Bullying: The Great American Pastime

Editor’s note: The Nevada Appeal presented the Carson City Board of Supervisors, the mayor and city manager an opportunity for a column. Supervisor Jim Shirk will appear next Sunday.

One of the best annual events held in Carson City is the Boys & Girls Clubs barbecue/luau/auction. The event this year was held Sunday, Sept. 13, and as it has for more than 10 years, the clubs were prepared to offer a puppy as an item in the live auction. Every year, the puppy is one of the most anticipated auction items, as families who have fallen in love that evening with the puppy bid up into the $3,000-$4,000 range, well above the actual value a breeder may sell the puppy for. The puppies are obtained from respected breeders, usually known personally by the Clubs’ directors or financial supporters. This year’s puppy was a Husky named Atka, Inuit for “child’s guardian.”

As the clubs advertised the premier auction items on its Facebook page prior to the event, animal activists from around the country were made aware of this impending auction and started a campaign to force the Clubs into NOT auctioning Atka. It didn’t seem to matter to these cyber-bullies the Clubs track their puppies through the years and can tell you not only where they are living today but the puppies previously auctioned are still with loving homes and families. It didn’t matter the Clubs also provide a care kit with their puppies so all shots and veterinarian care are taken care of for the first year. These fanatics emailed and called the volunteer Boys and Girls Board members, crippling their ability to work, to function, and most importantly, to prepare for their single biggest fundraising event of the year. They also called the Health Department and Sheriff’s Office in their bid to disrupt the Clubs’ activities. Most of the callers and e-mailers were rude, disrespectful, and illogical, sending messages filled with profanity and hate. The Clubs hesitated to bend to the will of a group of bullies, but board members made the best decision available to them, to remove the distraction by pulling Atka out of the auction, and instead to focus on the event, the kids, and the Clubs’ mission… which is definitely NOT to engage with a group of people with no interest in factual information.

How often do we hear stories like this now, to varying degrees? While there’s no doubt the dentist who killed Cecil the lion appears at the least to have lacked ethics and common sense, that’s no excuse for anyone to make death threats against his wife and daughter (or even against him for that matter).

Our ability to engage in meaningful discourse seems to be a distant memory. There are many examples, both nationally and locally, of controversial issues (perfect fodder for intelligent discussion) prompting widespread hatred and vitriol. While Monica Lewinsky may never be portrayed as an angel, she didn’t deserve the public degradation and humiliation she was subjected to in 1998, while her counterpart, then-President Bill Clinton, went on to have libraries named after him. Of late, you may remember several local races in the 2014 election that became downright ugly when contenders strayed into the mud, instead of holding their heads high and sticking to the issues.

In today’s political world, bullying is not only acceptable, it’s encouraged and supported. Whether you are a Trump-supporter or not, his style of politically incorrect personal attacks is not one that would have been acceptable prior to the last few presidential cycles. In the America of 2015 however, hate-mongering and disgraceful conduct run rampant and is supported by many of the voting public. This style of complete disregard for the facts or opinions of others is lauded by many and condemned by few. Passionate debate, where we agree or disagree, examine the facts and evidence of an issue, then come to respectful conclusion takes a backseat to disgraceful and insulting sound bites. Our new American pastime is bullying and we are good at it.

As Socrates said, “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.” Only when everyone sticks to the issues, engages in intelligent debate, and stays away from personal attacks, do we benefit as a society.

The final irony is when someone changes their actions due to bullying it’s not their minds that been changed ... only their actions. The bully’s power is just an illusion.

Ward 2 Supervisor Brad Bonkowski can be reached at bbonkowski@carson.org or 283-7073.


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