Friday, November 10, 2006

Oops! My Bad

It’s funny how failure softens the heart and focuses the mind. First we have a gallows-bound Saddam Hussein urging Iraqis to "forgive, reconcile and make up." Then we have a contrite George W. Bush urging cooperation and bipartisanship for the first time in six years. What’s next? Rush Limbaugh mournfully asking "Why can’t we all just get along?"

Despite President Bush’s about face on the issue of political civility, he still remains a bully. And bullies must be dealt with in a systematic way. Here are some handy tips that the newly-empowered Democrats might want to review:

1. Bullies often call people names or use unkind words like "evil" or "traitors." Respond by telling the bully that he doesn’t have to be friends with the person but there’s no need to use cruel, hurtful language.

2. Often bullies will form exclusionary cliques or clubs to shut others out and make them feel unwanted. They will form alliances and try to coerce others to join. Alternately, they will isolate others as unpatriotic or cut-and-runners. Be forceful and explain to the bully that he doesn’t have to play with everyone or even like everyone but he can’t be cruel about excluding others.

3. One tactic commonly used by bullies is to make false accusations against those weaker than them. A bully might accuse a playmate of having hidden weapons or of conspiring with others. Be firm and insist that the bully provide credible evidence to back up his allegations.

4. A common underlying cause of bullying is that the other child has something the bully wants. A baseball glove, say, or a highly productive oilfield. Stress to the bully that the concept of private property applies to everyone and help him learn how to share.

5. Sometimes it’s necessary to encourage others to speak up on behalf of the one being bullied as in: "Stop picking on him!", "That’s not nice!" or "Stop carpet bombing his homeland!" Encourage them to stress to the bully that they should find a parent or teacher or large multinational organization to help solve the problem.

6. Specify concretely the consequences if the aggression or bullying continues. Point out how past bullying behavior led to lost friends, withdrawn privileges and Vietnam.

7. Remember, bullies generally pick on the weak and defenseless. If you stand up to them (for example, by threatening nuclear annihilation), they will usually back down and opt for negotiation instead of confrontation.

8. Even if the bully is behaving aggressively, remember that this behavior is probably coming from his feelings of vulnerability. It may be a fear of rejection, a lack of love or a series of international misadventures. Get the bully to talk about his feelings at home or in an international forum.

9. If all else fails, remember just to walk away. In some cases, run.

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