Bullying...Society's Frankenstein Monster

Hopefully I'm not one of those people who jumps on the bandwagon of a current trend when bullying is not a trend.  Bullying is chronic.  Bullying has always existed and should not be the "current rage" of horrified people who "didn't realize how bad the problem was."  Bullying is mostly in the shadows.  It's secret.  It is fear.  It doesn't grab the headlines until the result is worthy of sensationalism.  This is the sadness of our society.  We can all spout off our two cents worth, we can scream from the soap box but the truth is none of us have the answer to end bullying.  There isn't an answer other than intervention and education.

I don't believe I'm making a grand confession by saying that in high school there were several times when a bigger boy, an angrier boy, a bitter boy attempted to bully me but I was able to stand up to them without much harm coming to me.  And I would be a liar if I said I did not witness bullying and did not do anything to help.  In those years my response was what is likely the typical response, at least it isn't me being picked on.

Over the years I did a lot of soul searching, wondering what it was about me that made me a target, what makes anyone a target of bullying.  Was it because I was smaller than a lot of the boys?  Was it because I was smarter than most of them?  Was it that I struggled through puberty?  Was it sexuality they were afraid of? During this soul searching I came to understand what the answer was.  I realized that there was something in me, about me that they saw in themselves.  Something that they were afraid of.  I was a mirror to them, reflecting that awful thing they had been taught by either society, family or other friends to hate, to be afraid of.  And in their confusion they could not understand how I could be unafraid of that something.  How could I be so comfortable with myself, so accepting of myself? What better way to prove you were not that reflection in the mirror than to break it?  Through violence they would show me that I should not be comfortable with myself, I should be afraid of the same thing they were. They would teach me a lesson.

With this understanding I realized it is the bully who is afraid and their only instinct is to lash out. Therefore the key to stopping the act of bullying is work with all kids and adults in understanding themselves and that in our uniqueness and our similarities all should be accepted.

It cannot be denied that a source of bullying in school can be an extension of bullying from home.  Many times a child that bullies other children is likely being bullied by his or her own parents.  There is no difference except that the parent sees that certain something in their child that frightens them, could make their child an outcast or a victim of bullying.  At its core is a sense of shame, the feeling of failure and the bitterness of what society might think or say.  Yet they somehow do not recognize that the act of bullying itself is shameful and damaging.

One can argue that society itself is the creator of bullying, a closet Frankenstein monster. Through culture, politics and religion a creature was put together and brought to life that's sole design was to humiliate and diminish an individual and by society's actions, or lack of actions, tolerance of bullying evolved.  Society will likely not be able to stop this monster but society can continue to shine the light on the act of bullying and we can continue to talk and communicate as well as reach out to those who are likely to become the victims of bullying.  I believe efforts should be made to seek out those who would become bullies.  Reaching out to these children before they do act with violence or humiliating behavior may be the key to ending the cycle of bullying.

No one should be silenced or broken.  Always be willing to listen, to help and to intervene when necessary.  We may not be able to end the viciousness of bullying but we should make every effort to try.


Public Cemetery held Hostage by Church Members

Over 30 years ago land was donated to the Maple Grove community in Ten Mile, Tennessee by a family with the request that a cemetery be established. The family donated the land with the provisions that any person who wished to be buried there could do so for free and regardless of their religious background.   Today members of a church that sits adjacent to the cemetery are literally holding the cemetery and the community hostage.  The public cemetery is chained and padlocked.  Members of the community with buried loved ones in the cemetery have been harassed, photographed and threatened with violence.  Citizens of the community have been arrested and letters representing the church have been sent demanding compensation for cemetery plots or the church will claim headstones as their own property until payment has been made.  This is not a plot for a novel or prime time soap opera. This is a true story and it is happening today.

In the 1970s the land that is now the Maple Grove Community Cemetery was donated to the Ten Mile community.  The family donating the land came to members of the Maple Grove Independent Missionary  Baptist Church because most citizens of the community attended the church to establish a cemetery that would be free of charge and would not discriminate on any religious grounds.  The church did not fund the establishment of the cemetery. Citizens of the Maple Grove community in Ten Mile who did attend the church paid for the construction of the fence.  In fact, the church's only contribution to the cemetery has been the occasional mowing of the grass inside the cemetery fence.  The paved road that runs from both gates of the cemetery was paid for by a family with relatives buried in the cemetery and the paved road replaced a gravel road that was not easily managed in damp or rainy weather.  In the early 1990s the Maple Grove church was burned to the ground by an arsonist and to avoid an ongoing land dispute between landowners (one of which is now part of the group attempting to obtain compensation for the cemetery plots) members of the church at that time voted to move the church to land adjacent to the Maple Grove Community Cemetery.  The turmoil that resulted within the church during the construction of the new church building led most of the members of the church to no longer attend the Maple Grove church or move on to other churches.

Fast forward to the late 2000s, a new set of church members, in a power play worthy of a European parliament fight,  purged many of the remaining members who were present at the time of the establishment of the cemetery.  In this time based on financial documents presented by these members the church was and continues to suffer severe financial hardship and in order to generate revenue and despite legal documents to the contrary these church members with the blessing of the church have laid claim to the public cemetery.  Initially their demands for compensation were ignored by the community and life and death went on as usual.  It was at this time that these church members began chaining and padlocking the cemetery gates and posting signs that all activity had to be approved by them.  Legal documents show that in the 1970s trustees of the cemetery were established within the church with the understanding that their work in support of the cemetery was not part of the church's responsibilities and would carry on whether or not they were members of the church. One of the trustees remains in the neighborhood to this day.  For the record, this trustee is my father.  The community legally and justly repeatedly removed the chains and the padlocks. Based on Tennessee state law, the impeding of access to a public cemetery in the state of Tennessee is a class E felony and the community had every right to remove any illegal impediments to the public cemetery.

The fight between the community and the church came to a head when members of the church threatened to block a hearse and threatened physical harm up to the point of death to citizens if they attempted to bury a woman who had just passed away without compensating them.  This vicious and cruel encounter forced the community to request and obtain restraining orders signed by a sitting judge to prevent members of the church from blocking the funeral procession and burial of a citizen of the community in a public cemetery.

Despite the restraining orders and the simple inhumanity of the church's behavior, the members  of the church continue to harass the community, having citizens arrested for attempting to enter the cemetery and continue to threaten to extort compensation for grave plots they legally cannot obtain.  Pictures included in this story were taken by actual members of the church and provided in court cases to complain about citizens who attempted to access the public cemetery.  The community needs all the legal advice and support we can give it.  Many citizens just don't want to fight against a church and are ashamed of how the community as a whole will appear to the rest of the world.  Many are trying to be decent and hope that members of the church will come to their senses and stop violating the law.  In my opinion they are hoping for a miracle.

On their behalf I have filed a claim with the Justice Department on the grounds that the chained and locked gates are a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  A woman in her 90s and in a wheelchair who's husband is buried in the cemetery a good distance from the gates would have to be carried to her husband's grave because a wheelchair would not function the distance in the rough grass to get her to the gravesite.  Included in the filed claim are complaints that the church is violating citizens' rights of assembly and religion as through their actions they are blocking citizens of other faiths from being buried in the cemetery.  I would appreciate any offers of help or advice I can give citizens of my hometown in stopping this horrific injustice.  I can provide more detailed information including copies of what I call "extortion letters" and a copy of the restraining order used to block church members from stopping a burial.  I do hope this story shocks you as much as it does me.  I would like to see this church stripped of its tax exempt status and charges filed against the individuals who are the masterminds behind this indecency. Churches cannot be above the law and certainly should not be allowed to dictate who can and cannot enter a public cemetery.  Contact me at




Halloween & The Runny Nose

Halloween is my favorite holiday.  It is the day and night in which you are encouraged to be someone or something you are not.  It is the time you can allow your alter ego to run free without the fear of repercussions.  As a writer putting on a costume is like a three dimensional form of the written word, another form of freedom.  Halloween is an unofficial kickoff to the major holiday season of the year and as a writer of dark fiction I have found that for as much light and happiness this time of year brings there is plenty of darkness to explore.  Enjoy this time, my readers and my fellow writers, as darkness is a time to dig deeper into yourself, pull back new layers and see what you find!

The changing of the season has brought on my first cold so as I enjoy the Halloween holiday it is with the burden of a runny nose and scratchy throat that I write this.  Karma is always the great balance of my life!


Free Speech and The Question Mark

As The Raised is gaining momentum in both sales and attention the meaning of "free speech" returned to me.  I will always be a believer that everyone has the right to say what they want and if it offends me so be it.  I know that through my life I will say things that will offend many and I expect the same tolerance although I know I won't receive it.  I used to believe that free speech was a phrase used in the argument to protect political speech but now as I see the increasing number of you who are reading my book I realize that even fiction is, and rightfully should be, protected by the Constitution of the United States.  Writers are courageous to allow themselves to be exposed to both criticism and blatant attacks for what they write.  Knowing that everything I write, even fiction, can be taken out of context and convoluted to imply an agenda is something I will have to accept as a consequence of the willingness to express myself.  The practice of freedom even in writing can be frightening and I, we, must have the courage and strength to do just that.


In a casual browse over my book I suddenly  noticed an issue of punctuation.  I should have used a question mark instead of a comma.  The trauma I felt over the fact that I had neglected to change the punctuation was probably overly dramatic but being a perfectionist I was very troubled over the possibility of the one sentence being misinterpreted.  Talking this over with a dear friend I received the calm down and put the situation into perspective talk.  We can't read the intended inflection of dialogue in a book regardless of a question mark or a comma so it is up to the reader.  It is part of the joy of being a reader that we have the opportunity to draw from a writer's work an experience that is unique to ourselves. With or without question mark, I wholeheartedly agree.


The Day the Apple Died

I find a bittersweet irony in the fact that The Raised Kindle version was released on the day one of the most innovative men of our time departed this life.  Steve Jobs is a man of miraculous talent.