If the Bullies Win - Random Reasonings

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I can’t imagine what life is like for the millions of people who live in Ukraine.

As I write this, the once beautiful seaport city of Mariupol has fallen to Russia. And Russia plans to execute the 260 Ukrainian soldiers captured there. We should not let that happen.

The U.S. and European countries have made it clear to Putin that they’ll only go so far in helping Ukraine because they’re all afraid of what Putin might do to them.

But shouldn’t we be standing up to bullies in a way that stops the bullying?

Bullies learn to control through fear and threats at a very young age. It’s estimated that one of every five students gets bullied at school. It is most prevalent at ages 11 to 13 where facts indicate nearly 90% of students get bullied. But it starts around age five and escalates from there.  It’s also the most prevalent among boys; the percentage of girls who get bullied is much lower. Although when it comes to cyber bullying, teenage girls are quite vicious.

We learn early on that standing up to bullies takes courage and has risks.

The National Education Association says that at least 160,000 students refuse to go to school each day for fear of being bullied. 10% of the student drop out rate is due to bullying. 86% of students say that being picked on or bullied leads them to think about violence. And 75% of school shootings are directly linked to bullying.

Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional, mean, and repetitive. It is the manifestation of the worst kind of power grab. Where does all this bullying come from? Are parents teaching children that being a bully is OK? Is society in general teaching that it’s OK? The only way it will stop is if people are willing to consistently take united efforts to stop it. Doing the right thing is often not easy.

History shows us just how much devastation can be done by bullies. China’s Wu Zetian (624-750 AD) was known as a ruthless sadistic murderess. England’s Mary Tudor (Queen from 1553 to 1558) was so vile she had the nickname of “Bloody Mary”, having had more than 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake in just 5 years.

So bullies are not only men. Bullying is a common characteristic of those who seek and wield power regardless of gender.

Andrew Jackson is by far the biggest bully to occupy the White House. In 1838 he passed the Indian Removal Act which led to the deaths of 4,000 and the relocation of 46,000 native Americans. He then took their land. He led brutal campaigns and “ethnic cleansing” of native Americans which today would be considered war crimes.

Without doubt the most horrific bully of modern times was Adolf Hitler. For twelve years he wreaked havoc on the world.

He is responsible for the deaths of more than 6 million people of Jewish faith, more than 19.3 million Europeans who were sent to German work camps, and 28.7 million soldiers. It is an unprecedented number of fatalities and is the deadliest conflict in modern history.

Historians call Hitler the “embodiment of modern political evil.”

407,316 American servicemen died in WWII. Another 671,278 were wounded. My father served in the Army in WWII; my uncle in the Air Force. My uncle is among those who died and is buried in the American Cemetery in Italy where he was killed when his plane was shot down.

WWII seems to be the last time America was unified in the desire to stop a powerful bully. And even then, it wasn’t until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor that we rallied. It’s the last time Americans from all walks of life participated in military combat. Presidents Kennedy and George H.W. Bush, both from wealthy, political families, served heroically in WWII.

But recent decades have been led by presidents who sent Americans to war in Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Bosnia without first-hand knowledge of the experience of military combat, having avoided it for themselves.

Now with Putin massacring the citizens of Ukraine, we send weapons and aid, but the world has pretty much let Ukraine know they are on their own to stop Putin. Had NATO not been so afraid of Putin and let Ukraine join when it wanted to, this war might have been prevented.

Putin is the bully of the hour and he knows how to wield his power through both fear and fearlessness.

I hope we all take a moment from the cookouts, picnics, beach trips, and fun this Memorial Day to remember the honor, sacrifice, and selflessness of all who have served in military conflicts. Show respect for our veterans who have given so much in service to our country.

In the entire history of the United States there are only 15 years we haven’t been at war somewhere. Only 15 years of peace out of 245 years!  It’s a pretty dismal record, and one that shows what happens when the bullies win.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Edmund Burke

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2 Comments

  1. Seems to me you’re lumping several divergent scenarios under a common “bullying” roof and I see it through a wholly different prism. Am not claiming I’m right; my take on bullying is based solely on personal experience and is purely opinion!

    I believed from the start boys generally compete and girls generally cooperate…don’t know if that’s cultural or biological (or both). I also knew some older boys would pick on/make fun of/push younger boys around and I would get my turn in the barrel, just like everybody else – there’s no way around it. How often it happened and how bad it could have been directly correlated to how I coped with it. Later on, it wasn’t older boys vs. younger ones, but the physically/mentally/financially dominant vs.each other and vs.the rest of us, much like dog packs sorting out the pecking order. No matter the arena, there were always elements of what others call bullying today, but I never saw it that way and still don’t. I see it as learning how to cope.

    But if that’s properly to be seen as bullying, then we need a better and more quantifiable definition of what bullying is. I suspect there is not a common definition between males and females. If person A feels intimidated by person B, then is it because person A is timid or is it because person B is a bully? In any case, we can always pass laws WRT bullying, but that won’t stop it – it will taken underground and that would only make it more difficult to detect.

    If we truly want to change the culture WRT bullying, I’m thinking a good place to start would be the very top, i.e., the White House and the Congress. Bullying is what Presidents, Senators and Representatives do every day to one another. Unacceptable childlike behavior originating at the highest echelons of government, but there just isn’t a victim among them.

    Bullying at the personal level is one thing, bullying between classes of people (not sure there is such a thing) is another, and bullying at the nation/state level (not sure there is such a thing) is another still. Likewise, bullying via words, physical intimidation, and/or warfare are three completely different propositions. I’d think analyzing each level for each method would go a long way toward defining what the data requirements are for characterizing each pairing so we could prioritize where the problems lie based on knowledge, the scope of each based on analysis, and where we need to start brainstorming first for solutions.

  2. Hi Hutch,

    Thank you for the response to the blog. It is always appreciated when I receive a thoughtful and thought provoking reply. Yes, I did cover a broad swath of different categories of bullying in a short blog. Bullying in all its forms is a part of human behavior since Biblical times, so I have no hope that it will ever stop. But I do hope that societies everywhere will decide to stand up to it, be less accepting of it, and more willing to do something about it. At all levels. Would love to start with the politicians. They are absolutely the worst. I tried to link all the different levels because of the damage it does on an individual basis when it happens to kids. If kids see that bullying is not an acceptable behavior and that bullying itself gets disciplined or punished, perhaps we can get a generation of adults who learn that the ultimate achievement of power is through leadership, respect, and positive accomplishments.

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