MeredithMay2017

E. Scott Cracraft - The politics of bullying?

  • Published in Columns

This writer has worn a lot of ideological labels in his life: liberal, progressive, socialist, and others. But, he came to the realization that most of his social or political views are really informed by one simple fact: he just does not like bullies.

As a former victim of severe bullying, those experiences could have had different effects on him. Like many targets of bullying, he could have become a bully himself. Or, he could have wallowed in self-pity and had those experiences ruin his life. Instead, he made a choice to try to understand bullying and how to stand up to bullies. He also decided, when possible, to expose and confront bullies even when he was not the target.

Of course, bullies come in all varieties and use different methods and styles. There are playground, schoolyard, domestic, workplace, corporate, and political bullies. There are even educators who bully or at the very least are complicit in bullying. And there are journalistic bullies. Experience shows, however, that all generally have the same character defects. A bully is a bully.

Bullies also range widely in the amount of hurt they are capable of doing. Fortunately, most bullies are limited in the amount of damage they can cause because they are usually powerless themselves. For example, your typical school bully may drive a classmate to suicide and while that is certainly tragic, at least there is limit to what they can do. If, on the other hand, you give a bully power, he or she can become a Hitler or Stalin.

If you mix bullying with sociopathy and a narcissistic personality disorder, you get a highly toxic mix. This describes best the current occupant of the Oval Office. It remains to be seen if our system can check him. It is especially frightening when such a person has his finger on the proverbial "red button."

Genocide and similar atrocities are just bullying on a bigger scale. In bullying as in as in genocide, there are three players involved: the bully, the victim, and the bystander. One may not be able to change the bully. The best you can do is to stop them. The victim may be powerless to stop it. The bystander, on the other hand, has choices to make. Some stand around and cheer the bullies. Others, who don't like bullying, still do not speak out because they do not want to get involved.

Still, any bystander of good will has a moral duty to intervene and stop a bully. Of course, we all (including this writer) fail to carry out that duty perfectly. That is understandable; standing up to bullies involves risk. Standing up to a high school bully might get you bullied yourself or, at a time in your life when peer acceptance is important, make you a social reject. In a dictatorship, speaking out against bullying might get you killed or "disappeared." Even so, we all must try. Perhaps it is a over-worn cliché but it is true: if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

In recent years, there has been a lot of research into bullying. A lot of it focuses on the bully and what makes him or her tick. There are probably a number of causes. Bullies may have been victims themselves. Or, they may be a result of bad parenting. Remember, if your perfect, entitled kid who can do no wrong is a bully, she or he may grow up to be a Donald Trump — or worse.

While we should understand the bully and try ways to change him or her, we also need to focus on protecting the victims. That should be our first priority.

What comes to mind are the growing number of Trump voters who now regret their choices. That is good. Perhaps if they are really sorry they will join those of us who have been resisting Trump from the beginning. Although this writer may be naïve, he chooses to believe that relatively few humans (including bullies and their cheerleaders) are beyond redemption.

Will you be a bully enabler or resister?

(Scott Cracraft is a citizen, taxpayer, veteran and resident of Gilford.)