Friday, August 30, 2013

Michelle Pendergrass, Natalie Phillips, and a Memoir of a Bully

Let me tell you a story.

About a naive fifteen year old (henceforth referred to as "our hero") and a Bully, and how (details withheld) our hero made the mistake of talking about Bully with a friend (and actually only as a secondary character), and was overheard by Bully's girlfriend, (who, it was rumored, he also "bullied") who then went and - predictably - told her Bully.

Bully then embarked upon a two year campaign of intimidation, which included slowing down by our hero's house, gunning the engine like he was going to turn into the driveway, then speeding off while flipping our hero the bird; taunting in the halls between classes with threats of physical violence, rumors spread of same physical violence. Our hero didn't know what to do or who to tell, so he said nothing to no one.

After Bully graduated, he encountered our hero (now a lot less naive) and his dad at a football game in the city, and because Bully was backed by his posse, (a very important asset for bullies everywhere) he harassed our hero and his father in the middle of the game, threatening physical violence upon both of them, until our hero's father mentioned something about his shotguns at home. That defused the situation, but despite appealing to Bully's girlfriend (now a senior) through a lame guidance counseling office intervention, Bully kept haunting our hero's football practices and later his basketball games.

But by the time our hero was eighteen years old and a senior, said Bully had disappeared, rumored to be in the Army. Ironically, our hero encountered Bully several times later when he was twenty-four or so, but because Bully was alone...our far less naive hero was ignored.

And then, when our hero encountered the Bully one last time, when he was twenty-six, it was in a bar with several of his friends. Out of the blue, Bully accosted our hero (who had grown and become stronger) because he was surrounded by his posse, and a face-to-face shouting and shoving match broke out. However, when the time came for the first strike, Bully reached PAST our hero...

To hit the shortest member in the group.

Who happened to be a wrestler. Luckily for Bully, Former Wrestler slipped on a puddle of beer, and then the bouncers intervened. 

And our hero hasn't seen Bully since. Which, of course, doesn't mean that Bully won't pop up again. There's many reasons why our hero still lifts weights and keeps in good shape. One of them is that, should he have to defend himself physically, the contest won't be totally one-sided.

Suffice to say, our hero has developed a powerful dislike for bullies of all kinds, especially bullies who bully their girlfriends.

Now, zoom to the present. 

We all know about the Miley Cyrus twerking debacle. If not, you probably live in a cave and are better off for it. In any case, out of the many jokes and lamentations of the future of society and Billy Ray Cyrus' claim that the devil - and David Lynch and Disney - are responsible for Miley's twerking, some rather unsavory comments (that revolved around the need for both Miley's twerking partner Robin Thicke and Billy Ray to "smack Miley for being a ho") surfaced from a prominent member of the IWA (Indiana Horror Writers Association). 

I know very little about that organization past my long and wonderful friendships with both Maurice Broaddus and Michelle Pendergrass, and my slightly shorter but no less wonderful friendship with Natalie Phillips. In any case - bad as it was for the officer of a professional writers' association to speak so cruelly and unprofessionally in such a public manner, apparently this wasn't a "isolated Facebook-OOPS" incident. This was just the latest in a continuing trend that had been confronted in the past. Unfortunately, at the time of this most recent gaffe, nothing had been done about the situation.

And earlier this week, Michelle Pendergrass and Natalie Phillips decided to take a stand and resigned from the IHW, followed by most of its female members, and several male members. 

The result of which was...bullying. 

Of several degrees worse and with more personal nastiness than our hero ever faced.  I won't rehash the whole thing, because you can read Michelle's detailing of it here, and not only that, you can see some of the bullying in action, with little trollish gems such as these:

"I see why you were abused and mistreated, that’s probably what’s wrong with the loud mouth too, to bad you didn’t get some sense beat in to you!"

Now, let me go on record in saying that I don't know the folks Michelle Pendergrass has taken to task. AND, I highly suspect that gem is from a mistakenly supportive friend or spouse, not the folks Natalie and Michelle have issues with. BUT, regarding their claims that Natalie and Michelle are unprofessional and have torn the IHW apart with their "their big mouths" and dragging "names through the mud" I can say this:

I don't know those other people.

I KNOW Michelle Pendergrass both as a dear friend,  spiritual adviser and have  also worked with her PROFESSIONALLY, as an editor.  She is a strong person with convictions in a world that expects, ever more, every day, for strong people to restrain their convictions (whether you're liberal or conservative, it doesn't matter. Have a conviction or belief? Just be quiet, please) And worse yet, she's a woman - an intelligent, strong woman with strong convictions.

Horrors.

Again, I can't say I know these folks, even on a Facebook level. I've not dealt with their nastiness. But when Maurice Broaddus leaves the same group because of the same reasons, and folks like Lucy Snyder, Chesya Burke and Micheal Knost speak up, that's a lot like Neil Gaiman and Jon Scalzi snarking about that recent blog entry about "what makes a professional writer." The opposition is shown for what it is: small, nasty, dismissive, and belittling. 

In essence, they're a bunch of bullies that wanted Michelle and Natalie to go away and be quiet, and when they wouldn't, they harassed them and attacked them all week long. Do I have evidence this, past the comment on Michelle's blog? No. But I trust both of them, and have - contrary to claims - thought them both to be the epitome of kindness,  compassion and professionalism.

To be clear, I am not shooting down the IWH or those involved. I don't know them, and have no axe to grind. Neither am I a feminist, a liberal, a conservative, a whatever.

I'm a human being.

And I hate bullies, and had to face one alone, myself. And there's only one way to stand up and make bullies go away: that's to face them with your friends, because bullies only attack when they have the advantage on those who are alone.

However little (or great) my support is, it goes with Natalie and Michelle.

They are not alone.