It is up to all of us
As we wait to see if US law will protect LGBT marriage… As we watch angry people turn to violence against oppression… It is important to remember:
We are all responsible. For bullying. For abuse of power. All of us.
I see people pointing fingers a lot, and talking about how this person or that should have done more to stop an abusive behavior in various venues, and I think, “We all need to actually live like we believe that, if we want it to happen.”
We are a culture, perhaps a species, that values Loyalty over Honesty and Integrity. We can learn to do better, but we need to try.
Bullies thrive on this. In the schools (“don’t be a tattletale”), in the churches (“he’s God’s chosen”), in the military (“obey your superiors without question”), in the police force (“don’t break the blue wall”) and in politics (“hold the party line’).
We don’t reward whistleblowers, no matter how we pay lip service. We vilify them. They often suffer more punishment than the people they report. It is possible to report your superiors for confirmed TORTURE and be the only one who goes to jail.
School bullies get slap on the wrist suspensions, and then are sent back into the school with their victim with no other measures taken. The victim may be equally punished for fighting back. They may even be prosecuted for filming their abuse.
If you tell Americans their privacy has been violated in unthinkable ways, you may have to flee for your life and hole up in a foreign embassy.
I know a gay man who sat in a room full of unaware cops, while one of them explained how a gay cop in his department would be shown Southern hospitality with a noose. The other cops didn’t join in, but they nodded at the idea of murdering someone for daring to be different. I’m sure that cop felt empowered to bully the next gay man he arrested. And if he caused a death, and claimed it was accidental, none of those other cops would speak up. Internal Affairs cops are not praised by other cops for keeping abuses of power in check, they are vilified.
We are taught as Americans to stay loyal, beyond conscience, beyond integrity. “My country, my brothers in arms, my group, right or wrong.”
There’s been a lot of talk of how we should change this in the schools. But we need to change it EVERYWHERE. Kids learn by example. If we don’t praise the cop who speaks up against an abusive co-worker, the soldier who reports his superior, the whistleblower who reports his company for polluting our drinking water and ends up the only person to lose their job, then how can we expect kids to believe they will be protected if they report their own bullying and abuse?
If we agree with covering up the times our military causes civilian casualties abroad, because it “makes America look bad” then how can we argue with the Catholic church covering up child sexual abuse because “it made the Church look bad.” We cannot pick and choose. Our response to someone filming cops doing wrong must not be a bill to make filming cops illegal (Texas). We must value everyone who stands up with integrity.
One of the hardest things to do is to speak out, from personal moral courage, against someone close to us who has done wrong. But until we start applauding and REWARDING that kind of courage, not giving lip service and then allowing consequences to fall when the applause dies down, we have little chance of preventing abuse of power. At every level.
And we will have those who are not in power becoming angry, and frustrated, and despondent. They will turn to violence, against themselves, or others, when we fail them.
It is up to all of us.