I was a bully as a kid, but also got bullied. It cycled back and forth, depending on my age, which school, my home situation, and I don’t know how many other factors. I was tall for my age in elementary school, then everyone caught up. Somehow both were hard. I was chunky at one point, then wiry and still soft. Those varying stages were both hard. My hair color, skin color, freckles, they were all targets at different points. If there was ever a physical, intellectual, or emotional power imbalance, I saw it. My home life, the constant fear and control, created in me a hyper-awareness of the emotional states of the people around me. My father was a bully, but he was almost always on my side. I love my father. He bullied on my behalf, a way of parenting I didn’t see in the other dads of my friends and peers. As I have grown up, my perspective has shifted to seeing the “bullying” dynamic as one of injustice. I’ve seen wider, too, recognizing injustice on a community scale. It gets an emotional and physical reaction in me, involuntary and deep, when I see someone bullied.
That’s mine. What pisses me off is power imbalance, and abuse of power. Bullying, but the real thing. Beyond name-calling, more than simple “that other kid is wearing the wrong brand of shoes.” Have you ever had someone deny you something and there was nothing you could do about it? It’s one thing to get bad service at a restaurant because of your race, religion, culture. That’s really bad. Imagine a scenario where there was nothing you could do about it. Imagine if you had to keep going to that restaurant that hated you. Every day, forever. Or it’s not a restaurant, it’s your whole community for any number of reasons. You have to keep being a part of that community, attending all the regular gatherings, participating in every way. But your community doesn’t want you there. Nowadays they can’t get rid of you, but there’s always the hope. Maybe they’ll outlast you. Maybe you can change them. You’ll always be there, on the edges, swimming in the unspoken hatred. Because you’re gay, you have an accent, you’re from somewhere else, you’re poor, overweight, or who knows. Imagine you are part of a whole community that are on the outside looking in, in the larger, dominant community. That reality is out there, it’s invisible to others and it’s painfully, horrifyingly obvious to me. I can’t not see it.
What pisses you off?
I’m guessing for anyone else, it’s in their DNA. It started out way before you were born. Your grandparents’ decisions impacted your parents. They moved to another country, or split, or dodged the draft, or abandoned the family business and town for the other side of the country. Maybe your parents choices gave you experiences as a young person that opened your eyes to different kinds of cultures, or ideas, or hopes. Whatever pisses you off, that thing is probably going to drive you to your calling and your identity – the thing you were designed to do anyway. I remember watching from the back seat of my family car, my two sisters there with me, and my parents in the front. We were at a stoplight, and on the sidewalk across the street was a boy getting hit with an election sign. A big two foot by three foot plastic sign, with a wooden stake attached. There were a pair of boys chasing after one boy, hitting him with the sign. The boy getting hit didn’t fight back, he just keep blocking and running. My father said he would do something about it, and then he did. I was terrified, proud, hopeful, and angry. I was so angry. There was all this adrenaline, and horror, watching this scene. It was the right thing to do, I believe, for my dad to get out and put a stop to it. The boys hustled off like nothing had happened, and the boy getting picked on just went on his way. That was it. Nothing more epic than that. But it imprinted on me this idea of, that’s just what you do.
I’ve met people who have a profound resiliency for situations that I do not. I envy people, on some level, who could see a situation like that and not get a physical reaction. They could look the other way, and it wouldn’t ruin their day. It would ruin my month. Even if I somehow ventured in, won, fixed it some way or another. I would still rage about it, re-watching the scene in my mind. There are people who have a peace about them in the face of that kind of thing that I just don’t. People, for instance, can have their heart and character insulted publicly and move on very quick. For me, I want to kill the person who disrespected me. There are people who don’t worry about what people say about them, but they usually worry about something else. Their moral compass is keeping the peace. Or some other thing.
What pisses me off, the injustice in the world, is what gives me life when I am healthy, serving others and establishing relationships around the vision of justice. I am granting that there are times it does not give me life. I am so hopeful, and driven to point people towards using their power (social, spiritual, emotional, political, or otherwise) for goodness sake. Whole communities can do this. I believe that there are enough people, ideas, and resources to end homelessness in our city today, it’s just a matter of will and desire in people to achieve this. It pisses me off that so few people want this. We don’t need to raise taxes, or reduce taxes, we don’t need to grow the economy another 10% in order to solve the present problems. There are enough empty homes to house everyone in our nation. There are enough garages filled with enough stuff to sell for pennies on the dollar, and use that money to house people – and then we’d have empty garages to house those people. Sure, lock the inside door if you’re concerned for your safety. For God’s sake, do something.
I love being a bully for people who need one. I love using my body, the voice that God gave me, the political and social influence I have just by being who I am, and helping others. I think as God grows me I will start to care more about the oppressors. Someday, just not yet. I’m just not there.
What do you want? What do you want more than anything? What keeps you up at night? What would you ask for if you had three wishes, assuming they couldn’t all be for you? There’s something. It’s in your story, written all over it, the thing that keeps coming up. It is probably the reason you left your last job, the reason you love your favorite, closest people. It’s probably the reason you vote for your politician of choice. It’s probably right in line with your calling.
What pisses you off?