Robin asked me a fascinating question the other day that I have continued to roll around in my body. It is about why it is that, while others typically go along with everyone else on bullying, hazing, or harassing others, I have almost always stood up and said no even when the ramifications for myself might not be so pretty, and can’t really understand why others don’t as well.
If you are wondering about the picture, it is about a day soon after the new sheep were born on the farm we are living on where I went into the sheep area to take their pictures. I startled the ram and he came running up to tell me what I was doing was not okay even though I was familiar to him. I waited and allowed him to know that I was safe. As soon as he checked me out and I allowed him to inspect my camera he gave me permission to continue to take pictures.
The first time that popped into my mind was from when I was in college. A friend, who was my “little” by association in an organization I was in, was hanging out with those of us that were “big”s. This organization included males and females. The pledge master at the time had been a marine previously, but always came across as a harmless silly teddy bear who just enjoyed teasing people when he played in command. This night was different. We were out of town and the pledge master was supposed to stay the night in our room. He had been off drinking with the guys before showing up. When he arrived he started harassing my little. I’m not referring to gentle teasing. He was threatening the pledge with waterboarding. Just a regular international war crime (as it is illegal and a form of torture)!
I stood up and said, “No, this is NOT okay.” Needless to say, he then decided to direct his anger at me. My friends got his drinking buddies to come back, as this was not going to end well. I knew how to fight, but I was not going to win against a marine. They finally talked him into going and staying with them in their room, as there was no way he and I could stay in the same room. He and I were never friends again and those guys never talked to me after it as well. It’s sad as they should have been calling him out on it as well, not having a girl be the only one willing to step up and say No.
After this, I started spinning back even further in my history. I recall a sweet guy in band from high school. He was a bit quirky and I remember the popular boys picking on him and trying to get him to fight or blow up. I remember standing up for him and saying, “no, this is NOT okay.” They finally backed off. This still wasn’t the beginning.
I recall when I was 10 out playing with my friend in our neighbourhood and the sweetest Golden Retriever came up to us for some love. Shortly after, some guy in a truck came flying through the neighbourhood and saw us, then stopped his truck and got out with a rifle. A woman at a house was outside and had us come over to her. He came up demanding we give him the dog, as it had been scaring his cows and he was going to shoot it. The woman was actually scared. I told him under no circumstances was I going to do this, and my friend stood by me. Eventually he gave up and left. I don’t know if the dog ended up being taken out by the guy, but my hope is it stopped running away from home. Maybe the cows enjoyed having some entertainment!
Yet, I knew this wasn’t it. What was it in my life that taught me to stand up for others when most others back off or run away in fear?
Then I remembered First Grade. My family decided that sticking me in a Catholic private school was the best thing for me to receive a good education. There was a cute girl sitting next to me. I recall her informing me that she could talk to me during class, but was not allowed to talk to me outside of it. Her parents did not want her associating with a girl whose parents were divorced, and who had been teens when they had me. I recall telling my mom and her comment was that I shouldn’t have told my class. Since I was 7, I didn’t quite realize yet the need to withhold truth in order not be picked on.
The following year, I recall I played with only the boys, as I was still rejected by the girls. Until one day, the girls called me over. The two most popular girls were in a fight and were having all of the girls take sides. They told me to take a side, which I had no interest in doing. Half of the girls took one arm and the other half the other then started pulling! I don’t recall how I got out of it, but I went back to playing with the boys – pretty much completely done with girls!
That same year, a new boy came to school. He was Hispanic and had a red birth mark that covered a significant amount of his face. I recall not liking him because of this birth mark, and held it against him in playing soccer. Within a day or two, I saw how horrible I was being and stopped. I vowed never to be like this again. He and I became pretty good friends.
I have never been like that since. My friends have always been of every nationality, religion, race, sexual identity, etc. I don’t assume anything based on what they look like or where they were raised, and never have. I can’t tell a thing about anyone based on any of these things. They say nothing about who they are as a human being. or what identifies them as exactly who they are in this world, and that is what I am interested in knowing. Quite truthfully, white females have been the most vicious individuals in my life, yet I don’t hold it against them. I see their reason for hating or disliking me is about their hatred and dislike for themselves. We mirror to one another what we refuse to see in ourselves.
While I cannot even remotely imagine what it is like everyday walking around as a black person, a cop in the US, an LBGT community member, or a Muslim in the world right now, I can say that I will never stand by when I see people harassing, bullying, or otherwise doing anything to attack you – any of you. This is NOT okay.