Friday, March 23, 2012
BULLIES SPARK PASSION
Passion fires in two directions. People and ideas we passionately embrace, and those we passionately oppose. At the moment, bullies are stirring my passion. And I’m willing to invest my time and energy to stymie them in my own backyard.
We hear a lot about schoolyard bullies—the punks who physically pound weaker kids or humiliate youngsters who look or think differently than they do. They count on schoolmates turning a blind eye, either out of fear or because they don’t want to get involved. They know the majority just want to get along, get on with life.
Unfortunately, there’s a grown-up version. Adult bullies (would you believe retirement age?) can quickly turn a friendly neighborhood into a war zone. Too often, Homeowner Associations (HOAs) provide a fertile battleground. All it takes to light the fuse is for an HOA Board to disagree with a bully’s opinion. Perhaps the bullies are displeased with the length of a neighbor’s grass or an increase in HOA dues. Or maybe they decide a swimming pool isn’t cleaned often enough or believe dues are being squandered on an activity they don’t use.
Disagreements are inevitable. At their best, HOAs can be examples of grass roots democracy. Opposing ideas are presented (rationally), and the HOA membership votes.
Majority rules. End of story.
Unfortunately, many bullies aren’t content to argue on an idea’s merits. They launch personal attacks on the character of anyone who disagrees with them. They spread vicious rumors, send anonymous emails, threaten frivolous lawsuits, disrupt meetings, and make the whole atmosphere so unpleasant people “drop out.” Compromise isn’t a word in their vocabulary.
Like the schoolyard toughs, these adult versions count on their neighbors’ distaste for controversy. They know most of us hate to attend meetings where the poisonous atmosphere ties our stomachs in knots. We want our homes to be our castles, our very own oases of peace and quiet. So they figure the best way to win is to keep fighting until no one except members of their cliques are willing to serve on HOA Boards or committees.
But democracy can work. If they’re voted down enough times, the bullies will move on to other places where they can play their power games and win. For authors of romantic suspense, there is one upside to co-existing with these homegrown bullies. They give us a close-up view of personality traits that can make the villains in our novels come to life.
Have you encountered bullies in your HOA, club or organization? How do you deal with them?