National Bully

I watched the so-called presidential press conference even though I knew it would sink me.  (So-called because press conferences are where the press asks questions and the president answers them, and this was something completely different.) I watched it at the risk of wrecking the rest of my day because I knew there was important information I needed to get from it. 

When my son moved from a small, intimate school to a larger one, he encountered bullies. I remember how awful it felt as he worked through the solution. (I will tell you that he figured out how to retrieve his power in that situation without reciprocation or revenge.) I wasn’t personally bullied, but I was witness to the bullying of others. And with a father who was by turns tyrannical, I know what it's like to feel powerless. Feelings of powerlessness in childhood can easily turn from a springboard to healthy independence to a neurosis constantly seeking to be thawed in adulthood. My guess nearly everyone has some relationship to bullying, directly or indirectly. 

Searches for bullying come up mostly with advice for parents on how to help children. The advice usually ends with the importance of telling their parent, teacher or principal about the bullying. I didn't see any advice about what to do if the parent, teacher or principle is the bully. For adults with bullying issues, say in the workplace, the advice included creating separation, speaking truthfully to the bully, and possibly a visit to HR. I found a questionnaire from a school district to help determine if someone is a bully. I mentally checked yes to every item for Trump. 

I reviewed in my mind how those reporters asked their questions. They maintained their professional, detached demeanor. They asked questions more than once, even though it was clear to everyone in a press seat that it would not be answered. They were earnest. At least one person tried using humor. Nothing worked, nothing changed the direction that the bully in the room, the man at the podium, the man in charge, was determined to take. This a bully of exceedingly great determination.

The questionnaire list listed how others follow in the bully’s orbit, envious of his power. Another site wrote how people who've been bullied in the past might later ally themselves with a bully in an attempt to reclaim their own power, for them own protection, to be on the safer side of an unsafe situation.

I did, in fact, sink into a feeling of hopelessness after the "press conference". It was because own feelings of powerlessness from the past had been triggered. If I'm right that nearly everyone has some kind of relationship to bullying, directly or indirectly, than maybe I'm not the only one. In my own household, my 6'3", professionally respected and self aware husband is triggered, as is his tough, 92 year old, ranch-raised mother.

My husband says memories of bullying in his life, toward himself and his brother, still inspire feelings of rage and impulses of revenge, though he knows he won't act on them. Films and books capitalize on these feelings and impulses and offer temporary relief from them. But using bully techniques against bullies never works in real life: Bullies are much better at those techniques than their targets are. That was the source of my hopeless feeling.

Martin Luther King transformed the reality of bullying into spiritual practice and inspired others to join him in that practice. Attempts to humiliate his spirit, harm his body, and diminish him in every way, while they may have sunk him from time to time, never held sway. How nearly impossible it is to never give into the ego gratification of striking back against a bully! I contemplate with awe the volume of practice he had to perform to hold onto his truth in the face of attacks on his right to be alive—and even more importantly, allowed him to act, to inspire awareness beyond his original constituency, and to dissolve the edges of the seemingly hopeless problem which that bullying embodied. 

In comparison to his example, most of us are confronted with a national bully without such refined spiritual skills. So we need to get them, and fast! Maybe it would help to start by taking a good look at our personal relationship with bullying, whatever that was. Some insight about that would go a long way toward moving us into effective action without side tracking ourselves with the flail of striking the bully back.