Why Bullying Can’t Be Stopped

January 27, 2020 by Claire Coleman

Despite the “names can never hurt me” refrain from the “Sticks and Stones” couplet we heard as kids, we absolutely know that names do hurt, they cut deep, they follow us, they imbed themselves into our self esteem, memory and psyche. Show me a person who never experienced a taunt and I’ll show you a single child home schooled through college by a loving parent. Unfortunately, it is a universal experience with a wide spectrum.

We all want the school-bullying, the cyber bullying and, I’m going to add, the political-bullying to stop. We don’t want our children and grandchildren to fall into the abyss of it in any arena. We encourage, support and participate in school programs and those in our communities, towns, and workspaces that identify the words and actions of bullies and attempt to build bridges and heal those affected by it.

And yet – it will never stop. Our wishing and hoping and tax dollars, our therapists and social workers and anti-bullying slogans will fail. All for the simple fact: Our culture does not support it.

We are two-faced on the issue. We strongly declare “Zero Tolerance” for bullies and their destructive tactics among our children, but we flock to watch comedians wallow in the muck of it, then we chose to repeat or retweet it. We fail to call out politicians for the mean-spirited and insensitive nicknames and labels meant to undermine an opponent’s character and accomplishments. We laugh and repeat it either verbally or by email.

And then there is Twitter – where a person’s flaws – physical, mental or otherwise are relentlessly highlighted, underscored, enlarged, and played back with a Boomerang technique for the sake of a laugh, a taunt or a career ending push over the edge. There are people who are pros at this. They sit in front of screens trolling for the next slip-up in a speech, a stumble on the red carpet, wardrobe malfunction or sophomoric pranks from middle school. Sad way to get a laugh or attention.

The examples of high level bullying are endless – Last week Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Carl Bernstein nicknamed Sen. Mitch McConnell, “Moscow Mitch” and tens of thousands (maybe more) retweeted the name and hastag. Mr. Berstein, you won a Pulitzer, your name will go down in history for your Watergate expose, your books and body of work, why do you have to resort to name calling? Please explain. Not the nickname, just the reason for it. Oh, and would you address a group of middle school students as you do this? Please tell them why in an era of Herculean efforts to bring people together and restore some shred of civility to American culture and politics, you chose to do this.

I cringed every time then Candidate Trump took out another Republican candidate by the incessant and juvenile name calling. Low Energy Jeb Bush, Little Marco Rubio, Lyng Ted Cruz, Crooked Hillary, Pocohantas Elizabeth Warren, Sleezy Joe Biden. Name-calling, Mr. President is never justified. Never. We won’t tolerate in our school kids, why should we tolerate it and accept it in adults. As adults we should be examples of how to deal with others without resorting to name calling.

One last example of cyber/media bullying that always dumbfounded me was the explosion of news stories and tweets following Melania Trump’s ascent into Air Force One while wearing a pair of stilettos. It was September 2017, she and the President were going to Texas to see the extensive damage from Hurricane Harvey and she was photographed walking to the plane in a pair of Manolo Blahnik stiletto heels. During the time it took Air Force One to fly from Washington to Texas, pictures and stories about those shoes were everywhere. When she left the plane in Texas she was wearing sneakers but according to one “news” site – “The damage was done” to her character and her reputation. She was branded insensitive for wearing heels on the plane – a jumbo jet specifically outfitted for the President and that could easily carry a spare pair of shoes for the First Lady.

Isn’t it quite possible that she planned to change her shoes on the plane all along? Isn’t it possible that she wore them out of the White House for a reason not disclosed to the media and planned to change them as soon as she could? Isn’t it possible that she had a change of clothing put on the customized 747 ahead of time out of sight from journalists and photographers? How is it that a pair of high heels haunted the First Lady and sadly overshadowed anything else she did that day? Sneakers vs stilletos. Really? Anyone ever change their shoes in the car between events or because of the weather? Or carry their good shoes into the office during a snowy commute?

With a nod to the chant from the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, “The whole world is watching”, I want to say to those politicians, journalist (tv, online, print,) twitter-users, late night tv hosts, any one with a social media footprint or spotlight – “Our children are watching and listening.” Are you deeply invested with those who work to ending bullying and who desperately want to make a difference? Many of these people experienced first hand the devastating affects of bullying on their loved ones. One in five students get bullied, with sixth grade the peak year (29%). Bullied kids experience anxiety, depression, feelings of insecurity and are at risk for self harm including suicide. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for the 10-34 year old demographic.  The second leading cause of death.

We must chose sides on this issue. There is no fence straddling here. You either will tolerate name-calling, personal insults, ridicule and taunts in your home, your schools, your workplace and your community, by your entertainers and entertainment, your politicians and politics and on all forms of media or you won’t. Yes or no.

This is not about censorship of free speech, this is about knowing that a high bar of civility for our words and actions exists and deciding to reach for it. It is about digging deep to build relationships rather than destroy reputations and lives, to understand rather than criticize and by doing such personify what the anti-bully looks like and stands for.

In the spirit of Special Intentions – praying for others – say a prayer today for a sixth grader who is having the worst year of his or her life because of bullying. Pray that someone steps in to help before he or she becomes another suicide statistic.

A D-Day Remembrance 2019

June 6, 2019 by Claire Coleman

I toured the D-day beaches of Normandy in October 2015 and after moving from the beaches of Juno, Utah and Omaha, and standing on the bluff at Pointe du Hoc, our small group ended at the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer. The number of white Lasa marble crosses is staggering – you walk among them and everywhere you turn your eyes catch not just the one in front of you but the long precisely ordered row behind it and the long row in front of it and those on the diagonals from it. It is sobering, it is humbling, and it can move you to tears within minutes.


As I moved through the rows I began to read the names of soldiers. I don’t know what I was really looking for as I did it. Maybe a familiar last name? Maybe the state they came from? Maybe the unit they belonged to? It was aimless yet purposeful at the same time. Aimless because I had no connection to anyone who died there, purposeful because I felt as thought reading the names was a silent prayer of remembrance.

This marker stopped in my tracks.

It reads, “Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.” I referred to it in a Veteran’s Day blog in November 2016. I have posted it a few times on Instagram on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. There are 307 of these markers in the cemetery. But this picture haunts me when I think of who that soldier might have been. Perhaps he was a young farm boy from the MidWest engaged to his high school sweetheart, or a country boy from Alabama who stepped away from a college football scholarship to join the army, or a city boy from New York – riding the subway to his job or Ebbets Field where he cheered for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Perhaps he was that soldier in the iconic D-Day footage who takes four steps from the water’s edge and is felled by a German bullet. All we know is that he selflessly answered the call to serve his country and he was lost in the battle that turned the tide of the war and eventually the balance of freedom in the world.

This is the other picture from the American cemetery I still carry on my phone:

It marks the grave of Pvt. John Pavalescu, Jr from Ohio who was part of the 501st Parachute Infantry and the 101st Airborne Division. The 501st were highly trained elite parachutists who jumped that day in poor weather, missed their marks and were scattered across fields upon landing. Despite that and German artillery fire they accomplished their mission goals but sustained heavy losses. John was one of them. He was 22 or 23 when he died. I keep the picture of his grave as my way of honoring him and those who were lost that day. I hope the people in Ohio who knew him and loved him kept his story and memory alive. He was a hero. I bet they did.

Only 4% of WWII vets are alive. Few will make the next milestone mark of the day so it falls those of us who came after to remember the war, the invasion, the defeat of the Nazi regime but most of all the men and women who won the war by their service, their sacrifice and their lives.