09/28/2011 05:21 pm ET | Updated Nov 28, 2011

Bullying in the Political Arena... What Are We Teaching Our Children?

In response to the tragic bullying-related suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, singer Lady Gaga plans to meet with President Obama to explore making bullying illegal. While legal action may be called for in many cases of bullying, it will not solve the problem at its root... a root which is in ourselves, our children, our society... and even our political process.

Already our children look out into their world and see bullying in one arena after another. Actually, they don't only see bullying in every arena, they see adults modeling or teaching bullying. In families they see different forms of domestic violence, from blatant and physical to more subtle and verbal or emotional... sometimes even under the guise of joking, good parenting, or "for your own good." In schools they don't only see students bullying each other, but they see adults, teachers, bullying students... again often under the guise of teaching, helping, and needed discipline. In houses of worship our children see clergy people molesting children in their care, preaching that they should honor their fathers and mothers, even if their parents abuse them, and advocating abuse in the name of good parenting. On television, our children see bullying in perhaps every genre of show... certainly under the guise of entertainment, certainly under the guise of comedy, and certainly under the guise of news.

The list is unfortunately endless. But at this particular time, we need to look at our politics and see what our politics are teaching our children.

What do our children see when they look out into their world and see bullying by our leaders?

We'd like to believe our leaders and potential leaders are teaching our children about democracy, the right to speak, and freedom. But are we willing to see that our politics are teaching our children about bullying? Our politics are normalizing bullying in our culture. If our candidates for leadership in our government are using bullying as part of their campaigns for office, they are making bullying socially acceptable ... whether they see it, acknowledge it, deny it.

Some examples:

  • In the 2008 campaign, John McCain sang "Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran" to the tune of an old popular song Barbara Ann, supporting bullying under the guise of lightheartedness, singing, joking around, and what else?
  • Political campaigns, past and present, have been carried out against candidates in the form of lying and distortion ... too many to even begin to list here.
  • Bullying against voters and candidates has occurred in elections over the past decade as voters have been prevented from casting their votes, one way or another.
  • In the current campaign, as candidate Ron Paul bemoaned a "lack of personal responsibility" among those without health insurance, the audience cheered at the idea of letting the uninsured die.
  • Candidate Rick Perry was caught at a debate getting "in your face" and bullying septuagenarian Ron Paul.
  • On election night 2008 President Obama said: "It's the same course that continues to divide and isolate America from the world by substituting bluster and bullying for direct diplomacy." But are various campaign strategists accurate? Will President Obama's campaign strategy be to conduct a vicious personal assault on Mitt Romney... fundamentally to "destroy Romney"?

If our candidates for leadership in our government are using bullying as part of their campaigns for office and are not being stopped, they and those who need to stop them are making bullying socially acceptable. Who are those who need to stop them? We are. We are the adults in our country. It is our responsibility to recognize bullying when it is happening, when it is being normalized, when it is being made socially acceptable... even under a guise. It is our responsibility to say 'no' to bullying in whatever form. It is our responsibility to help heal bullying in our country -- individually and communally. It is our responsibility to do that in our own lives, to help our children do that in their lives, and to stand firm in the face of bullying in our country. The challenge is how to do all of that without bullying!

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