I write today with feelings of melancholy and disappointment. I am realizing that writing is an emotional journey, especially when writing from a position of advocacy. Yesterday, I read the news and listened to Caleb Orosco describe his physical attack. I was ashamed of my fellow Belizeans to resort to such disgraceful behavior. A young man offends the moral conscience of “Christians” so much that he was attacked and brutalized unprovoked as he walked the streets. As I listen to him describe his attack, I heard a deflated, abused and bullied young man who is further victimized by a system that refuses to address his injustice. Later as I read the online news, I realized Caleb was once again bullied emotionally by the insensitive commenter’s celebrating his attack, questioning his integrity and advocating for harsher treatment. My God, who are we becoming in Belize?
I am even more disappointed with the failure of the Churches of Belize to strongly condemn these criminal acts; disappointed with the failure of the justice system to acknowledge it. For the most part, the churches and champions of Christ were silent on the issue, possibly enjoying the power they have to move people to such passions of hatred. Who else in history was treated with so much hatred, contempt and violence? Oh yes! Jesus, Jews, Blacks, Minorities, Martin Luther King, Mandela, Gandhi and countless, nameless and dead individuals who suffered at the hands of discriminatory, judgmental narcissistic individuals who would prefer to see a fellow human dead than accept diversity.
Growing up in Belize, I was one of those judgmental, ignorant people who believed that people who were gay should live with the consequences of their action. People choose to be gay, so why should I care? I stood with the majority, mainly because it was not an issue that affected me. How selfish my thoughts were and maybe a bit self-absorbed believing the world should be as I want it to be! However, as I journey through life and reflect, I realized how my views have changed since then. Living in America for the past decade has given me a whole new perspective of being a minority. It is easy to stand on a pedestal of judgment when we are comfortable in the majority, but a person’s true integrity is evident when he/she can decry the evil of the majority. I thank God for Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Mandela and nameless others, who refused to back down from their positions; even though they were the minority positions of their time; they refused to succumb to threats, intimidation, violence and bullies! I am free today because those who came before me were intolerant of hatred, ignorance and discrimination.
It brings me to my next point. We are a society of bullies! ” Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others.” It can include name calling, intimidation, writing nasty letters, emails or blogs, exclusion, making people feel inferior, inadequate or uncomfortable, assaulting, and forcing them to do things they would not want to do. It involves an imbalance of power usually on grounds of race, ethnicity, culture, religion, gender, sexuality, ability, standards of beauty or socio economic position. The abuse can be done overtly as in Orosco’s case or subtly. The list is not exhaustive. The “imbalance of power” may be social, economic, political, religious and/or physical power. The sad reality is that we have all been on the receiving end of a bully, but instead of saying no more, we actually perpetrate it on a weaker person. We compare our children; demoralize them; we talk behind our friends’ backs; we strive to do better than people just to look down on them; we interfere with people’s lives and livelihood; we beat our spouses and children; we find faults and constantly tease; and we spend a lot of time “hating” on each other.
One infamous historical figure visited the Caribbean to learn our social bullying tactics of “divide and conquer”, a mandated British policy during slavery. His name was Jim Crow. The tradition of bullying has been ingrained in our society for centuries as a control mechanism and handed down through our families, peers, teachers, churches, political leaders, writers, spouses and we in turn bully our children, family, peers and anyone who would dare deviate from what is considered” normal”. The bully gets a sense of satisfaction and power in knowing that he/she can intimidate a person into submission. The rhetoric of some religious leaders telling people to hate, to be intolerant, quoting death and violence verses from the Bible is in fact bullying. Church leaders can get of sense of power and accomplishment taking on a minority unpopular position while ignoring unabated corruption, poverty, child abuse, spousal abuse and spiraling violent crimes. The bully cowers at a bigger bully.
As the fight for acceptance ensues in our courtroom and society, I call on all leaders to break the cycle of abuse and bullying. Encourage supporters to be civil and respectful. If God intended for all of us to be the same, he would have made us all the same. If you believe that God made us all in his image, then when you bully Caleb Orosco or any person in your life, you are bullying one of God’s creations. I refuse to be a victim or perpetrator of bullying anymore and I hope anyone reading this similarly commit to stop bullying and promote civility in our culture.