On bullies

Characters we love to hate. Or is it characters we hate that we are asked to love?

I am a big fan of Downton Abbey. For these past six years, Mom and I have watched Sunday night seasonal episodes between January and generally February or early March. This past Sunday, as Lady Mary essentially ruined Lady Edith’s future with her venomous reveal to Bertie, the idea of her own happy ending framing the episode made me mad. Yet, we watch her in second wedding bridal regalia with her dapper groom and there is this pleasure in seeing things go well for her.

Tom’s reaction and comment to her about how she ruins everything around her because of her own unhappiness, that she was a bully and just like all bullies it is her own insecurity that results in her lashing out with evil.


On the Masterpiece Studio episode that covers round table discussions on the previous night’s episode, I hear sympathy in a way- that Lady Mary is only mean when Lady Mary is unhappy. She lashes out at Edith when her own world is sad. How pathetic and I won’t even deign to call it childish, because I don’t want to lump every child into that negative behavior.



It occurs to me that in the bully, are we asked to feel sympathy? That the bully is a bully because of his or her own weakness, sadness and unhappiness?

Lady Mary & Thomas the under butler, are both mean. They are mean when they are sad. They lash out at others when their world is unsettled or when they feel inferior. Are we meant to come up beside them and offer encouragement, sympathy and compassion?


I think back to junior high school. The year was 1979, and I was a victim of bullying from multiple sources. I was afraid to go to math class, because there, I would find Norman. He would make fun of me as I enterred the class room, he would tease me and even push me slightly in the hopes that I would drop my books or papers. If he encountered me in the hallways, no matter where on campus, he would side bump me hard into the lockers to throw me off balance, again in the hopes that I would lose the pile of notebooks and papers that I held tightly in my arms. Bully Norman.


What was Norman’s story? Was he bullied at home- by a parent, a sibling? Did he feel irrelevant at home and therefore needed to act out at school? Did he lose something or someone that made life unbearable and the only way he could see his way through it was to smack me up against a locker near my Home Economics Class?

There are co-workers that I can think of over the years who have steam rolled, ridiculed, criticized and made life unpleasant for others. ┬áPeople who make life hell at work, who create a sense of dread at the very thought of entering work’s doors. Were they just wounded souls themselves that need a ‘pass’ and a dose of mercy? Really? I am meant to support them and give them a permission slip of forgiveness for their ugliness?

Am I meant to be the bigger person?

Why Should I Care?

On my commute into work today, leaving early enough to enjoy my coffee & breakfast & writing stop at a local coffee house near the office, I listen to Episode 5 of Serial. I have been waiting for two weeks to hear the next installment on the case of Bowe Bergdahl. Last week, I tuned into the newly downloaded Episode 4 only to learn that due to the massive volume of information currently flowing, ebbing and changing, the staff of The Serial decided to start doing these episodes bi-weekly. So Episode 4 was a short announcement to stay tuned until next week, January 21- for that next installment. When I had pulled out of my garage earlier, and got my self in order while idling in the driveway, I pulled the iPhone out to access the podcast and found that I had a 53 minute episode to listen to; fabulous, enough content for a roundtrip commute. The episode this time has various guests that are participating interview style. Two of them work in an office that handles P.R. (Person Recovery). Another one is a personal friend of Bowe Bergdahl who is listed on Bowe’s personnel file as a contact should anything go wrong with Bowe. During these interviews, many details are offered up on each person’s efforts in Bowe’s recovery. The women in the government office share one of the frustrations is the sheer lack of awareness on the part of many of these people who have gone missing. In one instance, these two women went to the effort of creating T-Shirts to draw awareness of Bowe Bergdahl’s status as missing, it was for a specific event for the community about Bowe and other hostages or missing in areas of combat or simply in countries that are experiencing conflict. On their way back from the event, as they approached the entrance to their own work building, they were met by one higher ranking Department of Defense individual that stopped them and asked: “who is that on your t-shirt?”. Really? They thought. It’s insane. But it’s common. There is this one couple that was captured in 2012, a husband and wife who were hiking in Afghanistan. The wife was pregnant at the time. And in that instance, the wife ended up giving birth in captivity. And few people could name her. Very few people have any idea that happened. It’s barely covered in the news. Her name is Caitlin Coleman, she was 28 years old when captured; her husband is Joshua Boyle. And they are still held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan; all efforts by US Government for their release have failed.
One of the things mentioned in The Serial by host Sara Koenig is the question of: Why Should I Care? She shares that a common sentiment among people listening to stories of capture, or reading these headlines, blame the victim. They were captured because basically they were asking for it. After all, who travels to Afghanistan? Who hikes trails in Afghanistan? Are they idiots? Duh. And so, these people made their own bed. They were stupid. The thing is is that in almost every single hostage case, there is a level of human error that has occurred in leading to their capture. Something they did without thinking it through. So should government or people in authority or leaders in roles that are meant to work on the release of these captors, should they just throw their arms up in the air and say: “whatever, they did this to themselves?”.
When I bring up Bowe and that I am listening to this interesting podcast that delves into his experiences and digs into his story, with some people – I can barely mention Bowe’s name without someone saying to me: he is a traitor, he walked off his post, he should be court marshaled. And in those instance, rarely do I see even one glimmer of compassion. It thoroughly smashes me down. I mean, the harshness of judgment on the parts of people who barely know the story except for the sound bite headlines, have cast their vote as if sitting in a jury seat and having only been read the line about why the defendant is on trial. No evidence has yet been rendered, no details of any significance. And for me, this reception of emotion from these individuals, I am on the receiving end having listened now to about 4 hours of data surrounding the when, how, what and in a way, why. I have a glimpse into the circumstances beyond the headlines. And, my heart breaks. I am not saying Bowe does not hold some guilt for having done a stupid thing. That he did not cause others harm and discomfort and for that, I recognize the dire circumstances and his, again, guilt. But I think about other victims of circumstance; the hikers up on a mountain that went up anyway even though the weather indicated caution. The woman who married the abusing boyfriend who is now held hostage in her own home for fear of retribution if she leaves him; or harm to others if she leaves him. Do we just ignore those who need help because they did it to themselves. So much more to say and think about on this topic. I want to care, I want to know, I want to understand. I want to not judge.