Do you know what I’ve discovered this week about taking a vacation? I can’t figure out a place to go on the planet where there aren’t any people. I’m sick of people. If you scan the globe much of the brutality that is happening around the world is caused by bullies. Bullies are everywhere. No matter where you go—from your workplace to the Middle East to Congress to your place of worship—there’s always a bully trying to mess with you.
If the world were the audience of the old Oprah Winfrey show, you could almost hear her proclaiming: “WELCOME W-OOOOOO-R-L-D! Have I got a surprise for you: YOU get your ass kicked by a bully today, and YOU get your ass kicked by a bully tomorrow—go anywhere in the world, and you’ll get your ass kicked by a BUUUULLLY!”
Used by Permission: World in Chaos by Gary McCoy, Cagle Cartoons
In my disgruntled state of mind, I ran across an article on the “It Gets Better” Project by Dan Savage who birthed this campaign to try and encourage teens who were being bullied. I’ve supported it through my blog in the past and initially thought it was very good. But recently, I realized that as thoughtful as that project was, I don’t think it does get better. Can kids learn not to bully when the adults in the world own the franchise on fucking with people who they deem weaker or less than? Every religion has a major component of compassion within its ethos, yet history has proven that religious people can be some of the worst bullies. It got me to thinking that maybe we are all just six degrees of separation from a bully tango, even in situations that should be considered safe (houses of worship, marriage, friendships, the grocery store).
But what if we had the ability to call bullshit on the bully within ourselves and others? What if an Anti-Bully App were invented (adults only) that would sound an alarm when we or others stepped over the line of compassion no matter how right or empowered we thought we were in the situation? The more I thought about this, the more I wanted to explore the germination of bullying in adults. So I asked my alter ego, the “Dalai Mama” (sees all, knows all) to query her advice column readers for weird, quirky stories of bullying in which my proposed app would have been a handy aid. Below are some of those stories and the Dalai Mama’s response.
(Please note that even though the Dalai Mama is imaginary, the stories are all true. Only the names and the locations have been changed to protect the innocent.)
Dear Dalai Mama:
I used to attend a church where the pastor’s wife and two of her ladies in waiting had a three-way conference call with me and told me I should not leave home without a full coat of makeup. The pastor’s wife said I was being unkind to the neighbors. I have laughed about that for years, but it did affect me deeply. It is only in the last year that I can let people see me with no makeup. And when they do see me, no one has killed themselves. Go figure! I sure could have used your Anti-Bully App—if only I had realized I was being bullied. (Would it surprise you to know that the wife, who considered herself a “prophetess,” sold “Fancy Me Lovely” makeup?)—signed: Jezebel from Tennessee, age 63
I checked out this sorry-ass woman’s Facebook page—thinkin’ she must be all that and a bag of chips to say somethin’ like that to you. Guess what? She is no Halle Berry; she is what my mama used to call havin’ a face only a mother could love. Does yo’ man like how you look? Then that is all you have to worry about. Go on and strut yo’ stuff with or without makeup and act like you own the world, girl, because you only have this one life to live. Also, next time you see “Miss Thang,” tell her that I said, God don’t like ugly—hearts, that is.
Zuckerberg + Facebook = bullying! I avoided “the Book of Face” for years and only signed up to promote my book, Monsters’ Throwdown. My kids made me do it. They said if I didn’t, no one would buy my book. They said it would be fun. Well, they lied! The Facebook is not fun. People came out of the woodwork wanting to “friend” me that I didn’t remember. I barely could tolerate them if I did know them in the past, and could have cared less about chatting with them in my old age. If I thought they were stupid before my encounter with them on the “Book of Face,” they became verifiably ignorant after reading their inner-most desires and thoughts on their page. As quickly as some of them “friended” me, they “unfriended” me during the presidential election and left attack-dog Tea Party messages on my “liberal” page—“just tryin’ to set you straight.” When I changed my privacy settings, I’m told by Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times* that Zuckerberg kept changing them to less privacy without my knowledge. The Zuck kept demanding to know my business (how old I am, what schools I went to, what type of relationship I am in), and when I wasn’t forthcoming, he kept on and is keeping on demanding I cough up the goods. (I changed my birthday three times to protect myself from identity theft since Facebook insists on broadcasting to the entire freakin’ world that I am an old fart, and Zuckerberg had the nerve to indicate that he would only allow me to change it a total of three times, and then I would be stuck with the last age chosen. I am currently 85 years old according to Facebook.) Now I hear that Zuckerberg tried to categorize and study my responses by manipulating the news feed on my page to make me sad.* When I sent him a nasty note about messin’ with my mind, he said I gave him permission when I agreed to his data use policy. (It is 9,123 god-damn words—I never read all that crap!) I need an anti-bullying gun with Zuckerberg and all my ex-trolls (ex-“friends”) engraved on it, and I’m calling for a rumble on the Facebook campus in the fall.—signed, “So Over the ‘Book of Face'” from Somewhere USA, age 50, 71, or 85
Dear “So Over the Book of Face”:
You sound familiar. Is that you, Eleanor the blogger? Girl, go away. This is a conflict of interest. Plus, I only have one thing to say to your clueless behind: “Whoever writes the contract, gets the gold.” Or another way of putting it is “Whoever gets a free online service will get all her shit exploited—so deal with it.”
Used by Permission: David Fitzsimmons The Arizona Star
Dear Dalai Mama:
I know a couple that fought like cats and dogs and took home the first place trophy for bullying each other. To meet them as individuals was to love them, but together they were like two rabid demons from Hell. If they were invited to your house for dinner, before the soup course was served the woman would cut her man down for how he talked, how he chewed, how stupid he was, what a piss-poor man of God he was, and what a poor provider he had been. He would volley with how fat she’d gotten in recent years, what a bitch she had become, and how she got on his every last fucking nerve. In the past, she threw a pan of hot grits in his face, and he retaliated by slashing her craft room into shreds with his chain saw. The man died of a heart attack over a year ago, and the strangest thing happened. The woman was inconsolable. She threw herself over his coffin—weeping and wailing as if she had lost the love of her life. I had to leave the room when she and her pastor tried to raise the man from the dead through prayer and the laying on of hands as she screamed: “Rupert, come back, don’t leave me . . . I need you, baby!” Last month, the woman died. She left behind a daughter. Why is it that somehow I think the woman and the man are still trying to kill each other in eternity? There isn’t an anti-bullying app that could ever be made that would have cut through all their loveless crap. Some people are beyond the pale.—signed, “The Daughter, a.k.a, I’m Never Getting Married” from Honolulu, age 30
Dear “I’m Never Getting Married”:
I don’t even know what to say, Baby-girl except I’m so sorry. I’m so very sorry. Some people will never change.
Used by permission: Israelis vs Palestinians, Daryl Cagle, CagleCartoons.com
I am discovering that if rearing kids has taught me anything, it’s that “what monkey sees, monkey will definitely do.” If we want our kids not to become bullies, we have to be on guard against the slightest trait of this within ourselves and model that behavior.
When I first started blogging, I was trying to find my voice, and I did a humorous puff piece on flesh-colored tights being worn as leotards with sort tops, thus causing major ass display whenever the wearer bent over. I found a picture on the Web of the back of a very obese cashier exemplifying exactly why this was a fashion no-no as her seemingly naked ass was causing people to cover their eyes and flee in horror every time her shirt hiked up. Some stranger had taken her picture without the young woman’s knowledge or consent and uploaded it on the Web. It had a million clicks as people laughed at her over and over again. I used the picture in my blog. Two years later a troll left a comment about my “ass-holy-ness” as a Christian towards this girl. I never answered the troll, but I did repent for my momentary bullying and deleted the post because the troll was right. I called bullshit on myself. We are all just six degrees of separation from becoming a bully, and the children are watching.
Used by permission: Pat Bagley Salt Lake Tribune
“A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.”—Abraham Joshua Heschel
“For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”—Bell hooks
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”—Dalai Lama
“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” ― Michael J. Fox
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