Thursday, July 8, 2010

Out Spoken

I've been thinking about something that happened almost a month ago now. Still thinking about it. I did something that I don't often do, but I wouldn't say that it's out of character, probably not out of character at all for anyone who's known me for more than a year or two. (Or perhaps a month or two? I'm never sure just how transparent I am. Sometimes I'm convinced I'm clear as glass and everyone else can see the little fish swimming through my brain.) But still, it's not something I often do, so I'm still in the process of review.

My homeschool association has an online members forum. I've been with this group since it was a newborn, about 8 years, so I've come to know a lot of the people, and I've done quite a lot of volunteering for the organization. It's had its ups and downs. There was a big kerfuffle a couple years ago, and some screwy book-keeping, and a bunch of core people left over that. I'm not sorry. It was a shame that it happened the way it did, but the way things were headed was looking like a train-wreck. The handful of the membership pulled together and rebirthed the association over a very difficult six months, putting in hundreds of hours in the midst of their own busy lives, and taking a lot of flak over their decision to not air all the dirty laundry to their own advantage. I respected that a lot.`

Recently, during a discussion of another topic, this woman who resembles nothing more than a spy-mole for the ousted leadership, this unbelievably aggressive, passive, non-contributing, endlessly-complaining woman, attempted to reinflame old wounds and start the whole thing up again. She does this from time to time, propping up her personal agenda with her religious beliefs and the fact that she's a lawyer, and her stultifying barrages of text that bamboozle the laity. She can be quite intimidating, in such a very sweet, concerned, uber-Catholic kind of way.

It puts the exectutive in a difficult position, because of their liability. They need to make nice with everyone for the well-being of the organization as a whole, and to protect their own backsides.

But I'm not a member of the executive. I've gone a few rounds with this lady before, from time to time, when she starts squelching the membership with her particular brand of all-knowingness.

And I let her have it between the eyes.

Right there in front of God and everyone.

I told her that I didn't want to hear anymore complaining and backbiting, no more unfavourable comparisons of our group with other groups, no more whining about what everyone else wasn't doing while she wasn't willing to make so much as a phone-call to organize a field-trip, no more gossip, no more starting fires for her own amusement, no more "suggestions" about what the rest of us "should" be discussing if she wasn't willing to share useful information, no more grand-standing on her homeschool hobby-horse regarding funding. NO MORE.

And then I sat back and waited for the storm.

I was a little nervous, but not terribly. The worst that could happen was that they'd bump me off the forum, and honestly, if a venue gets taken over by that sort of person, what good is it anyway? But confrontation has never been my strong suit, and the tension wears a bit. I slept restlessly that night.

Messages began to trickle into my inbox, thanking me for taking her on. I was made aware of and sent snippets of other e-mail conversations regarding the forum exchange, the anger of other members that this woman would try to derail our group, people's plans on how to deal with her. But then I just went and did it, eh? Sometimes it's better to just lance the wound right away, I think.

A couple days later she re-posted, and apologized. Sort of. Close enough, anyway. A mercifully brief message, compared to the novels she usually inflicts on the rest of us.

People were astonished - behind the scenes, that is. On the forum, it was politely overlooked.

And then, the original discussion reignited, and we were getting input from all kinds of places, and all sorts of fresh ideas about how to best put some new life into our programming, new faces in old places, how to reduce the load on the few and inspire people to get involved themselves and make things happen. It was lovely.

It's all past now, at least as far as the forum is concerned But me? I'm still mulling.

It's not that I regret it. I don't enjoy that sort of thing, but it needed to be done. Bullying has to be addressed, even if the bully is spiritual person, or a lawyer, or a volunteer, or a gift-giver, or a relative, a homeschooler, a brilliant scholar... it doesn't matter. Bullying has to be addressed. And I think that with very aggressive people, like this woman, it has be addressed in the same format that it's perpetrated in. She did this publicly. I could have addressed it privately, but what kind of impression does that leave with the gentler souls who frequent the forum and read these public posts? No. It needed to be answered where it happened, right there.

Who am I to call people to task? Nobody particular, but somebody enough. I'm not perfect, I don't have it altogether, and goodness knows I've probably been the problem myself in the past and will be again in the future. But for now, at this point in my life, I was the one whose eyes and heart were open enough to recognize the potential danger and make myself a lightning rod.

The danger of silence has been a big lesson for me in the past decade. I took on a spiritual ideal of not complaining about bad treatment, and the prime bully in my life, the Dear Relative, took that leeway and did her best to take my children away from me. No one was well-served by that, not even her. Thankfully it all pulled together in the end, but it was horrible at the time, for me, for the kids, for Chive, for the extended family who didn't know what to believe. Maybe they still don't, but at least I told my story where it mattered.

And I swore, Never Again. I'm going to speak out. I'm going to take the chance of being wrong, or misunderstood, but I'm going to have a voice all the same.

So I told someone off on my homeschool forum. What an activist, huh? ;-)



You displayed courage. A difficult thing to do. I agree, too, that silence in bullying situations is deadly.

CG said...

I just don't even bother with our group anymore.

Juliana @ Shakti Mama said...

That's wonderful, Madcap. We all have to take a stand now and then. I still think back to the IU situation with the grading and all that. I don't regret standing up to the professor. He's gotten away with so much, for so many years.

Be proud of yourself for believing in your ideas and standing up for them.

Madcap said...

Constantine - I've always feared a situation like the Holocaust, that I'd be one of the silent bystanders, so afraid of repercussions that I wouldn't speak out. Little situations like this, with so little to lose, are good practice for bigger ones, and I think they help strengthen the boundaries between civilization and another disaster.

CG - I'm a long way from that with our group. There are a lot of ways in which it's a great organization, and I want to see it stay that way.

Juliana - I was thinking of you and your situation while it was all going on!

clairesgarden said...

this is a great post madcap.
wish I were so brave.

clairesgarden said...

this is a great post madcap.
wish I were so brave.

gfid said...

sometimes people need to be asked if they're part of the problem, or part of the solution. ...and good manners sometimes only perpetuate problems. but, hey, i've always been one of your biggest fans. pix of new puppy @ my place. tell the kids i'll get them up on facebook tonight.

Poet in Motion said...

Claire - Not especially brave, but taking up a little slack where it wasn't too demanding. I'll betcha you do that in your own sphere's from time to time.

Gfid - I seem to be getting less patient with age. Your new dog-person is a beaut!

Madcap said...

Seems someone else was blogging around here... That last comment was me, Madcap, being subsumed in my daughter's identity. The usual. As soon as she was born, I was "Poppy's Mum".

Mercutio said...

I knew by the third paragraph what was going to happen. And I'm glad to hear it.
I have always seen you as a strong woman. I understand if you don't always see yourself in that light, but it shows. I am happy for you that you were able to draw on that strength at a time when it was needed.
Too often, the rotten and underhanded people in this world will attempt to use the goodness of the good against them, and press a perceived advantage. In many cases, it looks for all the world as if Thrasymachus was correct, and a man of honor suffers a distinct disadvantage when dealing with the unprincipled.

voixd'ange said...

You're being applauded all the way in Chicago. Good for you Madcap.

Madcap said...

Mercutio and d'Ange - Sorry about the absenteeism, but thanks for showing up, even if I didn't, and for the votes of confidence. Things have been very quiet on that front since - hooray!

Kate said...

Hello again...

People get away with things they shouldn't just because most of us let them, most of the time. :(
It takes courage to speak out, a LOT of courage to be the "lightning rod".

Your new look is great.

I deleted my old blog in an attack of angst, couldn't get it back, and now after several months of a computer-free life and a move to another house and town, have another one.


Jim said...