Strength in Numbers

A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It is a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity. -Jimmy Carter, 39th US President, Nobel laureate (b. 1924)

Have you ever met a bully? When I was a kid I was bullied. Maybe, like me, you heard some kind of story about how we should feel “sorry” for bullies, and explanations about how bullies don’t feel good about themselves and that’s why they pick on small fries. The definition of a bully is someone who abuses the vulnerable, the people who are unable to defend themselves. Sometimes the bully is in your family, sometimes it’s a sadistic employer or over-controlling manager, or an abusive bored soccer mom who is holding the rest of the team hostage with her drama.

I’ve said before I don’t agree with this turning the other cheek business. Not holding bullies accountable for their own stuff allows them to grow up and be Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, John Wayne Gacy, or your average lazy senator. Bullies are the reason we used to have laws that discriminated against people due to the color of their skin, their religion, their gender and worse. We shouldn’t let the bad guys win!

One of the best way to outwit the bullies is by strength in numbers. When I lived in a major metropolitan area I noticed it was safer to go out in groups, pairs or at least with a dog. (And I don’t mean Fru-Fru the teddy bear dog, I mean a mutt like my old Mango, who would not have hesitated to take a bite out of crime.) Another way to best the bullies is to be an “anti-bully.” If you see a kool kid klub popping up in your social circle, one that is exclusive and leaves a certain person left out – Go Up to the pariah and say, “Hello!”

I’ve found you can insert genuine warmth and friendliness in a handshake and a smile. Say no to moral cowardice! If your co-workers are making catty snide comments about the new girl because she is homely, gay or newly divorced, THOSE ARE NOT REASONS enough to act like an asshole. Find out if she’s worth getting to know before you throw in with the bullies. I’ve been the new kid often enough, I’ve been the new kid who was the wrong race, mixed race, and I’ve definitely been the kid with a “funny” name – that I just know some of these strange people are really worth knowing!

Once upon a time I was working at a shop and several of the employees had decided they didn’t like the new hire. I wouldn’t have even gotten involved except they had created such a hostile environment for him that I decided to get to know him. Three years later the ringleader no longer works at the business and the low-dog-down is part owner. So I guess saying NO to the bullies was politically adept for me! Which brings me to another point. It’s never good for your psyche to side with the bullies.

You might be thinking that if you don’t they’re going to take your raise, or talk smack about you in the ladies’ room or steal your lunch money – and while ALL OF THAT MIGHT BE TRUE. . . if getting the raise meant you had to sell a piece of your integrity, you’re in the wrong business! Yes, even if it’s the yoga business. Even if it’s lucrative, like a retreat in Bali or a teacher training – if you’re in the business of ripping people off, dude! You need to stop!

If you’ve read my blog before you might know I used to have a roommate. I started to have problems with him when he became friendly with the white supremacists next door. To be fair, he wasn’t exactly “friends” with them, or hanging out – but he was defensive of them, and that was too much for me. He argued that just because they felt different from me I shouldn’t be so judgmental. Well, I know right from wrong – so yes – I AM judgmental. For the record, I do not approve of Bigots, and I don’t care who knows it. If that effects my standing in the community so be it. I simply refuse to let the bad guys win.

When time after time I meet people too cowardly, too lazy, or too ignorant to fight bigotry – I feel Angry. I feel Offended. I just know that Hitler himself could not have killed off all those Catholics, Gypsies, Gays, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jews. Hitler was able to achieve what he did due to the sheer moral cowardice of the average person. A few people were brave, but most people were not. If there had been more than a “few” brave people, we would have seen the strength of their numbers.

You know, you could be brave. If you think you lack the strength, come to a yoga class and build it. When you feel good about yourself, as our former president, Jimmy Carter intimated, you can extend to others. Strong people protect the vulnerable. They don’t play act with the spiritual by-passing. They don’t waive judgment. Strong people face their fears, and act bravely. It doesn’t count as brave if it’s silly and easy and effortless. Brave is standing up to the bullies! The world needs people willing to do just that. So Don’t wait, do it now.

Find Peace through doing the right thing!