Category Archives: End Bullying Now

A Reaction to Lance/Oprah: Get After Bullies

Tonight I watched the first episode of Oprah’s interview of Lance Armstrong.  I came to the interview with an open mind.  Or rather, as open a mind as one could have after reading the entire USADA report on the conspiracy Lance Armstrong had led, and the coverup that was orchestrated around it.

The interview was ok.  Oprah was kid-gloved in her questions. But in listening to Lance’s responses, she gave him a heavy dose of the “Oprah Fish Eye,” which I understand from my wife is interpreted as Oprah-speak for “I’m not buying this.”  So net/net Lance didn’t rehabilitate himself much.

But to me the larger story is what a world-class bully this guy was.  He ruined the lives of teammates, employees and vendors, who weren’t able to sustain the Armstrong-led deception.  And while USADA documented Armstrong’s shameful actions in text, the Oprah Interview is exactly the place to put this under a harsh, harsh light.

Yes, Armstrong won a dirty race against dirty competitors.  Yes, Armstrong is a humanitarian who inspired countless cancer victims to fight and fight hard against their afflictions.  But he is also a bully.  A bully who, according to court sworn testimony, could be characterized as sociopathic.   Reputations were destroyed.  Futures were ruined.  All based on the a king among the paupoers of a sport no one in sports had paid any attention to, cycling.  Armstrong’s teammates and confidantes were all just one word away from being bounced out of the highest levels of an industry they loved and into a job as a maintenance manager at a bike shop.  He is a bully of historic proportions.

His benefits to people fighting cancer are important.  He’s an inspiration.  I get this.  But bullying people, ruining people’s lives, their reputations, in order to forward a story is WRONG.  It’s completely wrong.

And it’s wrong, not in a small way.  But rather, it’s wrong in a big way.  In my view, bullying is is as big a problem as cancer.  In today’s world, we are fighting bullying in many places.  We deal with it in our schools with our own children.  We see it as well in far away places where the stakes are even higher–in places like Rwanda or the Sudan where we see genocides.  In places like Thailand and Vietnam where we see human slavery and trafficking.  And too often, we don’t fight as hard as we can on these fronts.

But they are all bullying.  And bullying is wrong.  And it needs to be called out as wrong.  It needs to be shamed.

It needs to stop.  And we all need to call it out.

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Let’s End Bullying: Reflections on Dharun Ravi Verdict

Suicide of Tyler Clementi

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday the New York Times reported prominently on its web edition that a jury in New Jersey found Dharun Ravi guilty on “all 15 charges he had faced for using a webcam to spy on his roommate having sex with another man, a verdict poised to broaden the definition of hate crimes in an era when laws have not kept up with evolving technology.”  The story is tragic and senseless: a young man, Tyler Clementi (pictured) is now dead owing to the insensitivity, callousness and stupidity of Ravi.

When it first broke, the story grabbed headlines around the world.  And in New Jersey, at least, advocates have leveraged the heightened awareness of this case “to pass what is considered the nation’s toughest antibullying law.”

I applaud New Jersey for doing this, and I would advocate that we all reflect on this case to raise awareness and increased focus on ending bullying against anyone–the different, the weak, the whomever.

Bullying is a terrible force, a first-world, 21st century version of the Dark Side of the Force.   Its something we need to come together and focus on stamping out, not against any one class of targets, but against anyone.  Bullying can and does destroy the confidence of victims.  It can start at very young ages. And unlike the Rutgers case, it can be incredibly subtle and difficult to unpack, especially with younger children.

My own experience with bullying in school was light, something that I endured in elementary school on the basic crime that I was smart in school.  Although this wasn’t something that I’ve felt lasting effects from, it very likely colored my perceptions that one should be able to withstand bullying on one’s own.

Sadly, though when one of my children began being bullied, my reaction was not as sharp or strong as it needed to be, as my own experience was that you just work through it.  This was one of my most significant failures ever, period, full stop.  As a result, I’m now very focused on ending any sense of bullying wherever and whenever I see it.

I write this tonight just to advocate that we not let the tragic death of Tyler Clementi be in vain.  To end this post, I’m going to post the quote the NYT ran from the statement from Mr. Clementi’s father:

“You’re going to meet a lot of people in your lifetime,” he said. “Some of these people you may not like. Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean you have to work against them. When you see somebody doing something wrong, tell them: ‘That’s not right. Stop it.’ The change you want to see in the world begins with you.”

Words to live by.  For all of us.

 

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