The other night I was digging through my notes on bullying, gathering information for a friend who is considering creating an artistic interpretation on bullying. As I composed my message to him explaining the research-based definition of bullying (according to Olweus, the expert on bullying) something shocked me…I, along with many of my adult peers, have been the victim of what I would call “Election Bullying!”
In order for bullying to be “bullying” it must meet two characteristics:
1) The wrong doing must be done consistently to the victim over a period of time; and
2) The wrong doing must make the victim feel powerless.
So, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, if your child is the victim of name-calling, teasing, or even a good playground squabble, I’m sorry to say… that’s not bullying. Should it be dealt with? Absolutely! If your child is called names every day by the same group of students, has had his or her books spilled from his or her hands each day, is tripped while getting to his or her seat each day by a group of students or even by one particular student…THAT is bullying. It is extremely serious and needs to be reported immediately! It should be reported by anyone who sees it. If someone sees bullying or knows about it and doesn’t report it, they are just as much as fault as the bully! Being bullied is very exhausting to the victim. This is why kids resort to suicide or homicide. They get to the point where they just can’t take it anymore. Got it? OK! So, I hope everyone listened and will remember what they read, and will now tell everyone they know what they just learned. It’s time to stop the senseless deaths that are presently occurring as a result of the bullying that is happening to our kiddos. (Thanks!)
Now, back to Election Bullying… but wait! Before I start writing about Election Bullying, first I want to say that this blog is not meant to target the behavior of any “one” of my friends in particular; the purpose of this blog is to focus on the effects of bullying on the adult level, while a topic that is of importance to our nation was discussed… Ready? Here we go!
Soooo, “Where does “Election Bullying” occur?” you might ask… I, along with some of my other friends, became a victim of “Election Bullying” on Facebook, of course! As I logged on to Facebook, after the Vice-Presidential debate, a former colleague of mine had written a status where she mentioned she was doing her best to “rely on the Fruit of the Spirit” (‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control,’ Galatians 5:22-23) in order to cope with the political posts she was reading. In particular she mentioned “self-control.” Sixteen people agreed with her while several of us made some comments.
I label this conduct “Election Bullying” because the actions I noticed on my Facebook newsfeed mimicked bullying behavior. I have a good amount of friends who, during both the Presidential debate and the Vice-Presidential debate chose to use their Facebook page to comment throughout the entire debate in favor of their candidate or against the opposing candidate. Most of the comments were derogatory in nature towards the opposing candidate. This wasn’t one friend; it was many!!! Their perceptions of what was occurring onscreen were interesting; I dared not throw my opinion in the mix. I will say, I was surprised at the judgments that were being made.
Then, as the evening unfolded, the comments my friends were making started to get to me because instead of rooting for or cheering on their own candidate, they were focusing on being negative and disrespectful toward the candidate for whom they didn’t want to vote. This seemed to go on through the night and into the next day. Then I noticed this “other” category of friends… friends who felt like I did… paralyzed, speechless, puzzled, or maybe astounded. Dare I say powerless? I know this because my evidence is their posts. My “other” friends pondered, “What do you say?” They were angered by what they saw. They felt that many of the comments were really uncalled for and they were surprised at the level of criticism of two men where one could potentially become the leader of our country.
So, this is “Election Bullying”, bullying on the adult level, or an indirect form of cyber bullying. Yes, it was done repeatedly and the victims were made to feel powerless. Could we have shut our computers off or hidden that person from our newsfeed? Certainly! But folks, the comments continue to be posted long after the debates are off the air and according to my group of “others” many of the “Election Bullies” are determined to find and post any piece of evidence to prove that the opposing candidate is corrupt or unfit to be the President or Vice President.
Steve Cornell, a senior pastor of Millersville Bible Church and regular correspondent for the Lancaster New Era (October 14, 2012) focused on the issue of the lack of tolerance during this election season. He expressed his disdain for the current political atmosphere as being an “embarrassing example of a failure to promote the true virtue of tolerance.” He explained that “tolerance does not mean agreement” and that we need to treat others with respect even when we disagree with them. I believe it also needs to be modeled. As an educator, I wonder what happens when our kids hear us talking about what we posted on our Facebook newsfeed? How are we behaving when we put that post on our newsfeed? Are we showing our kids that we are checking our sources to see if what we are posting is true and reliable?
I leave you with this story. I was riding in a taxicab to the train station in Newark, New Jersey. The driver was a gentleman of Muslim descent who was studying for his American citizenship test. While we were stuck in traffic, we were chatting. When he found out I was an educator he asked me to help him study. He wanted to know more than just the “memorized” answers. As we went over the information on the test, he was asking me about the term for the presidency. Then, he began asking me about the election, which then led into a discussion about religion.
This gentleman then said something to me that really struck me. He said that Americans take our freedom for granted. We can choose our spouse, where we live, what we read, where we work, our religion and we can choose our leader. He wondered why we would be so disrespectful toward either of the two men who were running for president when we know that out of the two choices, one for sure, is going to be our leader.
He paused and then he said something like this:
You get to choose and you show dishonor toward someone who may lead you? Why can’t you ask him the questions you want to know about him, with the honor he deserves, because someday, he could become your leader? Instead, you make up things about him, speculate, and say things about him, and no one knows who is right and who is wrong. This is dishonorable towards any man who may some day lead you.
…and there I sat…paralyzed, again.
Dr. Frances A. Miller,