The Year of the Bully
America, we are on the cusp of a new dawn. Sober we are from the previous eight years. All illusions have been nullified, all promises of hope have dissolved into the paralyzing effects of rancorous partisanship. Wars have ebbed and flowed. Enemies became friends only to become enemies. Old leaders struggle to stay relevant to the young and disenfranchised by enlisting Beyonce and Jay-Z to fight for their cause. New leaders have appealed to xenophobics, misogynists, and racists while reminding us that these ugly ideological ancestors of our country are nowhere near buried in the Cemetery of our Shameful Deeds. Like a lingering cold sore, the days of politics playing a toxic role in our society are stubbornly still here, and by the looks of it more ugly days are ahead. In American politics, acid-tongued politicians throw words like darts at their opponents only for us to be hit in the crossfire and we are stung like children torn between two warring parents we soon will emulate.
Yes, words are powerful. In times of love and peace, they are used to uplift and rejuvenate, instill inspiration and innovation. Yes, the power of words can be transformative. A child can achieve a dream because the words of a parent inspire them so. A married couple can feel through words the mutual love and respect one has for the other. In a stable world, well-balanced words can heal nations and push forth growth, bringing unity in a world on the cusp of a new dawn. Sadly, this is not the world in which we live. The world I see is shaped by mutual animosities of different groups and the individual is being absorbed into the fray. The games the political leadership of America plays has reflected into our society. It has reflected in our entertainment. For many it reflects in our personal lives, our work. Words can help us grow. But words also can kill.
Bullying is an art. It takes oratory skill so convincing and immediate the recipient is forced to react in retreat or retaliation. It completely transforms the existence of the recipient, turning the course of their lives into continual confrontation. The victim alters normalcy into a mentality of paranoia and perpetual readiness for an attack. They prepare defenses days in advance, replaying possible scenarios. Most eventually plan counter attacks or they seek out and strike alliances with other affected parties. People who were never friends become so out of survival to try and negate the bully. Once the original bully is extinguished, once their power has waned in the light of the powers who have risen up against them, those who were bullied naturally become the bully. Now, the new bully uses all the tricks of the old bully and adds some new ones to the mix. The new bully is stronger and wants revenge. But the revenge is paid forward, not to the old bully, but to a new victim. This is a fatal mistake of the new bully. They are under the impression their strength is displayed by their treatment of the weak. This is because in the midst of their fighting they forget the lessons which had befallen the original bully. But it is also because they were never taught the true meaning of the word “strength.” Amongst the world of the bullies, this word is cloaked in double-meaning and misappropriated usage. In many instances the word is given a new definition connected to violent connotations. So when I say bullying is an art, I mean a dark art. But it is an art which can be defeated. We should all know how to defeat it because we have all been there.
Folks, don’t kid yourself. If you have been bullied in your life or have seen bullying, chances are you have been a bully or are a bully. In this Darwinian world we have created, bullying tactics in the right situation can be advantageous to some degree. It may not be good for your soul, but a bully in business is the cream that rises to the top. It's no wonder the bull is the symbol of Wall Street. But in reality the advantage is nil though typically it is the status quo in virtually all aspects of our society. Many relationships, hetero or homo, are predicated on the dominance of one individual over the other. This doesn’t mean it is mutually exclusive to one person. Bullying is a spirit which can pass back and forth. Sometimes the relationship ends and the bullying is passed on, and sometimes a relationship continues and the mutual oppression becomes institutionalized. If there is some offspring, it is only natural the bullying rubs off on them and so on and so forth. This cycle is a microscopic view of a larger picture in our country.
Our country’s history is a lesson, to simplify things, on two forms of bullying: soft and hard. Soft bullying works very well with hard bullying. They are like Thing 1 and Thing 2 in The Cat in the Hat. Inseparable. When you purchase the package, they both come together. In the case of the Jim Crow south, hard bullying would be lynchings, murders, rapes, beatings, etc. Soft bullying is deeper, more psychological. It is sitting in the back of the bus. “Whites Only” signs. Not being allowed to vote. Constant reminders of inferiority. Toni Morrison told us about soft bullying in The Bluest Eye. Ralph Ellison did too in The Invisible Man. All of this stuff can make us not feel too great about who we are. But don’t feel bad, America. This is who we are. It is not our fault, it is how our country made us! We are all in this together and no matter who wins the election we have to live together after what is tantamount to a wild, drunken fight between two sides of the family.
These fights for us, America, are normal so relax and flip on the television. No politics tonight. No more war of words. The debate can sleep tonight. Lets watch something else. Perhaps a little “reality” TV to escape all the nastiness of politicians slinging shit to win our souls. Here we are. “Kitchen Nightmares.” This should be fun. According to CNN in their article “Our Unhealthy Love of Reality TV Bullying,” an honest assessment of the show’s star Gordon Ramsay is given: “He calls people ‘stupid’ and ‘disgusting pigs.’ His entire performance is based on sharp criticism and what some may argue is bullying-type behavior. Viewers eat it up.” Mr. Trump, once ruler of his own Reality TV show, pretty much made the template for hosting reality shows where the audience gets a hard-on watching contestants subject themselves to all manner of verbal abuse. I know I like watching that drivel and if Trump can call someone a loser, why can’t I? Besides this is all TV. TV is not real. It is all show and tell, make believe, fairy tales. This doesn’t stop us from being influenced by it or using it as an excuse to copy shitty behavior we see on TV. But ok, I get it. We are all grown ups here. A little bullying can build us a thick skin, make us tougher. We don’t need to sing kumbaya around a campfire and pat each other’s asses all day long. This is not how we became great. We became great by being a bunch of tough SOB’s who kick ass and take names. We became great by crawling over bones and joining the rat race. We can save our “I Love You’s” for those drunken 4th of July Nights or New Year’s parties until we forget the civility with yet another drunken slap to the face followed by a strategic bathroom rug pissing when no one is looking. America, we love each other so much it hurts.
But the adults I am not concerned with. As far I’m concerned if you are over 20 you are damaged goods. Yeah, we may have a few words of wisdom to tell the youth, America, but the best advice I would tell the younger generation is to throw their TVs out the window, tell their parents to fuck off, and do the opposite of what we have done because at the heart of it we are a bunch of pig-faced bullies and for this we have got exactly what we deserved. I don’t care what group it is, we no longer treat each other with respect and all we care about is ourselves. Our politicians have sold us out and we have followed suit. We had no choice. We had to survive. We were bullied and so we bullied in return. But we can change. I love this country and I know we can be better. I know human nature is to survive and people do some ugly things in the name of survival. Hell, they do some ugly things in the name of love, too. This is all fine and dandy. But let me ask you, when will we reach the point where we stop pushing in this direction and look at our country and feel ashamed of what we have become, of what we have taught our children? Our children look up to us, America, and soon they will rise up and be in our shoes. Do we want their actions to reflect our sins or our wisdom when they are grown? It is our choice. Yet, in many ways the damage to the younger generation is already done.
According to the Center for Disease Control, 4,400 young people commit suicide per year. For every 1 young person that dies, 100 attempt suicide. Over 50% of these cases are related to bullying and many reports believe the number is much higher. Even more shocking, everyday 160,000 kids in America stay home from school because of bullying.Then what about the people left in the wake of such a strategy, the untold horrors of parents and siblings grappling with such a horrendous result? Pain is a difficult thing to quantify but the numbers don’t lie and my guess is this trend will only rise. At the end of the day, while the numbers speak volumes, they are an abstract. Something for us to be appalled at and then move on to another alarming set of numbers based on another subject. We will file the statistics away to use on our next discussion forum and we will feel comfortable lying in bed knowing we did our part to disseminate information to another “misinformed ignoramus.” Or we could sweep the numbers away with a wave of our hand and discover the story of Daniel Fitzpatrick from Staten Island.
He was 13 years old when he commit suicide this past August and he left behind a suicide note detailing the horrors of his life in the wake of bullying. He was bullied over his weight, bad grades (attributed to anxiety of bullying), and, alarmingly, because of his sweet disposition. He changed schools and his parents complained to the administration. Nothing was done. Finally a few days before his 14th birthday, Daniel had enough of this life. He wrapped a belt around his neck and hung himself. Daniel is one of many. But all it takes is one to know we are marching through a swamp and we are sinking fast. If Trump wins it will only confirm who we really are as a nation. Perhaps Hillary is the same or worse. They are all the same to me. But for Daniel this is null and void. What we need to do is turn the TV off and look around the community in which we live. No more should we see the world through the lense of the politicians, pop stars, or TV stars. No more should we make their issues our issues. Maybe we should sit down and talk to our kids or help out a neighbor. I know it sounds kumbaya but if the alternative is what happened to Daniel, hell I can change.
We are all bullies, America. Don’t feel bad. We are bullies because we are not strong but weak. Yet, all of this can change, America, because, as we have been told, it is not how we start the game but how we finish it. And if you remember Daniel Fitzpatrick’s letter than you know important last words are more important than the first. The bullies started it with words but he ended it with his letter. He will be remembered while the bullies are forced to live with who they have become based off of the things they have learned, and his letter will be something we can all learn from. Maybe this will help us change who we are and what we teach to the younger seeds in The Year of the Bully.