After writing a post on bullying in jazz on my other site and watching last night’s DNC, I am increasingly convinced that that there is a major divide in our country over whether or not bullying is acceptable (or even admirable). One of the most effective parts of last night’s convention was a video calling out Trump’s bullying. But it’s also a sad reminder that many people are fine with it.
Anyone who has ever dealt with a bully or abuser – or watched a love one do so – knows why Trump is so dangerous. Any challenge to the bully’s authority, no matter how small or insignificant, is met with aggression, humiliation, and/or violence (whether threatened or actual). The bully refuses to take responsibility for the consequences of his or her (bullies tend to be male but can certainly be female) actions and resorts to traumatizing and exploiting others to try to stay in control and in charge.
Even more horrifying than the actual bullying is the way it is not only tolerated, but encouraged in certain social groups. Whether jazz or politics, the people who are pro-bullying tend to be members of groups that have historically held status and power – and now feel threatened by challenges to the status quo. To them, competition, dominance, and marginalizing others are all desirable and admirable processes.
For others who bully and/or condone bullying, their actions are the result of their own experiences being bullied. Rather than dealing with their lingering anger, bitterness, and trauma, they continue the cycle of victimization on others. To me, this is the only explanation for why folks on the far-left are actually hoping for a Trump presidency – they have been hurt by the system and they want to see others suffer in the same way.
There are no easy solutions for bullying. For dangerous bullies in our personal lives, the best course of action is to distance yourself from that person as much as possible. For politicians who bully (whether in general or toward marginalized groups like LGBTQ folks), we need to speak out and vote. But there is a larger issue that needs to be addressed – for people in the pro-bullying camp, rejecting and standing up against bullying is a sign of weakness. As long as those attitudes remain in place, cycles of bullying will continue.
For those of us in the anti-bullying camp, our job isn’t just to stand up to bullying, we also need to advocate for confronting and addressing emotional pain. If you can show others how being a victimizer robs you of the chance to be your true self, and how constantly blaming others for your problems robs you of the chance to find solutions, it makes it easier to convert others to the other side. If we can do this, without turning around and bullying bullies, we can create a society in which it is gradually eliminated.