I have so many things I want to write about today, that the words are jumbling in my head and falling over themselves in an attempt to come out. The results are chaotic and non-sensical, and while the central theme is the same, I can’t seem to fix on a singular way to come at it.
You see, this week has been about bullying. Both in our home, where we are facing issues at Poss’ school, but also seeing friends go through it online. It’s not a new theme for us, as a family we have faced this in varying degrees since Poss was diagnosed. Either way, it’s always the same; attacked for differences, whether they be a diagnosis, or simply for holding a different opinion.
I keep coming back to that old saying “play the ball, not the player”.
I worry that we have lost the ability to have a healthy debate. The ability to challenge each other respectfully. To have the conversations that need to be had in order to build understanding. To hold a lively debate over the issues and then, sometimes, agree to disagree. To argue a perspective, without attacking someones values or person. To be tolerant.
It’s a sign of maturity to be able to accept that others have a different point of view to you, and we have a choice – either learn from it, engage in the conversation with an open mind and respectful manner, or walk (or click) away.
I don’t expect this maturity from an eight year old. I might not like that a small minority call my daughter stupid, or point out her deficiencies in front of a group. Exclude her and making her feel isolated. Going behind her back and making snide remarks, ensuring other girls are mean to her too. But I understand they are eight.
What I don’t understand is when grown women (and I am highlighting women, as in my experience, it’s almost always women) feel it’s ok for them to behave the way the eight year olds are; whether it’s done on twitter, in private facebook groups, through retaliating blog posts back and forth, or over exclusive coffee meetings and at school pick up and drop off times.
The outcome is the same.
Someone feels isolated, under attack and singled out. Their differences are highlighted and instead of others learning from their points of view or experiences, and engaging in a respectful conversation, the person becomes the object of attention, of abuse.
Suddenly there is snark, people are outraged that they dared to have a different perspective, a different opinion, a different experience and even more outraged that they dared to share it.
“How dare they? Who gives them the right, they obviously don’t know how I feel about it? How dare they share a view I can’t relate to. That’s not my experience at all, but I won’t share my experience in the hope it builds mutual understanding, instead I will attack theirs”
A mob mentality builds as people chose sides; people craft snide remarks with the deliberate intent of hurting others.
The original person is left wondering how this all happened, what they could have possibly done to deserve this attack, questioning their worth, wondering how they became the ball, when all they wanted to do was share an opinion.
Much like my Poss, who can’t understand what she has done.
They’ve done nothing, really. Except dare to be a bit different.