Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Differences that Are Sure to Come

He couldn’t stand Cesar Chavez. Every time he was in the newspaper or on TV news, rallying Mexican immigrant farm workers to unite, my dad would curse under his breath. He called Chavez a troublemaker.

I didn’t get it at first, especially in the late 1970’s. I had just turned 12 when my mother married my second step-dad, the man I would always celebrate as my dad from that point on. But I didn’t quite get why my dad felt the way he felt, at least early on. I didn’t know a lot about the world at that age, and why adults did the things they did, why the felt the things they felt. With the unfortunate exception of experiencing domestic violence and sexual abuse prior to that.

My dad had been a police officer and detective for 32 years when he retired in 1994. He was a tough, bourbon drinking, cigarette smoking (which he quit in 1984), very personable and pleasant matter-of-fact pragmatic cop who always lived in the conservative right, but was tethered to centrist sensibilities, like a padlocked box of assault rifles bound tightly atop a slow-moving station wagon.

We grew up in the Central Valley of California, the one that still “feeds the world.” The one that mostly embraces conservative Christian ideals. The one that battles over building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The one battles over whether or not we’re in a drought. The one that wants to own guns of any size and caliber because the 2nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution says we can. The one that still needs immigrant Mexican farm workers to work the fields because no one else will do that back-breaking work.

Throughout high school and college as I began to understand my world better, I would challenge my dad and my mom, who also shared much of his world view and prejudices. My parents wanted order in the world, so any person who disrupted order, the status quo, no matter the reasons why, were nut jobs, troublemakers and criminals. It especially didn’t help if they were non-whites and not Christian, but even then, my parents were equal-opportunity and orderly conservative Christians (which they became more of over time together). Any social upheaval was one upheaval too many, no matter who the rabble rouser was. My dad simply didn’t like bad guys or girls, those who broke the law. He was a cop for goodness sake.

But I always took them to task and took the alternative perspective on various issues, my more liberal education channeling a different social perspective on the world than they were familiar with. I was also more liberal than my sister, who eventually became a cop herself, something my dad fought, then supported fully. He knew how tough it was going to be on her as a woman. And it was. Plus, he had three daughters from a previous marriage, our step-sisters, and I’ve always believed that this is what birthed his moderate heart.

What my family didn’t realize throughout my formative years, at least consciously, was that they helped me find my voice. My value. My world view. My ability to listen, to comprehend, to analyze and to make somewhat informed decisions, both good and bad. They helped shaped the inquisitive mind I have today. We were like TV’s The Goldbergs, except we were a Christian cop family growing up the Central Valley of California.

My parents took the time to listen to us, were patient with us, although my dad wasn’t shy about calling foul when I had no idea what the hell I was talking about. I was able to do the same with him. Any social more, politics, economics, race, gender, sexual orientation, AIDS, the environment, terrorism, crime, gun control – you name it – we could talk about almost anything and agree or agree to disagree. It didn’t mean we were always civil, or without some name calling, but we worked through it nonetheless. And yes, there were some big bumps in our relationship road that took time to fix, but fix them we did.

My parents were loving people and good Christians in the end who did care about those victimized and those less fortunate than most. But they had their prejudices, that’s for sure. (Don’t we all?) I don’t recall my dad ever coming to terms with Chavez’s important and highly disruptive social and economic impact. Until the end of his life, he still didn’t like liberal “troublemakers” no matter what. That would never change. I would never agree with this take either, and that was okay with him.

My parents cared enough to let us think for ourselves. To encourage us think for ourselves even when that was at odds with their beliefs. To encourage discourse and accept the differences. This is why with a heavy heart I’m so disappointed with too many of my peers I grew up with who are parents today, some of whom are old friends or professional acquaintances I’ve met over the years.

Those who are blatantly spewing hatred on all sides of the political and social divide. Those who without pause go for the jugular and cut it wide open. Those who get nasty personal without regard for the other person’s values or viewpoint, who even go as far as threatening and doing bodily harm to one another. Those who don’t do any of this anonymously either, who just fill up their Facebook feeds and Twitter streams with uninformed idiocy and hatred and who just don’t want to hear an alternative perspective no matter what. No room for productive discourse or compromise.

We’re either all libtards or facists. And all the while their children and ours absorb it all. That's what perpetuates a country and a world divided. That's why solutions escape us.

Sure I can use my Kidpower throw-away and walk-away powers, and I do. And thanks to the Mama, who is amazing, we’re instilling the same in our girls, who have yet to experience the hateful rhetoric poisoning the wells of collective wisdom around the world.

We will still work hard to help our children find their voices, their values and their world views, while accepting the differences that are sure to come. We can only hope that other parents will continue to do the same.

Miss you Mom and Pop. Everyday should be Mother's and Father's Day for those who make a positive difference in this spiteful and complicated world, regardless of the difference or divide.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

No One’s Ever Asking for Rape

There they were, three little words: And more rapes.

These three words were in response to someone sharing a seemingly positive article about President Obama addressing Air Force graduates that female leaders will help make a stronger U.S. military.

It’s a post that seemed to be relevant for the professional networking site known as LinkedIn – leadership, education, business, etc. But these three little words were the first comment on this post: And more rapes.

I couldn’t get the post and comment out of my head after that, although I never went back to it, nor did I click on the post link the first time I saw it. However, I did take a screen shot of it and wondered what the context of those three words was. I may want to reference it at some point. Sadly, the reference came sooner than I thought.

Was he suggesting that more women leadership in the military would prompt more rapes in lieu of making for a stronger military? Probably. I feel that’s the only read on why he commented that way. Forget about what his politics are. Forget about whether or not he’s was being comedic (or thought he was). Forget about whether or not he was an asshole, which he probably was.

The tired answer of “this is the way it is in the military” or any other modern day male-dominated industry and/or society, which most if not all still are – is simply pathetically tired. That women who put themselves in certain situations are “asking for it” – that it shouldn’t be a surprise that they will be raped.

The reality is that every two minutes in the U.S. someone is sexually assaulted. I’ve been a victim myself. In fact, a report of child abuse is made every ten seconds1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18. And that's only what's reported. Statistically speaking, child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.

Brighter minds than mine have discussed all this for many years, but I need to speak up (yet again) because of one simple truth: I have a wife and two daughters. Three human beings that reinforce in me every day how precious life is and how important it is to love and respect each other.

I also had a mother, a sister and other strong female role models in my formative years to thank for the respect I have not only for women, but for other men as well. Respect, empathy and restraint. At least for those who share in kind. (God knows the men early in my childhood were no help whatsoever.)

Nobody’s asking for it. No matter what gender, how they dress, how they speak, how they act, their beliefs, their sexual orientation – even if they first say yes to intimacy and then change their minds. Nobody’s asking to be raped. No one. When it’s not consensual, when another person forces themselves sexually on another via intercourse, it’s rape and it’s a violent crime. It’s nothing else but that. It will never be anything else but that.

Except that there are countries, like in Brazil and elsewhere around the world, where a culture of rape thrives. Where a 16-year-old girl has reportedly been raped by at least 30 men in Rio de Janeiro. Where “images of the alleged attack on social media ‘racked up more than 550 likes and a deluge of replies with smiley faces and thumbs-up,’ The Globe and Mail reports. Where ‘Commenters using vulgar language celebrated the damage apparently inflicted on the girl's genitalia and said she had no doubt 'been asking for it.'"

Again, nobody’s asking for it. And yet, even in America, we still blame the victims a lot of the time. That for example, if they hadn’t been at that party drinking and wearing sexy clothing, then they never would’ve been raped. Like the Stanford student Brock Turner convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, but only sentence to six months in county jail and three months’ probation because, according to the judge, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others.”

And when the father, understandably defending his son, states before the sentence was handed down, “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life. The fact that he now has to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life forever alters where he can live, visit, work, and how he will be able to interact with people and organizations.”

Sure, it’s his son. But I don’t care that his father thinks it’s a steep price to pay. I really don’t. This isn’t fucking Con Air where the tattooed rapist telegraphs his every violent tendency towards women. This isn’t about stereotypical he-man woman haters.

No, this is about a young man who didn’t stop himself from raping when the girl lay unconscious behind a dumpster. Where he penetrated her with “a foreign object.” Where according to a statement the victim made she wanted “to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. ... My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today."

He was the only cause. Not her. He went too far. Nobody’s asking for it. It wasn’t her fault. I remember one night early on dating my now wife, really drunk, both of us stumbling up the stairs to my apartment, making out and groping each other, and never in my most primal drunken delirium could I have forced myself on her, conscious or not.

So Scott Herhold of the San Jose Mercury News, I’m not confused “about the severity of this case for him.” I sadly think you are. A culture of campus drinking (and for those of us who went to college know of that culture everywhere) makes no never mind when it comes to rape. Because the 20 minutes of Brock Turner’s rape really comes down to the seconds where he could’ve and should’ve stopped himself. Where he could’ve taken her home, no matter how inebriated, and then gone home himself and slept it off. However, like my dad always used to say (who was in law enforcement for over 32 years), “Should’ves and could’ves only count in horseshoes and hand grenades; they don’t mean shit.”

I have a wife and two daughters. Or, I could have a husband and two sons. It doesn’t matter when it comes to rape and sexual abuse. Either way I will defend their worth unconditionally, as they would defend mine.

I’m outraged. You should be as well. We must all give voice to victims of sexual abuse and rape. We must stop blaming the victims and start making the rapists and abusers accountable. We must be the defenders of those precious seconds prior to a life destroyed, to instill self-aware prevention in our children. We must support organizations like Kidpower, a global nonprofit leader in personal safety and violence prevention education, that provide positive prevention tips to help us focus on what to “DO” to handle different types of personal safety problems.

We must ultimately and definitively educate society here and abroad that no one’s ever asking for rape or sexual abuse. We're just asking for prevention and justice.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Thank God for that New Car Smell

“Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It's the only way to live
In cars…”

—Gary Numan, Cars

Bryce kicked the back of the new seat in front of her. Then Beatrice followed suit.

"Girls, stop kicking the seats right now!" the Mama cried out.

The salesman kept on with his final checklist. "So, when you press this button here, then you'll be able to..."

But I could no longer hear him. His voice trailed off like a commentator during a stressful playoff game. I knew he was telling us important last-minute things to remember, yet it was too late in a game that had become a nail-biter for us all.

The girls were throwing their small stuffed animals at each other. They rocked in their seats behind us and kicked at our seats, squealing with crazy glee.

"I said stop kicking the seats!"

" can see how your phone connects to the car here..."

I'm sorry, what?!? The entire time the salesmen spoke he kept a well-balanced disposition as if he were a flight attendant talking to the passengers on his 1,000th flight about flotation devices and emergency exits while parents rocked wailing babies in front of him.

"Sweetie, we have to go now," the Mama said to me.

"...congratulations again, and now I just need you to sign here to acknowledge I walked you through these items..."

"Great," I said and signed the form. "We gotta go. Thank you!"

"Thank you!" the girls and the Mama echoed.

He thanked us again, I shut the door and we drove away.

Three and a half hours earlier...

We were ready to go. Cars evaluated and research done: best value bang and family safety for the buck and all that. We'd briefly considered hybrids and all electric in the past, but they still didn't pencil out for a family car. Then we reviewed our negotiation prep: don't lead with your number or the monthly payment -- get them to serve their best price first. Plus, it's Memorial Day weekend and it's the end of the month, and all that other car-buying jazzercise. Which, according to online car-buying sites, no matter when you go, says plan on being at the dealer marathon for up to four hours. Or more. Mercy me.

And then there's the meltdown-card prep. Yes, the part where you keep your kids in your back pocket for leverage. As in, "Listen, just so you know, once our kids start melting down, then we have to wrap things up. Just so you know. You know?"

Because the last time we bought a new car was before Beatrice was born, just over eight years ago. We'd been putting off getting a new family that last two years, even though we entertained it because our trusted family car was no longer trusted. So much so that the multiple repairs from this year alone were enough for us to cry out, "We need that new car smell!"

Blech. Nobody wants a new car payment, though. Especially for those like me who only see them as a means to an end, a way to get from point A to point B, and unfortunately a depreciating investment that can sink you quickly like wearing concrete shoes. The last time I truly loved cars was when I had my first car in high school -- the only manly muscle car I've ever owned and actually cared about as a status symbol and means to identity -- a 1972 Chevy El Camino. Sigh. Good times.

We were certainly ready for the buying experience this time. And we did pretty well in the overall negotiating department. The girls played the entire time with their coloring books and iPad and spent a lot of time in and out of the new showroom cars, pretending that they were taking their imaginary stuff animal families on road trips and into traffic jams. We didn't have to play the meltdown card. They only got squirrely during the last long hour of the buying process and us waiting to transfer our stuff from the old car into the new one and sign off on the final checklist.

"Great," I said and signed the salesman's form. "We gotta go. Thank you!"

"Thank you!" the girls and the Mama echoed.

He thanked us again, I shut the door and we drove away.

...later that same evening...

The new car hangover had settled in and I went outside to sit in in for a few. Not because of buyer's remorse, but mainly because I needed a little melancholy Rocket Man action, to sit in my new spaceship after a few glasses of wine and float through outer space to clear my head (counterintuitive with a few glasses of wine inside you I know, but work with me here). I miss the earth so much, I miss my wife and kids. I knew they were all right there with me, just inside at my sister's house, who was finally home from the hospital. All good news. Amen.

But I had been gone on so many back-to-back trips of late, more travel that I usually do, I avoided the thinner emotional atmosphere of everything going on and where it's much harder to breathe. I'm usually pretty good breathing up there. Usually.

Lately though, not so much. The why of it all still keeps me gasping for air, a precursor to panic attacks of old, which in turn makes me grumpy as hell. Not a proud combination to say the least. Thank God for that new car smell.

And family, too. Yes, thank God for family wrapped in that new car smell.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Dive In We Do

Her shrieks were maddening. Out of context a passerby listening might think we were drowning her. Fortunately with all the other parents, babies and children around us in the pool with swimming instructors instructing, we were in safe company.

Except that Beatrice hated it. Every single minute of it. The swimming instructors did their best to console her, as did we, each of us getting in the pool to hold her and guide her.

Yet she cried and howled and thrashed and wanted nothing to do with immersing any further in the warm pool water, especially when her head hit it. Thankfully six-month-old Bea wasn't the only crying baby and toddler being taught the fundamentals of floating and paddling in the water.

We tried to comfort her and acclimate her, but she was disdainfully vocal, if not the loudest. We only went a few times to those swimming lessons way back then. In the years since there have been more swimming lessons with more painfully visceral results, sometimes to the point of making herself sick. Even in the bathtub, she still hated putting her head under the water.

All because she was scared to death that she'd sink.

When she could articulate how she felt, that's what she expressed over and over again. Even today after finally being comfortable in the water, learning how to swim and submersing her head, she's still worried about sinking.

Conversely her younger sister Bryce is not only unafraid to put her head under water, we have to temper her desire to dive in head first nearly and literally every single time. Bryce has never really had a problem with wanting to swim, just the normal fear of going under the first time. Her shrieks are joyous and infectious when she's in the pool.

All because she eats "sink" for breakfast.

The dichotomous sister swimmers are now water-ready anywhere we go and look forward to it all. They are my lifetime metaphors personified -- to be deathly afraid of what could happen next or to boldly go with whatever happens next. What comes next for them is to learn how to manage the poles and all the in-between. And us grown ups know how much in-between there is.

"Can we go swimming at Auntie Kristen's World?" the girls asked when we told them we were going  to visit my sister again to see how she's doing and to help where we can.

They ask if my sister's house was an amusement park complete with swimming pool, just like when we take the girls to Disneyland and go swimming in the middle of the day to break up the park trekking. Damn, if only that were the case. My sister is now awake and doing better, although there's a long way to go with her "in between" and the healing that will hopefully come.

Of course we don't share everything with the girls at this age, but they do know she's sick and that she needs the family's help. They're already packing their stuffed animals while pretending to talk with them:

"We're going to Auntie Kristen's again."

"Awe, but why?"

"Because she needs our help again."

"Okay, let's go help her then."

"Yes, and then we'll all go swimming!"

"We can't wait!"

And so dive in we do.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Why Is the Loneliness of Space

“I miss the earth so much
I miss my wife –
It’s lonely out in space…”

—Elton John, Rocket Man

I asked for it. I did. I wanted it. All of it. The back-to-back travel that came with the candidate experience half-day workshops we’ve been running via the research organization I work for. Since February I’ve gone to 10 cities across the U.S. with a Toronto trip coming up to culminate delivering 13 workshops overall.

Not a Herculean effort compared to those road warriors who travel every week for business.
And no, I’m not looking for a medal or a gold star next to my name. I love doing what I do. I keep saying over and over that I don’t like being away from my girls and my wife, but I do love what I do and love to travel. (And no, I’m not going to sing you Cats in the Cradle.)

Although I think I keep saying it over and over because I’m trying to convince myself that I don’t miss my family as much as I do, which I do. Yes, I talk to them every day that I’m gone and we see each other on FaceTime. Of course it’s not the same as when I can give my girls a hug and give my lovely wife a kiss.

Now, combine that with the fact that my sister’s in the hospital four hours away from where we live and it gets even more complicated. Not just for the fact of being there for her and her grown children due to the seriousness of her illness, but for all the things that have to get done when a loved one is down. All the additional expenses that add up when you’re coming back and forth with your family or just yourself. Keeping your kids out of school if they come with you. Having to rent a frickin’ car because one of yours is in the shop. Managing your work and business trips in between. Attempting to unravel the highly complex realities of the healthcare system. Dealing with rotating nurses and doctors and technicians and social workers and endless paperwork and questions and headaches that all the hopes and prayers in the world can't make enough magic to change.

We just did this a few years ago with our own parents, and now my sister is the one in the hospital. You tell yourself that these are just the things that you have to do, and you don’t count the costs when it comes to taking care of someone you love and all the things around them that need to be taken of.

But you do count them, you have to count them, and that’s okay (so don’t look at me that way). Love is powerful, yes, and yet there are asterisks and footnotes in the paperwork. It’s just a matter of reconciling with yourself that these are the things you can and are willing to do and sustain as long as it takes.

The other morning I sat in my sister’s hospital room watching her sleep. I was the only other one in room with her besides the nurse coming and going. Her bed rolled automatically underneath her to keep her body moving and to help prevent pressure sores. It was fluid and slow, as if she were in zero gravity; I imagined she was floating in space. Why are we here? I thought.

“Why?” I said aloud. Why? It was just an allegorical question. A simple and calm inquiry. No angry fist shaking at God and the universe. No toxic well of emotion spilling forth in frustration.


Then I imagined we were both in space and all the years growing up together swirled around us and moved us along like soundless solar winds. I realized the why was pointless because it will never give me the solace I seek. The why is a vacuum that nature abhors.

The why is the loneliness of space, and it's gonna be a long, long time. And through it all I pray for my sister and miss my family.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Part Where I Went Wrong

“Make it easy on yourself
There's nothing more you can do
You're so full of what is right
You can't see what is true…”

—Rush, The Color of Right

We lost six years. All because I wanted to help and she didn’t want it and our entire family went to hell in an intimately woven handbasket.

Flame. Ash. Poof.

I wanted to be the one who was right. I obsessed over it. I went to therapy over it. I didn’t sleep because of it.

I just wanted to be right, which is where I went wrong. Not because I wanted to help my sister – that was as a noble gesture – but because I wanted to be right, to be acknowledged as the family champion saving the day. Instead, I was accused of destruction and then I chose to estrange myself from the family.

My sister and I, we lost six years, and it wasn’t until the Mama and I had children and our parents’ health deteriorated when we finally came together again and restored our relationship.

Then there we were – my wife, my sister and me – standing in silence around our mother's hospital bed. She lay swollen and silent, eyes closed, the only noise coming from the life support systems keeping her alive.

No more needing to be right. And so tired of being wrong. Just needing to be with one another, both our parents gone within four months of each other. Yes, heaven is being with those you love and to hell with everything else.

Nearly four years later and there she is. That can’t be her on the hospital bed. The swollen face and limbs. The endless tubes and pumps connected to her neck, arms and legs, feeding her antibiotics and fluids and oxygen. The pings, buzzes and alarms sounds from a myriad of machines displaying erratic vitals and undecipherable numbers.

It just can’t be her. No, my sister is at home working her butt off to keep the yard in shape. Running nearly every day to keep her body in shape. Working hard to earn a living on her own. Missing her two grown children, both far away from her, yet talking to them nearly every single day.

But there she is in the hospital bed. She’s laying there sedated, looking hauntingly like our mother, breathing on a respirator, her body in septic shock from a rapid infection. Right now it’s day by day, and we hope and pray that her strong will and her incremental improvements lead to a full recovery.

The part where I went wrong puts in all in perspective.

I love you, Sis. Happy Mother’s Day.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Before We Wreck It All to Hell

"You're an idiot!"

That's Beatrice. She's the big sister both in age and in size. Especially in size. 

"Stop it!"

That's Bryce. She's the little sister. She's about a foot and a half shorter than Beatrice. They're only two years apart, but when they stand side by side, you'd think it was a much greater age difference.

It's then that Bryce lunges at Beatrice and hits her on the arm. Or on the back. Or on the leg. Or on the head.

Multiple things are happening here at once; the physics of sibling actions and reactions. One moment they're playing cooperatively and all friendly like, which thankfully is most of the moments to date, but then the next moment they're antagonizing each other, going at each other's throats. The oldest can goad her younger sister to spark confrontation and then the youngest is much more physical in her response. 

Strike and retaliation and counter-strike. Again, not unusual for siblings. With positive discipline and  Kidpower in play, we approach as follows:
  • First we sportscast: "It looks like you have trouble solving your problem and you need help."
  • Then we encourage them to set clear boundaries without painful retaliation: "Beatrice, you were experimenting with your power but were being unsafe with your words. And Bryce, good job setting your boundary, but make sure to use your trash can and just throw those words away without hitting back."
  • Then we encourage them to play something else: "It looks like you both aren't playing the same game so maybe you should both do something different."
  • Then lastly: "Can you check in with each other please?"
That last part helps them expand their empathy by ensuring each other are okay both physically and emotionally. 

"Are you okay, Beatrice?"

"Yes. Are you okay, Bryce?"


"I'm sorry."

"Me too."

I know what you're thinking: That's nice, but sometimes you gotta be firmer than that. That's where I still gravitate sometimes; it's tough to rise above canceling out a negative with an even stronger negative.

But even I've come a long way from my childhood and I know how it works. I see how it works. The Mama sees how it works and helps to teach us all. And yet, we do have to be firmer sometimes when the girls are way out of bounds. We get mad and yell. We're human. It happens.

When it happens in the confines of home we can learn and grow from it and use our trash cans and throw all that crap away.

Except when it comes from outside the home and that crap is online. When it arises from simply being different and being made fun of, or for making a mistake that you end up paying for over and over and over again.

When "you're an idiot" becomes a painful brand inflicted continuously by legions of cyberbullies and haters. And it's even worse when you're a woman. I read a recent rare interview via The Guardian with Monica Lewinsky, the woman who had an affair with then President Bill Clinton back in the late 1990's. Of course I'm not condoning the what happened between them, and when I imagine it being one of my daughters, I'm sure one of my first thoughts would be you're an idiot.

But then we'd be there for her to help her work through it all and to help her heal and move on. That's no easy trick today considering how much abuse individuals much less iconic than Monica have to put up with online. From the fallout and abuse she still receives today, from both men and women, she's now a respected and perceptive anti-bullying advocate. In fact, she helps out many different organizations including Bystander Revolution, a site that offers video advice on what to do if you’re afraid to go to school, or if you’re a victim of cyberbullying.

The writer of the above article pointed out something that as a parent of girls cuts me to the core:

"I noticed something similar during my two years interviewing publicly shamed people. When a man is shamed, it’s usually, 'I’m going to get you fired.' When a woman is shamed it’s, 'I’m going to rape you and get you fired.'"

I'm going to rape you and get you fired. Jesus H. Christ. It's not enough just to bully the individual, because when it's a woman, you're going to throw in a violent crime to raise the hater power stakes. 

When it comes to our children and teens, this is where we must start educating on what cyberbullying is and the harm it causes to all of us. Kidpower, the global nonprofit leader in personal safety and violence prevention education, has some great tips on how to do just that including asking kids who are actively using technology for communication what they already know about cyberbullying. They usually have a lot of information and strong ideas. Ask if this has ever happened to them or anyone they know. Make sure that the young people in your life know that:
  • Cyber-bullying means using computers, mobile phones, or other technology to hurt, scare, or embarrass other people. Cyber-bullying gets people in serious trouble at school and also with the law. In a growing number of places, certain forms of cyber-bullying are illegal.
  • Being mean is being mean, no matter how you do it. Don’t ask if it’s funny. Ask if it will make someone unhappy.
  • Even if you think someone was mean to you, being mean back is not a safe way to handle the problem. Instead, get help from an adult you trust.
  • Have the courage to speak up if you notice anyone cyber-bullying. Say that this is wrong and that you are not going to keep it a secret.
  • Use privacy settings, but never post anything in social medial or send anything out electronically that you don’t want the world to see.
  • If you get an upsetting message or see something that is attacking you: Do not reply. Do not delete. Save the message, get a screen shot, print it if you can and get help from an adult you trust. If one adult does not help you, keep asking until you get the help you need.
Again from the above article: Lewinsky has advice for bystanders, too: “Don’t bully the bully. It doesn’t move the conversation forward. I see bullying as similar to cutting. People who cut are trying to localise their pain. I think with bullying, people are suffering for myriad reasons and are projecting it. Instead of cutting themselves, they’re cutting someone else.”

That's positive and quite progressive, something I'd struggle with being the father of a victim of so much visceral hate. Just as I wrote earlier this year about hateful online trolling and the site called Yik Yak, Kidpower also offers up another eight important skills on how to face bullying with confidence.

Skill #2, which is all about "leaving in a powerful, positive way," recommends that the best self-defense tactic is called "target denial." In other words, "don’t be there." Or as I like to call it -- change the channel, kids. Turn the channel and don't give "them" any more power than they already have. I do it all the time, especially online. This doesn't mean I wouldn't face an oppressor and stand up for myself, and there are many options and flavors of defensive responses including physical self-defense if ever needed.

That's really tough advice to give, I know. I'm still conflicted because I'll defend our girls no matter what -- both the Mama and I will -- and we want them to do the same for themselves. And in the same breath of me saying "turn the channel" I sometimes want to say "smack them back."

But instead of a world where victims and haters refer to each other as idiots, regardless of how much we want to believe otherwise about the latter, we should do a lot more checking in with one another before we wreck it all to hell. Because if we're not playing the same game, then for goodness sake do something else. 

Like read a book. Adopt a pet. Plant a garden. Go for a walk. Don't be an idiot.