The Bully Bullied

Paul Greenberg

11/3/2010 12:01:00 AM - Paul Greenberg

The best idea some public officials ever have is to resign, effective immediately. See Richard Nixon, 1974. Resignation remains the sincerest form of apology. You don't have to be president of the United States to realize it. Resignation can even become a member of a city council. Or of a school board.

Which brings me to the poor sap who just resigned from the board of a small school district here in Arkansas.

His problem? He'd posted one loathsome comment after another on, of course, his Facebook page. Like an instantaneous, written confession. The subject of his ire was homosexuals, but the principal victim of his outbursts turned out to be himself when his rants -- oops! -- attracted national attention. And a national reaction.

Why people so expose their ugliest sides to one and all in this internetted age mystifies me, but there was no doubt this guy's were ugly -- full of hate, name-calling ... the full quotient of vulgarities that mark the schoolyard bully. Only they came from a member of a school board -- someone responsible for the education and formation of the young and their character. If there's a single word to describe his posts, it would be Unacceptable. All the more so coming from a member of a school board.

There's no reason to repeat the poor slob's comments here. You've heard the names before. Nor is his name important; it's not worth much now anyway.

Suffice it to say that our Facebooking friend was promptly denounced, disowned and generally chastised by everybody, nationally and locally, from the embarrassed school district's superintendent to the Arkansas School Boards Association to the Human Rights Campaign. That last outfit tries to prevent suicides among teenage homosexuals -- one of the sadder wastes of human life in our all too wasteful society.

At last count, some 50,000 people had joined a Facebook site demanding that said miscreant quit the school board. He heard, he listened, he resigned. Nothing became his service on the school board so well as his ending it.

It was a relief to hear that he'd quit, raising hopes that he'd no longer trouble Arkansas' schools or its good name. Strangely enough, this misguided soul had described himself as a Christian in his posts. Isn't that the faith whose God is love?

This poor wretch really needs to sit down, pray about this, and maybe have a good long talk with a decent minister -- not the fire-and-brimstone kind who wants to cast first stones in all directions -- and go and sin no more. And be left alone to repent among whatever shards of his dignity may remain.

As for the rest of us, we can do our part by forgiving him. After all, when confronted, he did say he was sorry. Even if lacked the verbal skills to have said it very well.

One of these days maybe we'll know all about it -- what makes homosexuals, and heterosexuals, too, for that matter, and whether it's nature or nurture, genetic inheritance or social environment, a predetermination or predisposition, or none or all of the above. Till then, for God's sake and our own, let us be kind to one another.

Or, perhaps even better, civil, tolerant and respectful, especially of one another's privacy. Surely that's not too much to ask of ourselves -- and of our supposedly civilized society.

But maybe it is. The last I heard and saw of Mr. Embarrassment, he was on national television, where he was being verbally pummeled by Anderson Cooper or some such talking head, who kept asking him the same embarrassing questions/taunts again and again.

Why the poor guy would subject himself to a nationally televised dressing-down is as mystifying as why he would express his vile prejudices in the first place. Some folks will just never learn. As he spoke, his more vulgar posts were being displayed in big letters on the little screen -- just in case anybody in the country had missed them. Vulgarity, thy name is Television.

Is there anything quite so obscene in its way as the American journalist's delight in being able to use some poor simpleton's own vulgar words against him? Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha! And this is called news or, better yet, Incisive Commentary.

What it is, is the journalistic equivalent of bullying, and this time it was the bully who was being bullied. Which doesn't make the spectacle any prettier.

They say turnabout is fair play. It isn't. It's just sad. And cruel.