Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

I refuse to be bullied January 14, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:20 PM
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I’VE DEBATED, for several days, whether to write this post.

And I’ve decided, yes, I will just speak what’s on my mind because I refuse to be bullied, belittled or called names.

My mother taught me to nice, to be kind. If I disagree with someone, I should be respectful in voicing my opinion. I’ve tried to follow those guiding principles throughout my life, although at times I fail.

I was bullied as a child and pre-teen. As an adult, I don’t have to accept such behavior.

That brings me to two comments posted on my January 11 post, “Meet 10 Minnesota bloggers, a contest winner & more.” Click here to read that story.

Of all the posts I’ve written, I never imagined this piece would come under attack.

Here is the single sentence that prompted two readers to voice their opinions in a manner that I consider disrespectful:

I wanted to highlight bloggers without an agenda and who would fit our more conservative outstate readership.

I’ve since deleted that sentence because I understand how, if you’re a “liberal” purposely seeking out the word “conservative” and you take something out of context or shape it to your thinking, this could be totally misconstrued.

My use of the words “agenda” and “conservative” had nothing to do with political leanings of either the highlighted bloggers, the magazine or its readership.

Any writer understands that when you write for a publication, you need to know that publication and its content. That was the point I was attempting to make and, I admit, I could have written it more clearly, explained it better.

Yet, the rabid reaction from these two commenters caught me off guard.

Here are their separate responses, first from commenter #4:

Nice to know that “conservative” isn’t an agenda. Dogwhistle much? Or just believe in pandering to stereotypes of rural Minnesota?

And here are the words of commenter #5:

Wow. I mean, read that sentence slowly. Maybe aloud. Could you see what you did there? I know my 7th grade grammar teacher would have you up at the blackboard for that.

(Readers, please do not click on these commenters’ links; google them if you must.)

In my opinion, they could have made their points in a manner that was less mean-spirited and not so condescending.

I was tempted for a minute to censor their words or fire back with an equally vicious response. It was a fleeting thought. I gave them their voice, responded as kindly as I could and tried to let it go.

I don’t expect that everyone will always agree with me or like what I write. And, yes, I understand that sometimes something I compose may be taken the wrong way.

Then I thought back to all those years when I was bullied and came home from school crying.

This pair could not have known how their words triggered those childhood memories of bullying and name-calling and of a math teacher who called students to the blackboard only to belittle them. To this day, I do not like math.

And, to this day I do not like to be bullied, belittled or called names.

As an adult, I don’t have to accept such behavior, especially on this blog.

So you see, dear readers, something good has come from the negativity expressed earlier this week in my comments section. I have the opportunity to open up a discussion on the topic of bullying.

LET ME HEAR from you.

Were you bullied as a child or teen? If so, how did you and/or the adults in your life handle this and how were you impacted, short-term and long-term?

Have you been bullied as an adult? How have you handled such behavior?

What can be done to stop bullying?

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NOW, JUST TO BALANCE this all out and show you how words can be used in a positive manner, I refer you to Bob Collins of Minnesota Public Radio. Click here and scroll to # 5 in the 5×8 section of his News Cut column to read his comments about Minnesota Prairie Roots and the Minnesota blogger story.

Then, click here to check out Iron Range writer, radio producer and college instructor Aaron J. Brown’s equally kind words regarding my work and the blogger feature.

I have great respect for these two writers. Enough said.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling