Bullying has been in the news a lot lately. Awareness of the problem has spawned a number of programs designed to combat it. While I applaud this effort, I don’t see bullying going away any time soon. The truth of the matter is that “we love bullies.” We reward and encourage them. We celebrate and cheer them on.
Watch any sitcom on TV, and we revel in the bullying. I enjoy watching the popular show, How I Met Your Mother, but in nearly every episode the so-called friends bully each other as well as other characters. And, like them, many of us bully our friends and family with collegial insults and practical jokes.
Of course, we tell ourselves, it is all in fun, and nothing is meant by it (or is it?), but the problem is that through our actions (and those of the characters on TV), we (and they) become role models for our children. They mimic us at school and on the playground. Your children may not be actively bullying someone, but they are laughing at those being bullied, and subsequently supporting, promoting, and fostering the continuation of bullying in our society.
We also admire bully-heroes in the movies: Dirty Harry, The Godfather, Captain Kirk, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, Dr. Buddy Rydell in Anger Management, and so on. We love talk-show hosts like Bill O’Reilly and Neal Boortz when they bully guests and callers with whom we disagree.