Between this week's "The Bully Pulpit" from Josh Gross and next week's main feature--our annual Pride feature on local LGBT issues--from Zach Hagadone, you're going to see some similarities. The back-to-back run of the two pieces was wholly unintentional--Gross has been reporting his piece for several months--but as it stands, it's entirely appropriate.
This week, you'll read about schoolyard bullying and what adults in Idaho, including lawmakers and educators, think is the best solution. Next week, however, you'll read about another kind of bullying. The kind of bullying that happens not in the schoolyard, but in everyday American society among adults. It's the kind of bullying that hides under the guise of moral and ethical arguments. It's the bullying that's practiced by lawmakers and preachers, and possibly your neighbors and relatives. But when adults engage in this behavior, it's not called bullying--it's outright discrimination.
Next week you will read about the parallels between the Civil Rights movement and the gay rights movement. You'll hear from a Freedom Rider who says that without the help of white supporters, blacks in this country may never have stopped the discrimination--or bullying, if you will--they endured. That same source believes that in order for the gay rights movement to gain momentum, the straight bystanders--like the white supporters of the Civil Rights movement--will be an essential key to success.
When it comes down to it, a bully doesn't stop without intervention, be it a figure of authority or a peer. And it doesn't matter whether the bully is a kid stealing lunch money because he's hungry, or a large contingency of racists justifying their actions through learned behavior, or a vocal majority relying on religion to decry gay rights. Any way you cut it, someone is being marginalized and denied the same rights as others in their society. And when kids live in a society in which their parents and lawmakers condone the discrimination of few, it reinforces in them the idea that it's OK to do the same to their own peers.
No, we're never going to live in a world where everyone gets along, but we do live in a world where progress is possible. We have proof in recent history that a society can implement widespread social acceptance by starting with the law. Now we just have to remember the lessons of our past and repeat our brave steps forward.