America the Bully-ful

Bullies are finally getting the attention they deserve in our general discourse; anyone who has been a victim to bullying knows that a bully has no trouble getting attention interpersonally. I was struck by a recent story on a student that was repeatedly bullied at her high school in person and online. This person, Sarah, posted a note to Reddit complaining and explaining her plight of being bullied and having the school do nothing about it. The bully apparently had a roster of victims, was quite well known to all and liked by most. Prior reports of bullying fell on deaf ears.

Sarah posted that “The cyber bullying has gotten to the point where the school will not take any action unless I kill myself. Reddit- how do I get my story out and make this stop?”

Following this post, Sarah got the attention she needed to improve her situation. The world wide web came to her rescue in the form of bombarding her high school administrators with emails and citations. We have been assured that the bully problem has been addressed. This time.

I am happy that bullying and bully prevention are taking a prominent role in our educational system, like domestic violence, it has often been a sticky social situation that no one really wanted to deal with – I mean, kids will be kids, right? Wrong! Bullying happens for a reason, it is a red flag waiting to be attended to. The bully has some serious “issues” and the longer they go unaddressed, the more that bully will cause “issues” for their victims.

High schoolers are certainly not the only one with “issues”, they are in good company. Bullying comes from fear and insecurity. If you feel that you are in a weak position physically or mentally, bullying can shake up that frame and -temporarily – put you in a position of power.  Take a look at the above photo.

A woman with her back turned is being pulled backwards by the hair – I thought that kind of thing was reserved for bad kitsch surrounding cliché caveman pictures.  I am wondering how this NYPD cop might justify his actions against this Occupier. I’m guessing that it was not necessary, that the cop was not reprimanded or punished. Bullying is often encouraged in the ranks of police – perhaps even seeked out in recruits. If our “finest” can do this without reproach, why wouldn’t our children see this as an example of good behavior?

Our foreign policy has also been in the bully mode. It has softened a bit with Obama in office, but the cowboy policies put in place by G.W. Bush have been maintained by Obama. What goes for the rest of the world, does not go for America – we expect special treatment and favoritism even as we posture and flaunt our military might (from a weakened position). Our latest renegade terrorist -Robert Bales – is treated with kid gloves while presumed terrorists from Afghanistan still await even charges sitting in Guantanamo Bay. If other countries treated American “suspects” like we have treated foreign “suspects”, well, we might have just started another war about that.

For some people, beating someone into submission is the ultimate right answer. It ends the discussion and shuts the opponent up. Barring violence, the next best thing would be to lock them away in isolation so that no one can hear their side of the story. This is what an absolutist attitude will do for you. When you believe the world is all black or white, right or wrong, you begin to believe that “any means necessary” to achieve that “right” answer is justifiable. In America we celebrate this quite a bit.

Our sports teams are less about good sportsmanship and the spirit of the game, more about “kickin’ butt!” or more likely “pulverizing” the opponent, “creaming” them, or at the very least, “beating” them.  Superficially, this might be harmless, but we know it can become actually destructive when you see riots follow big upsets or violence between rival fans.

Our politics are also pretty cut throat. While on the house floor, congressional members might refer to their “honorable and esteemed colleagues” through gritted teeth, on the campaign trail, the gloves come off and courtesy goes out the window.

The movie “Bowling for Columbine” pointed out how one of the most horrific violent tragedies that unfolded on a high school campus, came from an area that had a Lockheed Martin facility – a war weapons manufacturer. The line is drawn between institutionalized violence and the violent choices made by two teenaged boys who became the judge and executioner for 13 humans and terrorized an entire community.

As mentioned last Friday, an entire faction of Republicans, wants to take away the resources to help victims of domestic violence combat their bullies.

Trayvon Martin was gunned down for walking home in (his own) gated community (the story here). His perpetrator was an adult, white, “neighborhood watch captain” with a record of power tripping. Apparently the killer may not even be arrested though the circumstances of the killing seem like he committed manslaughter at the least. How can we expect deadly bullying to stop when our laws and authorities don’t even require it?

The principles behind progressivism strongly involve empathy and democracy. Becoming militant, authoritarian, and intolerant means getting locked into black and white thinking – it means becoming what you say you abhor. If someone is acting in that way, they are not acting in a progressive way – they are regressing. Conservative thought proudly offers up “correct” answers and actively pushes for that worldview. Conservatives have a shorter ideological distance to travel to become a bully, because they already live with a black and white (not shades of grey) world.

The truth is that we are all progressive and conservative in our own ways. We all want to think that we have formed our opinions based on complete and relevant information, once those opinions are reached, we want others to think our way. Progressives get a bit conservative when they stubbornly adhere to their opinion and conservatives get progressive when a real world situation is the exception to their ideological rule. Bullying may be an American past time, but it’s not one to be proud of. Are we able, as Americans, to stop the bullying? Can we break the pattern and get out of the habit? Can we teach our children something we ourselves have not yet mastered?

It’s time.

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9 thoughts on “America the Bully-ful

  1. Willa Addison says:

    As mentioned last Friday, an entire faction of Republicans, wants to take away the resources to help victims of domestic violence combat their bullies.

    I hale from Illinois, A Dem, state government, and they have not only cut most of our family violence programs;(child abuse, elder abuse, and spousal abuse) but cut funding to schools for counselors that offer one of the only safe places to disclose for some children.
    Women’s centers are relegated to bake sales and begging to provide a safe haven for abused women and their children.

    • Amy Meier says:

      Thanks for the comment.
      These programs are too important to be left to the winds that blow among charitable organizations. They are essential to the health and happiness of millions of American and should not be left unfunded. It sounds like in Illinois, Dems may be just as culpable in playing politics with this one.
      Charitable organizations cannot be relied upon to be stable and consistent enough to offer these services.

  2. AA says:

    These are the best sentences you have written on your blog so far. I know there will be others. And, (IMO) go leagues further towards a civil discourse than anything else. -AA

    “The truth is that we are all progressive and conservative in our own ways. We all want to think that we have formed our opinions based on complete and relevant information, once those opinions are reached, we want others to think our way. Progressives get a bit conservative when they stubbornly adhere to their opinion and conservatives get progressive when a real world situation is the exception to their ideological rule.”

  3. lokywoky says:

    ‘Our latest renegade terrorist -Robert Bales – is treated with kid gloves’

    I am very disappointed in this language coming from you, Amy. Especially when you criticized me for using the word ‘bozo’. Robert Bales is, by all the reporting I have seen, suffering from serious physical and mental problems – TBI and PTST – both of which were diagnosed after his second tour in Iraq. But he was then sent back into combat when he should have been kept in the US and treated – and both of those conditions require years of treatment – not further exposure to the conditions that caused the problems in the first place.

    At the very least – before you condemn Mr Bales – you should condemn the whole war apparatus that has created him and the hundreds of thounsands of soldiers just like him – estimates are that approximately 300,000 of our Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are suffering from these two ailments – some in combination just as Mr. Bales is. Estimates are also that at least a third of our troops currently serving in Afghanistan are taking anti-psychotic medications. That means they are already diagnosied with one or both of these conditions and yet they are back in combat.

    Yet you are calling Mr. Bales a terrorist. He is sick. And he should have been treated as such – not sent back out there. Then you add that the bank is ILLEGALLY foreclosing on his house. Yes – it is ILLEGAL to foreclose on the house of a servicemember while they are serving in combat. Bet it is happening anyway.

    But you are vcalling this guy a terrorist. SHame!

    The real terrorists are the people at the Department of Defense who put this poilicy of multiple deployments into place – yes I’m looking at you Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and the people who have kept in it place – yes I’m looking at you – Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, and Barack Obama. And his superior officers who did not pay attention to the obvious signs and symptoms of his worsening condition, and the people who assigned him to that special forces unit – who should have understood that he would be isolated and made to feel like an outsider – just what someone who is already unstable really needs.

    I am really disappointed here, Amy.

    • Amy Meier says:

      Sorry to hear that you are disappointed, the fact is that Bates actually did terrorize a village and kill numerous people. I don’t believe anyone that was called bozo actually wore a rainbow wig or did a clown performance.

      I would say that all actual terrorists suffer from severe psychosis or mental instability of some sort. His actions indeed meant he terrorized people. His condition elicits my sympathy, his actions should never have happened whether it was irresponsible on his part, the war apparatus’s part, or both. The families of his victim’s also get my sympathy (x16 people).

      I agree with you on the point of him not being treated well by our armed forces. I feel that we Americans are generally treating our veterans poorly. First we recruit them – recruitment goes pretty well in a downturned economy, especially in poor areas, then we manipulate them with more money and love for their brothers in combat (many times after they have already given too much). Once their terms of duty are officially ended, we do very little to successfully integrate them into civilian life. As you pointed out, they get beat to hell (illegally) like the rest of us. (Way to go “free market”!?)

      Just as I would be terrorized by a psychotic person randomly opening fire in my neighborhood, I’m sure the Afghani people are more afraid of American soldiers than ever. In the context of an unjust (undeclared) war, it must feel like the wheels are coming off of the crazy train they are riding.

      Also, it can’t be ignored that our “errant” soldiers are treated totally different than “errant” foreign soldiers with far less evidence proving any misconduct.
      Bates may be sick, but so are all terrorists. All terrorists are in such a hopeless position that their actions “make sense” to them – that is they don’t see a lot of other choices. I have empathy for all of them, not just the American varieties. I don’t believe any of them were born evil and carry their lives out with only evil agendas; they all come from pressurized lives. They all have, or have had families.
      This blogger does a far better job demonstrating this point than I do

      If Bates doesn’t deserved the moniker, no one does because he did, in fact, terrorize from within a war machine that already set an illegal frame of aggression.

      Like seeing the coffins of the dead soldiers, owning up to the fact that we are creating more terrorists around the world and on our own turf is a necessity to wake us out of our stupor. We are making this planet more warlike. Robert Bates is a casualty. His brain like the hundreds of thousands of soldiers you cite, is damaged with the ravages of war. It messes a person up and turns them into something they never wanted to be.

  4. lokywoky says:

    I do not believe that all terrorists are sick in the same way that Mr. Bales is. He suffered a physical injury to his brain – TBI – as a result of a war injury.

    Many of the “other” terrorists know exactly what they are doing – they plan their actions for months – carry them out – and while there may be some psychological underpinnings to what they do – they have no physical wounds that make their brains incapable of functioning correctly. That is my point.

    I agree – the villagers were terrorized. I feel deeply for them and their families. But I also feel that throwing this label of “terrorist” around is very distructive to our civil discourse – which you claim to want to clean up. A number of right-wing pundits are very fond of calling all Muslims terrorists – just because they are Muslims. In fact the brouhaha over Lowe’s pulliing their ads from the program about Muslims in Michigan was because the Muslims in question were not being portrayed “as a bunch of terrorists” according to that group in Florida. The people who wanted to build the Park51 Center were described by a huge number of right wing people as terrorists – as are a lot of Muslims being “investigated” by Rep. Peter King. OTOH – Timothy McVeigh is not – even though he blew up a building and killed 187 people. Neither is Scott Roeder who shot Dr. Tiller. In his church! I think the people of Oklahoma City were a bit terrorized by Timothy McVeigh. As were the members of the Lutheran Church in Kansas CIty. So why aren’t those guys called terrorists?

    There is a lot of damage being done by calling people terrorists who really aren’t – and not calling the people who really deserve the term what they are.

    And the definition of what a terrorist is: someone who performs an action designed to cause a great deal of psychological harm and change the perception of a policy – I would argue quite probably does not fit Mr. Bales. His physical brain damage certainly needs to be looked at seriously before you or anyone else puts that label on him. He may not be capable of making rational decisions about anything at this point – and he may at this point be spending the rest of his life in a mental institution.

    I agree that the people in Gitmo need to have their day in court since I also belive that 90% of them are innocent of any crime at all – and if they are innocent since we have made them persona non grata everywhere else in the world by our treatment of them, we need to bring them here. End of discussion.

    • Amy Meier says:

      McVeigh, Roeder and the like are terrorists IMO.
      I will take your point that the term shouldn’t be used loosely, and that it might enflame tempers rather than encourage discussion. I will maintain that American authorities -and the general population – tend to apply the definition very one-sidedly. I have never heard a concern in our general discourse for the pre-existing conditions -medical or living conditions – for any terrorist deemed an enemy of the state. Nor has it been a consideration in applying the label. I think our definitions are different, but I should consider the pre-meditated part of the definition before I use it again.

      According to your definition, I could not say whether or not Bales preplanned anything; the culture of the military is such that I would not rule out encouragement of aggressive “outside activities” even if it is only verbal grandstanding. The after effect of any of these random acts of violence -domestically produced or not – are indeed a more terrorized population no matter how the perpetrator identifies himself. I also would not be so sure that a good part of the people labeled “terrorist” in general don’t have serious brain injury, disability, or mental disorders.

      Thanks for the comments though. I am still learning.

  5. lokywoky says:

    I agree about ‘loose’ definitions about who is and isn’t a terrorist. For instance – the Taliban and Osama bin Laden were not deemed terrorists while they were fighting the Russians. We armed and equipped them in their struggle. We gave them money and support to the tune of millions of dollars.

    Of course now they are all terrorists.

    This is just one example of hundreds where our governments policies are friendly to groups of people as long as it suits our purposes and then wen all of a sudden it doesn’t – they are terrorists. And they are the exact same individuals still doing the exact same thing they were doing yesterday.

    That is why we need to be very careful about applying that label to anyone – here or abroad – even when we think we know all the circumstances because mostly we do not – and never will. Our news media is very good at not telling us all the facts. Or coloring the facts to get people to believe certain things.

    That word has been used over the last 10 years to provoke a fear response in the American public – and then use that fear response to ram through all kinds of policies that take away our civil liberties as well as those of the people we have imprisoned (unjustly).

    The fear makes people do things that a couple of decades ago would have been unheard of, but here we are. The use of that word is all that is needed for strip searches at the airport, for our police to beat and pepper spray peaceful demonstrators, for people attending Congressional hearings to be arrested, for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to be snooping through all of our private correspondence, our library and medical records, and yes, even our homes without our knowledge, with no warrants and without even any evidence or suspicion that we have done anything wrong.

    Civil discourse means we need to avoid using that word if at all possible. It really does make a huge difference – because its use and overuse has made it so dangerous that it cannot be used anymore without negative consequences.

    Thank you for your contribution to this dialogue.

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