I am going to start right off offending certain liberals by daring to use the words bullies and bigots as the title. There is a philosophy out there that nobody is what they do, they are who they are. So the fact that someone bullies others does not make them a bully. We must separate out the good in them from the bad. If that person is a great father and husband but mistreats those at his place of business, that means he's not a bully or bigot?
The idea for writing about this subject began with the image above that a friend posted on Facebook. She had added her concern that we find ways to stand up to this behavior without turning into bullies ourselves. Because I agreed with the image and know it takes courage to confront bullying and bigotry, I shared it but without an explanation and got a comment from another friend asking is this creating a title or talking of a behavior?
Well it's both and I thought it'd take more than a Facebook comment for me to explain what I mean and why this matters. Also where does it lead when bullying is ignored?
I think people can become bullies and bigots. They can do something so often that it becomes part of their persona, and it's no different than when we speak of someone who is so generous, gives so often that we consider them a saint. We become what we consistently do. Yes, it's not all of who we are; but if we regularly engage in bullying behavior, it should be at least one adjective to describe us. That does not mean that one act of bullying makes someone a bully. It does mean that if it consistently happens, yes, they will attain the reputation of a bully.
The nice thing about being a bully or bigot, and there really is only one nice thing, is such a person can change that behavior. They don't have to stay either. If they recognize it as being a bad thing, not helping their lives, they can turn it around. It's not a skin color, a gender, how they look, having a disability, or an ethnicity. It's a behavior but when that behavior is routinely followed, it becomes a title.
My own experience with being bullied is mostly through what I have read and the stories I've been told. I actually have never been bullied. I have never bullied anyone else either. I have had people say mean things to me-- mostly when a child; but that's not being bullied. Bullying is something that keeps happening, and it's done to browbeat the victim and gain power for the bully.
I wrote one of my books that centered around bullying and bigotry-- Moon Dust. It explored this behavior from the consequences in schools and homes. Although the villain was a male, there was also a woman I would also call a bully. She never actually appears in the book, but the ramifications of her behavior were still being felt on the one who had, as a child, been her victim.
Here's the thing about confronting bullies. The victim generally cannot stop it. It takes someone either stronger or who doesn't care whether the bully likes it or not. The weak are at the mercy of both bullying and bigotry until the larger population or a strong individual steps in and says-- enough.
Children are where this can do the most emotional damage. The bullying can be physical or emotional. The 'cool' kids find someone different to build the strength of their group. Empathy for what they are doing to the weaker one is lost on them unless someone can show them a better way. There is nothing wrong with using shaming to do it. It is shameful behavior to bully another and deserves to be seen for what it is with no soft soaping.
The whole experience can be turned around when someone steps in to stop the bullying, someone stronger-- leaving a lasting memory on the bullies and the bullied. Some years back, A boy in the church youth group told me how our son, when he was one of the big boys on the bus stepped in to to protect him. He hadn't forgotten it. Maybe someday he'd do the same thing for another when he was the strong one and could.
I have quite a few family stories about someone who confronted a bully. Farm Boss had the experience in high school where he stepped between a bully and his victim and got punched hard for his trouble. But the bully later became a friend and who knows if stepping in that day turned his behavior around. Stepping between bullies and their victims can have a cost but there might be a benefit also.
He told of a boy who was a bully in an earlier school he attended where the principal stepped in but understood the boy was being bullied and brutalized in his home; so what the boy needed was attention. By an adult, someone in power, doing something about it, another life was turned around. Bullying does not have to be a permanent condition.
Where it comes to bigotry, it comes out of the same basic source-- fear and need for power. It is connected to bullying because bigots often abuse and bully. They do it because they get power from it or possibly have decided the 'other' is a threat.
Bigotry can come from those who do not think of themselves as bigots. Like the young woman after this election who said she wished Obama would be assassinated. They asked if she was a bigot when they interviewed her. She denied it. Of course.
Some of the most bigoted stuff I've gotten has come through jokes where when I would confront the sender by saying it wasn't funny, they would act offended. It was just a joke. Well sorry but making fun of someone of another race, gender or ethnicity is a way to belittle them and generally based on lies about who they are.
These days with the internet allowing for anonymous bullies, perhaps the behavior is growing as some threaten and frighten others for the joy of doing it. When it's children taking the brunt, they have gone so far as committing suicide to escape what they feel they cannot any other way.
Bullying and bigotry can be a huge problem in school where children cannot escape from the bully or bigot, where they become so depressed that they cannot function. But it doesn't end there. It can be in the workplace and homefront. It is when a man sexually fondles a woman who has no power to stop him, where insults are thrown around, gossip spread, lies created all to put down the 'other'.
It might seem idyllic to say there are no bullies or bigots only bullying and bigoted behavior. I don't buy it. When someone does something often enough, it's what they become. But they can change it. And it will take someone stronger to make them face that truth. The victim is unable to do it which is why they were chosen or even created.
Tolerating bigotry or bullying, with some sense that it's not the bigot or bully's fault, that it comes out of their religion, etc etc., cannot stand if a culture wants to be a good place for all its citizens. Recently we read of a school girl who stood up to what I consider bullying behavior by a religious group. She was shot in the head for it and is still trying to recover. Will her culture as a whole stand against what she was enduring? Time will tell as it does take courage and the risks are not unsubstantial.
After I wrote this, I saw this story: Mexican cartel assassinates woman where she had stood against the bullying and illegal activities of a drug cartel. Some might say that is an extreme example but that's what happens when a culture ignores bullying and bigotry. It can go and will to the extreme.
Image on top from Facebook. Photos purchased from CanStock. I am really liking getting these for here as well as my books and trailers. It's not very expensive and often illustrates something that words alone don't really express.