On Poking the Bully (Donald Trump) With a Stick

Photo by Re Harris

You don’t poke the bully you work for unless you’re prepared to run. If you’re ready to leave your job you can find a way to tell them off and then quit, or you can ignore the ridiculous things the bully wants until they fire you. If you’re really angry and not afraid of the fallout, you can try sabotage, but that’s tricky and messy. Playing the bully’s game spreads their stink onto you. That doesn’t make anything better.

When I was employed during the holidays a few years ago, at a certain skin care boutique, my work became a little easier after I decided I’d rather be emotionally healthy than spend another second worrying about meeting my boss’ rigid expectations. I didn’t know what I would do if I was fired before my term of employment was up, but I knew that my headaches and the knots in my stomach were sinister signs of what her abusive management style was doing to me. I was already afraid of poverty. I needed to stop being afraid of her ability to plunge me further into it.

This manager, who was half my age and behaved like a bad parent as if someone had told her that’s how successful managers lead, ignored my progress and brought things to a head for me on the day she chastised me dismissively over her shoulder fifteen minutes before I was scheduled to leave the floor. She went on and on about my offense — having the multitude of gift sets and their prices listed on a piece of paper in my pocket, and daring to refer to it. I can’t tell you how many customers were pissed off about the product prices not being clearly marked. I wanted to be able to help them properly.

“Customers don’t trust you when you do that,” the manager told me. She either missed or didn’t care about the dejected look on my customer’s face as my sale was taken away from me and the polite personal attention I was giving her was replaced by my manager’s rehearsed, ubiquitous spiel. 

Tears welled in my eyes as the sales I made that day were ignored in favor of admonishment for meeting that specific customer’s needs. I didn’t let them fall until after I left the store. I don’t know how I did that. But later that evening I stopped caring. I would say it was a product of depression if it hadn’t made it easier to work the next day. I was lighter and, as I remember it now and analyze it, it feels like the logical reaction of someone who has lived with bullies for most of their life and finally realized that they need to wrest the power away from the ones who try to control them in the future.

My mother was a bully. I know now that she fit the profile of a narcissist and I realize that she is the main reason that I recognize Donald Trump so well. You could never win an argument with her by using facts, and if you showed sensitivity, she read it as weakness and dismissed you if she was feeling benevolent, or went in for the emotional kill with outrageous lies stated as fact. My dad echoed this behavior when it suited him. Once, he wanted to hit my mother with a dining room chair, and I stood between them hoping he wouldn’t do it if I refused to move. When the fight began I situated my little sister in the back bedroom with earphones and her kid’s cassettes so she wouldn’t hear the ruckus, then put myself in the middle of my parents’ mess. When my mother told me to call the police, even though dad was a cop, I did. The way he smirked at me when I finished the call cut me almost as much as his words: “You can’t think for yourself, can you?”

I’ve met bullies in all walks of my life. A couple of years ago my surgeon even turned his bullying on me as I sat naked from the waist up and made the mistake of agreeing with his easygoing medical student on a certain point. The student seemed to be one of the healthiest people I’ve ever met, because instead of being flustered by the bully, he smiled and shrugged off the attempted abuse. My surgeon turned on me then, stating that being fat wasn’t doing me any favors. I immediately shrank and hated myself for it. It’s still not easy for me to go up against a bully, but it feels better now to be in the mindset of not taking shit from anybody.

All this is to say that I’ve always known that Donald Trump was a bully. The stink of it is all over him and I don’t trust bullies to tell the truth, to care, to honor agreements or to treat anyone with respect. I’ll leave it to experts to explain why anyone but someone dependent on them would actually trust a bully.

So why does anyone believe that Donald Trump didn’t know his wife’s convention speech contained sections plagiarized from a speech made by Michelle Obama? How does this not sound like something he would sanction? And to all those who say that it must have been the speech writer or writers who threw Melania Trump under the bus, so to speak, and decry the  meanness of it: remember that bullies also bully their families. The family depends on them so they pretend not to see the bad behavior or they explain it away, or laugh it off. If her husband had anything to do with the speech, Melania would never tell us. But consider this: If you were a speech writer for Trump, would you poke the bully with a stick by hurting his wife? There are better ways to try to sabotage a campaign if you’re so inclined.

Donald is so simple-minded that he may have thought no one would notice the plagiarization, or maybe he thought the ruckus could work in his favor and he could misdirect his way out of trouble with his base the way he always has when he’s been caught. Doesn’t his base love to stick up for him when the news media call him out on his crap? What did the bully have to lose by sending his wife out to give that speech? Not a thing. Bullies thrive on the belief that they can’t lose.

The only way to beat a bully is to see them for what they really are. If we look them in the eyes, smile, and shrug them off, we can all be healthier. But it seems that many of us think that if the bullies are bullying for us, we’ll be safe. When has that ever been true?