When asked to write an article about something I “Stand” for, it took me a good bit of time to finally settle on something. I know I have stood for many things throughout my 48 years, but one that has touched me personally and that I have fought against is bullying.
Bullying, in the common definition, is a subcategory of aggressive behavior that is characterized by the following criteria: Hostile intent, Imbalance of power, Repetition over time. Repeated aggressive behavior intended to hurt another individual – mentally, physically, or emotionally.
I think my ire against bullies started as a child. I have been (and still am) on the heavier side of the spectrum. I was constantly stuffed into the “husky” labeled wardrobe of the school clothes buying ritual. The struggle, even then as a child, was to fight-off after school playground attacks and jibes. Two schoolmates that ganged-up on me attacked me daily after school let out. Some days it was verbal, others more physical. I fought back when I had the courage. Those days they retreated. Others, I was overwhelmed and took the blows until I saw my mother’s car pull up and beat a hasty retreat. I often wondered if my mother would call those kids’ parents? Since it continued, I doubt she did. This struggle went on for months and then, as suddenly as it began, it stopped. Maybe someone witnessed the events and reported it? I have no clue.
Let’s look at today’s anonymous society. The cloak of invisibility online has allowed a new creation to emerge – the “cyberbully”. This person uses technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. They invite others to help torment an individual. In a 2015 Patchin survey, 34% of students reported being cyberbullying during their lifetime. 15% admitted to doing the bullying themselves! This “cloak” has allowed rampant and horrific incidents of bullying. A boy named Ryan Halligan was bullied and taunted for months online. Classmates spread rumors that he was gay. A popular female classmate pretended to have interest in him, only to copy their text exchanges and share them with her friends. Unable to cope with this constant battle, Halligan, of Essex Junction, Vermont, killed himself. A 15-year-old named Gail Jones, from Liverpool in the UK took her life from the continuous barrage of harassment. When will this end? Many psychologists and studies are now seriously researching this rising epidemic.
Apart from reading these truly heartbreaking statistics and studies, let’s look at day-to-day bullying that most of us have experienced. Who hasn’t been pressured into changing their mind by a strongly willed associate? I’m not inferring that a strong, cogent argument swayed the decision; I’m talking about a veiled threat of some sort. Maybe not a physical assurance of violence, but the use of psychological “strong-armed” tactics. I’ve certainly been the odd man out on a decision only to have the purported leader of the group ally and attack my opinion with their drones. It happens, it most certainly does.
Who has had a tailgater ride their bumper? This, in my opinion, is a form of bullying. They are coercing you to do something for their benefit. When I’ve seen this occur, I’ve had the “Mad Max” thoughts of sandwiching them or doing the same to them with an added “tap” of my bumper. I’ve certainly brake-checked those trying it with me. I’ve even provided a silhouetted head nod “NO” that got their attention. It’s bullying, period.
I have been trying to assuage myself from mentioning any political bullies. I think, though, we all see what’s happening with our current state of politics. Our POTUS has certainly shown that he is, at his core, a bully. The “handshake” he readily uses, that infamous video of him pushing the Prime Minister of Montenegro so he could be photographed in the front row – it’s not the actions of a leader, it’s the actions of a bully that doesn’t know any better. If we want to delve into the clinical aspects of his (and much other bully’s behaviors) we see one that has little self-respect and may be still vying for approval of someone – living or dead. I believe there will be ample papers written on the psychology of number 45!
So then, how do we fix things? IS there a fix? I don’t believe so. I think society will always produce bullies. The human experience, the human behavior, will allow it to happen. I think our “stand” is to confront bullies and aid those who fall victim to these attacks. Stand for the underdog, I do. Lend a supporting hand – be it physical, mental, emotional, or technological – to that person who feels alone in their fight. Maybe give them the needed respite to find their voice to shout back the attack. Help them on their “playground”, won’t you?