I hate bullies.
When I was a kid I’d get bullied quite a bit. I was a pretty quiet kid, introverted, smart and socially uncomfortable. There were reasons for that but the details aren’t important. Back in the 80’s, the concept of the Alpha Male was really in its stride. Loud, aggressive type A male dominance was considered “leadership” by most people. That’s how you got things done, that was “showing initiative” and leading by taking charge.
Mostly though, it was just somebody intimidating you into getting whatever they wanted. You know, bullying. If you need examples, think of Bobby Knight, John McEnroe, Gordan Gecko, that kid from “A Christmas Story”, Jack Nicholson in a “A Few Good Men”, pretty much any 80’s action star in a bad boy role, Charles Barkley, or about half the kids on any given school football team at the time. Our heroes, our shining examples of what it is to be a masculine man or a good leader. Talent and results trump behavior and consequences.
That was what passed for leadership. Boys being Boys and all that. Coincidentally, a lot of women were told to model that, too. “If you would only be more assertive!”, the boss would tell them as they slap the waitress on the ass. “Then you’d get ahead.”
Fast forward to today and it’s still that way in too many places. Some of the excuses have changed and they’re much better at playing the victim card now. Stop me if you’d heard any of these.
“That’s just locker room talk.”
The list could go on for a very long time, bullies like their excuses, but it all centers around this – A passive aggressive attempt to defend bad behavior, either by minimizing the abuse, or by portraying themselves as victims and the people calling them out on it as the aggressor.
I could have fought back. I knew how to defend myself, I had a lot of practice fighting back then. I was stronger and faster than most my age, and I knew how to hurt people. Fighting wasn’t the problem, it was the consequences. If I lose my temper, if I lose control, the bully gets hurt badly and I will do something I regret. Maybe I get in trouble, maybe not, but the damage is done and it lasts a lot longer than the conflict right that moment. Compared to a little hazing, not hurting somebody, not hating myself for damaging another human being, it seemed like the better trade.
Of course, the bullies didn’t know that. They thought I was being weak and afraid. They called me all sorts of names and generally made my life hell for a little bit of time. They made the assumption that, because I would not fight, that I could not fight. That assumption gets made a lot by bullies.
I’ve learned a lot since then, and a lot of society has learned that there are better ways to be- as leaders, co-workers, teammates… As human beings. Progress.
But people, we still have a bully problem. And we still have a framework that supports them. You can find them in the media, Facebook and Twitter, religious and political establishments. They exist everywhere. Whether the motive is profit, power, or an absolute refusal to be a better human being, the means remain virtually unchanged.
But, like I said, I’ve learned a lot since then. Now is not the time to remain silent, it is not the time to assume that the harm done today will be the only damage done. The conflict is not just a physical one, it’s an emotional, intellectual and spiritual one, as well. There are so many things we don’t have to agree on, that we can argue about or never see eye to eye on and be perfectly OK with, as people and a society. But there are things that should be unacceptable to everyone.
Racism, sexism, abuse. Systemic inequality and oppression. Hate mongering, fear mongering. Lies. The list continues…
Silence in the face of these things is no longer taking the high road, the consequences extend too far. Say something, do something, fight back. Violence need not be the answer, but there should be an answer. A multitude of answers and actions. Every time.
Some of you, assuming you make it this far, will see this as a political post. Given the events of the last few days and my posting history, that would almost be a fair conclusion.
This transcends politics, religion or career choice. Standing up for what’s right, what’s good for the world, the people, our country, isn’t a political or religious choice. It’s not a thin line of any sort.
No more silence.