Bullying another person is wrong. Always. At any age.
A great deal of attention is given to addressing bullying in our schools. But I believe that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, I suggest adults are some of the worst bullies of all.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a bully as a “blustering, browbeating person” and says the verb, “to bully,” means “to frighten, hurt or threaten … to cause (someone) to do something by making threats or insults or by using force.”
Besides anti-bullying campaigns in schools, the issue even has its own month — October — in an to attempt to eradicate the anti-social behavior. The Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights even sponsors a National Bullying Prevention Center, with a website with information and prevention suggestions.
The center also sponsors National Unity Day, Wednesday, Oct. 22, this year. Students, business people and other community members will wear or display orange that day in support of students who have been bullied.
“Make it ORANGE and make it end! Unite against bullying!” says the center’s website, which also invites communities to form a “Run, Walk, Roll Against Bullying” kick-off for National Bullying Prevention Month. See www.pacer.org/bullying.
That’s great. But because of a story in the June 12 Vidette, I’m not waiting until October to share my thoughts on the subject. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve long been mystified by how many grown-ups seem blind to the fact that adult bullying is also rampant — and wrong. Moreover, adult bullies don’t seem to understand — or care — that they’re setting a ghastly example for children. Most people I know realize an adult example is a powerful education tool for children, and not just our own.
One form of adult bullying — “road rage” — is especially egregious. Countless adults licensed to operate potentially lethal weapons — their vehicles — not only make driving miserable for others on the roadways but also pose untold risks to them. Angry driving is not safe driving.
So, someone pulled out in front of my car a little more quickly than I liked. Does that give me the right to endanger the lives of that driver, any passengers in the same vehicle, myself and everyone else in the vicinity — just to express my displeasure, and to “get even?” Certainly not. Yet, rarely can I drive even a few miles without witnessing one or more examples of that beastly behavior.
Someone is going too slowly, or not slowly enough, to please another. Or a disgruntled driver screeches through a stoplight just before (or as) it turns red because a driver in front didn’t get through it quickly enough to suit.
I’ve also been a passenger in vehicles driven by folks who keep a running account of how so many stupid drivers are doing so many stupid things behind the wheels of their vehicles while the person verbalizing all that fails to see that the anger — and distraction — with which he or she is operating a vehicle is probably the stupidest — and most dangerous — of all.
The Vidette story I referred to gives another example of what to me may have been adult bullying. It seems a Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s deputy, while off duty, had the nerve to speak during the public comment portion of a Montesano City Council meeting in May regarding two city department heads who he said had not been fully obeying the state’s seat belt law.
It no doubt takes immeasurable nerve to do your job, Deputy Brian Rydman, and I sincerely thank you for putting yourself on the line, not only at the council meeting but every day that you report to work.
However, Montesano’s city administrator, Kristy Powell, and Public Works director, Rocky Howard, didn’t appreciate Rydman’s voicing his concern through his constitutional right of free speech at a public meeting. In fact, they sent a biting letter to the home of Sheriff Rick Scott, purporting the deputy was not only out of line but “very confrontational and acrimonious in his presentation.”
Others at the meeting, though, including a council member, have said that was not the case. The council member described Deputy Rydman as “very respectful” when he spoke.
The letter writers didn’t say whether they had or had not neglected to buckle up. Asked by The Vidette if the letter’s purpose was to get the sheriff to discipline the deputy for having spoken at the council meeting, Howard said it wasn’t.
According to the story, Howard said the point was that if the deputy had seen someone breaking the law, he should have issued a ticket instead of raising the issue at such a “forum.” But I have yet to hear if, perhaps, the deputy was off duty, or involved in another activity, when he says either city employee was driving unbuckled.
So, since the deputy had the right to speak in public and if he did so respectfully, one wonders what motivated the letter to the sheriff, if not to get back at Rydman. There are better ways Powell and Howard could have responded, starting with talking with the deputy privately to try to solve the issue, especially if the city employees had not neglected to use their seat belts.
Going to someone’s boss, instead, with such a complaint is at best a poor first step in conflict resolution.
In any case, it’s way past time for all of us to guard our own actions, including a propensity to seek revenge — or try to get our own way (or cover up our shortcomings) — by going after others. And objecting in such a manner to another American citizen’s legally protected freedom of speech is also a step in the wrong direction toward another incredibly slippery slope — a place I don’t think we really want to go.
Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin is a retired reporter, who still contributes to The Vidette. Contact her by emailing the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org