a list posted in a prominent place before leaving home. It may be repeating a memorized self-talk chant. It could be placing an object in a pocket which can be felt as a reminder of the strength desired. It may be special notes placed in a child’s backpack to be found during the day.

Be creative…add your ideas in a comment…share with your family and friends…fight the vultures!

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