We live in a very funny society. I’m not talking about the “ha! ha!” kind of funny. But rather the funny that is unsettling, almost pathetic.
On the one hand, we go on and on about the poor elementary or high school kid who was bullied at school and finally does something about it, whether he shoots the place up with his father’s AR-15 or simply kills himself. We wonder why bullying is allowed and why no one will stand up for these kids.
We’re indignant and angry that in this world today, bullying still goes on. Even with anti-bullying laws, there are still school bullies and kids are smart enough to know that if they tell on the bully, there will be retaliation, retaliation that is often worse than the actual act of bullying.
Bullies simply take their bullying to the streets instead of the playground. They continue to beat up on those who can’t defend themselves off campus. They don’t even have to use their fists these days; they can do all their dirty work on social media. Facebook posts and Tweets have now become the uppercut and left hook of the bullying world.
I know a thing or two about bullying. I was bullied in school almost constantly as I grew up. I can still remember the time Marvin Hill punched me in the mouth in front of the portables at McKnight Middle School. And the time I was surrounded by senior football players at Hazen High School and unceremoniously dumped in a garbage can, a strange welcoming ritual that helped establish the school’s caste system.
Of course, there was the name calling. I was called a “fag” and a kaleidoscope of words that were far worse. I became withdrawn and sullen to the point that I wouldn’t even ride the bus to school because the bullying there was so bad.
I was even turned on by one of my supposedly good friends. John Rhode was a jock, but our families were all friends. Don Rhode was Jeff’s friend so it was natural that John and I became friends. That was until he gave me a box of candy at school one day. I unwrapped it and in my innocence, didn’t know that road apples were horse turds.
I was heartbroken by his betrayal. He would call me “Zerrber Baby Foods” in high school; a rather banal tease by today’s standards.
It wasn’t until the day that I came to school and told everyone I was rich, that I was an apparent heir to a baby food fortune, that the bullying stopped. I learned to make fun of those who made fun of me through my razor-sharp wit.
I was bullied in my personal life too as an adult. Famously, my Florida ex tried to claim I was emotionally abusive to her; a charge so hurtful that I contacted some of my other former relationships to ask if I had been that way with them.
What I didn’t understand at the time was that I was once again being bullied and worse, bullies are very good at convincing you that everything is wrong with you, not them. I never thought women could be bullies, but over time and through therapy I came to realize that I was in an abusive relationship and that I was being bullied through emotional control that was both mean and calculating. The almost constant berating and remonstrations – privately and publicly– took a tremendous toll on me, turning my hair temporarily gray and temporarily taking away my manhood, if you get my drift.
So I can see how bullying can affect you. I have bullied and been bullied. And I have had to learn the hard way how to stand up to it.
What mystifies me still, however, is why we as a society can feel such empathy for the little kid who’s bullied why we allow ourselves to be bullied on a level that is unparalleled in modern times.
Perhaps we are just all shell-shocked as the constant barrage of Tweets flow from the Bully in Chief. We can’t imagine anyone in that position being so callous and mean to others, from members of Congress and the parents of a Gold Star veteran to the onslaught of anger at Puerto Ricans for not fending for themselves. He spends days tweeting about football players and ignores the ongoing plight of California fire victims.
All the while he smiles and says he’s helping us. He promises better healthcare but guts the core of what we have. He returns women to the dark ages, while he reminds us that he’s going to make America great again. He throws paper towels in Puerto Rico for the cameras like he is in the Super Bowl, but denies them aid, telling us that it’s really their problem, not ours.
And like all great bullies, he tells us that its everyone else’s fault and makes us believe that something must be wrong with us instead of him.
Small wonder why Congress is in shock, as is most of the country. Our leaders aren’t supposed to be bullies. Yes, they should be strong. But they should also be the poster child of compassion, understanding, and empathy. True leaders lift others up; not tear them down.
Still, we all stand still while this crazy loon tears the country apart using tactics befitting Marvin Hill’s sucker punch or John Rhode’s road apples. What’s worse, we allow him to do it.
Regardless of our political leanings, bullying is not acceptable under any circumstance. If we are truly going to walk the talk, how can we look our children in the eye and tell them bullying is bad when we stand silent when the Bully in Chief lashes out like he’s still on some New York schoolyard.
At least in school, the bully might have to visit the principal or even get expelled. But what’s the penalty to the Bully in Chief? The only weapon that seems to work is the public’s disapproval of these behaviors, and yet, we are loathed to take a stand against presidential bullying. Through our silence, we are condoning bullying of the sick, the poor, the needy and the weak in this country by the very guy who is supposed to support us and protect us.
Regardless of our own political persuasions, we all need to be anti-bully. This should really be a no-brainer. I’m not telling you to like or dislike the guy or his politics. What I am telling you is that we as Americans and as parents, need to stand up to the biggest bully of them all. If we don’t call him out on his behavior, how in the hell are we going to tell our children not to do something that we ourselves are obviously condoning by our own silence and inaction?
In the Emerald City, seeing all bullies for what they really are, or more important, what they aren’t,