Like many people, I’ve been upset and embarrassed by the behavior of some of the candidates in this presidential race.

Embarrassed because these are “adults” behaving in ways that are borderline slanderous, writing social media posts that could easily be construed as libel.  Embarrassed because despite various anti-bullying campaigns in schools, children are being taught to do what adults are saying, not what they are doing.

Embarrassed because people of all ages are exposed to hate filled, racist, and sexist comments, and if you believe the polls, people are cheering on this negative and harmful messaging.

Embarrassed because  during some of the debates, we’ve been witness to bullying behaviors such as:  humiliation, badgering, mocking of others’ appearance, personality, disability, etc.. For example, one comment from a candidate to one of his opponents was, “Look at her face, no one would vote for that!” A candidate also mocked a person’s physical condition that limits the use of his arms by doing a degrading imitation during a public speech.

A recent New York Times article has cited several of the degrading insults that have been thrown about.  People have almost routinely been called “nut jobs”, “dummies”, “losers”, “morons”, “rapists”, “gun-runners”, “dopey”.

And, don’t forget the cyber-bullying.  The twitter feed has been filled with name calling and passive aggressive attempts to undermine, degrade, and defame.  And, this is by a candidate’s campaign.

Embarrassed because, What message is this sending about our country to the world?  That we are a country of aggressive people who cannot tolerate distress and resort to name-calling, and threats? A nation of badly-behaved children who bully others?

I wondered why there hasn’t been someone to put a stop to this behavior as it incites more and more hostility?  Is this what Freedom of Speech means?  The freedom to degrade, incite, and threaten others?  Can you say or write anything you want?  What about slander, libel, and defamation?

First of all, lest anyone thinks I’m Un-American by questioning and researching the first amendment, I’m not.  I’m questioning the right of another to bully, make degrading statements, and attempt to ruin another person’s reputation.  My ability to question behavior is protected under the First Amendment.

So this is what I found out:

Speaking the truth (that can be proven) is protected under the first amendment.  

Opinions are usually protected.  

If a defamation claim is made against a public official, it must be proven that the statement was made with malice.  Malice means that the person knew the statement was false and acted with “reckless disregard” whether it was true or false.

Libel:  written defamation

Slander:  spoken defamation

Defamation:  includes libel and slander: It’s a statement used to harm one’s reputation. This statement must be presented as fact, so opinions are not actionable as defamation.

The defamation must be:  published, false, injurious, and unprivileged (i.e., a 3rd party heard, read, saw it; the person must demonstrate how their reputation was damaged, and the statement can’t be one that was made between a lawyer and his client.)

I also found out that “hate speech”, which is speech that targets a person or group on race,gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, etc.., is protected by the First Amendment.

*In 2011, one politician stated that 90% of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion.  The truth is that abortions are only 3% of what Planned Parenthood does.  When asked about this statement, the politician simply said that “this statement was not meant to be factual.”  (?!)

So, it seems that all one has to do is say that what he said wasn’t meant to be a fact, and there was not action taken for defaming the agencies’ reputation.  It is hard to prove defamation.

Is there anything that anyone can do about the type of behavior demonstrated by some candidates in this election?  Of course, we can refuse to support them.  We can turn off the television, we can refuse to respond to bullying posts on line.

Well, what do we tell our children about bullies?

Don’t give the bully an audience.

Set a good example.  Demonstrate self respect and respect for others.

Support those who are being bullied.

Create safe environments.

We can do this.  We can walk our talk.  This is the definition of integrity.  The future depends on us to demonstrate positive behavior, healthy boundaries, and to be able to communicate effectively without seeking to harm ourselves or others.

Create your health by demonstrating integrity in your communication with self and others.

How have you been affected by the presidential race?  What do you tell your children about bullying?  Leave a comment below.    ~Chris

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