ImageIn a June 26th Troy Media post of a two-part article called Canaries in the Mine, Anne McTavish, conflict coach and lawyer, writes that our attitude toward bullying needs to change. But what also needs to change is the climate that perpetuates it.

“The larger danger,” writes McTavish, “is found in ideas young people have learned: that destroying someone you don’t like is the thing to do, and that suicide is the thing to do when bullying gets bad.…

The idea that it’s OK to destroy someone you don’t like or who is somehow in your way didn’t start with our young people. They are just more open about it. Demonizing the other side is standard operating procedure in American politics these days. Just look at the attacks on Sarah Palin and her children. After the Obama Campaign released the names of some donors to Mitt Romney’s campaign and attacked them, bloggers joined the attack. One donor, Frank VanderSloot, has described how the false allegations not only affected him personally, but also affected his company’s sales. That’s not just rough-and-tumble politics, that’s the politics of personal destruction.

It’s difficult to have a public debate about political policies or about a politician’s track record when stepping into the political arena means that the lions will be released—not just on you, but also on your company, your family and even your children. No longer are people being silenced by a stronger argument, but by stronger mobs.

This idea that it’s OK to destroy someone you don’t like or who is somehow in your way isn’t just found on the campaign trail, it’s found in our workplaces, at sporting events, and even in our homes. It’s a dangerous idea that needs to be made obsolete.”

Friends and I often discourse on the lack of civility in today’s society, wherein civility is defined as courtesy or politeness, polite action or expression. To this definition I’d also add the polite exchange of ideas or the courteous discussion of differences. But no one seems to be able to disagree or even discuss in a polite fashion these days. Read the comments on a political blog, any partisan site, or at rallies and Little League games and you’ll encounter name calling, diatribe, rude accusations, vile language, and unsubstantiated opinion hollered LOUDLY. The goal does not seem to be the civil sharing of opinion or exchange of ideas, but, as McTavish states, only the destruction or demonizing of the purported enemy. Nowadays, the “winner” is seemingly the one who shouts the loudest and talks the nastiest.

Since when did differences make people enemies? I recall a more civil time when political and religious beliefs weren’t aired  in polite company. Everyone had an opinion, but everyone also knew that airing or contentiously refuting these opinions might lead to combative discussions, hurt feelings, broken relationships, and loss of cooperation. No civil person wanted that. Today, every topic, no matter how personal or private, is open for discussion. The result seems to have led to heated, cruel discourse, inability of opposing sides to reach agreement on vital matters, and, perhaps, even to open hatred and violence. (Taiwanese parliament, anyone?)

Until our elected leaders can once again cooperate and be civil to each other, until parents at their children’s sporting events cease name calling and physical attacks, until spouses begin to show respect and kindness for each other and for their children, I doubt much will change.

Bully (def.): a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.

Sometimes I think all segments of society have resorted to bullying, not necessarily picking on the smaller or weaker, but picking on the other side in order to make it smaller or weaker, in order to make their own voice louder and to keep the other side from being heard. It’s the politics of personal destruction. It makes no difference if it started in politics, in sports, in the workplace, or in the home. Wherever it began, the lack of civil behavior, the permission to mistreat others and believe you can get away with it, has filtered down to our children. And no matter where it begins now, it is time to kick bullying to the curb. It’s time to bring back civility and to set an example for our children—and perhaps even for the world. Until that happens, I predict there will continue to be miserable, suffering children who wind up killing themselves to end their pain.

Opinions anyone?

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