Bullying, Buckets and Name Calling

This was written for a speech at UUCPA on 27 Sep 2015.

Do you know you have a bucket right there, next to you? It’s a magic bucket filled with your good thoughts and feelings about yourself. Ok, I admit, this isn’t my idea, this is from “Have You filled a Bucket Today?” a book written by Carol McCloud. The idea is that your bucket can be filled by love, kindness and gentleness. Alternatively, your bucket can be dipped into when someone makes fun of you or bullies you. “All day long, we are either filling up or dipping into each other’s buckets by what we say and do.” There are lot’s of good ideas in the book about ways to fill a bucket, but today I want to reflect on the idea of dipping into buckets.

Donald Trump is a bully. Ok, that’s me falling into the same trap of labelling someone, but, in my view, he’s mean and vulgar and won’t admit to mistakes – a bully. And, man is he using those tools effectively as he busks his way to the top of the Republican primary field. It feels like the Republican primary has become a return to the school grounds, but this time the debate and government clubs are being invaded by the popular football player and they don’t know how to react. Can we agree that the phrase “He’s such a loser” does not belong in civilized discourse? Sadly, American politics left civilized discourse decades ago and now we must “Weep what we have sown.” Yes, Weep. For instance, when John Boehner announced on Friday that he was resigning from congress it seemed the Democrats were nicer to him than his own party. What is up with that? But don’t get too smug Democrats, I suspect your time is coming too. I fear that the chicken has left the henhouse and “you’re a loser” is going to sound quaint some day.

We can blame our media landscape and it’s endless surfeit of “reality shows” and the enjoyment of belittling others, but it starts at the playground. The teasing and bullying that are ever-present and starts the moment the child walks into the school.

If only education would give us better tools to fill each other’s buckets. Look at the Athiest Richard Dawson, author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion and a Professor at Oxford. This is a guy I agree with on so many things. My atheism falls along the lines of “this place is big, it’s possible there’s a god and an interesting theory, but I see no evidence” which is not too far from his general view. Where he and I disagree is on the subject of how to treat other people, especially those you disagree with. He has a habit of using very visceral and hyperbolic language. I looked up the last 12 hours of his twitter feed and saw phrases like “creationist nutters” and “big babies.” These are not words to engender gratitude and friendship. They are words to ridicule and do harm. This language will not bring his opponents to his side. You cannot bully people into agreeing with you.

It’s easy to fall into name calling and ridicule. It’s too easy. Have you watched @Midnight? If you haven’t, it’s a show on comedy central where they have a panel of 3 comedians on every night to discuss and trade jokes about exceptionally current events. The host, a man named Chris Hardwick, is someone I have great respect for (at least from his public persona). He uses his host duties as a platform. He has spoken in support of gay marriage, women’s rights, and the subtle sexism in, well, everything. But, then, once the episode gets going, the comedians make fun of a variety of things, and those things are sometimes people doing “crazy” things on the internet. I laugh – they are funny. But then, at the end, I reflect on the dichotomy of the stands on rights of others and the destruction wrought on those he belittles. It makes me feel guilty if I think about it too much.

And what do I do with that guilt? I’m pretty convinced I’m going to keep occasionally watching, in the same way I’ll occasionally eat cake , knowing that it’s not filling me with good calories. I will, instead, look for ways to fill other’s buckets. I will try to find those opportunities to be excellent to you and then, maybe we can all just party on, dude.

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