Bullies

Donald Trump mocking a disabled reporter.

You don't have to be big, strong, and imposing to be a bully.

I've been bullied most of my life. As a child, I had to deal with the stereotypical mean kid bullies, kids who'd follow me home spitting on me, raise welts during class (with the teacher in the room!) by snapping me with some kind of improvised and easily concealable weapon, call me demeaning names, pass caricatures around the classroom of me engaged in some kind of humiliating bodily activity. It was junior high: kids that age often have gross habits that play directly into the natural developmental cruelty of others their age. I was an easy target, but I was also physically larger than most of my tormentors. Had I chosen to fight back, it might well have ended quickly, but I'd been raised to be a pacifist. I was also far too insecure to act assertively.

High school was far better for me. There were really only a few incidents in those years, and one of those bullies apologized to me for his treatment of me when I saw him at our 30-year reunion. College was better still: for many years, I looked at my time in higher education as a near-paradise of decency.

Life as an adult was not as forgiving. I've been bullied by partners and family members, browbeaten into doing things I didn't want to do and saying things I didn't believe just to get that person off my back. Professionally, I've had many a bullying supervisor, both in the ministry and in my current profession of public education. I've been bullied by students, as well, particularly a bunch of entitled 10-year-old boys who hounded me out of a teaching position.

And, of course, we are presently coming to what I hope is the end of the regime of one of the most powerful, potent bullies the world has ever known.

It's utterly fitting that he may be (it's not certain yet, but it seems very likely this morning after Election Day) vanquished by a man who probably knew plenty of bullying in his own childhood: Joe Biden, who had to overcome an extreme stutter to succeed in public service, to which he has devoted the last half century. In the first of the two official "debates," Biden found himself the subject of a blistering frontal bully attack, shouted over, interrupted, teased, ridiculed, peppered with lies and innuendo, barely able to complete a sentence without being drowned out eruptions from the virus-spewing (we now know Trump was already carrying the corona virus, and had lied his and his family's way past the testing and mask rules of the debate) monster at the other podium. The second debate was less explosive, but still loaded with lies and insults. And please make no both-sides mistake about it: Joe Biden's role in both these affairs was to stand firm, talk past the shouting, and occasionally state the simple truth that his opponent was a violent deceptive clown.

I'm sanguine about the eventual outcome of the election. I'm not, however, feeling so good about the country doing the electing. After the first debate, word was that many who favored Trump had soured on him due to his outrageous behavior on that stage. That souring seems to have been short-lived, though: far too many of the states that should've been toss-ups, or just outright wins for Democrats, were back to red by the end of the night, and the Senate will most likely be, at best, evenly divided. The longed-for and frequently predicted Blue Wave became a tiny eddy.

America let me down. Far too many voters decided they would continue to tolerate, no, more than that, embrace a man who has consistently proven himself on a daily basis to be one of the worst humans in public life since the founding of the republic. If these people had any sense at all--no. Let me rephrase that. If these people had any heart at all, they'd have repudiated this monster, repented of their appalling choices in 2016, and Biden would have it in a landslide.

As it turns out, Biden's margin of the popular vote appears to be only a point or two better than Hillary Clinton's. In fact, if the nominee had been a woman, however well qualified, this could've been a whole other story, as a huge plurality of Americans proved once again that they are every bit as sexist as they are racist.

And in fact, it's worse now than it was four years ago. In 2016, voters could claim ignorance for their choice of Trump. He made promises of being different from the career politicians so many Americans were apparently tired of: less slick, less wonkish (not policy-oriented at all, as it turned out), allegedly skilled at business dealings, and eager to speak out for the low-income, low-education voters so often ignored by technocrats.

In practice, he proved to be far less than advertised, and also far more: more sexist, more racist, more brutish, and above all, more self-interested than any first world president in the history of the first world. No one voting for Trump in 2020 can pretend they don't know him for what he is: a blustering, narcissistic bully who'd sell every one of his voters down the river if it would help him avoid paying one penny of taxes, or spare him from any of the well-deserved lawsuits and criminal charges waiting him the day he leaves office.

And yet they voted for him. Tens of millions of them, far more than voted for him in 2016. Nearly half of what may be the largest vote in American history went to this short-fingered vulgarian. Much of America, it appears, is just fine with having a bully for president. Far too much for comfort.

So America has let me down even more than it did in 2016. I'm fairly sure at this point I'll still have the president I voted for, a man of compassion, intelligence, and good sense who'll really do his best to heal this broken nation. But the damage is done. The land of bullies--including Idaho, the state where I was bullied the most in my childhood--wanted the biggest bully of all to remain in the White House, squandering our blood and treasure on his atrocious whims.

It's enough to make any sane American consider becoming an expatriate. I was once an expat, living from 1988-90, the first half of the first Bush presidency, in Great Britain, a land then ruled by Margaret Thatcher, herself a bully I didn't care for. The British came to their senses in the 1990s, electing a Labour government with an intelligent, thoughtful prime minister. In the last decade, though, they lost their senses once again, choosing a string of ineffectual Conservative wonks before finally arriving at their own more articulate bully.

Don't worry, friends, family, I'm not buying a ticket to any other country right now, and not for some time to come. I need to see the dust settle, be sure that any loved ones who remain here are safe and that borders are, once again, open enough for us to see each other regularly.

But considering how many flag-abusing, road-raging, ridiculously loud truck-driving MAGAniacs are living right here in Portland, let alone in great swaths of the American heartland, Canada is looking awfully attractive: a place where people, by and large, choose nice over mean.

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