I have no obligation to tolerate Nazis


I’ve posted this and other things like this on Facebook before, but it bears repeating. I’m going to mention this again (and again, and again, and again – as many times as necessary), as an avid WWII history buff, and as someone whose grandparents were heavily involved in the war effort at home. If you wave a fucking Nazi flag, throw a salute to Heil anyone, or try to claim anything about a superior race, we’re going to have words – strong words. I don’t have time for bullshit, and I certainly don’t have time to argue about why your widdle feelings got hurt and that’s why you started calling yourself a Nazi.

GET OUT. Stop trying to relive the Civil War or WWII, and pretend that the Nazis were just misunderstood, and that we can all wave second-place flags and pretend that words don’t have meaning, and we should all hug and sing Kumbayah like Daily Stormer doesn’t advocate violence and Richard Spencer’s “peaceful genocide” isn’t actually so bad. I don’t have to tolerate that shit and I won’t tolerate it. As soon as you advocate those things, tolerance is done – you have violated basic human decency, not to mention the social contract that we all abide by in not killing each other and burning each other’s homes down. I don’t have to tolerate that shit, just like you wouldn’t tolerate it if I walked over to your house and kicked your dog.

I’m reaching the end of my tolerance for bullshit, and while people are welcome to argue the finer points of National Socialism, they’re not welcome to come tell me why I need to tolerate some assholes with their Wal-Mart tiki torches crying that white people don’t get enough attention and that their tiny little snowflake egos need more stroking.

As Yonatan Junger states in his article on Tolerance, tolerance is a peace treaty but not a suicide pact.

Tolerance is not a moral absolute; it is a peace treaty. Tolerance is a social norm because it allows different people to live side-by-side without being at each other’s throats. It means that we accept that people may be different from us, in their customs, in their behavior, in their dress, in their sex lives, and that if this doesn’t directly affect our lives, it is none of our business. But the model of a peace treaty differs from the model of a moral precept in one simple way: the protection of a peace treaty only extends to those willing to abide by its terms. It is an agreement to live in peace, not an agreement to be peaceful no matter the conduct of others. A peace treaty is not a suicide pact.”

If one side decides not to live up to their end of the bargain, the other parties are not obligated to stand aside regardless of consequence and let those people trample on the treaty, and everyone else. When Nazis show up with torches and local militias bring guns to protests, they’re loudly proclaiming that they couldn’t care less about whatever social contract we think we’ve signed with everyone else. They only care about their feelings and their rights and their place in society, and they’re willing to trample (or shoot) anyone who believes differently. There’s no need to tolerate that, and it’s stupid to think anyone should. White Supremacists aren’t tolerating my right, as a mixed-ethnic woman, to live near them and work a high-paying job. In their eyes, my immigrant father stole his job from a more deserving white person, so everything I do and own was stolen from them. (See any number of articles about how immigrants steal jobs from white Americans. I’m sure the Daily Stormer is full of them, as is 4chan, reddit, and even twitter.)

I am under no obligation to tolerate such bullshit, and I won’t. I’ve listened to these people and frankly, all I hear is the sound of my grandparents spinning in their graves because we literally fought a war over this 70 years ago and they (and I) thought it was settled, that this was just isolated fringe making noise. Well, apparently it isn’t, but I have no inclination whatsoever to sit back and play, “But both sides…” or, “We should really take the high road.” Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policies were wrong then, and they’re still wrong now.

—–

Photo Credits:

1. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/08/tom_perriello_on_the_charlottesville_protests.html

2. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/white-nationalist-rally-virginia-triggers-state-emergency-article-1.3405906

3. http://abcnews.go.com/US/violent-clashes-car-ramming-charlottesville/story?id=49187074

4. http://www.newyorker.com/news/as-told-to/a-witness-to-terrorism-in-charlottesville

5. http://mashable.com/2017/08/12/racist-march-charlottesville-scenes/#c57yUhCkxkqK

6. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Two Things

  1. Given my last post, I’m thankful that no matter how bad of a day I’m having I’m not Anthony Scaramucci right now.
  2. Apparently, Jonah Goldberg (and The National Review as a whole) is a voice of reason now.

Yes, we are still living in a world where Trump is president. No, this is not an elaborate acid trip or fever dream. This is apparently reality, where Trump is leading our country, and his communications director is 1980’s Bone-itis Guy from Futurama.

What a time to be alive!

What the hell even is this?

I haven’t written here in a while. A long while – five months to be exact – because blah blah busy season something something dark side politics whatever. The main reason I haven’t been writing here is that I’ve been vacillating between struggling in a dark place and barely mustering the ability to give fucks about anything, and . I have a good job, a loving family, a stable home life, and the thing about high-functioning anxiety and (recently diagnosed) Bipolar II-Depression is that none of that shit matters. When your brain chemistry is fucked up, things like logic and reason protect you about as well as those little paper cocktail umbrellas in a rain storm. If you’ve read any of The Bloggess’ posts, or Hyperbole and a Half, then you probably have an idea of what it’s like to wander around life while your brain tries to convince you that you’re a deadbeat and the world is better off without you.

Writing about mental health challenges is difficult. I’m going to just leave it at that. It’s difficult to describe the complex set of bizarre rules and rationalizations that your brain invents to get through everyday life, and it’s difficult because there’s a huge stigma around mental health – still. Where people wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg that they should just be positive and their leg would be fine, that they don’t actually need a cast or crutches, people have no problem sharing shit memes like this one:

I’m hardly the first person to comment on this, but I see a stupid ass meme like this almost every day. Who wants to be told that the treatment they’re getting that finally helped them live life semi-normally is bad and that they’re a bad person for accepting that treatment? Not me, and probably not many people. I won’t even get into the bullshit Happy At All Costs culture (mostly because Barbara Ehrenreich already covered it extensively in her book, Bright-Sided). GTFOH with that crap. But it perpetuates because who wants to be miserable? There’s a kind of peer pressure to be happy all the time, and that gets perpetuated on social media (which is where I see all these stupid ass memes) where everyone is looking for Instagram-perfect bodies and kids and yoga and whatever else.

Even without the stigma and the Happiness Cults all over the place (I’m looking at you, Instagram…), dealing with what’s going on in my head is difficult. I have the kind of anxiety where I am extremely sensitive to social rules and norms. Is my hair the right style? Did I put on mascara today? Am I dressed professionally enough? Will anyone notice that I’m putting on a facade and don’t actually care about this stuff, but okay maybe I care a little bit but I’m also antisocial and I’m just trying to get by…. Even a small slip-up can cause low-level anxiety and panic that lasts for days. The other day I was so focused on getting a report finished at work that I walked into the Men’s room by mistake – I had only just barely opened the door, noticed my mistake, and turned around, but a coworker was washing his hands and laughed. Now it’s all I can think about – OH MY GOD I WALKED INTO THE MEN’S ROOM! I HAVE MADE A GRAVE ERROR! Now I must concentrate heavily on how I can avoid making the same mistake in the future, even though all I can think about is making this mistake over and over and over again and mentally punishing myself for it.

Keep in mind, this is probably the first time I’ve done this in years – probably since I was a kid – and a) it’s not like I wandered in there and actually used the Men’s room blissfully unaware; b) no one’s privacy was violated; c) no one else saw me do it, other than the coworker washing his hands. I’m told that people do this shit all the time and it’s not a huge deal. But having anxiety means never forgetting a mistake, no matter how small it was.

So, unsurprisingly, it’s been difficult to muster the energy to write. When I feel good, I’m trying to catch up on all the mundane crap I’ve been neglecting while my anxiety was too bad to get laundry done or go to the post office. When I feel bad, I’m just trying to get out of bed and get to work so I can make enough money to pay for my psychiatrist who prescribes the drugs that keep me upright and functional. Recently, though, I’ve been forcing myself to do things that I enjoy – we have a local writers’ group, so I’ve started going to that; I went to see Roxanne Gay’s reading at Bayou Place; I saw Welcome to Night Vale when it came to town. It reminds me that I do actually enjoy things, and it helps keep me connected to those things so that when I do feel good I can do those things more often. I tasked myself with a writing project, and I’ve vowed to actually blog more (for real this time; seriously) or at least read more blogs and write some drivel here. Finding a reason to stay connected to this world is harder sometimes than others, but it’s usually worth the trouble.

Trump Goes To Court

I’m pretty sure the reason Trump tweeted, “SEE YOU IN COURT!” is because he’s so used to being in court. Being sued all the time (or suing people all the time) probably makes it like his second home (you know, after Trump Tower, Mar-A-Lago, and the White House).

But I digress. For those of you who haven’t heard because you were busy refreshing this page in the fervent hope that I’d be blogging again soon (wish granted; you’re welcome), and therefore missed the news that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (or rather their three-person committee) upheld a stay on the travel ban-that-isn’t-a-ban-but-is-definitely-a-ban, Trump got mad at the decision and tweeted his indignation and an assertion that he’d take the court to court. So yeah.

Today, he tweeted out that the 9th Circuit “forgot” to cite or read an important article that he claims supports his ban. (Spoiler alert, it probably doesn’t.)

However, as that liberal rag (not really), The Hill, notes:

“The Ninth Circuit is correct to leave the [temporary restraining order] in place, in my view, for the simple reason that there is no cause to plunge the country into turmoil again while the courts address the merits of these matters over the next few weeks,” the post says.

It adds that the judicial system will eventually have to confront the clash between the president’s powers and “the incompetent malevolence with which this order was promulgated.”

I really wonder how Trump feels right about now. Well, I won’t even bother with a spoiler alert: apparently, he fucking hates it. It turns out that he CAN’T run government the same way he runs his businesses – by throwing down edicts from on high and throwing a tantrum until he gets his way, because he’s Donald Trump, God Dammit, and we’ll do it his way or the highway!

Anonymous source rumors aside, Trump appears to be confused at the concept of oversight. Being in charge of the Trump Organization meant he could be in charge and throw his weight around, making all the decisions, making the deals – but it’s difficult at best to do that with the US Government. We have checks and balances for a reason, and it’s generally considered a good thing that the president has both Congressional and Judicial oversight. We don’t elect kings in this country, a fact that apparently has been slow to dawn on Trump.

I’d like to say that the man will eventually get it, that everything will click, and suddenly we’ll have the presidential pivot that we were all promised during the campaign. I’d also like to say that I have a million dollars in my bank account and no debt, but neither of those things are true, and repeating it won’t make it happen. There is no pivot. Trump is still bitching about imaginary voter fraud and crowd sizes, and he’s obsessed with his appearance in the media. Tweeting that he would take the 9th Circuit to court is another attention-grab, whining from someone who’s used to getting his way and isn’t happy that he can’t do everything on his own timing.

Being in charge of the free world takes patience and determination. You have to be willing to work with people who may be radically opposed to you. You can’t expect to “make deals” if you’re insulting allies and belittling trade deals that took years to undertake. Trump will find himself alone, and America will be worse off. But hey, remember Hillary’s e-mails! We sure dodged a bullet with that one, right?

Burning The Village To Save It

I hated school growing up. It was terrible. I was bullied incessantly by teachers and students alike, and because I was above average but also had an oppositional and independent streak (a really big one) I wasn’t allowed to participate in gifted programs. I had “an attitude problem,” I was “disrespectful,” I didn’t “work well with others.” I spent more time in the corner and in time out in 3rd and 5th grade than anyone else. Well, it certainly felt like it, anyway. Public school was a nightmare for me, and I felt left out because I was ahead of the class but made to wait on my peers, which made me resentful of classmates and teachers, and which made my classmates and teachers dislike me. If I could do it all over again, I’d never set foot in a public school ever.

But public school is a necessity. Public schools function as a way of ensuring that we have an educated populace prepared to take on the challenges of the world, but also ensure the future of our economy at home. Don’t want to go to public school? Go to private school, or a charter school. But the local public school ensures that the kids who don’t have a charter or private school option have a chance at a decent education. It’s part of the social contract we sign with each other when we decide to live together under the branch of a local government. Or something. A number of my friends are teachers and they’re passionate about their jobs – they work incredibly hard for not a lot of money. They understand the importance of education, and they wouldn’t do it otherwise.

So when Trump nominated Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education, we were all appalled. Betsey DeVos has no experience in public school, has never been involved in a public school, has never held any public office, has never done anything but lobby for “school choice.” Of course, party loyalty mattered more than actually promoting what was best for the nation’s public schools and the children who attend them, so all but two Republican Senators rubber-stamped DeVos’ appointment. The two Senators who did reject her did so because they were concerned about her lack of experience and knowledge of the public education system.

“I have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of education who has been so involved in one side of the equation, so immersed in the push for vouchers, that she may be unaware of what actually is successful within the public schools, and also what is broken and how to fix them,” Ms. Murkowski said last week when the two announced their opposition. [Source: NYT]

Okay, so maybe we need to make radical changes to the system. Maybe we need someone new and different to effect real change. However, that usually means the radical change agent is going to have some knowledge of (1) the system they’re trying to change, (2) the problems that need to be resolved, (3) the things that work that should be kept. In reading DeVos’ background, it’s clear that she doesn’t have any knowledge of any of those things. If you aren’t convinced, look up the video of her confirmation hearings. Apparently, the biggest problem that needs to be resolved for teachers is not having enough guns in schools to protect kids from grizzly attacks.

If that doesn’t concern you, Cosmo (yes, that Cosmo…) has an article on 11 things you should know about DeVos, and I can tell you that 3 – 5, and 7, are very concerning to me, with #5 being most concerning. DeVos pushed for charter schools in Michigan, and she got them – at the price of compromising childrens’ education. From the article:

An investigation by the Detroit Free Press in 2014 found that Michigan’s charter schools “rake in taxpayer money and refuse to detail how they spend it,” that charter school employees and board members were “steering lucrative deals to themselves or insiders,” and that more charter schools were ranking below the 25th percentile than public schools. Even a charter advocate, former state schools superintendent Tom Watkins, said, “People are making a boatload of money, and the kids aren’t getting educated.”

Adding school choice only works when those schools perform as good or better than the existing public schools. The whole point of providing alternatives is to give people a better alternative that works for them. Providing an alternative that has no accountability and is actually worse than the existing system is counterproductive at best, actively destructive at worst. The whole thing smacks of the bizarre assertion that you have to burn the village in order to save it, and the people who will suffer the most are the kids who go to these crappy schools and come out unprepared for the real world as future adults, the people who will rely on these future adults to support the economy, and the future generations that have to work to fix an even more broken system.

But that’s all in the future, and politics is hyper-focused on the here and now. How many votes can I get NOW? What are my popularity ratings NOW? What’s my likelihood of re-election NOW? The future is obscure and doesn’t get votes, but pandering to current concerns (real or imagined) does.

Well, good luck, everyone. So far we’re doing a good job of turning our country into Idiocracy. Hopefully it will at least be entertaining….

Image result for idiocracy

 

Edited: (1) to correct spelling of Mrs. DeVos’ name.

Soylent (Not The People Kind)

The Dude (aka my husband) has been getting Soylent for a while, but I didn’t get into it because I don’t like the idea of flavorless chalky drink. (Though admittedly, I do drink a lot of vegetarian and vegan protein shakes, and the same could be said of those….) I decided to see if there was a way to make it into muffins, and of course there is. There’s an entire DIY forum on how to make Soylent into muffins, quickbreads, and all sorts of other things to make it more portable and convenient. (Note: despite the name, the only real soy in Soylent is soy lecithin, but it does have Sucralose, so forewarning if you’re trying to avoid either of those.)

I started with this recipe (found on the Soylent DIY forums), but the muffins were too dense, even after adding eggs and more liquid. I had already modified the recipe to include 2 eggs and 2 cups of cashew/protein-nut milk, but they were still too dense. So today, I did some additional recipe adjustments and finally came up with a recipe I’m happy with.

SOYLENT MUFFINS

Recipe yields +/- 48 mini muffins or cookies.

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 bag dry Soylent
  • 1 cup plain dry oats
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (or more)
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (such as raisins or cranberries)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Wet ingredients:

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (helps the flavor)
  • 2 cups water or non-dairy milk
  • 2 large eggs

 

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degreess.
  2. Grease a non-stick muffin pan (or three). (Yes, really – grease the pan, and probably flour it too – the Soylent gets pretty sticky in batter form).
  3. Mix all ingredients together. You should end up with a thick batter.

 

  1. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. (Alternatively, the batter is thick enough to make cookies with as well.)
  2. Bake at 325 F for 25 – 30 minutes.
  3. Let cool 5 minutes after removing from oven, then remove muffins from pan and cool on a wire rack.

So what do they taste like? Oatmeal muffins, mostly. There’s no real aftertaste like I expected – Soylent tastes pretty weird to me (largely due to the Sucralose), so I was worried that I’d bake a batch of muffins that had a weird taste and wouldn’t like. These are surprisingly good, and using the Soylent makes them more nutritious than an actual muffin. Of course, adding eggs, milk, nuts, and dried fruit will add calories, but if you’re eating only the muffins then it shouldn’t matter too much because the additional calories aren’t significant to the individual muffin.

The batch above is about a week’s worth of muffins for me (I have a tiny appetite and only eat them for breakfast or snacks), but a bag of Soylent is actually about a 1 – 2 day supply, so 5 – 10 would be a single serving depending on your caloric needs. What I care about most is that these muffins are easy on my stomach, which is nice when your meds and chronic illness are conspiring to kill your digestive system. (I’ve been living on brothy soups, smoothies, and these muffins for a few weeks now – everything else makes me sick. BOOOOOOO….)

Vegan Alternative: If you’re looking for a Vegan alternative to the eggs, used mashed bananas or a tapioca starch egg alternative or whatever other favorite egg alternative you have.

Savory Muffin: I have not yet tried a savory version of this, but I plan to do so by replacing the vanilla and spices with rosemary and garlic. If you try it, please let me know!

So there you have it. If you try this recipe, let me know. I’m curious to see how it turns out!

Whatever, or something.

I guess it’s time to admit that I’m not just feeling weird, I’m experiencing a serious depressive episode. No, it’s not about politics. No, it’s not busy season anxiety. It’s more like I was sitting in a little boat looking at the scenery around me as I floated down the river and the scene change was so gradual that I didn’t even notice the landscape getting darker and more twisted. Now I don’t recognize my surroundings and I don’t know how to get back to where I was.

So what does this feel like? It feels an awful lot like nothing. I don’t feel anything. I’m not sad or mad or angry – when I reach down into the pit of my being there is literally nothing between me and the bottom, and the bottom feels much loser than it out to. It’s a frighteningly shallow emptiness. I WANT to care about things, but I don’t. I can’t. I don’t remember what caring about things feels like. It’s just an endless sea of empty feelings muddy puddle of meh.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

¯\(º_o)/¯

¯\_ಠ_ಠ_/¯

┐( ̄ー ̄)┌

Depression is a funny thing. Not ha-ha funny, more like, “Wow, that’s weird and unfortunate, and I wish it would stop.” I’m on medication and I see a therapist, but sometimes the chemicals in my brain overpower my efforts and I just wake up with the worst case of IDGAF, but because I’m an adult, a professional, and a parent, I have to pretend I give a shit, but I’m constantly questioning my ability to pretend so most of my day ends up with an internal conversation like this:

Ugh, I have a meeting today. I don’t want to go, and I certainly don’t want to talk to anyone. But I can’t back out of this because I’m supposed to be leading the meeting. I hope no one figures out that I can barely muster the energy to shower, much less come to work. Oh god, did I remember deodorant? Normal people wear deodorant, right? Crap. No, wait, I think I remember deodorant this morning. Oh, but I forgot to wash my face. Oh well. No one will be watching my face. Wait no, everyone will. Crap. I’ll just walk to the store on my lunchbreak. Wait, is that weird? No, it’s normal to forget stuff. I’m sure it is. I mean it probably is. Does everyone realize I forgot to wash my face? I’m sure they do. Maybe I should wear makeup more often. No, then people would realize something had changed about me and the jig would be up. Shit, do I look like I’m talking to myself? I think people are starting to realize something is up. Oh god, someone is coming over to talk to me. Stay cool, man. Pretend you still know what feelings are like and you’re not currently a soul-less robot wading uncomfortably in a sea of feelings pretending you know how to experience life.

Most people think that you talk to someone, you take some meds, get a good night’s sleep, and then everything is hunky dory. That’s not how brain chemistry works apparently, and it’s frustration. I really want to be able to psych myself out and be well and cure my depression through forced happiness and magical thinking. But that doesn’t work either. It’s a struggle – sometimes you coast along feeling great, and sometimes you hit gravel on the track and you have to figure out a new plan. I mean, I SHOULD figure something out, but I’m having a hard time finding the mental and emotional wherewithal to do that.

So, you know, I reached out and told my friends what I’m going through because I think you’re supposed to do that kind of thing, and then I called my psychiatrist. So I guess, you know, whatever. Or something.

The Problem of Loyalty

Many people I know are mourning the upcoming inauguration. Trump has been elected, he’s readying his cabinet (oh god, the cabinet…), but the inauguration hasn’t even happened yet and even Krauthammer is saying The Honeymoon Is Over.

Look, I’m never going to like Donald Trump. I think he’s in the category for Top 5 Worst Presidents and he hasn’t even been elected yet. (That list, by the way, includes Richard Nixon, Andrew Johnson, and Herbert Hoover. Fill in your favorite for the other guy.) The man is the living embodiment to Millenial Crybaby Whining and he’s almost 70. The 3AM twitter rants, his “victory lap” around the US (did he even finish that? I don’t remember – maybe it was interrupted by a tweet-storm.), and his constant vacillation from one stance to another, really bothers the shit out of me. I mean, say what you will about Obama (and you will) at least he was predictable.

If you haven’t read Jonah Goldberg’s latest G-file, you should. He rightly points out one of the biggest problems facing America in general, but Conservatives and Trump’s administration in particular: emotional correctness. Trump’s biggest problem is that he demands loyalty at all costs. He wants yes-men, he wants his ideas supported, he wants his ego stroked, and he rewards that (much like any administration has) by giving sweetheart deals and cabinet positions to his most loyal supporters. Goldberg writes:

On the right, Never Trump has become a convenient psychological crutch for dismissing inconvenient arguments. Like the ever-metastasizing phrase “fake news,” it’s waved like a magic wand to make any threatening claim disappear without having to deal with it on the merits. Marxists used to use the term “false consciousness” in much the same way: to head-off threatening facts or arguments by attacking motives. When I point out that until a few months ago Republicans and conservatives despised crony capitalism or “picking winners and losers,” the instant reply amounts to: “When are you going to get over your Never Trump obsessions?” The upshot of all of these responses is “Get with the program,” “Get on board the Trump Train,” or “Get on the right side of history.”

Loyalty at all costs is the sign of a weak regime. Of groups and people who are afraid that their underlying ideology is so fragile that any negative comment, any questioning, even the whiff of insufficient enthusiasm, can cause it to come crumbling down. If we can’t question our own beliefs, how can we embrace them and make them stronger? I’ll borrow a quote from G.K. Chesterton here:

  • “What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism.”  – Sidelights on New London and Newer New York

We must be able to exercise self-criticism, and criticism of our heroes and leaders. We are not perfectly moral and righteous people (if we are, why do we still struggle with morality and righteousness?), and none of our ideals or leaders are either. If we place Trump beyond criticism, what happens when he does things that are truly wrong? We cannot simply sit back and pass off all criticism of our leaders as mere “Nobama” or “Never Trump” or “Killary” or whatever other epithet we choose to label it. We cannot move forward if we are closing our eyes to what is right in front of us and blindly pretending that it is glorious and golden.

Let us not also forget the history of dissent in this country – not just Alexander Hamilton and The Federalist Papers during the enlightenment, but even to the Puritans who dissented to English rule (much as I disagree with them), down through the numerous decades of journalistic dissent, popular dissent, protest…. Ideas don’t change and become better if you just accept the first version that comes across your desk.

I’ll leave you with a final thought in the form of a quote from Mr. Chesterton.

  • “I have formed a very clear conception of patriotism. I have generally found it thrust into the foreground by some fellow who has something to hide in the background. I have seen a great deal of patriotism; and I have generally found it the last refuge of the scoundrel.” – The Judgement of Dr. Johnson, Act III

Morning Conversations

[Scene – the kitchen, not-so-early morning]

Person A: You look sleepy this morning.

Person B: Nah. Okay maybe. I’m trying to reset my sleep schedule so I wake up earlier than 9PM. I mean 9AM. I mean… you get the idea.

Person A: Yeah, I’m trying to reset my sleep schedule so I wake up in 2020.

Person B: I don’t want to sleep that long! What if I wake up in 2020 and it turns out we’re not in the darkest timeline after all. What if it’s some sort of darker-est timeline?

Person A: What don’t you understand about darkest? That’s the final darkest outcome! It can’t get any worse!

Person B: Don’t say that out loud! You’ll curse us!

[awkward laughter ensues and players go on their way]

On Being Bullied

Slate published an article in June by Kate Baggaley on the lasting impacts of childhood bullying, and how some psychiatrists have identified PTSD arising out of those experiences. The article goes over the standard forms of bullying – name calling, exclusion, rumors, physical harm – and the kinds of people who bully (including friends, social rivals, and, in my case, teachers and classmates who didn’t have skin in the game, but wanted to look tough and fit in with the cool kids). One thing people tend to forget, that the article touches on, is that bullying sticks with you for years after it stops.

I suffered from bullying every day when I was in school – kids called me fat, stupid, ugly; they threw food at me and called me “hungry hungry hippo”; they told me I looked like a wetback, said I smelled like fish, called me nerd and loser; a group of girls in 8th grade told me I could be in their group if I went up to all the guys at our lunch table and asked them to marry me – so I did, and all of the guys had something terrible to say to me, but the one that stuck out the most in my memory was the guy who told me he couldn’t marry a transformer, that I looked like a man trying to be a woman and I was “more than meets the eye.” Once, one of the girls in my gym class was being particularly verbally abusive to me and started shoving me. I told her to leave me along because she was just a bastard and she shut up and ran off crying. Her friends jumped in to continue the abuse, and I refused to apologize. Like most kids, I’m sure she had adopted a tough persona to cope with a shitty home life and was taken off guard by my response. She never apologized for bullying me, and I never apologized for my response.

I got the standard advice growing up – ignore those kids, they’re just words, maybe they’re intimidated by you, they probably want to be your friend but they’re afraid, etc. When my brother nearly died in an accident, a guy in my 9th grade class told me that I was such a loser my brother had to try to kill himself to get away from me. Call me skeptical, but that doesn’t sound like the kind of thing someone who secretly wants to be your friend says to you. I also fail to see how an adult would respond by saying, “Oh, those are just words!” I’ve seen grown-ass men get into fist-fights over less. I also got some truly atrocious “advice” from adults:  “Maybe they’re trying to tell you something. If kids are that mean to you, maybe you did something to them and you just don’t realize it. Maybe this is God testing you. Maybe you weren’t nice enough….”

Based on the advice I got, I learned to internalize the bullying I got. I couldn’t trust people for a long time – and still can’t fully trust people. I lived for many years waiting for friends and family members to drop the charade and tell me they were joking all along and I was a loser for thinking they actually loved me or cared about me. I imagined that all praise was sarcastic, that I was actually doing a terrible job at work or school. I still work twice as hard as I think I need to just to show that I deserve to be employed. As an overachiever by nature, I tend to work hard and demand perfection of myself, but as a kid who was bullied and teased over every perceived social fault, perfection isn’t good enough. I also tend to inflate my mistakes and faults as issues deserving of termination from my job, divorce, exile…. My best is never good enough, and even my most minor mistakes are deserving of the harshest punishments.

Baggaley notes that many bullied individuals attain some sort of silver lining as a result of their bullying (a sense of inner strength or self-reliance, cultivated empathy, and the like), and I can certainly see my self-reliance as being over-developed in response to growing up without a strong social network, but that silver lining comes with a price: it’s self-reliance to the exclusion of any trust in a social network, and inner strength that inherently rejects any sense of external support or help.

At 34, I’m still learning how to overcome the trauma of my childhood tormentors. While I consider myself lucky to have made it out of childhood alive, despite numerous suicide attempts as a teenager, I wouldn’t wish this kind of life on anyone. I’m an adult now, and I can match wits with anyone, but I still have that weird kid inside of me bracing for the impact of teasing and abuse. I’m still unsure of where I fit in, or if I even should fit in. I don’t know that I have a place in society and I’m still only partially able to navigate social situations, and then only because I had training at work on how to network and talk to people.

I’m heartened by the recent focus on bullying and the attempts to study and prevent it. There are many more stories of kids who didn’t even make it out of their teen years alive because the bullying was so severe and pervasive. To an extent, you can’t change human nature, and there will always be bullies. But I still think that we as a society can respond and say that we won’t accept abuse as just another hazard of childhood. Kids need to learn how to navigate challenges and failures, to be sure – putting your kids in the proverbial bubble wrap does more harm than good – but we can and should draw lines as to what’s acceptable and what’s not. At the very least, we should be giving kids the tools to deal with their bullying before they internalize the abuse and start bullying themselves.

I think part of the problem, which was addressed in the comments to the article, is that the term “bullying” is such a broad term as to be unhelpful and non-descript. What kind of bullying constitutes abuse? What is just normal teasing? At what point do you stop being just a group of kids trying to figure out your place in the social order and start being abusers? If we try to approach the problem by casting too wide of a net, we end up with stupid Zero-Tolerance policies that get kids expelled or sent to jail for benign acts (like biting your pop-tart into a “gun” shape, or hugging a classmate). If we cast too narrow of a net (say only focusing on physical bullying), we run the risk of excluding other forms of abuse that are damaging, like psychological torment.

Maintaining a dialogue to come to a resolution is important and a key to finding a solution to a problem that’s difficult to pinpoint. In the meantime, as a parent, I see my job as addressing it head on and teaching my daughter to deal with hurtful words that are given to her, to de-escalate situations, to resolve conflict – and most importantly, to not be a jerk to people. One of the most important things we can do as parents is to teach our kids conflict resolution and problem solving so they can learn to deal with difficult situations in general. I don’t hold a rosy view that one day we’ll never have bullying (because frankly, it’s part of human nature, and I don’t see a swift turnaround on that any time soon), but at least we can pass tools along to start changing mindsets.