Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Incognito Bullying

Incognito: adverb.  1.  With one's identity disguised or concealed.

I have been watching with great interest the ongoing situation with the Miami Dolphins.

For those who do not follow the NFL news:

Second year offensive lineman Jonathan Martin walked away from the team last week frustrated after two years of being bullied.  The ringleader of those who bullied Martin was teammate Richie Incognito--please see that I am not pointing to Incognito exclusively.  From what I read, the incident which broke the camel's back was an entire table getting up and walking away when Martin sat to eat with them.  This is not the work of one person, but of an environment which allows bullying.

The team has suspended Incognito indefinitely for his role in the bullying, especially in light of damning voice messages and texts left by Incognito on Martin's phone.  These are very graphic and explicit.

There have been some interesting reactions from others concerning this incident, highlighted in the article linked above.  No one is defending Incognito's actions--at least that I can see.

However, many are questioning Martin's reactions.

Why didn't he take on Incognito and go mano a mano?  Why didn't he physically stand up to the bullying and say "enough is enough."?

Yours truly handled bullies in such fashion when he was younger.  I didn't get into many fights when I was a kid.  Being taller than most kids had something to do with that, but I also would reach a certain point where I would handle matters for myself.  I would not allow a bully to go too far, plain and simple.

I was influenced by family members who told stories of being bullied in their youth.  One story had quite the impact as a family member told of being picked on and picked on and picked on.  Finally, having had his fill, one day, he turned and punched the bully square in the mouth.  End of bullying.

I've prepared my kids for such an eventuality.  My eldest was the recipient of bullying behavior at school.  A little boy was repeatedly picking on her and putting sand in her hair at recess.  We told her to tell the teachers (as we have been conditioned to do these days).  She apparently did, but no results were forthcoming.  She still came home with sand in her hair.  My wife and I then wrote a letter to the teachers, but I also sat down with my daughter.

"Now, sweetie, I want to tell you something.  I know __________ is picking on you and bullying you.  I know you are tired of it.  Mom and I wrote a letter to your teachers, and hopefully this will take care of it.  If it does not, I want you to tell me.  Then, and only if I tell you to.  Again, only if I tell you to, I want you to punch this guy as hard as you can.  I want you to slap him around and tell him you will not put up with his bullying anymore."

"But I will get in trouble."

"Yes, you will.  And there will be consequences at the school, but I want you to know, you will not get in trouble at home.  If I tell you to do it, you will not get in trouble here.  It will be okay for you to get in trouble at school, because that will end the bullying.  But remember, only if I tell you it's okay."

My daughter nodded.

Fortunately, nothing more happened.  The teachers handled the situation, and my daughter did not come home with sand in her hair again.

There is a point and time when standing up to a bully is the right thing to do, but I believe it's after all other alternatives have been exhausted.

I am not prone to violence, but if you push me to it as a last resort, I will.

Again, some wonder why Martin did not resort to such tactics.  I submit to you that he was exercising all options before resorting to violence.

You see, Martin is not a simple jock.  He went to Stanford University.  They are not known for their intellectual laziness at that particular university.  In all reality, Martin is probably a pretty smart guy.  He may have certain principles and values which lead him to be as non-violent as possible.  Handling things violently may not be in his nature, and so he seeks out other alternatives.

His alternative this time was to expose the bullying--bring it to the light of day.

Most bullies don't want their deeds to be noticed.  They will only perpetrate them surrounded by those who give the bully his or her power.  When exposed to others who have more authority and a better sense of right and wrong, the bully will stop.

This is exactly what happened when we exposed my daughter's being bullied to the teachers.  It stopped.

Martin exposed Incognito's bullying--and the bullying by teammates who acquiesced to Incognito's schemes.  Bringing them to the light of day has had profound consequences.

It has brought shame on Incognito.

It has brought shame on the Dolphin's organization.

It has brought shame on the NFL.

Is it any wonder why there are those who are saying Martin should have "manned up"?

They are part of this system which has allowed such behavior to continue on unabated.

Martin, in my estimation, has dared to shine a light deep into the recesses of the dark side of the NFL.  He has dared to challenge a system which makes allowances for improper behaviors.  He has dared to walk away instead of allow that system to continue to take advantage of his nature.  He is taking a path of non-violence, but one which will accord him ridicule.  He is exhausting all avenues before becoming physical.  Perhaps it would have been easier to simply fight it out, but in this manner, it could help bring healing to a system.


By bringing things out into the open.  By refusing to let things continue on in secret.  By refusing to allow the bully to remain incognito.

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