In honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., here's a repost from a few years ago. Given the occasion we celebrate tomorrow, as well as the fact that a friend of mine has a son who is being bullied, I thought it appropriate to do a little "recycling."
Today we honor the birthday and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was one of those rare men who rise above human nature and its many weaknesses to bring about real change.
He came of age at a time when racism was as American as apple pie. Most chose to accept it, because "that's the way it is." Some of my detractors may find this mantra somewhat familiar, as it is monotonous, but obscenely easy to adopt. Jim Crow laws, separate-but-(un)equal facilities, and policies designed to keep one race isolated and abject were omnipresent.
The only other alternative besides "just accepting it" would have been starting rebellions and riots. Dr. King, however, was not that kind of man. As a man of the cloth, he understood that peaceful resistance was the most effective means by which to stop racist laws and counteract racist culture.
When I first learned about Dr. King in elementary school, I immediately identified with him. Back then, I learned that the "the system" was not there to take my interests into account. At the time, I was bullied, the school knew about it, and it did absolutely nothing to stop it. Dr. King's life story dealt with not only one person, but an entire group of people, being harassed, deprived, and disadvantaged, and a government that either turned a blind eye to what was occurring, or sometimes even encouraged it! For me, it was far less an issue of race than it was an issue of respect -- or the complete lack thereof.
Dr. King can truly be said to be the greatest anti-bullying advocate there ever was, before people even understood that there was such a thing as "anti-bullying!" He also combated what we now know to be bullying in ways that most men would not conceive of implementing. He proved that it was not necessary to stoop to a bully's level to beat him. He also proved that when complaining to a government does not get the desired result, then actions that bring about that government's attention, and that take away some of that government's assumed power, actually can bring about that result!
Got a bully in your personal life? Or better yet, someone who has the backing and implicit encouragement of the authorities? It may feel easier for you to just "let it go," because that person has "always been that way." I'll be discussing in a later post, it's not because that person is "insecure," it's most likely because they've simply never faced consequences for their behavior. Once they hear those consequences, loud and clear, they will (hopefully) get the message that screwing with other people all the time is not a divine right bestowed upon them.
It may also feel easy for you to start blazing your guns at them, so to speak. As we learned from Dr. King, this is a mistake, because that's exactly what the bully wants you to do. They're trying to make you use your anger from a position of weakness, which means you will, repeat will, make mistakes. Anger can only be used from a position of strength, which the bully will often have over you. Don't let them play with your emotions like a sucker! Dr. King saved his passion for his speeches, not for cursing out some sheriff with a fire hose!
My suggestion? Use the power of "NO." Are they trying to expose your weaknesses and foibles? Say "NO" to the entire conversation. The fact that they want you to admit that you've forgotten something or neglected something is not their attempt to win a case or a prize -- it's their way of testing how weak you are. If it's something that you know is irrelevant and inconsequential, just answer honestly. If it's something that they want to use to make you look stupid, just change the subject. In fact, start talking about something that you enjoy that makes them look stupid! Dr. King may have never debated someone like Jesse Helms, but if he had, he'd probably run rings around him this way!
Is this person an expert on finance, who wants to show you up for your lack of knowledge in that field? Check his or her weakness, and open it up! Chances are, you may know how long David Lee Roth was in Van Halen, and which songs were better, and he or she won't know anything from anybody about that subject. Why should he or she be the only expert in the room? Do they like pointing out that you didn't read The Great Gatsby in high school? Screw their snooty stuck-up prep-school attitude! Ask them if they ever read Bless The Beasts And Children or The Outsiders! Or better yet, ask them if they ever wrote a story as towering and as magnificent as the book they read! Just make sure you only ask questions that you already know the answers to -- one false move and they'll smell blood! And don't be confrontational and angry about it either -- that only incites these people even more!
Are they maybe yelling at you over something that everyone else knows is B.S.? Maybe because they don't like the shirt you're wearing, when everyone else in the known universe thinks it's just fine the way it is? Or perhaps they don't like the way your eyes get wide when you laugh at something? Maybe they think you're ugly? Or chances are, they just hate you and can't stand the sight of you because you're you?
MLK didn't eliminate hate, but he did severely weaken the power hate has over society. So if someone hates you and you can't avoid interacting with them, just weaken their power. Start with the Four Pillars I posted some time earlier. Just so you won't have to go back and check, they are:
I EXIST. I MATTER. I BELONG. I DESERVE.
You can recite it as a mantra, you can hum it to yourself when nobody's around, it doesn't matter. Just as long as you have these Pillars in your head when these people are screwing with you, it's a lot easier not to let them win. You'll almost render yourself bulletproof!
(yeah, good call -- now how do I respond when these dogs start barking about how much they hate me?)
Turn their hate against them. Do they hate the way you lift one eyebrow like "The Rock" from WWE (now known as Dwayne Johnson)? Never stop doing it. Don't make it obvious like you're instigating something, but don't eliminate it from your repertoire just because they want to be mineholes! (no, that's not the real word I'm going for, but this is a clean blog)
Does it bother them when you advocate some political philosophy that they can't accept? Bring it up. Again and again and again. Cite to reliable authorities to support your position, too. That way you can dare them to say that they're smarter than your sources, WHICH THEY NEVER WILL BE.
And so, in closing, please honor the memory of MLK. Not just by showing respect and tolerance towards members of all races, but also by how you respond to threats and adversity.
What's old is new again, what can I say. For clarification, this post was written in a time when my lifestyle was somewhat different than it is now, accordingly the tone is different than my more recent posts.
Yes, this year, MLK Day will be superimposed upon the Presidential Inauguration. However, since the 2012 Election was one of the most divisive ones in history, it's fair to say that not everyone wants to associate the re-election of the President with MLK's legacy, while many others do. We can only hope that his second term will be inspired by Dr. King's legacy in some way.
But more importantly, it is better that the rest of us be inspired by his legacy as well. Let's not let hate blur our thoughts and pervert our judgment. Let's not be swept away by groupthink, buzzwords, and sound bites. Let's think first and react afterwards.
And above all, let's give, and receive, RESPECT.
Good night all -- try to use that day off productively tomorrow.