In the past month, I personally have received death threats from supporters of radical extremist Florida “preacher” Terry Jones. Cool. It’s the most personal threat we’ve ever received, but I’ll add it to the list – along with Liberty University, Million Moms, The Family Research Council, a few now-defunct LGBT websites, a handful of Islamists, Anonymous groupies, more than a handful of Zionists, and persons biologically and matrimonially related to me.
Trust me, when your family has lived inside the Federal government for thirty years, everyone else is a rank amateur.
It was 1984 when my husband’s job was threatened if I ever again publicly expressed an opinion about our government. No PCs, no internet, no cellphones – it was still the age of letters to the editors of print newspapers and public meetings. But keeping quiet didn’t help. I watched my husband lose his job anyway. I watched him lose promotions. I watched him plod along decade after decade fighting a tide of “don’t talk about it” discrimination inside the Federal system. He did it for us, to give us some kind of security even if we never broke out of the margins. I watched him accept responsibility for caring for my mother when my sister no long could do so. I watched him accept responsibility for helping my disabled sister and niece. And I watched what his caring soul engenders in others when I escorted him to his place of work a couple of weeks ago and watched a dozen elderly women flock around him, expressing their concern for the mystery illness that was keeping him from his work of caring for them.
To protect his job, I learned to keep my head down, joined a Kerry forum under my maiden name, wrote under my maiden name. I still do, even though he’s retired from the Federal system for five years now.
In 2006, living with and taking care of my mother, I put a Bernie Sanders sign on her front lawn. It was stolen. The next day, her lawn was planted in every sign available for every Democratic candidate in our state. I’ve done that every two years since. This year, the signs were ripped up and scattered in the street to be run over by cars and trucks. I gathered them up, cleaned them off and tied them to our front porch rail. I will not be silenced. I will not be bullied.
And this site will not be bullied. It’s been tried. Someone will contact the firm that handles our advertising, and complain about a story – it’s too graphic, it’s too sexy, it’s too whatever – and they contact us and we take down the story. So you will no longer find a painting of Sappho of Lesbos because her boobs were hanging out and no longer find a video of a gay African teen being beaten because someone objected to us reporting physical attacks on gays in Africa. But frankly, the life of an internet story is so brief that going through our archives to find something to bitch about is pretty useless.
We admit the site is in the doldrums right now, but it has nothing to do with anyone bullying us. As I intimated, my husband is very ill. I’m spending my time taking him to doctors and test sites. Because he is ill, I have had to take on more hours at the place where we both work, and find myself at three a.m. being grilled about his illness by his adoring fans.
And, it’s the final drive to the election. Like most Americans, we wish this was over already. I really, really like the British system – six weeks, ten if the Prime Minister finagles it, and the campaigning is over. There are three weeks to go, what voter ID laws could be stopped have been, most Americans have made up their minds, it’s almost over. There are 457 House and Senate races that are as important if not more important than the Presidential race, but I do not presume to comment on all of them. I’ll stick to the worst of Congress and hope their constituents have realized what’s going on.
We are not a 24/7 news channel. We don’t feel it is necessary to fill space with the same stories over and over again. If anything new happens in Syria, we’ll let you know. Every day, I remember the theme song from a very old television comedy, “There’s a hold-up in the Bronx; Brooklyn’s broken out in fights; there’s a traffic jam in Harlem that’s backed up to Jackson Heights; there’s a Scout troop short a child; Krushchev’s due at Idelwild…..Car 54 where are you?” Except for the arrival of the Soviet premier at what is now Kennedy airport, it was a typical day in New York City, nothing to see here, folks, move along.
The internet makes bullying too easy. Comment streams, Facebook and Twitter bring out the worst in people. That’s why I don’t belong to social sites, even though one LGBT web site said I don’t exist because I don’t Facebook. People don’t take a minute to catch their breaths and figure out what they are so pissed off about before they flood the net with rants that can never been taken back. After five years with this site, we’ve learned that most of the time, what pisses people off is not what we have said, but their peculiar perspectives on a subject. We cannot avoid offending someone somewhere.
Threatening someone’s livelihood is bullying. Taking punitive action against someone’s livelihood because of a perceived personal insult is bullying. Trying to destroy someone because they do not agree with your position is bullying. Threatening the livelihood of several people over what one person did is scatter-shot bullying. The worst kind of bullying is ganging up on someone known to be fragile. Agreeing to participate in the bullying without learning both sides of a situation is worse than just bullying; it is herd-bullying. When one person posts that Michelle Obama is a Wookie or a Sasquatch and three dozen other posters pick it up and repeat the insult, that’s herd-bullying. That’s one goose honking and all the rest of the geese start honking. And honestly, assuming that something that names no names and does not directly lead back to a person is about a particular person, and going ballistic on the web thereby “outing” that person is highly counterproductive. And kind of funny if you think about it.
This site has survived some big-shot professional bullies, in part because of a poem my father taught me many years ago. It’s called “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley…..
Out of the night that covers me, black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced not cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance, my head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears, looms but the Horror of the shade.
And yet the menace of the years, finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.
People need to tell the stories of being bullied. Bullying has become a deadly exercise in this country. Bullying is costing lives. Bullying is leaving children and teenagers with post traumatic stress syndrome. No one should reach adulthood as damaged as a combat soldier, just from going to school The more it is exposed, the better for all of us. And if the bullies and their friends and relatives, their supporters and advocates don’t like being exposed, well, that’s just too bad. We must be bloodied, but unbowed in the face of bullying.