A brony once bragged to me that he had proudly taken a punch in the face and, in the name of tolerance, declined to defend himself. If turning the other cheek in that particular way gives you genuine peace, then you are a better man than I, and far be it from me to try to take that peace away from you. However, it bears mentioning that being loving and tolerant does not require you to become a punching bag.
Friday was Spirit Day – a day of awareness of the bullying of LGBTQ youth. Now we’ve all had to deal with bullies at one point or another, and LGBTQ kids tend to have it worse than most, but regardless of whether you are gay or straight, or if your orientation/lifestyle is all over the Kinsey scale, bullying is everyone’s problem.
Bullies have always existed, and they always will, but that’s not the real issue. The trouble is us – how we choose to deal with bullying when we see it happening.
There is no such thing as “doing nothing,” because if you see somebody getting picked on (gay or straight), and you walk away, you are making a choice. You are making a choice to turn your back on your fellow man. There’s no such thing as “saying nothing,” because if you hold your tongue in the face of injustice, then you’re really saying “I’m okay with this,” and you’re saying it loudly. Sometimes, love and tolerance don’t go together, because you just can’t love your fellow man and tolerate his tormenter at the same time.
The good news is that there are far more decent people in the world than there are sadists. If we all, as a race, intervened whenever we saw bullying going on, then bullies would not be able to get away with doing what they do. Unfortunately, people, by and large, tend to walk away. Whether you are the one taking the punch, or if you just happen to see it on the streets or in your school hallways, love and tolerance does not mean shying away from conflict. It does not mean turning your back on those in need. It does not mean denying yourself the basic human dignity of defending yourself.
If you see somebody getting picked on, intervene with a word. Call them out on their evil deed. Make the job of the bully harder. If you see somebody getting assaulted, for Celestia’s sake, defend them. It may be the scariest thing you ever have to do. You could be risking serious physical injury. You could get in trouble. But at the end of the day, you’d want that person to do the same for you. Everybody is faced with this choice at some point or another. Do the right thing, or do the easy thing – walk away.
No one can tell you how to handle yourself in these tricky situations, but the next time that you are confronted with this difficult dilemma, do yourself a favor and stop for a moment. Look around you. If you don’t do the right thing, if you don’t pitch in, if you don’t put yourself on the line, NOBODY ELSE WILL. In an interview following BroNYCon, John DeLancie said that love and tolerance is a beautiful thing, but that you should never be expected to tolerate the intolerable. Sometimes love and tolerance means loving yourself enough to deem your own personal dignity worthy of defending. Sometimes it means tolerating a stranger’s differences enough to defend him/her should they be in trouble.
So to victims of bullying and abuse, rest a little easier knowing that there are millions of people who know how it feels. Take comfort in the fact that it not only gets better, but that you can make it better, because if there’s one thing that bullies hate, it’s victims who fight back. Self defense is a basic human right. Respect yourself. To witnesses of bullying and abuse, do something, do something, do something.
There are those who say that this is not the pony way. They clearly have never seen Dragonshy. Fluttershy can do it. So can you. If you can, intervene with your wits. A well timed and a well-spoken word can disarm a situation more often than you think. If there is absolutely no other way, intervene with your body. A black eye is a small price to pay for a golden heart.
Help! My Heart is Full of Pony! is a new column featuring reflections on love, tolerance, friendship, and other pony feelz.