Not My Bully: Part Three
By Dave Fox
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
January 19, 2017
On Tuesday, I published part one of this story about how severe bullying nearly drove me to attempt suicide at age 17.
On Wednesday, in part two, I wrote about my diagnosis with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at age 32 – the result of the bullying I faced as a teen.
Today, I’m here to explain why I’ve diverted from the usual, more upbeat topics of this website to tell my story now.
When I was a teenager, severe bullying nearly killed me. Thirty-one years later, I still feel its echos.
Fifteen years after my PTSD diagnosis, my symptoms are mostly gone now. My nervous breakdown in 2000 was a course correction of sorts. It sucked at the time, but it steered me to seek more constructive and effective ways of dealing with the trauma I faced in childhood.
That’s not to say the memories are done. They’ll be with me till I’m senile. Occasionally, something comes along that stirs them up and forces me to tangle with them.
Something happened two months ago that brought me back to the bullying I faced in childhood. It is what has motivated me to write these articles – and writing them has not been easy.
When I look back upon the behaviors of the people who bullied me in my youth – when I recall their mannerisms, the things they said, their sneering tone of voice, their tendency to attack, then deny they were attacking, then belittle my reactions – I see unsettling similarities with Donald Trump. Bullying was one of his key tactics during the election campaign – and he has been rewarded mightily for it.
His election two months ago showed me that too many Americans are willing to overlook, condone, even honor those who bully. As a person whose life was nearly destroyed by bullying, I will not stay quiet about that.
I made a decision several years ago not to write about politics on this website. People with political views different from my own have always been, and will continue to be, welcome in my world. I pride myself on having friends across a broad spectrum of ideas and attitudes. But we cannot let bullying become institutionalized, or normalized as an appropriate form of political expression. That is the path America is on and if we do not correct its course, the consequences will be disastrous.
So please understand: Were my misgivings about Mr. Trump purely political, I wouldn’t be writing this. Truth be told, I hate writing about politics. It makes me cranky. But my misgivings aren’t just political. They’re personal.
I realize publishing this on the eve of the inauguration will piss some people off. I’ve already lost a few newsletter subscribers.
Let me be clear: I get it that Donald Trump won the election. I understand he is about to become president of the United States. When I support the #NotMyPresident movement, I’m not questioning his legal right to hold this office. I am making it clear he does not represent my values.
Some Americans are saying that for the good of the country, it’s our duty as citizens to accept the election results and rally behind the winner. They are saying people who use the #NotMyPresident hashtag are bad Americans, that protesting at Trump’s inauguration is disrespectful to democracy, that those of us who don’t like the election results should quit whining and get over it.
I’m here to explain why I’m not willing to “get over it.”
But I’m also here, to encourage people who agree with me to take a deep breath and be selective about how you protest. There’s a lot of screaming going on right now, some of which is doing more harm than good. We should not fight bullying with bullying.
Donald Trump’s chronic name-calling – “Crooked Hillary,” “Lyin’ Ted,” “Little Marco,” – is bullying.
His misogyny, his “Look at that face” remark about Carly Fiorina, is bullying.
Mimicking a person with a disability is bullying.
Denying he is mimicking that person, and ridiculing those who say he is, is also bullying.
Telling his supporters he might pay their legal fees if they physically assault protesters is bullying.
Egging on his supporters to insult and shout down the media is bullying.
Joking about grabbing women “by the pussy,” suggesting to other men that this is okay, perpetuates bullying. It trivializes and validates sexual assault.
Pursuing the so-called “Birther Movement” for more than five years, fomenting a belief that our first African-American president was born in Africa and was therefore unqualified to be president, was bullying and it was racist.
And the list goes on.
Then there’s Melania Trump, who announced, a couple of weeks before the election, that she would be a champion against cyber-bullying.
Melania Trump is married to the world’s most famous and prolific cyber-bully. Her pledge to rid the Internet of cyber-bullies is freakishly disingenuous. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so gravely serious.
Wounds of Division
In his acceptance speech on November 9, Donald Trump said this:
“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division…. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.
“It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”
If Donald Trump wants to unite our divided country and “be president for all Americans,” he can begin any time. He can stop his name-calling, his threats, his tantrums, his blustery attacks on all who disagree with him. He can face the reality that America is a diverse landscape of opinions, and he doesn’t get to have a world where everyone does exactly what he tells us.
Until he does those things, I will not “come together” and support him. People can call me a bad American if they want to, but for the good of the United States and the world, I will not stay quiet and accept this kind of behavior.
At the same time, those of us who oppose Trump need to be mindful about the ways we protest. There are constructive ways to protest, and there are bullying ways.
Sometimes, we should shut up and listen.
Shortly after the election, I was out with an American friend here in Saigon whose parents had both voted for Trump. My friend hadn’t voted at all, but he told me he saw Trump as “the lesser of two evils.”
We weren’t agreeing on much, but after we had been talking for half an hour, he suddenly stopped and thanked me – for not yelling.
“Everyone’s been screaming so loudly,” he said. “Nobody’s listening to anybody.”
And he was right.
Shouting people down is not how democracy works. That is not how we have a constructive political dialogue. Marching in the streets and protesting vocally is one thing. Screaming in the faces of individual people we disagree with is a different matter.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve wanted to scream a lot these past two months. But when’s the last time someone won you over by screaming and calling you an idiot? It doesn’t work.
Just because Donald Trump uses this tactic doesn’t mean we should behave like him.
On another night, at a bar here, I had a long conversation with three Americans I had just met. One was a Republican. One was a Libertarian who supported many of Trump’s policies. One was a moderate Democrat. And there was me, a self-described “extreme liberal by American standards.”
“You don’t seem like an extreme liberal” the Libertarian said to me – because I was listening to him. I was expressing my views calmly. And, because I wasn’t being a loud-mouthed jerk, everyone at the table was listening to me.
We didn’t all walk away at the end of the evening in total agreement, but we heard each other and we all learned some things. We went home feeling like we’d had a constructive dialogue. I got my points across and they were respected.
When we listen to other people before arguing, even if we hate what they stand for, they are more likely to listen to us. Think about that the next time you’re talking to someone whose politics you don’t like. Don’t let them interrupt, but try talking quietly. Some people will listen to you who otherwise wouldn’t.
If you’ve read this far, if you’ve made it through all three parts of my very long story, thanks for listening.
If you’ve been following my writing for a while, rest assured, we will return next week to the apolitical, global goofiness that is the usual spirit of Globejotting.com.
If you’re new here, welcome.This series of emotionally intense articles isn’t the first impression I’d like to make for my website, but I needed to put this out there. (The timing of this article is awkward; a radio interview I did with Rick Steves airs this weekend on around 400 radio stations around North America, so I’m anticipating lots of new visitors here.)
For those of you who are feeling as angsty as I am about Donald Trump, I have a final suggestion:
Protest in the ways you believe are constructive. But also, sometime this week, go do something fun and ridiculous. Seriously, blow off some steam, do something crazy, and let me know how it goes. We are more effective human beings when we’re happy. So go celebrate life and the person who you are.
When the bullies fail to make us miserable, that is when they lose.
Over the last 48 hours, I’ve received a flood of supportive responses to the first two, much more personal installments in this series. I haven’t had time to respond to everybody personally, but to those of you who have taken the time to write, or post comments on Globejotting or my Facebook page, I thank you for your kindness.