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Monday, May 21, 2012

The anti-bully bullies

Bullying is the hot topic on everyone's lips lately. Most people seem to connect it only with teens - mostly homosexual teens who are struggling to find their place in society and gain acceptance. While this is true, it's to a point: I've said before that it's a teen issue, a girl issue, a boy issue - an everyone issue. Probably everyone has been bullied, and I dare say probably everyone, in some way, bullies other people. They just don't realize it.

Speaking of gay bullying, there's this one:


Wait a minute. We're countering bullying with... more bullying? And when it comes to bullying gay people, I've noticed something, especially when it concerns celebrity homosexuals (or rumored homosexuals) - they are bullied. By people in the gay community. I feel sorry for gay people who feel forced to come out of the closet (if they really even are in it in the first place) by someone - maybe an entire group of someones - who just can't handle it if someone isn't ready to talk about it openly, isn't ready to make an announcement for the entire world to hear, or are endlessly pressured to view their gayness the same way everyone else does. And then, those bullies justify it - because, really, everyone being out and open about it is almost perceived as a greater good kind of thing. If you are quietly leading your life, happily gay behind the scenes, how dare you?! 

Have you ever noticed that?

Then there's this one:

Seriously? This is basically saying, "I am going to say and do whatever I want. If you don't like it, you are the one with the problem."

I'm not saying I never swear, but mostly it's not within earshot of my grandmother, children or anyone else. I've heard young people spout out every curse word known to man in the middle of the checkout line at a convenience store, for no reason other than it's just a thought in their heads that they think needs to be expressed right now, and honestly - they sounded like idiots. We've gone from a culture who (mostly) uses profanity sparingly - and at one point would face strict fines and punishment because of obscenity laws - to one who drops the F bomb at every turn. Mild profanity has long been part of our regular television viewing, and every few years you'll hear an increasing arsenal of words that get past the censors.

A few years ago we went to a local farm to pick out pumpkins for Halloween. While sipping our cider and enjoying our family time, another family - with kids in tow- was openly using the F word in public, in front of their kids (and within earshot of mine). What do you do? What do you say? Surely someone is going to get ticked because their "freedom of speech" has been infringed upon. Surely you stand a good chance of getting into a fist fight because some idiot decides his right to say whatever he wants, whenever, is more important than your right to not hear it.

Oh yeah, speaking of the First Amendment and your "right" to "free" speech: there are exceptions to that free speech. They include:
Speech that involves incitement, false statements of fact, obscenity, child pornography, threats, and speech owned by others are all completely exempt from First Amendment protections.
In other words, you are not within your rights to assume that you can speak freely - obscenely - wherever you please. But somehow, I am the one that's wrong because I'm offended. Say what? And I'm sure few people will challenge you on it, because that's just how far down the toilet bowl our culture has sunk. If Grandma Betty doesn't want to hear you use the F word every other sentence, then Grandma Betty can just @(%&* (!&. Right? Because she is the one with the problem, not you (and your total lack of respect for others).

A few years ago my husband stopped at a gas station and after we left, he thought the cashier had mistakenly given him the wrong change. He went back and told the guy what he thought had happened, in a polite, non-confrontational manner, because he wasn't completely certain it wasn't his error. We walked in together, and the cashier - a young man - opened up with both barrels on us: I'm fairly certain the F word was used no fewer than half a dozen times, I was called a 'fat cow,' and we were told to "Get the f--k out of 'his' store," or something to that effect. I was beyond shocked, for two reasons: that a simple inquiry could be met with such fury, and that no one - not one single person - spoke up in our defense. I remember looking around, seeing several customers who barely registered a reaction, and wondered, "Surely they are going to hear him - that's really unprofessional!" When I wrote a letter to Exxon, they offered little, if any, response, and the store owner basically denied the incident.

Surely not everyone in that store that day used profanity like this guy did - but, because hey, it's your "freedom of speech!" I guess it's perfectly okay for your "rights" to run right over mine, 'kay?

Another thing I've noticed are the peaceful, loving memes about respect, tolerance, acceptance, and the usual sunny happy daisies stuff. Usually there's a quote that's got Gandhi's name on it, which somehow elevates it to near-holy status and must mean that it's unquestionably good, right and true. That's great - everyone should feel love for one another. But I think the love only extends so far - and usually stops at the first person who expresses an opinion different than yours. Suddenly that 'peace, love, and tolerance' flies out the window. And usually when there's a disagreement, the word 'hate' is used: because we all know people who disagree are "haters," right?

Here's another one that kind of grates on me, even though it's from everyone's favorite author, Dr. Seuss:


I'm guessing this one is often taken out of context, especially considering Dr. Seuss' equally famous line, "A person's a person, no matter how small." Somehow the meaning has been derailed: "No one else matters but me and those people who agree with me." I don't think that's where Dr. Seuss was going with this. The next time you get pulled over for speeding, try using this one on the officer.

Who "matters," exactly? And who are you to determine this? How can we teach our children not to expect everyone to agree with them, and how to get along with those who don't? How to learn from them, perhaps even change our perspective, because they have something to offer - despite disagreeing? Children are "color blind," so to speak, in that their rose-colored glasses are often tainted with age, experience, and the complete ass-hattery of adults in the world around them. And as much as adults like to say they think bullying is horrible and we should accept everyone, they don't seem to realize they're part of the problem.

Another thing we often hear is "If you don't like it, don't look/listen," etc. As if it's your fault for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or the fact that you've actually had the audacity to let something offend you. But if the shoe is on the other foot - if you're the minority in the group who expresses an unpopular opinion - well, then there should be Congressional hearings on it to get you banned, right? How is that not bullying someone to see your point of view, to agree with you even though they don't want to, and to just get over it already? I wish that street ran both ways.

The reality is, that more often it turns into something like this:


Everyone that disagrees with me is a "hater" and "stupid." Problem solved! I don't think Dr. Seuss would approve...

In looking back over these images, there is one thing they seem to say: that we are a selfish society that thinks the opinions of certain people matter more than others. That because it's your idea and it came from you, that you should put it - and yourself - above everything else. If we teach our children anything, the first thing we should learn ourselves is humility. Be humble enough to realize that you're not always right, no matter what side of the fence you're on, and if you know you are (as opposed to only thinking you are), approach others with love and respect - it's a lot more effective than harsh words, criticism and hateful talk. If that doesn't work, at least you'll have taught your children an important lesson about truly loving others, instead of demonstrating hypocrisy. As the saying goes, 'be the change you wish to see in the world,' instead of doing more to perpetuate it, only through a different lens.

3 comments:

Diana J. said...

Amen, amen, AMEN!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Great article! I just wanted to point out something, it's "Gandhi", not "Ghandi" (I know, I'm an Indian) :)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi

The Deranged Housewife said...

Ah! Sorry. :) Thanks for the heads up.