Thoughts on Bullying

For a bit now I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts properly, to find some coherent way of communicating them in hopes of formulating a post.  The truth is, the means of explaining my thoughts on the matter didn’t hit until I saw a few nasty things about Sarah Palin (and, no, this post is NOT about her – but utilizing her as an example) on facebook and of course through our inestimable (*sarcasm*) media.

I don’t like her.  Never liked her.  Probably never will like her.  She is not someone I admire on just about any level.  But you know what?  I’m not calling her names or blaming her for things that, please pardon me, had absolutely nothing to do with her.  The attacks on her are not limited to thoughtful criticism or discourse, but instead remind me of that terrible book from junior high that everyone knew existed: The Slam Book.  [To those unfamiliar with this particular blend of emotionally cruel venom it’s a book with people’s names in it and on those pages not so nice things are said about the individual.  If this still sounds a bit weird and nonsensical then I would advise you to watch “Mean Girls” – it’s seriously a good commentary on such pettiness.]

Some of the people who denounce bullying, who somehow want to outlaw this behavior, are being hypocrites.  Acting out displeasure through ad hominem attacks shows children, peers, students, etc, that this is an appropriate way of conducting one’s self.  It shows that bullying is okay so long as we have a justification for it.

Argument and discourse is a wonderful thing to encourage.  It demonstrates application of critical thought, of self scrutiny and awareness, and moreover that a rebuttal should be pointed and that smearing the subject or the person offering a counterpoint is petty and juvenile.  You want things to improve in this society?  This can’t happen through laws, but through each and every person’s actions.  Don’t denounce bullying while posting messages of hate; don’t stand high on a pulpit marketing yourself as the next martyr for the poor lambs being led to slaughter in a malevolent and over ridden with bully system while calling “those” people you don’t like the foulest of names.  Kids do as we do.  If they’re acting out and being cruel it is not an anomaly, but a testimony to what is perceived as normal or acceptable in society and home.

Same for the victims.  People distraught over name calling and ostracism are not secure in themselves.  And why aren’t they?  Is the message given to be like everyone else or is it one of support for who they are REGARDLESS of if/how they fit into a societal mold?

We want to fix this problem we need to take a good hard look at ourselves, at the words we use and the actions we take, then confront ourselves with it.  As soon as humanly possible we should then proceed to talk about it with those we love and those who might need the words.  Think.  Talk.  Own it.  Show that all of this makes you a better person, not a weaker one.

**  I will have a book review of “Practical Magic” posted on Monday.  This post was near and dear to my heart as well as on the tip of my mind and so it got priority billing as it were.

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14 responses to “Thoughts on Bullying

  • laurelrainsnow

    Oh, you are right about how we lead through example, and that doing is more important than saying.

    And I’ll never like her, either, but as you say, she shouldn’t be attacked. Nor should any other public or private figure.

  • Shari Emerson

    I will stand on my own soapbox, any day of the week, and let folks know why I find Mrs. Palin underqualified for leadership, shrill, illogical, and uninformed.

    But as much as I maintain she thrives on sensationalism, attention, and poor taste, I refuse to actually give her credit – any at all – for the tragedy in AZ.

    I think she should rethink her behaviour in the public eye – not necessarily because of what she incites, I actually just wonder how the woman sleeps at night!

    There is a way people can re-think logical and passionate public discourse without making Mrs. Palin the villian of the piece. I’d never miss an opportunity to call her out fofr gross political mis-steps, and I do enjoy laying bizarre comments and backlash at her doorstep. But of all the problems I’d like to pin on Sarah, this tragedy isn’t one of them. “Sanctioned” attacks on her may as well be attacks on the rest of us, and I just don’t support that!

  • Jan

    This is a brilliant article and you are correct. We are at the helm by example (consciously or not) and need to take ownership of how we as parents, adults, leaders, bully. The saddest truth is I think that we have a bully at our helm in this country right now.
    What a sad example for all our children.
    What I want to suggest is that opening our hearts to one another, and to all bullies is one way to change the outcome. Our hearts have a very powerful electronic resonance that can expand much further than our immediate surroundings. So maybe it would behoove each of us to take a few minutes every day and send the energy of heart love out to the world at large. You never know what you can accomplish until you try!

    • kimberlyloomis

      Jan – Thank you. As always, I think a balance is necessary – the current rage seems to be lack of philosophical thought and a usurpation of heart by righteousness. Very, very dangerous combination.

  • Jan

    I also wanted to add that if the things I said above sound strange and a little “woowoo” as a friend of mine likes to call them, please google HeartMath Institute. They have been doing scientific studies about the heart and its abilities for decades now. You will be amazed at how powerful you really are!

  • Hart

    I called Sarah Palin a name. I called her irresponsible. I don’t think she was directly responsible for what happened in Arizona, but I watched a lot of Twitter discussion afterward and she HAS inspired some nutcases–people saying things like “one down, sixteen to go” and being HAPPY about the events. I think she has a public responsibility to NOT use the kind of language she uses because frankly, I don’t think much of her constituency is quite intelligent enough to recognize it as metaphor.

    I agree we need to lead by example, but part of that is pointing out when someone is in the wrong and I think she is. Hopefully she has learned what a powderkeg that is, and won’t do that again.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Hart – The point of this article was not to point fingers, but to address the issue of bullying. To stand high upon a pedestal of righteousness is one of the things that is encompassed within that. It justifies one person’s (or in this case a whole lot of people’s) belief of being right and uses it to belittle, smear, and vilify others. Any of those things can, and often are, part of the act of bullying.

      To make use of stereotypes to justify one’s opinion is one of the greatest ills that has plagued this country since its inception and one I can’t ever support or condone. All this language does is inflame and give voice and permission to not talk about or evaluate people as the individuals they are; it forgets that each person has their own thoughts, motivations, and capabilities; it allows us to forget individual faces in favor of the more palatable blurred and general face of “the mob” while we cast blame or name call.

      Responsibility is a big topic and one I will take on in the form of a post.

  • litlove

    Absolutely!! I lay a lot of blame for this sort of behaviour at the door of the media. I don’t know what your papers are like over in the US. But here in the UK we have these things called tabloids, that are news-lite and opinion-heavy. They are also gossip rags that often print completely untrue stories to see if they can get away with them. Everything is sensationalised. This sort of media excels at pointing the finger, denouncing, describing people in terribly unfair and unjustified ways, standing as its own court of law, etc, etc. Rarely do people have a right to reply. If we read this and go along with what it is doing, then the effect on the brain is insidious. Suddenly it seems ok to leap to the worst possible conclusions about people, to see arguments in black and white, and to denounce others while never examining our own behaviour (I have a long-held daydream of delving into the pasts of the journalists concerned and making up exaggerated stories about them online to see how they like it). Being a good citizen starts always with the person in the mirror. That’s why we’re created to make mistakes – keeps us humble and compassionate to others.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Absolutely, LL! The media here, unfortunately, is just about all tabloid it would seem. Op-Ed pieces being the norm and the supposed news pieces littered with conjecture. Very disturbing and, in my opinion, disgusting. I still read a good deal of news online where I can disseminate the information for myself, but to watch it only accomplishes one thing: a higher blood pressure.

  • Joy

    I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s amazing the things we do and say without the expectation that our children will see our bad behaviour as normal and follow in our misguided footsteps.

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