Opinion

Salisbury’s take

Photo/Ryan Lohman

Photo/RYAN LOHMAN

By: STEPHEN SALISBURY
Guest Columnist

This week I’d like to talk about bullies. The saddest thing about bullies is that 99 percent of the time everyone around them knows they are bullies except the bullies.

Take our current commander-in-chief, for example. The man won the Presidency. He is literally occupying the single most powerful position in the world, and he wants to launch an investigation into the election over supposed voter fraud.

Ironically, his biggest concern isn’t that there were an overwhelming number of complaints concerning fraud, but that there simply must have been fraud involved because he didn’t win the majority of the votes. Classic bullying behavior.

“Look, I may have total power and control over you, but you don’t seem to like it all that much. So I’m going to keep hitting you until you admit that you love me,” the bully might say. No wonder he is in favor of using torture to gain information from enemy combatants.

Another thing that bullies like to do is surround themselves with people who act as apologists for their behavior or simply reconstruct the truth when what they are doing is indefensible. It used to be that if you weren’t telling the truth, it meant you were lying. Thanks to our new administration, when we don’t want to accept reality, you simply offer “alternative facts.”

Unfortunately, victims themselves, while not at all responsible for their abusers’ behavior, can be complicit in it when they make excuses or deny the reality that everyone around them can see. This can be, and often is, the only way they see that will keep them alive, so you should in no way construe my statement here as an excuse for victim blaming. Absolutely not! But when this happens in the political realm, we often allow ourselves or other members of our constituency to be mistreated in the name of a more robust economy or a few extra dollars landing in our pockets.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why is Stephen being so political all of a sudden?” The reason is that this kind of abusive bullying behavior seeps into our everyday lives sometimes in very subtle ways and it is important we work together to try to recognize and respond to it properly.

For example, let’s say I have a friend that I’ve known and worked with for a number of years. My friend wants something very badly, but I’m not sure they should have it. In fact, as it turns out, there are some very important people who also believe that they shouldn’t have it. And it’s in my power to, if not prevent them from having it, at least hit the pause button and ask them to consider the ramifications of their choice. Eventually, after a short time of reflection and consideration, I hit the green button and say, “Here, after considering all of the possibilities, I really believe you should get what you want.”

I then give them exactly what they asked for. Here’s where the bullying mentality seeps in. Imagine if the friend calls you the next day and says, “I just want you to know that although you gave me exactly what you want, because you made me wait for it, I’m not going to get it in a timeframe that I am satisfied with. Remember that next time when you make somebody wait for things they think they should get sooner rather than later!” That, my friends, is a bully.

So how should we respond when people treat us this way? There are some belief systems that teach you should simply blow it off and let them continue to treat you this way. I guess the theory is that if you stand up for yourself, you’re likely to put yourself in a more dangerous situation. There are other mentalities that respond with an “Oh, hell no, you’re not going to treat me like that,” and they look for ways to make the abuser feel as small as they were just made to feel. This too can lead to traffic results.

The ultimate question I’m trying to answer here is, “How do you respond when someone tries to marginalize you?” Holding each other accountable seems to be the principle our founding fathers advocated. In the First Amendment to the Constitution, they wrote, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So keep standing up to the bullies, my friends. You may wonder how I chose to respond to my friend. I said, “Hey, while you’re at it, would you like to slap my other cheek, too?” That just made them laugh and we have since moved on, so in this case, that advice worked.

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