No Name-Calling Week

j0442223Anyone who’s been on a diet knows that you can resist foods of all kinds until the moment you decide to diet.  Suddenly the cravings come out of nowhere, the urges arise and if you aren’t very careful and very disciplined, you are soon stuffing your mouth with all sorts of rubbish that never tempted you before. 

I’ve found this strange phenomenon to be present in another area this week.  That is the area of name calling.

This week is officially No Name-Calling Week.  According to the event’s Facebook page the week is described in the following manner:

No Name-Calling Week is an annual week of educational activities aimed at ending name-calling of all kinds and providing schools with the tools and inspiration to launch an on-going dialogue about ways to eliminate bullying in their communities.

Have you ever attempted to go a week without calling names?  It isn’t as easy as you might think.

Consider these things.  We are an increasingly disrespectful society.  I would say that this is limited to the U.S., however such is not the case.  In fact, in just the last week, I’ve received two comments on my blogs from people in other countries or continents calling me names and not nice ones either.  Of course, I spammed those comments in the spirit of the week I am celebrating.  While I’m not opposed to having people air their opinions in their own way, name-calling will never get press here.j0433180  Further, my own journeys around the blogosphere reveals a vast array of digital name-calling.  Behind the screen, it seems, that people simply let loose with whatever derogatory term or insulting phrase they deem appropriate given the circumstance. These labels and insults go far beyond merely disagreeing with another’s perspective or flawed reasoning, they are hateful, mean-spirited, and, at best, incredibly disrespectful and unkind things to say.  I have a friend who tells her children, “You might think it, but you can’t say it.” Personally, I think that’s a great start.  Sometimes these derogatory terms are meant in jest, in play, or in a teasingly affectionate manner. But  more often, there is no disguising the venom and fury and hate behind the words. 

The reality is, bullying is one of the first and simplest means of reducing another human being to a state of fear and helplessness. Name-calling and other acts of bullying are intended to intimidate and humiliate. The first and easiest method of bullying (and a largely effective one employed by those who bully) is name-calling.  The No Bully website lists name-calling first in its list of behaviors that identify bullying.  Bullying and name-calling in particular used to be called “just kid stuff”, but the reality is that those who end up perpetrating violent crimes in the teen years are as likely to have been long time victims of bullying as they have been to be the bully. Those children identified as bullies, are more likely to have a prison record by the age of 24.  It isn’t just silly kid stuff anymore.  While it begins in childhood, it continues to occur everywhere in our adult world too.

So this week, I and several others I know, including 32 young people I meet with every day decided to celebrate No Name-Calling Week. We are becoming more aware of how often we have the tendency to let slip a name even in jest.  We are finding that this task is much more difficult than we first imagined.  In fact, one young man even commented after a day or so, “Yeah, right,” he stated in frustration, “Like we are ever going to completely eliminate name-calling!”

No%20Bullying%20circle My answer?  “No, at least, not right away.  But if we all ban together and try we might do some serious damage to the disrespect we all encounter.”  Thus ensued a brief conversation about how we feel when someone calls us names and the respectful consideration of simply treating others the way we’d like to be treated. One conversation and one week of increasing our awareness certainly isn’t the cure all and I realize this.  But as a parent and as a human being, I am increasingly alarmed by how humanity is redefining decency, courtesy and respect. In an age where tolerance is valued, there is one thing we ought to be completely intolerant of and that is bullying in all its many forms, and this week, most specifically name-calling.

Overgrown Playground Bullies

I was talking to a friend tonight.  The conversation was rambling along quite uneventfully and without warning the conversation took a very wrong turn.  In one simple, surprising, uncalled for, random statement, my friend made a comment that was both sexist and racist.  In one breath he insulted both men and women. My friend was arrogant and insensitive in the extreme. 

I found myself becoming angry.  I was irate.  Had we been in person instead communicating digitally I might have really been tempted to let fly some of my postal perspective upon his puny personage.  As it was, I was fairly direct when I told him what he just said was “arrogant and insensitive”.  Of course, then he thinks I’m taking his comment personally.  He then went further to say that he felt he spoke accurately and that it was his “football and he’s taking it in”.  My thought:  You’ll be taking it in alone for a very long time because who wants to be on that team? 

I quickly ended the conversation but I was still very agitated.  I’m not one to just lose it generally, but certain things, statements, attitudes can entice me to get up on the ole soapbox and tonight, I was baited and I climbed right up on that ole soapbox.  Well, not to him because I ended the conversation with him….but in my wild untamed mind….I was up there hammering away. 

Then I mentally stopped myself and asked, “Why am I giving this so much energy?” 

“Great question,” I responded to myself, and I pondered a bit further.  The fire in the fire pit in my backyard and the soothing waters of my spa definitely helped me take it down a notch. 

I pondered.  Was it that I did take it personally?  No, nothing he said, applied specifically to me nor did it touch on any of my own insecurities.  So what sent me right around the twist with this one?  It eluded me for a wee bit and then it hit me.  It was simply unkind.  It was mean and hurtful.  It was a broad brush statement made that classified all fat women as unattractive and all Mexican men as desperate.  It equated fat with ugly and it implied that fat and ugly women and Mexican men had no other alternatives in the romance department except to be linked to each other.  “After all,” he implied, “They can’t do any better.”  I believe his actual words may have been “that’s the best they’ll ever be able to do”.   Now, I am female, but I’m not fat,  I hope I’m not ugly, and I’m definitely not Mexican, so I know he wasn’t in any way directing this comment at me personally.  Even so, this one riled me. 

It angered me, because it is unkind and it is unfair.  It, as do all disrespectful statements like it, lumps people unfairly in the category of loser, inadequate, desperate, not human.  Not human.  That’s the worst part.  It dehumanized all the folks he was pointing the finger at. And, when we dehumanize others we can insult them, strip them of their right to life, happiness, freedom, choice, whatever, and treat them mercilessly and cruelly.  If we dehumanize them, we can even, if left to our own intolerant and insensitive devices, kill them and make it look like we were justified to do so.  “After all, they’ll never be able to have a better life” or “After all, they deserve it.”  It is the kind of statement that reflects an attitude or perspective that, quite frankly, leads to things like wars and holocausts.  Everything in my being reacts with horror to this kind of attitude. 

I ended my own little pondering feeling a bit better that I had worked through all that quite on my own, all the online therapists being otherwise occupied with other pre-postal candidates.  I realized, once again, that I hate bullies.   When given the option I will side with the underdog every time, just as I did tonight.  I also realized that, at best, my friend is insensitive and unkind.  At worst, he’s a big playground bully in an adult body. That becomes a dangerous thing when a bully like that obtains a position of power and influence.  People then become afraid to say no to the bully and instead they go along with the bully so that they don’t get targeted personally themselves.  So it is in world politics (or it can be) so it is on the playground.  So it is with this person I was talking to tonight.  I can no longer call him a friend. This is just not the kind of character, attitude and energy I want to be around.  I cannot consider anyone who thinks or behaves like this friendly.  There is just nothing friendly or fun about being around an overgrown playground bully.