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When I was a teacher, the administration brought in a person to train us about bullying.
I remember the trainer saying that, contrary to popular belief, bullies didn't lack self-esteem. They didn't possess an inner self-hatred that inspired their negative behavior toward others. In fact, this trainer said, bullies often possessed a greater sense of self-esteem which led to an increased ability to demean and dominate others.
That really rocked me. Up until that point, I was fairly certain that bullies sought to gain some sense of control or power because deep inside, they lacked courage and confidence to play nicely with others. If everyone was afraid of them, I reasoned, they'd feel less unworthy or weird or lonely. It never occurred to me that their behavior stemmed from a deep sense of superiority.
To this day, I actually think it might more accurately be a combination. Depending on the bully, of course.
Our new President is challenging many, but not all, of us in this country. We are incredulous. We are in shock. We are...speechless.
Some are reacting to what I'll call the trauma of this recent election by reacting with defiance and resistance. Some are playing dead like possums, hoping the bad guy will go away soon and they can scurry off to their homes unscathed. I might be one of those marsupials.
Maybe it's the Buddhist in me, having trained for 18 years, who knows the best defense toward any aggressor is not resistance but acceptance. What we allow, transforms.
And I hesitate to suggest that sort of thing because millions of people find such comfort in defending themselves from all things, especially the manifestation of evil. We do it so often we're habituated and can't possibly entertain the notion of an alternative. It's what I see and hear all around me and I'm not surprised.
It's human nature to avoid vulnerability. It's natural to armor what's tender.
And this bully is going right for the most tender, treasured parts of our humanity. The very things we hold most dear. With each day, it seems the more we want it, the more pleasure he finds in ripping it from our hands.
"Our" hands, the ones who value things like healthcare and nature and liberty and diversity. Even if we disagree on the details, we're in agreement about the basics of how to help humanity thrive and flourish.
While the hands of the "others" grip their wallets more tightly, clutching and counting the only wealth they will ever know.
I worry for them. Material wealth plants karmic seeds of misfortune which manifest as spiritual poverty. It's a void that's never filled and the suffering from that longing and lack of love is without envy.
But in the meantime, they seem to be winning. They seem to have it all and the masses of millions with less are mad. We're afraid. We're reduced to our 9-year-old selves, spinning on our heels wanting someone to see what he's doing.
It just doesn't feel fair.
We want someone to make him stop.
From a distance, where I sit with my relative privileges and disadvantages, I watch with my well-trained eye. The eye that studies and seeks to understand.
From that training many years ago when I taught 5th grade, I remember the best way to beat a bully is to ignore him. But that's not what anyone's doing. In fact, it seems to me the collective reactivity to his actions feeds the very behavior we wish to stop. But a bully feeds on negative attention because it's attention he craves, whether he suffers from low or immorally high self-esteem or a total lack of moral compass.
I see a bully behaving badly and a classroom full of children feeding the very beast they're trying to slay.
Is no one ignoring for fear of enabling? Is resistance our new pointy weapon to assuage our guilt for getting ourselves into this mess?
The stakes are high. Lives are on the line. The very world is in crisis.
And it's been like this for centuries. Every age needs its bully.
But our democratic system was designed to withstand a demagogue.
We just need to trust it and ourselves, turning our attention toward united action and a blind eye to the babbling bully who never learned how to make friends.
The best way to beat a bully is to ignore him. We haven't tried that yet.
Maybe we should.