Mero Moment: Bullying And The Government

A few years ago I commented here on the problems of bullying and addressed whether or not the state Legislature should act to stem its tide. I mentioned how, for whatever personal reasons, I’m like a one-man, heat-seeking anti-bully defense system. I mentioned briefly how I’ve seen my disabled sister treated by schoolkids and how that there’s just something about bullies that sets me off – so much so, in fact, that my reactions to bullies are often mistaken that I’ve become the bully.

The legislation I addressed on this subject back in 2009 remains with us. Representative Carol Spackman-Moss continues to champion the victims of bullying and would like to see penalties in place to try and mitigate its awful influences. This year there’s an indication that this legislation would include a provision on bullying against kids who are seen as, or self-identify as, homosexuals. A conservative Republican state senator, Howard Stephenson, has expressed his support for that provision.

With that background I want to make sure I’m crystal clear in what I’m about to say: I don’t support this legislation and I certainly think it would be a big mistake to codify victimhood in this respect.

Bullies come in all shapes, forms and sizes. They are little boys and girls on a school playground. They grow into high school kids who mercilessly pick on a weakling. They certainly become that adult who always seems to embarrass others just because he can. Many people have experienced these examples of bullying. They’ve been with us forever, and to pass a law to try and get rid of such bad behavior is like thinking we can rewrite the human experience.

In my experience, there are bigger bullies than what we find on a school playground, and there’s none bigger than people with a little authority as they suppose who exercise unrighteous dominion over the lives of people around them. In fact in this day and age of YouTube and smartphones that shoot video we now see that it’s not just the schoolkids who bully and intimidate other children, it can be their teachers and administrators. It’s no coincidence that the growing scandal in the Canyons School District centers on allegations of bullying and intimidation – by the superintendent of the school district!

Government officials can be the biggest bullies around. Ask anyone who has dealt with the IRS or even a “meter maid.” At least schoolyard bullies exercise intimidation because of size and circumstance, which could change over a few years, making the bully a future victim himself. But put government power in the hands of an adult bully and those rules of the schoolyard don’t apply – it’s always the government bully and always the citizen victim.

Furthermore, government bullying seems to empower busybodies to bully by proxy. A neighbor who doesn’t like that you keep your dog in the backyard overnight can call a government agency to pay you a visit about animal cruelty or, worse, an anonymous tipster can phone in a child abuse complaint against parents, with serious consequences.

With this sort of bullying going on, and its potential for abuse against law-abiding citizens, why would we look to encourage even more of it by legislating a clampdown on something as universal in the human condition and as completely subjective in definition as bullying? Add to it the vagaries and subjectiveness of the whole homosexual issue and not only will we have brought political correctness to new levels of absurdity but we’ll have codified a new standard of victimhood that we won’t be able to reasonably judge.

The best recourse for bullying is a taste of their own medicine in precisely the same circumstances the bully dishes it out. It’s best done privately and personally. The worst thing we could do is to be passive-aggressive about bullying by trying to legislate our way to a solution.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.