I wager that a majority of the reading audience will agree that the word “Atlas” is synonymous with male masculinity: big, strong, well built.
Charles Atlas (born Angelo Siciliano in 1893) was a frail kid who was subjected to bullying as a youngster growing up in the New York area.
According to legend, Atlas, after watching a lion stretching at a zoo, concluded that he could build up his body by exerting one muscle against the other, thus the exercise term “dynamic tension.”
Regardless the actual history, much is documented. This man, officially proclaimed to be “The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man,” did successfully market his exercise regimen, and became a household name.
A feature in his advertising campaign was a cartoon titled “The Insult that Made a Man out of Mac.”
Basically, the cartoon was this: A skinny man named “Mac” was on the beach with his girlfriend.
A bully came along one day and kicked sand in Mac’s face, emasculating him in front of his girlfriend.
Mac started exercising and developed a brawny physique.
On the beach with his girlfriend — at a later date — Mac ran into the same bully, confronted him and the bully took flight.
Thus, Mac gained both his girlfriend’s admiration and a stronger sense of self-esteem. (sources: www.charlesatlas.com & http://cagle.msnbc.com/hogan/features/atlas.aspm)
The inspiration for this column was the tremendous feedback that came after my Oct. 31 column, “Dad irate with gay pride, ‘Schools gone wild.’”
Essentially, Gay Pride Day, unofficially celebrated in high schools across America in October 2010, was the result of many gay students getting bullied at school and no one, fellow students, teachers, etc., taking up for them.
Gay students started communicating on Facebook, and — presto! — Gay Pride Day was headline news.
Even more troublesome, there have been many documented incidents of teenagers committing suicide because of bullying.
One that commanded national media coverage was the case of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old college student at Rutgers University.
On Sept. 19, Clementi’s male roommate and a female student used a webcam to secretly tape and broadcast Clementi’s “dorm room” homosexual encounter with another male.
Clementi was so “tormented” by fellow students that he took his own life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge a mere three days later, Sept. 22.
And, of course, “online bullying” is faddishly popular these days.
Though high school-age gays, arguably, are more at risk, “bullies” do not discriminate: Any race, gender, profession, or sexuality is fair game.
For example, a crowd of snooty high school girls — attractive, silver spoon-fed jet-setters — constantly poke fun at an obese boy with a bad case of acne, from a poor family.
What’s the end product?
Anything from depression-induced suicide to serial killer to he slims down and gets to looking so fine that all the snooty girls “want him.”
Different things affect different people differently.
Still, the adult workplace can be a prime breeding ground for bullying.
Someone in a superior position flat-out doesn’t like a subordinate, though the subordinate is an excellent employee.
The subordinate is the primary breadwinner for his/her family.
The superior gets his/her neurotic kicks from keeping the subordinate on edge, needlessly making him/her think his/her job is in jeopardy on a daily basis.
I suppose this qualifies as “white-collar” bullying.
Like many other societal problems, bullying continues to thrive because too many people are reluctant to step forward and address the issue.
Be it heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, physically frail, does poorly in school or unattractive, they still are human beings, and if they’re not forcing their preferences on anyone, they have the basic human rights of being left alone and protected.
Oh, I almost forgot: What, precisely, is the difference between a bully and a coward?
Because the biggest bully in the crowd, always, is the biggest coward.