A recent incident on the Miami Dolphins football team has awakened my frustration with a prevailing theme in our culture, the idea that physical might is an answer to problems. The alleged incident is that bullying occurred over an extended period of time between members of the football team that has ultimately resulted in one member, Martin, leaving the team (because of being bullied) and another, Incognito, being suspended for his alleged role in the incident. I have read several articles and numerous quotes and comments within those articles that emphasize the same point, that while the bullying was bad, it was wrong of the first player to not stand up for himself, not seek private redress, and instead left the situation and complain to the media about it (only after being asked). The bottom line for many is that by NOT fighting back the one being bullied was weak. Over and over people tried to make clear that they do not condone bullying but for a football player it was expected to fight back because that is what will really stop the bullying. If he had not been so "soft" this would not have been a problem.
There are two things horribly wrong with this whole mess in my mind. One is that we are still stuck on blaming the victim. Over and over I see comments and suggestions about what Martin could have and should have done. Mostly it involves fighting back, standing up for himself, or otherwise "being a man." Why is any of this Martin's fault? How is the poor choices and horrible conduct of another person his responsibility? There are times when both parties in a situation can be at fault but I think by definition things like abuse and bullying are NOT those kind of situations. From what I can tell it appears that Martin did a very Christian thing, turning the other check and not responding when he was abused. People try and make a distinction because he is a football player and not some poor kid having his lunch money taken. I don't think that is a fair distinction, abuse is abuse. It is also not a fair distinction because we say the same things about kids and other victims of abuse, like rape victims who get accused of wanting it, being at fault for how they dressed, leading a person on, and so much worse. We need to take responsibility for our negative actions not look to blame the victim of those actions.
The second thing I object to is this myth that being strong means fighting back. Jesus preached on and lived the idea of turning the other check. He chose to NOT fight even when faced with death and yet so many Christians seem to ignore this teaching when it comes to our own lives. We live in a culture where the correct response when attacked is to fight back, to get revenge and to get that eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, and even life for a life. The fact of the matter is that I think Gandhi is right, all that leaves us with is world that is blind. I want my son to grow up in a world where he doesn't have to be violent to survive. I think this is done NOT by perpetuating a myth that fighting back is the answer and instead by working to create a society where bullying is not tolerated and not seen by anyone as a way to use/abuse their power. Every day we turn on the news and see the signs of violence in our culture, in the news stories of yet another shooting, to the endless stream of games that let us live out our fantasy of violence and warfare. When are we going to say enough is enough. When are we going to stop looking to the victim for what wrong and instead look at the one causing the pain and look at ourselves and wonder what we are doing to let it happen. There are 51 other players on the active roster for the Dolphins that watched the bullying occur, not to mention the dozens of coaches and staff on that organization that must have had some idea of what was occurring. Why did they stand by and let it happen? Why do we all just stand by and watch the violence that surrounds us. I don't have answers but I do know this ... it starts with me. It starts with you. Until we stop buying into this culture of violence it is never going to change. It is time to say enough is enough.