Have you ever realize how much is about bullies?
We all know the stories about children being bullied by other children and the horrifying consequences of that. That exists on a special level of horror and nothing I am going to talk about even begins to go there.
We tend to look at bullying as at least a little exceptional, something easy to identify, and something most people would never take part in. I question that.
Have you ever considered how much in recent years bullying has become woven into the fabric of our daily lives and how much it affects the way we identify ourselves, how we identify others and what we should expect from others.
Look at the broadest level: politics. How much of the Republican presidential campaign is not, as some have said, about who will be chosen class clown as much as who will be chosen class bully. How much of the Republican campaign is appealing to the rage of some people and telling them not to worry : “I will make sure that more bad things happen to bad people than my competitors. I will put those people in their place, teach them a lesson and make sure they can no longer cause trouble anymore.” How much of the Republican campaign is a group of angry, blustering people appealing to every point of hatred in the people whose vote they seek and promising “not to take no shit from no one…..”? How much of the Republican campaign is a promise to go to war on the poor, on the disadvantaged, on the different?
In Tennessee we have Sen. Ron Ramsey. He has told everyone to sit down, shut up, and not talk back. The insurance expansion that 280,000 people are waiting on will not happen. He has decided to wait for a Republican president and a better deal. (No he does not know how crazy that sounds.) He is the ultimate big kid in a class of little kids (at least he thinks so).
How many bullies do you see in ordinary social interaction? How many people do you know who judge their size based on how little they can make other feel? How many people try to control by threatening others with what they might say or do? How many feel personal attack or assault is legitimate conversation? How many people patrol the righteousness and true belief of others?
Mental health advocacy is overrun with bullies on all sides of the question. People have found out if you say the wrong thing in the wrong way the people on your side are far more dangerous than those you are against. Many people defend their positions with a vengeance and fervor that would impress the most fired up religious fanatic.
A personal example. The incident is not that important but the process illustrates some of what I am trying to say.
I was contacted by a person who did not approve of some things I had said in a blog post. She told I was a victim of Nami cult programming (if you google it I don’t think it is there). I asked her how she knew and she told me since she had “been in the mix” for a while she could see some “hints” in some things I had written. On more than one occasion in the past I had seen her tear into people who had violated her sense of orthodoxy and true belief. I told her she was full of nonsense and left the conversation.
It really wasn’t until the next day that I really started to get angry. I had been “psychiatrically” diagnosed with Nami cult programming disorder by someone who had “Some hints….”, who did not know me in any real way, and had never talked to me. I wondered if a psychiatrist could do any better and I didn’t think so.
Serious though… We accept bullying, name calling and intimidation as acceptable business as usual too often and rarely say anything. I am guilty. I have seen it happen to others and never said a thing. Bullies love silence and always take it as permission and go on.
Have you ever listened to someone mercilessly slam someone and wondered why no one spoke up and then wonder later why you didn’t either. I have. Have you ever listened to someone peddle hatred and prejudice as sacred fact and just set there and smiled. I have.
I can do better. I don’t know whether self righteousness and posturing is inevitable. Perhaps it is. Someone once told me “I am not sure why but the Lord did make mean people.” But silence need not be inevitable and as for me I can do better. And I will.
It is far more than about personal feelings though. The cannibalism of mental health advocacy makes real and needed change more difficult. No one will listen to someone say we should be treated better than we treat each other. No one will worry about the names we are called or the labels we wear when we exult in the labels we put on each other. No one.
There are a lot of really good people out there. Some of the best ones I know think I am wrong about major things. Regardless of position, regardless of what side of what fence you sit on it is time for the good people to speak out. We can and should do better.
And above all else say no to bullies.
A special note… A good part of this post was inspired by a post I read from my friend Michael Skinner about bullying. He said some of the same things I said but perhaps said it better. Thank you Michael.