Lady Gaga is all gaga about bullying, which she’s trying to elevate in our
consciousness as tantamount to human rights abuse.
A bit far-fetched for some, but not for me.
What is bullying but racism without color?
To a bully, race doesn’t matter. The name of the game is the expression of power
and denying equal opportunity–to everyone.
At the moral core of bullying is the Darwinian sensibility. It’s survival of the
most abusive. But combine race with bullying and you’re left with an extreme
form of behavior, a toxic blend of sadistic cruelty and hate.
And when it happens, most of us just stand by and watch. Asian Americans know
this toxic kind of bullying.
At South Philadelphia High School, Asian American immigrants were harassed and
physically beaten on a regular basis while administrators ignored the situation.
After three years, it took a complaint from AALDEF and a threat from the
U.S. Department of Justice to get school officials to acknowledge the matter.
In Afghanistan, 19-year-old Danny Chen, an Army private from New York’s
Chinatown, was repeatedly abused verbally and physically by fellow soldiers. He
is said to have taken his own life.
Some don’t believe it was a suicide.
Bullying? It’s not kid stuff. But that’s usually where it starts.
My first bully was in 7th grade at Everett Junior High School in San Francisco
in the late ’60s. It was O.J.’s junior high school. (Yes, that O.J.) The school
had a predominantly African American student body. If you were Asian American,
you were distinctive because often you were forced to use your textbook as a
In my day, the big bully was DJ. He was bigger than most of us. But his
bulliness was defined by an air of confidence he had as he came through the
school yard at lunch time to collect his “fees.”
DJ could have just beaten the crap out of us. But that was too messy. And too
much work. DJ was far more advanced at age 12. To my crowd he was more like a
25-year-old who was held back. That gave him a real edge.
DJ was already operating in the psychological realm. He had a genius for what I
call “bully’s logic.”
He would pimp-walk his way onto the school yard at lunch time, and he knew he
struck fear in the core of our beings. But he would make it easy on us all.
Instead of pummeling us for our loose change, he would make us an offer.
He’d say this: “All I find, I keep.”
To a fearful group of 12-year-olds, that sounded like magic words. A bargain.
You mean, I can just pay you and I don’t have to get beaten up?
DJ terrorized us psychologically, physically, and we paid him in coin. I still
got all A’s, but my classroom memories are dwarfed by the scars of the
DJ is probably working for the IRS now. Or is a fundraiser for PBS. I’m sure
someone recognized his talents. But he sure did a number on us kids.
I could have used Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. The pop stars back then, the
Jackson 5, weren’t talking about bullying. Though we now know there was some
bullying going on in that family.
I do think it’s somewhat ironic that Harvard is Gaga’s partner. The school
brought out Oprah and Obama officials and education wonks to herald the alliance
to fight teen cruelty. Maybe Harvard makes sense.
But isn’t Harvard “I’m Better Than U”?
It’s the school for the over-dogs. To them, bullying is second nature.
It brings about a multiple irony. A few years after DJ terrorized me, I found
myself in Harvard Yard, a kid from the inner city in California, armed with my
scholarship and meeting a whole new brand of bully.
I met people who thought they were better, smarter, more privileged, and
entitled to everything. I met people who felt they were superior in every way.
My class came at the beginning of the “Greed is good” ’80s.
And everything they did was right, because they believed they were better.
Most of them were simply born that way.
This is the uphill battle Gaga faces. We are in a society where bullying is
often excused and praised.
Bill Gates, Harvard Class of ’77, may be a nice guy now that he’s Mr.
Philanthropy. But what was he when he forced us all to use Internet Explorer?
Was he merely a free-market entrepreneur with monopolistic tendencies?
Is it really all that different?
Capitalism rewards and honors the bully. Look at Rush Limbaugh, the
multimillionaire radio personality with 20 million listeners and the ear of the
GOP. When he called activist Sandra Fluke a slut for speaking out in a
congressional hearing in favor of the Obama health care plan to provide
contraception, it was just Limbaugh’s bully logic. Fluke was getting paid by
the government to have sex, ergo she should videotape her exploits and put it on
the internet. Lurid cheap Limbaugh satire? Republicans excuse it as
entertainment. I call it bullying.
Maybe things are changing as people are finally reacting to the accomplished
OxyContin fiend’s diatribe by standing up to the bully. At least nine
advertisers have ended support for the Limbaugh show. Some stations are
cancelling. Limbaugh’s already used his get-out-of-jail-free card before. It’s
about time people stood up to him. It’s not even a First Amendment issue, unless
Rush is calling for civil servants who use contraception to post videos on the
web. And I presume he means men too. Otherwise he’d really be sexist.
Still, judging from the negativity in the presidential campaigns to date, we’re
far from a day where civility and kindness rule in public and private matters.
Too bad. Strip away the fame and the money, and the actions and attitudes of the
powerful trickle down. They are the the role models for the bullies at South
Philadelphia High School. And those in the Army who went after Danny Chen.
It all stems from bullying. Is bullying a human rights abuse? Well, it’s
certainly more than just kid stuff.