Earlier this summer, Americans reacted with outrage to a video of bullying on a school bus in which several teens unleashed a barrage of invective against the older woman serving as the bus monitor. Viewers were shocked by the bus-bullies’ willingness to attack their passive victim at her most vulnerable points. With no apparent empathy, they taunted her about her family problems, her poverty, her appearance and her weight. Like a cougar attacking the throat of its prey, a bully is adept at finding its prey’s weak spot.
According to psychologists, bullies know where and how to attack. They use their offense as a defense and a way to define their power and social standing. Witnesses may feel empathy for the victim, but are afraid that the bully will turn on them and so they stand on the sidelines or even participate.
Marlene Snyder, Development Director for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program based in Clemson, S.C, is quoted in Discovery News talking about the motivation behind bullying, “The simple reason is bulling shows that they have power over others. The reason that they do it repeatedly is that they are getting away with it. Nobody is calling them on their bad behavior.”
In the bus-bullying case, Americans rose up and reacted with anger, the bullies were chastened and the victim became the focus of an outpouring of sympathy and donations.
So when yet another disturbed young man amassed a stockpile of weapons, ammunition, body armor and explosives with no apparent regulatory impediments and started shooting people in a packed movie theater, the country again reacted with shock and horror at the story, and at the grief of the families of the dead, dying or wounded.
Our leaders and would-be leaders dropped everything and flew in to show their empathy for the victims and their families. There were lots of pious words about family, community and shared grief but not one word about the proliferation of unregulated guns. Just days ago, another gunman walked into a Sikh temple and started shooting in what some suspect is an act of “domestic terrorism.”
I believe our fear of discussing gun control in this day and age is the result of political bullying by the NRA. It’s been going on now for more than a generation. We and our leader’s need to stop behaving like the fearful children on the bus. An outpouring of empathy and money for the victims is one thing, withholding our righteous anger at the bullies for fear of being bullied ourselves is quite another.
I used to hunt but find it hard to understand those gun owners who seem less interested in hunting than they are in bluffing and bullying a world that’s changing in ways they find threatening – much like adolescents, struggling to find their place in an evolving social hierarchy.
Bullying is a complicit act, as we learned during The Third Reich. It’s imperative that we, as a nation, insist that our leaders open a new dialogue about reasonable regulations on gun ownership in this country.