I’ve never much liked bullies. When I was a kid, I was particularly tall and over-confident, so I didn’t get bullied, but I had friends who got bullied and I made it a habit of sticking up for them. I was no white knight, mind you. I only stuck up for my own pals, and I can remember on more than one occasion mocking people I didn’t like for basically no reason at all (well, besides the fact that they had the audacity of being slightly different).
The terms “bully” and “bullying” mean something very specific to me, and I see people use it in a very different way, which belittles those who really are bullied. To me, a bully is someone who physically harms you. Until a person lays their hand on you, they are just mocking you or making fun of you. To me, bullying is child-on-child assault.
Imagine my chagrin when I see people accused of being bullies online, or to hear about liberals getting up in arms about some conservative saying this, that, or the other thing about some poor, defenseless woman/homosexual/minority. I don’t think most liberals would know a bully if one came up behind them and gave them a wedgie.
I don’t want to get into the first amendment here, because I can already tell most people who rail against “verbal bullying” are sick of hearing it. So, allow me to present my counter-argument to those who would silence the mean-spirited in another fashion.
For one thing, words only hurt those who let themselves be hurt. I know it’s a hard truth to swallow, to accept that you must give someone permission to offend you. The only reason words can hurt you is if they are true, because false words bounce off like rubber, and if a word bothers you because it is true, then you had best come to accept the truth and learn to live with it.
Sometimes that truth isn’t what you would initially think. If someone calls you a slut or a nigger or a faggot, the truth does not pertain to you, but to them. It’s doesn’t mean they’re a misogynist, or racist, or homophobic, it means they are angry at you for something, and they are expressing that anger in a juvenile fashion… or they might just be making a joke. That doesn’t mean the joke is funny, but even a bad joke isn’t worth getting upset over.
But these are just how to deal with someone criticizing you. I think such advice is moot, because anyone who is mocked knows how to deal with it. They’ve probably been dealing with it their whole lives, so it’s often not that big of a deal to a well-adjusted individual. Rather, I see other people getting offended on a semi-regular basis for things that don’t even affect them.
On some level, I can relate. I’m white, straight and a man, but I don’t like seeing anyone treated unfairly for being different from me. However, when someone says something to offend an individual or group, I don’t get all up in arms about it and act more offended than the target of the insult. I may make a cursory comment of opposition or just plain mock the jackass, but I know that people can stand up for themselves. They don’t need me riding in on a white horse to save them, starting campaigns and donning ribbons all the colors of the rainbow. That kind of faux-noble stance seems condescending to me.
This isn’t apathy on my part, it’s just good judgment. It’s not worth anyone’s time to get upset about what gets said when there are still so many horrible things being done. Liberals have sidetracked themselves with countless crusades against words. This in a world where women are still paid less, gay people still cannot marry, and where black kids are gunned down in the street by paranoid vigilantes.
There are bullies in the world, but we have laws enough to stop them. We need to focus on enforcing the laws we have, not policing the thoughts of innocent people whose only crime is opening their mouth or typing on their keyboard. I’ve honestly see “verbal abuse” described by more than one person as being similar or equivalent to rape… I am assuming by people who have never been raped. This is utterly ridiculous tripe, even from the fringe elements of the censorship movement.
You know what I think of people who would use force to stop someone from saying something? I would call them a bully, maybe even a thought rapist. Actually, no… just a bully.