Daily Archives: November 7, 2009

What if we could stop bullying?


Bullying is being recognized in elementary school and to a certain extent the counselors and teachers are dealing with stopping it. There are classes to teach social skills necessary for positive interaction with others as adults. But what about bullying that takes place among adults? Among US soldiers? Where is their sensitivity training?

By now you are all probably aware of the massacre that took place down the highway about 115 miles or so from my house on Thursday. A man, a US Army Major, was severely wounded in a shoot out when he attempted to kill as many unarmed soldiers as possible. He was obviously extremely stressed yet no one seemed to notice.

He was a psychiatrist who daily had to listen to the tales of returning soldiers. They were tales of brutality and butchery, death, and destruction taking place. He listened and tried to counsel these broken minded souls maimed by the inhumanity of war.

Then he found out it was his turn to be deployed. He was not a bright eyed innocent  gung-ho soldier who had only been playing war on the fields surrounding the fort. He had first hand reports of what to expect and he knew he couldn’t go.

I’m assuming that the army would have been wise enough to continue to use him in his capacity as a psychiatrist, but with the army machine, you get plugged in wherever needed, a cog for any wheel that has to grind. The news has not broadcast what his next assignment would actually be, although he had been going through training with advanced weapons.

It is hard for me to realize how a psychiatrist on the front lines would be any more effective than one waiting to treat patients once they have been returned home. But then I don’t have to make the decision as to how to utilize the troops to the best advantage of the greater need of the army.

He was a United States citizen. He was born here of parents who immigrated  from a small town near Jerusalem. Against family advice, he felt a need to serve the United States in the military. He was Arab-American. That is not a great thing to be in these once more troubled times. He was a Muslim. He was an “other”.

The animal kingdom has a way of dealing with “others”. If there is some reason a member of the group doesn’t fit it in, that member gets ostracized. They are driven out.

We like to think of ourselves as civil people, but under that sheer layer of civility lies the same animal instinct that serves our lesser brothers and sisters…the ones with fur or feathers or scales. We drive away the “others”.

Enter the bulliesNorwegian researcher Dan Olweus defines bullying as when a person is “exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons.” He defines negative action as “when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways.

This major was being bullied by his peers. He, because of his ethnic heritage, was being called a camel jockey. In case you don’t know the full impact of this slur, read the link. He was a US citizen but no one would let him forget the origins of his ethnicity.

It seems this pejorative racist comment is not unique to any particular group. Ann Coulter, beloved FOX spokesperson, sanctioned the use on her own show.

On the October 1 edition of Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes, during a discussion with right-wing pundit Ann Coulter, co-host Alan Colmes said, referring to a chapter in Coulter’s new book, If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans (Crown Forum): “[Y]ou’re quoted as saying, ‘Maybe I’m winning the camel jockeys over,’ ” to which Coulter responded: “Yes … That’s actually in the book. That’s not a made-up quote.” Colmes then asked: “So you have no problem referring to Arabs as camel jockeys?” Coulter responded: “Oh. Yeah. No. They killed 3,000 Americans. I’ll be very careful with my language.” In response, Colmes said: “[W]hen you refer to an entire ethnicity as camel jockeys, it sounds bigoted,” to which Coulter again asserted: “Yes, and it’s so mean after they killed 3,000 Americans, and I shouldn’t be mean to them,” adding, “We have sure moved away from the day when we called them Krauts and Nips.”

The soldiers in the army and the kind Ann Coulter are bullies. They enjoy thinking of themselves as “more” of everything one should be…more American whatever that implies. To them there is no room for “others”.

Some sites separate harrassers from bullies as to their targets and reasons for action. Even if that is so, the results are often the same. The target often loses it. They sometimes feel so much pain they see suicide as the only way out of their miseries, as did the major. Yet, no one noticed the change in his behavior. No one noticed he was giving away his possessions, a sure signal without any other reason, of being very troubled.

What was his crime? He was Arab. He was Muslim. He was other. He wanted to serve his country, but his country wouldn’t allow him to do it. He wanted out supposedly for not wanting to fight other Muslims. Wouldn’t that be called a conscientious objector?

He had been singled out for his Palestinian heritage ever since 9/11. That’s a long time for someone to be reminded frequently that he is “other”. That’s a long time to be driven towards a group to which other Americans have assigned you.

I am not defending his actions. His lawyer can do that if he survives the wounds that he received in the melee.

I am saying we should start in elementary school with sensitivity training, as many schools are doing. However, that training should be mandatory throughout life if the need arises. Would this travesty have had a different ending if the major had been allowed acceptance? What if he were not singled out and blamed for 9/11? What if Americans were to accept the fact that we are a nation of immigrants from every country in the world? What if we would get rid of the “other” not by rejection but by inclusion? What if we could help the bully not to bully any more?

jesus_There was another man a long time ago who was born in a small town not too far from Jerusalem. He was accepted for a while and then he too was considered an “other”. For that he died. His otherness was so severe he was hung on a cross while the “in” group cheered and jeered. We haven’t come very far in the treatment of “others” have we?


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