The Bully Pulpit by Guest Blogger, Jeffrey C. Sherman

Jeffrey C. Sherman is a writer, producer, director and composer for film and television. 

Bully Pulpit

The Bully Pulpit by Jeffrey C. Sherman

From Wikipedia: “An older term within the U.S. Government, a bully pulpit is a public office or other position of authority of sufficiently high rank that provides the holder with an opportunity to speak out and be listened to on any matter. The bully pulpit can bring issues to the forefront that were not initially in debate, due to the office’s stature and publicity…”

It goes on to say that the term was coined by Teddy Roosevelt who meant the “bully” as a good thing; a place from where good messages could be conveyed.

Here’s when I knew I couldn’t sit quietly about the 2012 Republican candidate — when I heard about young Mitt at school tackling a clearly gay classmate and cutting his long hair. You can look up the article and I KNOW, my Republican FB friends are already typing in why “trashing” news stories come up on both sides in an election year. I get that, but even ol’ Mitty couldn’t dispel this one, could only just shrug it off a youthful antics or something.

I was bullied as a kid. For years. I was bullied because I was a big kid, sometimes a bit chubby and I was raised not to raise my hands to another kid. So, when my schoolyard bully in second or third grade was looking for an easy mark, I was found.

It was a constant fear, every day that I went to school. This putz who was popular with the cooler kids at school, made a big deal of letting everyone know I was a “pussy” or a “fag” or a “loser” and that, after school, he would “find me and kick my ass.” I did nothing to this moron to bring this on, I was just trying to get through my childhood and through school and through an often rocky time at home. I won’t go into the latter, but suffice it to say, it was plenty hard enough being me without this cruel, ever-present shadow of fear and loathing.

This went on for years, all the way to high school. I would actually try to find alternative ways to sneak out of school EVERY day, another back route way, way out of my way, just to elude this jerk. I would try to enlist friends to walk with me, but they were either also scared of this bully or would turn on me and let him know where I’d be found. I was on my own.

Most of the time he would let me go if I submitted and lied on the ground crying and pleading — usually with guys and girls from my classes around. Some laughed, some wanted to help, but nobody did. He was too much of a menace.

The times I tried to ignore this creep or, stupidly, tried to fight back, I would come home with a bloody nose, a black eye or, if I got lucky, just with an exceptionally low self esteem. I wanted to disappear. Being a kid is really hard enough without the terror and the pain and embarrassment. I wasn’t then and have never been a fighter. I didn’t want to and I could muster it.

My Dad, a WWII veteran and war hero told me I had to learn self-defense. We spent days training together and I thought I could pull it off. My Dad taught me that, when everything else failed, I should take the heel of my hand and jam it up into his nose and it would drive the bones and cartilage up into his brain and it would kill him. My Dad, god bless him, was pissed and felt helpless, but I kept thinking I don’t want to kill the guy, I just want him to leave me alone.

So, prepped for battle, I decided one afternoon to just actually cross the playground from school in plain sight, go out the gate and walk home directly up Rexford to Lomitas, to Crescent Dr. Part of me thought, he’ll never even imagine I would go that route.

Of course, right across the street, at the corner where my friend — and his — Jon Gries lived, the goon spun me around, called me a “pussy faggot” and knocked my books and papers all over, as usual. Dad’s training clicked in and I squared off, balancing my body to spring and tucking my thumbs correctly in my fists and all that. And, as my fist thrust forward and only glanced him, he got a wholly scarier look in his eyes than I’d ever seen in the six years of abuse before this and… the rest was kind of hazy.

I stayed home from school for three days, had stitches on my lip and begged my parents to put me in a different school.

Instead, they went and reported it to the Principal and we were both called down to the office. In that waiting room, this guy stared me down and softly mocked me, “You’ve really done it now, you stupid asshole. Just wait.”

We got a stern talking to by the Principal who almost made me feel equally culpable. If anything like this happened again, he would…

All I could see or hear from this point was this bully casting me cold glances and hearing his eerie warning echo in my head, “Just wait.”

Though nothing happened the next two years until we graduated in eighth grade, he still gave me that look every time we passed in the halls. He taunted me verbally. Even in high school, I feared encountering this guy. I still lived in abject fear and still went out of my way to avoid him after school, just to get home without incident.

Even though it’s been years since this happened, the scared little boy inside me still surprises me and comes up at times when I need to stand my ground. It shakes me and sickens me. It’s a visceral, immediate feeling and — to this day — I can still feel victimized and vulnerable like a little scared boy at Hawthorne Elementary School.

I’m 55 now and, sometimes, he still comes out; the little grade school kid, the heart pounding in my ears, the heat on my face, the self loathing and victim dread, wanting to disappear and die. It would be easier.

The scars don’t go away. They just grow deeper with passing time.

I thought I might get past this all by contacting this fellow on Facebook. I wrote to him and told him that I still harbor these feelings, these fears and dreads. I told him that it would go a long way toward getting me past it — and I might actually even forgive him — if he could either suitably explain why he targeted me or, at least, if he said he was sorry.

He did write back and he said, basically, that he was shocked I felt this way, that he didn’t remember any of that and that he actually remembered us as being good friends. He said, if it ‘had’ happened, it was because he had a lousy childhood and might have been acting out.

Youthful antics.

Scars for life.

I think, while we all learn and grow and become (hopefully) better people with age and experience, we are to a good degree the same people deep down that we always were.

Like Mitt Romney, this guy went to law school. Like Mitt Romney, this guy is a beloved dad and husband.

Like Mitt Romney, there is no remorse, no accountability. It’s always someone else’s fault. No big deal.

I’m here to say it’s a very big deal. I can’t forgive my bully and I can’t forgive Mr. Romney for getting his jollies out of humiliating another human being to boost himself up. It speaks volumes to me. Our country cannot afford to have someone in the President’s post who ever found it in his fiber to treat a fellow human that way. Romney’s statements and plans and actions all smell of a big, far right money crony and a campus bully. I don’t and will never trust him.

He can smile, and mug and blab about how much he cares about America; about the common man. Mitt cares about Mitt, sweeping his past ‘antics’ on the school grounds and at Bain under the rug. This man is not in touch with the plight of his fellow man, he just wants to win and suck in more power than he already has.

I DON’T TRUST HIM.

He can tell me that corporations are people.

He can say anything he wants.

I DON’T TRUST HIM.

I trust a man who rose from nothing, who came out in favor of health care and gay marriage rights and women’s equality and immigrants’ nationalization. These basic truths are what set this country apart from so much of the rest of the world.

Together we are stronger. We’re a country that builds and connects, not separates.

If you’ve never been bullied, I envy you. If you have, I stand with you. People standing together, working together is the only way this world will keep spinning — at least with humans on it.

I am excited to see what Mr. Obama will do in the next four years when he doesn’t have to get re-elected and can move more powerfully as other two-term presidents have often done in the past. Without those considerations, I believe the true man or woman comes out in a public official.

I want to write more about what I think is missing from all these political discussions and will in a subsequent posting.

Be nice to people. As my wife Wendy says, “We are all one thing, separated by time.” So be nice to others and you’re being nice to yourself.

If we truly treated others as we would treat ourselves, all the world’s problems would be in the past.

xo to you all

Please remember to like our evoL=    page on Facebook.

About Jeffrey C. Sherman

Since attending U.C. Berkeley and graduating Magna Cum Laude from UCLA Film School, Jeff has written numerous features.  Among other notable accomplishments in television, Jeff created, produced and wrote one of the first Disney Channel series, “The Enchanted Musical Playhouse” which featured songs by his father and uncle, the Sherman Brothers .  With his cousin, Jeff directed and produced the 2009 Walt Disney Pictures feature documentary, “The boys: the Sherman Brothers’ story.” The theatrical film chronicles the unparalleled career of the sibling songwriting team while taking an intimate look at the brothers’ influences, differences and secret family rift. The film premiered at the 2009 San Francisco International Film Festival and has been selected for several major international festivals in Glasgow (Scotland), DocEdge (New Zealand), Shaw Festival (Toronto), Newport Beach (USA) and the Annecy International Animated Film Festival (France) the Animac Festival (Spain), the Melbourne International Film Festival (Australia) and the Biografilm Festival (Italy). “the boys” has screened at numerous Jewish film festivals including Los Angeles, San Diego, Ventura Country, Tucson, Las Vegas and St. Louis. In 2010, “the boys” was chosen as the opening night screening at the first-ever Disney D23 Expo. For more information, go to www.theboysdoc.com.
In 2011, Jeff produced, with John Landis, Traveling Light Partners’ original hour comedy special “Wendy Liebman: Taller on TV” which was picked up by Showtime.
Jeff lives in Los Angeles with his wife, comedian Wendy Liebman, and his two amazing sons, Alex and Ryan.

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About robw77

A single gay dad who cares. His story can be read here: http://www.imagaysingleparent.com/2013/02/02/rob/ and here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/31/rob-watson-gay-family_n_4689661.html
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18 Responses to The Bully Pulpit by Guest Blogger, Jeffrey C. Sherman

  1. Excellent blog you have got here.. It’s difficult to find excellent writing like yours
    these days. I really appreciate people like you! Take care!!

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  4. kzottarelli says:

    Jeffery, thank you for saying what needed to be said and heard! I stand with all those that have been picked on, bullied, or singled out. Your wife sounds like an amazing woman, we truly are all one thing! much love and peace for all of us

  5. Brian says:

    Wow. This story resonates with me on so many levels.

    As a gay man of 51, I can relate with the bullying, the fear back in junior-high and high-school!
    What I don’t understand is this focus of all your fears on Mitt Romney.

    What did Mitt Romney ever do to you?

    I could go into great detail into why you should seek therapy regarding your problems (as a youth) and how that would help you grow as an adult – but I think you’re probably past this phase – so I’ll just go on to why I feel this blog is beyond pathetic.

    You have clearly expressed your experiences of being bullied in your youth. I sympathise with you – happened to me too – but you have to realize that this happens to EVERYONE to some extent during school years.

    It’s part of growing up – I’m not condoning it – it’s just the way things are.

    I’m not saying it was right – but it’s the way of life in our times. I’m not going to try to be politically correct – bullying happened – and unless you used your fists (as we both apparently did) or your wits, it continued.

    Get over it. People grow. People grow up.

    These are the kind of things we should look back upon as “growing up” issues – not things which define us as adults. Some of us get past it – and realize that it was just a part of growing up.

    Why do you pick on Mitt Romney because of one very publicly published incident – and then condemn him because of one youthful digression…

    I don’t condemn any of the people who bullied me as a youth.

    99.9 percent of it was peer pressure.

    Why can’t you grow up?

    I’m healthy.
    I’m gay.
    I’m still 51 years old.
    I was bullied as a youth.
    I grew up knowing I was strong.

    I’M STILL VOTING FOR MITT ROMNEY,
    because I believe in the United States of America.

    I STILL don’t know what Barrack Obama believes.
    He refuses to tell us what he believes.

    Simple as that.

    • Brian says:

      Oh yes… and in regards to Barrack Obama’s views on gay marriage – he didn’t have one until he was FORCED to – by Joe Biden. What does that really say about his views on gay marriage?
      That he was FORCED to express a view that he didn’t want to take…

      • Brian says:

        As you stated –
        “Be nice to people. As my wife Wendy says, “We are all one thing, separated by time.” So be nice to others and you’re being nice to yourself.”

        If we truly treated others as we would treat ourselves, all the world’s problems would be in the past.
        ====================
        As to you’re wife’s statement – LIVE BY IT. Which begs me to question why you would have posted this diatribe against Mitt Romney to begin with.

        “If we truly treated others as we would treat ourselves, all the world’s problems would be in the past.”

        Brian

    • robw77 says:

      Hi Brian, Thanks for sharing your perspective with us. As a parent, I would implore you to never, ever be involved with anything having to do with the education system or policies having to do with kids. I believe your “It’s part of growing up – I’m not condoning it – it’s just the way things are… Get over it. People grow. People grow up.” attitude i dangerous, not just “politically incorrect”. To categorize a reasoned intention to take pains of the past and advocate against them for today’s youth in the present as “pathetic” is in itself…pathetic.
      I feel very sorry for your past and the bullying you sustained. From your post and the opinion you espouse, it seems to have a deeper impact that you consciously realize. The fact that you cannot discern from the most progressive gay rights advocate in the history of the presidency from one who is determined to not only not progress, but actively dismantle gay rights… says that your bullies did not go away, they just assimilated into you.

      • waterlexeme says:

        You know when people use the whole “grow up” “get over it” and other brush offs to other people’s pain they are sweeping it under the carpet for a reason, either because they are themselves bullies and don’t want to look in the mirror or they don’t want you to talk about your pain because it reminds them too much of their own. I once spoke out about something personal and painful because I believed certain people needed to hear that their actions were having consequences for other people. The backlash came from all sides and I started to wish I had never spoken. A friend said something that has stayed with me for decades “… but why do they need to shut you down so bad?” I find it interesting that when people start talking about the consequences of bullying so many people seem to start shouting “stop talking, stop talking, stop talking”. They may use other words and even try to sound rational but behind all the words out front this is all I can hear behind it.

    • “What did Mitt Romney ever do to you?”

      He was a bully. He shows that he still hates homosexuals and that he’s stll a bully, wanting to force his way onto others, because of his religion. What else is needed, Brian? I’m a straight married woman. And I remember being bullied when I was growing up for reading “too much”, for wearing my emotions on my sleeve, for being not the best physically. Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan want to bully me into having children when I don’t want them, that I must somehow “prove” to their satisfaction that I should have birth control. And bullying is not how the way things are, that is a lie. Bullying can be stopped and should be. Claiming that it’s “just the way things are” shows that you are intent on abandoning your responsibilty to do something about it. Your pitiful attempts to say that someone “needs therapy” because they hated being bullied is just more bullying on your part, denigrating someone’s feelings for no good reason, except to try to excuse your actions.

      If you don’t know what President Obama stands for, you haven’t been paying attention. You can hear what he stands for in every speech he gives. Your willful ignorance and your false claims that President Obama “refuses to tell us what he believes” are your problems, not his.Look at his speech from December 2011:
      ““The free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history. It’s led to a prosperity and standard of living unmatched by the rest of the world,” Obama told an audience of about 1,200 in a high school gym here.

      “But…the free market has never been a free license to take whatever you want from whoever you can. It only works when there are rules of the road to ensure that competition is fair, and open, and honest.”

      He added, “We are greater together when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share.”: More of this speech here http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/12/06/v-print/132357/in-lofty-speech-obama-appeals.html

    • Jeffrey Sherman says:

      My reply to you, sir, is you simply don’t get it. Mr. Obama believes in, and has taken bold political stands, for the right of everyone in this country to love and marry who they want, to live as equals, to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities our ancestors had who came to this country and to not suffer with unnecessary illness and pain. These were and are the tenets of our Constitution. I don’t seek to change your mind, clearly that’s not going to happen. But how dare you call me pathetic? We all have had peer pressure, but not everyone crosses the line and bullies. Yes, people do grow and evolve, but people’s actions at any point in their life speak volumes to their upbringing and character. Those who have that moral gap and lack of humanity — at any point of their life — have no business leading a nation.

      • Jeffrey Sherman says:

        This comment was made to Brian, but somehow went as a reply to the wrong individual. I will copy it and put it in the right place.

    • Jeffrey Sherman says:

      My reply to you, sir, is you simply don’t get it. Mr. Obama believes in, and has taken bold political stands, for the right of everyone in this country to love and marry who they want, to live as equals, to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities our ancestors had who came to this country and to not suffer with unnecessary illness and pain. These were and are the tenets of our Constitution. I don’t seek to change your mind, clearly that’s not going to happen. But how dare you call me pathetic? We all have had peer pressure, but not everyone crosses the line and bullies. Yes, people do grow and evolve, but people’s actions at any point in their life speak volumes to their upbringing and character. Those who have that moral gap and lack of humanity — at any point of their life — have no business leading a nation.

  6. Miranda says:

    I’m right there with you and do not trust Romney!

    I’m sorry that you had to go through that in your childhood.

  7. Kevin Kelton says:

    I had a similar bullying problem, though not as bad. I was short, and my “best friend” – yes, we really played together and everything – would beat me up once a week at the bus stop, and occasionally on the playground. Imagine the emotional confusion and self-loathing a child feels when being beaten up regularly by your best friend. But his bullying stopped the day I stood up to him. I got knocked down 3 times, but kept getting up and rushing him again, until he just said “you’re nuts” and walked away. I was lucky, though – my bullying mostly ended in elementary school (though there were a couple of incidents in junior high), and I overcame that lingering feeling of vulnerability as an adult by earning a black belt in karate (and my 2nd degree black later on). I am glad to say I’ve only had to use those martial skills twice, both times in defense of other people – one a woman being bullied by her boyfriend.

    (Oh, and Jeff, you’re dad was slightly mistaken – a shot to the nose is very unlikely to kill anyone. It may be possible in the abstract, as any hit can lead to death, but nose strikes are not lethal.)

    All that said, I could not agree with you more about Mr. Romney. Even if I liked his policies, I am greatly troubled by anyone who could behave like that and not feel genuine remorse. Being able to dismissively laugh at it is not a sign of character. Bullying does end lives, and until we all speak up and stop dismissing it as a passage of youth, as you did here, it will continue to plague our children for generations to come.

    • Jeffrey Sherman says:

      Thanks, Kevin. Is this the Kevin Kelton I know? As I wrote to KievJoy, below:

      I completely agree though I’m not sure, even with those skills, if I would have been able to use them. Just me, I guess. I don’t have the ability to physically hurt someone. That said, my son was bullied once at camp, came home and asked for Hapkido lessons. He was driven, got up to a brown belt and, believe me, nobody bothers him anymore. He prides himself on being a nerd that no one will mess with. So, I do see your point. Thanks for reading and writing. – jcs

  8. KievJoy says:

    I think some of the problem with bullying in school is that kids are taught by their parents they shouldn’t fight, as you were. TTL I came from the East End of London, England when it was a rough area. Dad and brothers taught me two things, ‘You don’t start a fight, but you’d better finish it.’ ‘If you’re not in a boxing or wrestling ring, there is no such thing as a fair fight.’ Stood me in good stead when I changed schools because we moved. The school bully started on me first day there. A few teachers came out to rescue me as it was something she always did with new kids. They took one look, saw I was winning (despite bully being two years older) and let me get on with it. Needless to say, I wasn’t started on again by her on anyone else. I think these two rules are something all kids should be taught, boy or girl and whatever the reason for bullying. We don’t want our kids being bullies, but we also don’t want them afraid to put their head outside the door.

    • Jeffrey Sherman says:

      I completely agree though I’m not sure, even with those skills, if I would have been able to use them. Just me, I guess. I don’t have the ability to physically hurt someone. That said, my son was bullied once at camp, came home and asked for Hapkido lessons. He was driven, got up to a brown belt and, believe me, nobody bothers him anymore. He prides himself on being a nerd that no one will mess with. So, I do see your point. Thanks for reading and writing. – jcs

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