my what a big underbelly you have

It isn’t just because of this election that I have very strong feelings about bullies.  As any of my readers know, my mother herself was/is a bully.  So I’m well acquainted with bullies.  I’ve known them all my life.  There were even times when I feared that the *bully blood* might run through my own veins and that I might become a bully myself one day if I wasn’t careful.  Interestingly, my father’s two life lessons were (1) don’t be mean and (2) don’t lie.  This is how I began to realize that being a bully was a choice.  So I’m not mean.  (I don’t lie either)

I’ve been the unfortunate target of bullies more times than I care to count or recount.  Though a few incidents do stand out in my memory.  In my freshman year in high school I was tormented by a (repeat) 10th grader, ostensibly for being Jewish.  She knocked my books out of my hands any chance she got.  I would calmly stoically pick them up without looking at or addressing her.  She also tossed pennies at me, which I pretended not to notice (not a hard task since she wasn’t a very good shot).  She wrote my name on a “blacklist” on the bathroom wall and then in a large study hall yelled to ask me if I’d seen it.  She proudly crowed for all to hear, “I wrote it”  To which I quietly responded, “You spelled my name wrong”, which elicited uproarious laughter from bystanders, but didn’t actually help the situation any.  I was always better at standing up to someone else’s bullies than I was at standing up to those who picked on me.  I guess feeling like I didn’t deserve to be treated well made it harder for me to speak up for myself.



As I’ve gotten older, I have found I have less and less tolerance for bullies and their obnoxiousness.  I no longer care to suffer bullies lightly and I have begun to feel it is my responsibility to, at the very least, call them out by speaking the truth.  Or maybe that is just my *bully fatigue* finally kicking in.  When, after my father died, my mother told me I had no business grieving because, quote, “Your father hated you! Why would you grieve for someone who hated you?”  I was able to simply say, “That was mean.”  True or not, her telling me that was mean.  I called her on it.  Which stopped her in her tracks.  Which was all I wanted.  Which is all one can actually do with a bully most of the time, as logic and bullies don’t mix well.

This conviction hardened when I became a parent.  Further strengthened and solidified by being the parent of a handicapped child.  Without compunction I have stood up to (literally gotten up in the faces of) people who are being mean to or about my child and called them out on it.  In addition to my father’s life lessons I have added for my own children, (3) speak up when others are mean.  There was a day on the playground when Joita (who was about 5 at the time) was on the swings while two older girls (probably 7 or 8) were making fun of another child on the play structure.  I called to Joita and she scrambled over to me.  But before I could ask what was going on (it wasn’t completely clear to me whether they were being mean, so I was calling her over to ask) she was already saying, “I wasn’t joining them! I wasn’t saying anything.”  To which I explained that neither was she speaking up.  And again, before I could say anything more, having apparently absorbed life lesson number 3 by the tender age of 5, she wobbled back over and said to the two girls, “How about we all get along and play together nicely?  {awkward pause}  Ok?”

After the election, a high school friend on Facebook (remember how I didn’t want to unfriend them?), wrote something positive about Trump and negative about the last 8 years (which, according to her, sucked).  I responded to her post by asking her (in a very sincere way) how she found the last 8 years hard and went on to say that I had actually benefitted in the last 8 years (by having my rights legalized as one example) and that I was frightened of a Trump presidency (because of the threat to those legal rights, as one example).  I really was looking for dialogue.  A friend of hers immediately commented on my comment, saying, “Who is this turd and why do we have to hear this sob story?!”  I responded to this total stranger by saying that her comment was mean and uncalled for.  She responded that I was a cry baby and perhaps she “should of”(sic) thrown me a crying towel.  We went back and forth in this fashion; me suggesting we have an actual conversation, asking her to stop being a bully and calling me names and telling her that she was being mean, continuing to remind her that it was uncalled for; and her calling me names and basically taunting me (using very poor grammar I might add).  In the 20 or so back and forths (which I am sparing you), while she continued to berate me, make fun of me and call me names, not a single person got involved in any way.  Though I’m sure lots of people were following the exchange.  I was disappointed that no one said anything to her in my defense (or even told us both to cut the crap).  I was disappointed in myself because I could feel myself with each response wanting to lash out and verbally bitch-slap her into submission – utilizing my far-superior mental prowess to decimate her stupid-ass…  In other words, I wanted to be mean.

A day or two later, a colleague of mine who happens to be a graduate of Hillary Clinton’s alma mater came to me distraught.  She told me that male students from nearby Babson College went to the Wellesley College campus the day after the election, waving Trump flags and generally taunting and harassing the women there (because we have elected a giant bully to be our president).  She wasn’t asking me to do anything other than listen to her and be with her in her sadness and dismay.  Still, I felt I had to do something.  I wrote a strongly worded letter to the president of Babson College asking her to address the situation.  I also asked her to change the wording on their website (I had done my due diligence and made sure I knew what had happened and what the responses were) which stated, “… our students’ behavior was perceived and experienced as offensive“.  I said that neither the perception nor the experience was the problem and asked them to specifically and directly place blame on the students’ behavior, which was very clearly offensive (a major understatement).  An almost immediate response was that they changed the wording on their website.  I also received no fewer than 3 phone calls from both the president’s office and the dean’s office thanking me for speaking out, assuring me that they were taking the incident very seriously and promising that they would discipline their students accordingly.

Another day later one of the Babson students involved issued an apology, which he included on his Facebook page and made public.  The apology was clear and concise, he took responsibility for being a total jerk (even though he denied being a bigot, racist, homophobe, etc).  He basically said he was stupid and made stupid choices and that he regrets what he did.  He then asked for the opportunity to apologize individually to anyone who might wish to engage in a conversation with him.  He provided his email address as well as his cell phone number.  Look, it wasn’t the most eloquent lovely apology I’ve ever read.  And let’s face it, anyone who would even consider participating in the kind of mean-spirited, intimidating, menacing behavior he did probably wasn’t the *goody-two-shoes-poster-boy* to begin with.  Still, it was something.  The other guy involved in the harassment didn’t say boo.  So, like I said, it was a start.

I was absolutely horrified by the responses he received.  Mountains, torrents, a virtual deluge of hate rained down on this guy.  About one-third of responders accused him of not being sincere, of his apology being too-little-too-late, of having daddy’s lawyers craft this crappy confession.  Another third suggested , not very nicely I might add, he do some physically impossible things with his unacceptable poor excuse for an apology, and calling him vicious horrible names.  And the last third of respondents threatened him with bodily harm and, in some cases, death, for his inexcusable actions as well as his parody of penitence.

It isn’t that I am lacking for vocabulary choices, but the words what. the. actual. fuck. really do seem to describe things best right now.  My disappointment in the human race is bone deep.  Why is it so hard to be nice and seemingly so easy to be mean?  Has it always been this way?  How have we gotten here?  And how do we turn back?  Was there ever a “back” to turn to?  I’ve actually written another letter to the Babson president.  This time sharing my outrage and concern for the very student I complained about last week.  With the rapid responses I received I had been momentarily heartened, thinking that perhaps we had reached one bully, helped him see the error of his ways, changed him, given him a valuable experience with which to go forward on a better path.  Instead, we have attacked him, threatened him, humiliated him and given him absolutely no reason to apologize ever again.  We have just added to the conflagration that is angry white men.  And truthfully, I am at a loss.  I simply want to go back to bed.  In the words of Susan Powter (who I honestly never thought I’d quote quite as often as I do), somebody, “Stop the insanity!” because I sure as shit can’t seem to.


About halitentwo

i am. god is. we are. as soon as i write something about me i change, am different, evolving. i am trans. i am a parent. i am a partner. i am a human. i am attempting to live a well-lived life in the spaces in between, beyond definition, fluid, dynamic, omnifarious and always changing. hopefully growing.
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3 Responses to my what a big underbelly you have

  1. Kris says:

    The thing I like best about people, are their animals – because of everything you raised in this post. I am beyond tired of trying to get up at every smack that flattens me (once again), but I am one of those suckers who keep throwing the one starfish back into the sea, as it makes a difference to it. (I guess you know the story of the starfish on the beach). Take care, Hali.

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