by Madeline Laughs
Many years ago I used to spend time with the same group of folks every year.
One day they decided to start throwing people out of the group.
These people are my friends and what was happening to them was being executed in covert ways with no regard for them as human beings and no respect for the people that still liked them and wanted them around.
Threatening phone calls were made and mean emails were circulated, secret meetings were held and all the while the people being groomed for exclusion knew nothing about what was happening to them, behind their backs. They were lied to and manipulated, hugged and smiled at and told that nothing was wrong…until it was too late.
They never knew what was coming and they never knew what was going to hit them like a bag of bowling balls, until they were out, eliminated, judged and condemned and served up like shish kabob on a hot summer’s night.
Walked through the imaginary streets, their heads covered with a makeshift burlap sack, to cat calls and rotten fruit thrown by the other group members that couldn’t bear to be a victim of the same harsh beheading. The rest of them went along for the ride. They stood in the mud at the foot of the gallows, close enough to hear the necks snapping of their former friends.
And they cheered and patted themselves on the backs for a job well done.
But I couldn’t let it be.
I couldn’t stand by and watch the carnage.
So I stepped up and called out the leaders of the group for what they were doing.
I humiliated them. I ridiculed them and I threw rotten fruit that spattered and stung and I was all alone in my rebellion and yet I was not alone at all.
I am no longer a welcome member of the group either.
I have spent my own time hanging from the noose in the gallows where we all go once they shun and condemn us. I had the bruises from the bag of bowling balls. I have the scars they left behind.
There were supporters that shyly came forward, though most only sent me their love, shared in secret,via email.
This love carried me through any shaming that group tried to lay at my door. But first, a word from the group leaders in response to my actions…
“one reminder i would like to mention…She was told 2 years in a row that she was not pulling her weight, she was provided with suggestions of what she could do differently, and she chose not to change her behavior. based on those actions, her invitation to be with us was discontinued. the communication was vetted by me as a mediator to the process. positive intent was assumed on sides, and a mutual understanding was met. with integrity…”
That was the only response I ever received from the group leaders. That was all they had to say. It was the few that had already suffered the rejection and the humiliation that had the most to share with me.
“Thanks for including me. I’m glad at least that someone noticed my presence was missing. She was not the mediator on that one though and I was not advised several times to improve or given suggestions on how to do so. All communications came from someone else and a mutual agreement was not met. Whatever. I’m glad I’m not coming anymore, it’s too much drama. It was nice to visit and see people on friendly terms with no expectations of work. Love ya…”
“your profile picture is soooooo beautiful! brave mama, you are!”
“I just want you to know that I am blown away by your courage and ability to say what you need to say. You have tremendous insight and are doing a great service to anyone who chooses to understand what you are saying. Thank you for being a holder of truth who is not afraid to speak, naming your anger and still holding love in your heart.
“you are right, i am hurting. but it is no one’s fault but my own. and no one is making me leave, i am leaving of my own accord, something i probably should have done years ago. all i wanted was to remove myself from the situation and avoid the drama. clearly that did not work out so well. it is truly unfortunate that it went down this way, but i don’t regret anything. i did what i had to do, in the best way i knew how. if i am an ass then i am, that’s ok with me. i am free. i wish you all the best. peace. You on the other hand, good job. that was an amazing note. I hope people read it and get what you said, that is quality. raise the bar. so what if no one can see it anymore…LOL love you bunches woman”
“I bet you they have decided NOT to respond in any way to this email. There is nothing to say except, you’re right, and we are sorry we have acted like such assholes, and you know that is never going to happen. I started writing a response, but I looked again at the recipients and I know they don’t want to hear from me. I doubt they would even read it. I feel better just knowing that someone has spoken the truth for everyone to read.”
“Oh brother. Well that is not too surprising considering. I didn’t get wind of any of that. For me that group was the way I felt safe, I hid there for many years, mostly from myself and what I might do if I were free. I’m not scared anymore. That’s all. And then there was ugliness…”
“I was lucky enough to see your email. I have never gotten the chance to meet you. I just wanted to let you know how impactful (sic) that message you sent out is, and that it is refreshing to see someone speak up instead of speak down. You are someone I would love to meet one day and know that you are not the only one that feels this way. It takes strength and courage to do what you did. I hope there are some positive things that come out of this.”
“I applaud your total transparency in matters close to your heart. Thank you for including me in your distribution list. that group was a big part of my experience. I go to there to have different experiences and to see many friends I would otherwise miss elsewhere. Running a group this size is a lot of work but a lot of people do this. Strangely, this particular group has become an “ownership” work group, albeit it’s resurrection is like a resort, and it is NOT inclusive. It is rather exclusive, and that’s the way the current leadership likes it, all the time. I’m sure he was just saying what a lot of people were thinking (We’re doing all the work and you’re not), and what you’re saying is also what a lot of people are thinking (who put you in charge of all of us). Yes, what he said was insensitive … so, the leadership blah blahs about the incident to rationalize the blurt and make themselves, by group consensus, pardoned. It’s called spin.
Anyway, I go to there to get away from the drama that comes with avarice and ownership and expectations. Radical self-reliance is best practiced when no one else is responsible for you, but yourself.”
“I’m not sure who told you to forward your email to me, but thank you for doing so. The reason was probably that the group and the name of the group, were my concept, and I was one of the 4 founders of the group. Although, I no longer hang out or am active in that group, I do have an interest in what happens there. Because many of the people in that group are long time friends, I am curious as to exactly what your experience was and with whom. Just between you and me I am not at all surprised.
The energy in the group began to shift and slide as soon as they arrived in group for the first time. He inserted himself into a self-proclaimed position of authority, and began to pack the group with his friends. Any who objected were ridiculed and chased away.
I am no longer part of that group for two reasons, one of them being that I was not going to be dishonored and ridiculed in my own group. The other is that I was approached and asked to volunteer in another place. After 9 years of participating, I was ready for something else.
Again, I am sorry that you had a bad experience, and I really hope that you find a suitable and happy place to land for the next trip. If there is anything that I can do to help you out, please write or call.”
So, there you have it. Even founding fathers were not immune from being eliminated from the group.
The one definite positive outcome from all of this is that I no longer have to deal with the politics.
I told someone once, not long ago, that I don’t know if it’s that I don’t play nice with people, or I just don’t play nice with groups of people. I’ve never been a Lemming and tend to make my own way with my own rules. I am a friendly person and I like friendly people.
One rule for me that is hard and fast is that everyone gets treated fairly.
No matter what.
When you have problems or issues dealing within the confines of a large group of people that come together to work on a positive project, you need to have leadership that understands the meanings of diplomacy and transparency. Matters that involve the removal of any member should never be carried out in secret. Whoever the alleged transgressor is should be a part of these proceedings. People are not disposable and everyone should be given the opportunity to speak their piece and to be heard. If they are not a good fit for the group that decision should be agreed upon by them as well as the rest of the members.
Everyone should have a vote.
When leaders start making decisions that can potentially hurt another member, then the leadership needs to be impeached.
Threatening the rest of the membership to comply with something as heinous as giving up a friendship in order to remain in good standing with the group should never be allowed to happen. This is one of the most atrocious abuses of power I have ever witnessed.
This experience made me reconsider what I bring to the table within the membership of any group. If I knew then, what I knew now, I would have remained friendly, but I never would have joined up as a group member. I wouldn’t have paid dues. I wouldn’t have been seen my friends get hurt. I wouldn’t have been hurt too.
There are still a lot of nice people in this group.
I am no longer one of them and I’m okay with that.
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