Standing Up To Bullies
by David Todd McCarty | Thursday, November 16, 2017
My entire life, I’ve always fought bullies; be they a teacher, a boss, a classmate or a neighborhood thug. I was a smart, outspoken kid, who was more or less well liked by my peers and had the confidence to fight back. I often found myself in the position to take up for someone who was in a weaker position, or without the ability to fight back. I always fought for the underdog. The kid who was different, or weak, or new to the country, or didn’t speak the language well.
I fought teachers, principals, employers, and other kids. I would use my intelligence, wit, popularity, threat of shame and sometimes the threat of physical violence as tools in my fight.
I think back once again to Dalton Trumbo’s thoughts on his many fights.
I’ve always thought of my life as a sequence of conflicts, each a separate battle, segregated in my mind under the heading, “My fight with these guys” or “My fight with those guys.” In thinking back now I realize I have regarded each fight as distinct and unrelated to the other, and have sometimes marveled how one man could have so many of them. I now realize it was all one fight; that the relation of each to the other was very close; and I am really no more combative than any other man. It just happened in my case that the original fight once undertaken, expanded marvelously into what seemed like many many fights and the most recent in a sequence of fights is actually no more than the current phase of he primary engagement. Since all men have at least one fight in their lives, and are not considered professional troublemakers because of it, the longer view reveals in me a citizen no less peaceful than his neighbors.
It’s possible, that this applies equally to me. That my original fight—that of standing up to bullies—once undertaken, expanded marvelously. It’s not the answer to all my troubles, but it could certainly be viewed as a defining motive. I’m also just a cranky misanthrope, who while despising the herd, is often quite fond of the individual.
I think people who only know me on social media, are quite surprised to meet me in person. I place a high value on personal etiquette and manners, at least my version of what constitutes good manners: empathy, compassion, civility, decency, and kindness. I might not like you, but there is no reason to be rude.
I don’t generally walk around angry. But when I’m thinking critically about a subject, my ire often comes to the surface. I’m bothered by many things in life, and when I’m writing, or arguing with a friend I trust about a topic I’m passionate about, I can get quite animated.
Which brings me to politics.
It’s been argued that maybe we should try to find more common ground with those who disagree with us politically. I agree with this sentiment in theory, if not exactly in practice. In theory, it represents everything I believe about how to live in a pluralistic society. In practice, I find it very difficult.
Let’s start with the Republican Party. I find the entire Republican platform incoherent, cruel, misogynistic, racist and greedy in both theory and in practice. I know plenty of people who vote Republican that I would not describe as such, so it’s important to separate the two.
The Republicans that I’m most displeased with are those politicians pretending to represent the People in government. Congress. The President. The Supreme Court.
I believe the Republicans are bullies. I believe they elected the worst sort of bully to lead them. I believe they lack compassion, decency, civility or kindness. I believe they are trying to enact laws that illustrate as much. Their entire agenda is based on supporting the needs of their wealthy donors at the expense of the poor, old, sick, minorities, women and immigrants. Cutting healthcare to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy. Increasing military spending to line the pockets of arms dealers. Cutting education. Prosecuting drug offenders. Supporting a corrupt justice system and allowing for the privatization of justice for profit.
I’m not even going to try to list it all. It’s too depressing.
These are the acts of bullies. Rich, powerful men who believe they are special and who have no empathy for anyone but themselves.
I believe you have to stand up to bullies.
What about the other people? Not the nazis and the white supremacists who are clearly either frighteningly misguided or purely evil. Forget about them for a moment. Most decent people believe they are wrong.
What about the guy wearing the MAGA hat? The one who seems nice enough at work, but also thinks Obama is a Muslim, Clinton was peddling child porn out of a pizza shop, that Trump will bring back coal jobs and keep white people in power. What about that guy?
I think there are are few reasons for their existence. To start, they have been manipulated by a political machine that desired power and realized that the best way to achieve that was to align themselves with important groups, and then manipulate them with fear. It’s classic authoritarian tactics. Make people afraid of something. Hold yourself up as their savior.
For Evangelical Christians it began with the single issue of abortion and then evolved to include playing on their fears of losing power within an increasingly diverse society. Christians have given up on any semblance of following Christ, with his teaching of turning the other cheek, humility, caring for the poor and sick, and rejecting the worship of wealth or other idols. Instead they’ve embraced things like the Prosperity Gospel, Nationalism, White Supremacy, Idol Worship and of course, the Republican Party. Something like 80% of people who identify as Evangelical Christians voted for Trump. I don’t even need to explain how twisted that is.
Rural, white America was convinced that East Coast Liberals, powerful government forces, and bad trade policies by Democrats were the reason that industry had left their towns dying and their communities decimated. In reality it was a combination of economic forces and technology.
Finally, white professionals were frightened into believing that Democrats were going to give away the store and that white people would no longer be the dominant cultural.
Also, they all watch Fox News, which someone told them was actual news and not a propaganda machine for the Republican Party, and who actually won a Supreme Court decision that it was not against the law for them to lie during their broadcasts. Apparently it wasn’t important for them to broadcast the truth. It’s all just entertainment.
But when you refuse to make any effort to be empathetic to the plight of people less fortunate than yourself, when you believe in your exceptionalism and reject your inherent privilege because of where you were born and the color of your skin, when you support a party that clearly is willing to sacrifice some because you believe you’ll be alright, you might not be the bully, but you’re the bully’s friend. You’re the kid standing behind the bully, cheering him on.
And I’ll fight you too.