by David Bruce
I don’t like bullies. Many people feel the same, especially when it comes to school bullies and cyber bullies. We are capable of recognizing that bullying has a direct impact on the victims, and by extension, on society. Yet somehow, bullying has become just another national pastime in the US, one that is accepted and, in many ways, encouraged. That this social transformation has occurred over the past 20 months is not a coincidence.
Our country (with Russia’s help) has elected a President whose entire campaign was littered with verbal abuses against a variety of minorities and professional adversaries. Disparaging remarks regarding women, people of Muslim faith, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, and virtually any other demographic were and are commonplace. Now his days are spent name calling and tweeting verifiable lies – all of this accomplished under the pretext of being someone who does not believe in being politically correct, but rather, speaks his mind.
Merriam-Webster defines politically correct as “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.” At one point in time, to be politically correct meant sewing together a string of euphemisms that masked the speakers true meaning and intent. While this practice could prevent hurt feelings, it also became a means of masking the truth. In our current political and social climate, however, being politically correct isn’t done with the motivation of playing nice; thanks to our “President” political correctness has been traded for mockery and cruelty.
Following the success of Trump’s campaign, many people have become very comfortable airing their personal biases and speaking their minds. Newscasters and entertainers publicly vomit vile commentary towards people who still see our current administration as one that has a direct negative impact on our nation and our standing in the global community. Hateful, ignorant comments are publicly shared without shame or fear of reprisal. Muslims, immigrants, and poor people are fundamentally blamed for any ails our country may suffer. Yet there is nothing to substantiate that these groups of people are a drain on our society. Time and again we see memes or comments from strangers, friends, and family members that disparage others for being criminal or committing fraud, when in fact, the opposite is true.
I am often stunned that friends and family – people I know to be good and kind – find humor in sharing comments that poke fun at, or treat lightly, the plight of others. Instead of empathizing with others or offering some words or gestures of hope, they take to heart the filth and lies that are spread regarding victims of crime or circumstance. How much time are we taking to truly educate ourselves? Very little. Instead, we voice an opinion or share a comment that best fits our view of the world.
Students who speak out in support of gun control have been publicly condemned. Folks on welfare are treated as if they are solely to blame for their lot in life. And don’t forget those people who dare dream for a better way of life for everyone: they’re considered to be a “special kind of stupid.” Shame on us all.
Trump is a bully. He brings shame to the office of the President, and he brings shame to the United States. And unfortunately, many folks have decided that this is the nation that they want and one in which they are comfortable living. But their opinions of Trump, of our nation as it is and how it should be, and their opinion of those societal demographics they scorn are not the opinions of the majority. Opinions are not facts. The world as one person sees it is not necessarily the way another person sees it.
The time has come to walk away from the hate and when possible, silence the hate. As a society, we can respond to the hate and the bullying with positive, well-informed messages. Perhaps one of the most politically correct things we can do is to keep our mouths shut. The 14th Dalai Lama tells us to “[b]e kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Our country is turning into a nation of bullies. Maybe now is the time to step back and, short of coming to any sort of consensus regarding the direction our country should be taking, become a bit more empathetic to how others might feel.