Monday, November 1, 2010

A world of bullies

You know how it is. Dramatic music, grainy picture/video, patched together soundbites…that’s right.The perfect formula for a terrible political commercial. I really hate this time of year. Election time. Not a time when candidates come forward and talk about reasons why they should be elected, buta time when candidates hide in the background and let annoying commercials tell everyone whytheir opponents shouldn’t be elected. To tell you the truth, I have very little idea where some of the candidates stand. I have seen maybe one commercial where a candidate spends the whole time talking about what he wants to do, and why he would be a good leader.

This is not good. In a society where bullying is a huge (and growing) problem, how can anyone justify putting out such negative ads? That’s what those ads are, by the way, a bullying tactic. Spreading rumors and trying to tear down the other person. Trying to undermine their confidence and others’ confidence in them. How can we stand up and say bullying is wrong when those people we have elected as leaders use dirty bullying tactics to get what they want? What kind of lessons are we teaching kids? Kids are watching those commercials, by the way. How could they not? There are full blocks of commercials that have been bought out by one party or another. I just mute the TV during commercials, or turn the TV off altogether if there’s nothing specific I want to watch. It makes me sick.

We have created a climate in our society where bullying is okay and not okay at the same time. Giventhe choice, which way are kids, teenagers, even adults going to go? It’s so easy to bully. It makes you feel good about yourself. It’s easy to justify. “They deserved it,” or “If I don’t join in, I’m next,” are common thoughts. Even just standing by and watching it happen falls into the realm of bullying. I have been guilty of this myself. Joining in to feel like I belonged. Or simply not saying anything because it “wasn’t my business.” Shocking, considering I was bullied horribly as a child. As in, one summer Irefused to leave the house because I was so afraid I would run into someone who would make fun of me. It’s terrifying, and yet we allow it in the workplace, in church, in government, and any other number of places. The only place it is being scrutinized is in schools. I think there’s something wrong with that.

What is also scary about bullying is where it leads. There have been dozens of news stories lately about teen suicide related to bullying. And those are only the ones being reported. Less severe, but no less damaging, is the psychological pain that victims of bullying have to deal with, possibly for the rest of their lives. Self-esteem issues, relationship issues, even job issues in adulthood can be related to bullying. The politicians in those negative commercials are, for all intents and purposes, attempting to ruin one another’s careers.

What is underlying in bullying? Bullies’ self esteem, for sure. It is a pretty weak person who needs to get their ego boosted by bringing someone else down. The scariest one for me though is the underlying hatred in bullying. People who have a hatred for a person or group of people because they’re different. They don’t look right, they don’t talk right, they don’t believe the right things, so we hate them. I watched part of a documentary on Auschwitz this weekend, and they interviewed people who had been soldiers. Few, if any, of the soldiers, who had been part of the mass murders, firing squads, experiments on children, had any remorse, because they were still harboring their hatred for a group. They are bullies. Hitler was a bully. See where bullying can lead?

I’m not sure what point I wanted to get across here. All I know is that when I watch political commercials, all this sickening stuff comes up. Who is going to be the first to change? How can we expect kids to change if we’re not willing to model that change for them? And if we don’t, then who will?

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