Flaming

I cannot sit idly by. This is not a political post, this is not a bleeding heart liberal post for I am not a liberal, I am not a conservative. I am a human being that has common sense, eyes, ears and a heart. You have to be missing one or more of those things to not see, hear or feel the division and  the outright hate, bigotry and  lack of empathy,compassion or even common sense coming from the alleged president-elect.  This is a post about bullying and common decency for all. Every one of you fall into one of the categories of: Bully, Bullied, bystander or the one who stands up. I have been each of those at one time or another. I cannot sit idly by.

Have you ever been the victim of bullying?  Surprisingly I thought the numbers of  people who have been bullied at some point   would be  bigger.  But this election cycle in the US  has  shown me that the  numbers  must be seriously small.   Anyone who has been a victim of bullying  would never even remotely consider voting for  the president-elect who shall not be named. #notmypresident
The statistics  say that  1 in 4 people have been bullied.   I was  bullied  for as long as I can remember.  I was tormented on the school bus as a kid, so I would walk to school, where I would get jumped nearly daily  held down and used as a  bicycle jump or  hit with chains.  I remember the names of all the bullies, I was a bit like Arya Stark in that sense, I kept a list running through my head of the names of the kids that I would  get revenge on  someday.   I’m sure that  I  probably was a  wise-ass kid and maybe I deserved a smack in the mouth  or two, I was a middle child between two sisters so who knows, I only know it from my side. I’m also sure that all my frustrations outside the home probably made me  a cruddy  brother and son at home at times.

Getting picked on  for being a scrawny  big eared  nerd who cried really easily  was my lot in life  and I was supposed to  turn the other cheek, I felt like Tommy  in  Kenny Rogers “Coward of the County” except I didn’t have a gal to defend.  I remember vividly the  days of  walking or riding my bike down Jameson street to  my elementary school  always looking over my shoulder, head on a swivel to  try to get away, cut down alleys or  down to the creek and  hide under a  bridge.  The last  block to school was the  United Methodist Children’s home, I remember being threatened to get put there when I misbehaved.  Oddly enough the  kids there weren’t the ones that were the bullies,  mostly they were sad, lonely and poor.

There’s not a point in  telling the stories of the  actual incidents. Anyone who is actually reading this  probably isn’t one of the bullies, sadly it’s only  the bullied that would actually stop and read this. However, if you are  or were a bully  and are reading this thanks, and maybe, if you’re  reformed, reach out to those you bullied and apologize, I don’t care if it’s 40 years later it will mean a lot and help your victim(s) and probably yourself  immensely.  If you are still a bully,  change! It’s not too late, even if your victim has committed suicide, change your ways, please, I truly beg you.  I will help you  however I can to change, to stop being a bully if you want to change. If you don’t want to change and like being a bully – fuck you.

Every person –  Bully, Victim, co-conspirator, the go along to get alongers, the ones who ignored it all hoping it would go away  and turned a blind eye   has their own story as to what made them do  whatever they did or didn’t do.  We’ve all seen the movies (made by victims, probably 99.999% of the time)  where someone  is bullied, turns the other cheek, the bully learns their lesson and  turns into a hero or at least changes their wicked ways. Shoot, one of my favorite movies as a kid  was called “My Bodyguard”. It was  the typical  movie plot in the genre  with all the  standard characters but I  could relate to it and of course, in the end it  turned out the bully was really a  wimp. That wasn’t my  experience with the bullies I was harassed by. Mine were kinda tough,  I tried to fight back but I didn’t know how and I was almost always outnumbered.

I remember  asking my parents and getting permission to  take karate lessons,  it didn’t work out for me mostly because I was  looking for something more aggressive,  not self-defense. I wanted offense! I wanted  it to be the Cobra Kai Dojo, not Mr. Miagi.  I  got jumped  walking home from my first karate lesson even.I recall  crying in such frustration for not being able to do anything about it, that helpless feeling stinks!   I remember walking by myself to see   the original “Rocky”  at the movie theater,  loving the movie and on the way home putting the hood up on the sweatshirt I had on  and “singing” the theme song  and  shadow boxing down the street  home until I  got  jumped  by a couple  of the bullies about halfway home. I doubt I got even a  punch in  before I was on the ground bleeding and crying, my Velcro wallet gone, limping home with yet another black eye, broken rib  and fat lip.

Things changed for me in a big way though. The  summer between my  7th  and 8th grade I had a growth spurt. No longer was I the  scrawny,  weak  nerd. I must have grown a foot taller and because  of summer swim team I was in great shape. I was and will always be a nerd though, nothing I would dream of changing.  But  it was time to exact my revenge! I remember  lunch  in the  cafeteria  at middle school one of the bullies  welcomed me back by trying to take my lunch money. I refused. The chants of “fight, fight, fight” broke out and  with all the pent up  years of  abuse and torture ( that is what it felt like to me)  I’d endured came alive in me that day. I wish I could say I took the high road, or  was defending someone else but no, I was a teenager who had had enough. I  can still recall the  feeling of pushing him up against the cinder block wall in the hallway between the gym and the cafeteria with a crowd around us  egging me on,  one punch was all it took,  all the  memories came back and I let him have it, pow right in the nose.. it broke.  A bloody mess  and the stereotypical “you bloke my dose!”  yell. I  didn’t care, when a teacher pulled me off him and  sent us to the principal’s  office,  no punishment  would change the satisfaction I felt  in that moment.  It  didn’t stop the bullying from others, I still got in plenty of  scuffles but  I changed from  being scared  to starting  to stand up for others that were being bullied. I took quite a few licks for  other people but it was worth it. I still do that to this day, though  now it’s less violent and more verbal/written. Though there have been a few times  that it’s  nearly come to blows, thankfully it hasn’t yet…but I’m not scared to throw down if I had to, so don’t push me  haha.

Life moved on for everyone,  I joined the military and really learned how to fight, how to protect myself and others. I think I can honestly say that I have never started a fist fight, but I have finished quite a few.

There were other fights and other  issues  but most were defending someone else  that was being bullied or picked on. I see much  of the same behaviors  in  my  adult life, bullying  was very  prevalent in  the military and in  corporate America. It is everywhere, and as much as people are aware of it, it still continues to be a problem that is largely ignored. Now it seems that  it is rewarded and  promoted. It is sick and sad  to me that  my country  has become this ugly thing at the top.  We have been a country that stands up to the bullies and  protects the  victims.  It  appears that is all about to change and it breaks my heart, but it  also lights a  fire in me. It is NOT who we are and we all have to collectively  stand up to the bullies. We need to arm ourselves with  education to   face down the bullies and their  supporters and the children who are learning  brand new how to  be a bully!  I wouldn’t be surprised if  a  “How to Bully for Dummies”  is published soon   if it’s not already..   basically a subscription  to the  vile  president-elect’s twitter account should do it.

Since  I made the change away   from  violence to solve my problems, standing up to bullies has  been  a part of who I am. Ever since that moment in    8th grade I go out of  my way, sometimes way  out of my way  to  stand up to bullying whenever I see it. To recognize the signs of someone who is being bullied or  is vulnerable to it and doing whatever I can to  put an end to it.  Some bullies, I’ve found, don’t even realize that’s what they are doing. They think they are just giving “tough love” or  showing a tough exterior to mask how they really feel.  I have confronted  those types as well and tried to explain what is happening, when that didn’t work I would  flat out call them out privately first, then publicly  and if  I see it continue I go to a higher authority for resolution.  I no longer turn the other cheek  or ignore it and hope it will go away.  I fight with all the non-violent means that I have until the issue is resolved.  So far I have won most of those battles  because the laws and the standards for  professional  behavior are on my side, the right side.  I’m concerned that  those laws and standards are being  eroded  or  will be  changed, outright masked as good  deal making or national pride, or the new America…..  instead of  doing what is right,  we will do what makes the most money  or what is best for  the me, me, me mentality of  our so called leaders –  a tip for  you: They are NOT leaders! True leaders do not  behave the way that  this election’s results  showed.

Anyone who knows me, truly knows me, I am a humble man who lives a life of service to  humans and animals. I have been  told  too many times that I am a true leader, and I still don’t  believe it. I’ve been told that I inspire others to do better, to be better, I don’t believe it. Some have even said I am hero and that is flat our false.  the truth of the matter and all I believe is that  I will  do the right thing, the things that I believe to be right and fair and true and  I will not ask anyone to do anything that I would not do myself, I praise in public and when necessary punish in private. I choose the high road almost always,  I am not perfect by any means but I believe that I am a relatively intelligent, empathetic  and overall kind person. I put myself in  others shoes to  try to view things from their perspective and I listen, I really listen.

Not that any of that matters in  the context of this post.  You’re probably asking yourself what is the point of this post?  It isn’t  for me to whine about being bullied, that was merely setting the scene with some personal history, it’s not about me defining what I think a leader is,  there are a million books  on that topic, that  I am certainly not qualified to  write about it.   This post is  my own  personal  note to remind myself  and share with anyone interested in who I am. and some of the things I stand for and stand against..  I stand against bullying, I stand up for the bullied.

Today that means  LGBQT, the non-religious, immigrants, refugees, the poor, wildlife, wildlands and the environment  the last 3 being voiceless and we must be the voice for them. For the people,   America is supposed to be a safe haven for, a welcoming community, a safe place. Instead  our  so called leaders are  doing all they  can to  make it a dangerous place for those people. An intolerant place filled with hate, anger, bigotry and stupidity.  I am so thankful to live in a part of the country that is  able to stand up to the bullies and say NO, Not in our community, not in OUR America!

I throw my hat in that ring,  I will stand up to bullies both online and  in public  and I will offer my hand to the people  that are being persecuted, a hand up.  I have your back, and your front too! Use me as a shield if you can, I’m big enough to  guard a few if I can, I  will.  So To those of you reading this that support that  agenda of discrimination, bigotry, xenophobia and  fear know that I am not afraid.  I am angry, I am sick to my stomach and heart at what has come of this once great nation, but I am not afraid OF you, I am afraid for all of US  but I hope, I hope with all I have that something will happen to prevent  this horrible group of people from   destroying our world, and  our way of life, prevent them from taking away our freedoms, prevent them from forcing their fake religious  beliefs into our laws ( If any of  you honestly think that the   person who claims to be the  president-elect is a religious man you are  out of your goddamned mind).

With that, I am  going back to  some earlier days of writing , where a song  influenced the topic of the post.  I was listening to the Boss of course and  I really listened to the words of this song  and  it  really made me  feel  for those  most at risk  and those of us who don’t know that they are at risk but they will soon find out  the horrible hard way. The song made me think   what am I?  and my answer to myself , my answer to you  is this:   I am the flame,  lit by the flicker of defiance in the eye of the bullied.

Here are the lyrics to  “The Ghost of Tom Joad” by Bruce Springsteen 

Men walking ‘long the railroad tracks
Going someplace, there’s no going back
Highway patrol choppers coming up over the ridge
Hot soup on a campfire under the bridge
Shelter line stretching ’round the corner
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleeping in the cars in the southwest
No home, no job, no peace, no rest

Well the highway is alive tonight
But nobody’s kidding nobody about where it goes
I’m sitting down here in the campfire light
Searching for the ghost of Tom Joad

He pulls a prayer book out of his sleeping bag
Preacher lights up a butt and he takes a drag
Waiting for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box ‘neath the underpass
You got a one-way ticket to the promised land
You got a hole in your belly and a gun in your hand
Sleeping on a pillow of solid rock
Bathing in the city’s aqueduct

Go!

Well the highway is alive tonight
Where it’s headed everybody knows
I’m sitting down here in the campfire light
Waiting on the ghost of Tom Joad

Now Tom said, “Mom, wherever there’s a cop beating a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there’s a fight against the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me, Mom, I’ll be there

Wherever somebody’s fighting for a place to stand
Or a decent job or a helping hand
Wherever somebody’s struggling to be free
Look in their eyes, Ma, and you’ll see me”
Yeah!

The highway is alive tonight
Where it’s headed everybody knows
I’m sitting down here in the campfire light
With the ghost of old Tom Joad

Take a listen –   even just to the opening comments on this live version:


As always this is  so important – this is who.I.Am – Stay Safe, Be Kind, Keep the Park Clean, Pay it forward, Make a Difference and One Love  –  http://wp.me/p2RcFA-3Z

But don’t mistake my kindness and love for complacency or the lack of willingness to stand up and fight for what I believe.  And for the record – I am not a democrat, nor am I a republican – this is not about politics.. if you can’t see that you’re blind and  you might just be a bully,  I can help you reform 🙂

8 thoughts on “Flaming

  1. Mike, I think you know how much I admire the man you are. I am sorry for you in the past you endured. I did as well. I had polio as an infant and my crooked smile and non-
    symmetrical face gave ammo to bullies. The girls were so much worse than the boys. I was in college before I got relief. Take care and know that most of us would never bully. I do not think it is in our DNA when loving animals is present.

    • Thank you Leslie, I am sorry you had to endure that and for so long. I used to think that loving animals and bullying were mutually exclusive but I have recently found that is not the case sadly. Bullies are coning out all over the place, emboldened by the behavior they see promoted at the highest levels of our government.

  2. Michael, I’m so proud to call you and Christy my friends. This was beautifully and eloquently written and so openly honest. I love you for a this.

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