Free rein

We’ve all known a person who is unpleasant, malicious, or simply revels in poking fun. Most of the time we think society supports keeping such actions quiet. While the earliest cyber bullying was pretty well hidden, today the “dregs of society” are well represented on social media. Through social media, plain old bullying has slowly become acceptable. So much so that bullying happens where you’d least expect it, like outside pumping gas all by yourself and in a meeting to discuss how to best help children.

In high school, when I reported the first sexual assault by a teacher and watched the administration do nothing I knew not to bother reporting the second. I simply learned to how to hide and which situations to avoid. I am lucky and thankful to have not experienced a third assault. My experience being yelled at for not wearing a mask due to my medical conditions at a store this past weekend however, thoroughly reminded me of those lessons.

Talking with others, listening to their accounts, I’m horrified at what we’ve unleashed. Even actually hurting children in ND because of parents views. As long as your bullying behavior centers around not wearing a mask, you have free rein to attack whomever you can find. See a small woman not wearing a mask? Go ahead and yell at her. Your friends will back you up. Just a quick glance over her head and you can practically sandwich her between your twin 6 foot tall, 300 pound plus bodies. Afterall, how dare anyone not comply. Who cares if a disabled person legitimately cannot wear a mask? Belittling and frightening others is the new black.

I’ve witnessed the same happening to one small child, who was unmasked, per their parents’ instruction. After my unpleasant reminder of physical intimidation, I can better understand (and remember) how it felt to be singled out by adults more than twice their size. I’m ashamed that I didn’t bodily step in to offer a physical sense of protection. I only helped to care for them after the fact. How many children in North Dakota have gotten this lesson? Probably all of them, either personally or as an eye-witness.

We should all be ashamed. How many times have we all stood by while someone was yelled at or talked down to? Told they weren’t allowed? Just in North Dakota I’m certain the number is thousands upon thousands. Two shoppers watched while I got yelled at. Four adults watched while a child was berated for following their parents wishes. The tales of bullying are building up across the state. From old men at grocery stores to young mothers on the sidewalk, bullies are found everywhere- even in the quintessential, quiet, perfect examples of North Dakota Nice.

Abu Ghraib prisoners were tortured following unlawful executive orders. How many slaves were abused and killed because it was legal? How many “witches” were drowned to prove their innocence?

How far are we going to let this go? It took almost 11,000 formal legal federal complaints before the Aboriginal people of Australia were recognized as humans and not “flora and fauna.” They were not allowed in restaurants or bars, kinda like people who can’t wear masks are being kicked out of stores.

Don’t we have hazing and bullying laws in this state for a reason? Aren’t we supposed to love and protect one another? Giving everyone free rein to be a bully is not the way.


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