When I was a kid I got picked on nearly every day. It wasn't bad enough that I bore the scarlet letter of a “gifted” kid, I also had a heart murmur and a birth defect that damaged my Achilles tendon, so needless to say I wasn't the most athletic kid on the playground. At that age, anything that makes you different makes you a target. While I now celebrate my individuality and love standing out in a crowd, when I was younger that was a recipe for a good old fashioned beat down. I am proud to live in a time when people from all walks of life can support the “It Gets Better” campaign spearheaded by columnist Dan Savage and its efforts to stop teen suicide as a result of bullying. What I am not proud of is a worldwide network of garden communicators who remain silent when there are those among our ranks who are no better than the schoolyard punks who stole lunch money and shouted hateful names at anyone they chose to target. It is happening right under our noses and for far too long we have allowed it to continue unanswered. It happened recently when a well-respected writer used a phrase that was coined by another writer among us without attribution. Ironically, the phrase was tied to the highly-televised OCCUPY movement that makes a point to not individualize itself, though it became quite an individualized attack replete with antangonizing onlookers.
If your very existence as a writer is centered on being a self-appointed watchdog bent on maligning the men and women who work hard to inform and educate while you work hard to belittle them, you are a bully. Plain and simple, cut and dried, a bully. We are garden communicators, right? When did that job description come with the requirement that we become rabid pitbulls who grab hold and rip someone to shreds, not releasing our grip until there's nothing left? In order to be a productive communicator, all you have to do is communicate productively. If your intent is instead to garner any attention you can regardless of the impact, then spout all the negativity you want but don't be surprised when your audience shrinks as quickly as the list of friends who will return your calls. Even if you're not the origin of negative comments, ask yourself if it does any good to retweet or otherwise share them. If you feel that you should take any direction at all, might I suggest the high road? If you don't speak out against bullying under the misguided idea that your silence keeps you out of it, you're no better than the bullies themselves. Your silence is your nod of quiet acceptance that you see nothing wrong with what is going on. I'm not sure which is sadder to me, that there are bullies among the ranks of garden communicators or that anyone is paying attention to them. Am I naïve to think that we should build each other up, support our fellow communicators and grow together? I don't think so, and I know I'm not the only one who feels that way.
The premier issue of the first and only magazine for the garden communicator.