musings, racism

Repost: Is Liam Neeson guilty of a “hate crime”?

Here’s a repost of an article I wrote for my Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife. It originally appeared February 6, 2019. I’m sharing it again, because last night, I watched Liam Neeson’s Taken series– three movies worth– because Bill had to work very late. As I watched Liam’s character, Bryan Mills, kicking the crap out of bad guys in a very satisfying way, I was reminded of this post I wrote just before I had to shut down access to my old blog. I think it’s worth another look.

I believe that old song in Avenue Q.  I think everyone’s a little bit racist, even though some people believe that you can only be racist if you’re a member of the “dominant” racial group.  Actor Liam Neeson is a White man who recently confessed that after a friend was violently raped by a Black man, he prowled the streets with a club, looking for a Black man to beat up.  He said he was actually “hoping” to be approached by someone giving him an excuse to beat the shit out of them with a “cosh” (British word for club).

Neeson’s violent revenge fantasy occurred about forty years ago.  He never did beat anyone up. He was simply very angry about the violent crime committed against his friend and he wanted to avenge her.  He says he’s ashamed of how he reacted to the rape and sorry for having those violent impulses to hurt other people.

Liam Neeson talks about that controversy from 40 years ago. I think he should be commended for his honesty and integrity.

Naturally, the papers have been having a field day with the story.  Lots of people seem to think Mr. Neeson needs a good public flogging for something that happened 40 years ago.  I don’t condone Neeson’s violent impulses to hurt just anyone who happened to be Black.  However, I do feel like he should be commended for his honesty.  It’s not an easy thing to do, admitting those feelings publicly, as hateful and hurtful as they are.  It’s awful to hear about them, but it does get people thinking and talking.  Is that a bad thing? By the way, I HIGHLY recommend listening to Neeson speak in the above video. He makes a lot of sense.

Neeson eventually came to the conclusion that violence begets violence.  He found more constructive ways to deal with his rage, to include power walking for two hours a day.  He spoke to his friends and a priest.  He also said that if the man had not been Black, he still would have had those same feelings of primal rage and wanting to get revenge. In this case, it was apparently a Black man who perpetrated the crime against his friend.  It could have been anyone, though.  Also, consider that this happened in Northern Ireland forty years ago, during “The Troubles”.  It was a pretty violent time all around, particularly between English people and Irish people.  I’m sure that contributed to Neeson’s state of mind.

In my opinion, Liam Neeson’s situation isn’t really the same as Governor Ralph Northam’s situation in Virginia.  He’s under fire for having been in a racist photo 35 years ago.  Governor Northam is in a leadership position, though, and is a physician.  The photo was taken when he was in medical school.  And it had nothing to do with being justifiably angry.  That photo was about simple mockery of people not like him.  To my knowledge, it wasn’t prefaced by violent crime or anything that would cause a person to feel “passionate”.  It was just plain stupidity.

I can understand being so angry that one becomes blinded by rage.  I don’t condone acting on that rage. It turns out, Neeson never did. He never hurt or killed anyone in reaction to his friend’s rape.  Soon afterward, he was ashamed of himself and took active steps to mend his ways. Forty years later, people want to cancel him for simply admitting that he had these dark thoughts after a dear friend was raped.

Is it awful that Neeson had those violent and racially biased fantasies?  Yes, I believe it is, although I think having them is pretty “human”.  Is it awful that he publicly admits to having those fantasies?  I don’t think so.  Why punish the man for simply being honest?  At least he’s worked on his issues.  At least he acknowledges them.  Apparently, that incident from Neeson’s past has also been used as a tool in his movies, like Taken and Ransom.  That just goes to show that even the worst impulses can be used for something positive if we’re careful.

Another perspective from the other side of the pond. Quite interesting and refreshing.

I do think people should be able to live down the things they did in the past, particularly if they acknowledge them and show that they’ve tried to make amends. We are all more than the worst thing we’ve ever done or said or thought… or, at least I believe we should be. I think Neeson has taken steps to make amends for having those violent, racist impulses over forty years ago.  Northam, to my admittedly limited knowledge, has also apparently tried to change his ways.  He supposedly has a good reputation as a physician and as a governor, aside from this unfortunate relic from his past. 

Of course, now there’s been talk of a sexual assault claim against Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, who would be poised to take Northam’s place if he resigns.  Personally, I think the hullabaloo in Virginia is more about people upset about Northam’s comments on abortion and desperate folks wanting to get the Democrats out of office in Virginia.  The timing of this is just too funky.

As for Liam Neeson… I think people should stop and think before they pick up their torches and pitchforks.  Should we be more concerned about people who are honest about having racist feelings or those who hide them?  Truly, I think everyone has prejudices.  No one is immune to preconceived notions about other people.  I, for one, think Neeson was brave to share his story, knowing how public backlash can happen and what it can lead to.  It’s good to think and talk about these things.  But then, Liam Neeson is probably in a position where he can talk about these things and not fear losing everything.

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mental health, psychology, social media

Triggered…

After writing yesterday’s lofty post, I found myself a bit triggered last night. When I say “triggered”, I mean I melted down in tears. It’s been a long while since I last did that. Those who have known me awhile might be surprised that I had trouble crying. I used to cry at everything. Now, it’s somehow physically difficult for me to break down in tears. It’s like I’ve mostly lost the ability. I noticed it when I was taking antidepressants. When I stopped taking them, I still couldn’t cry like I used to. It’s mostly a good thing, although it is a bit curious for me. At least I no longer have embarrassing hyperventilation episodes, I like I used to.

So what made me melt down? It was something pretty dumb, actually. I’m sure a lot of people in military communities would laugh at me and call me a snowflake. It all started over a spam email and trying to make conversation.

I got bored yesterday and posted that I just got spam for treating “ED”. ED, for your edification, is the current euphemism for erectile dysfunction. As a woman, I don’t have a problem with erectile dysfunction. “ED” is also a euphemism for eating disorders. Some people with eating disorders name them– they use names like ED, Ana (anorexia), or Mia (bulimia) as code for the eating disorder, which has become almost like a person. It’s basically like a voice in the head, telling its victim what to do, berating them, calling them disgusting, weak, or fat. People refer to them by those names online a lot. It’s one way to disguise what they’re writing about in forums or chat groups.

Anyway, I had posted that I got spam for getting rid of my ED. A friend didn’t know what ED was, so I explained– it’s either a euphemism for erectile dysfunction or eating disorders. Somehow, she ended up cracking that, for sure, I didn’t have a problem with an eating disorder. All of a sudden, I felt like someone punched me in the stomach.

I know she didn’t mean any harm, but that comment took me back to a really bad place. What she doesn’t know is that for years, I did have issues with eating disorders. It wasn’t obvious to most people. I never “looked” the part highlighted in movies of the week back in the 80s and 90s. I certainly was never hospitalized for it, nor did any I visit a doctor to talk about it at length. Actually, one of the main reasons I don’t go to doctors is because of this issue, which has haunted me since I was about eleven years old.

Most people don’t know that there are more than two eating disorders. Anorexia and bulimia are just the best known ones because they are so dramatic and potentially deadly. But there are others… like binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating and orthorexia (hyperfocus on “clean” or healthy eating), as well as damaging behaviors. Then there’s the catchall term, EDNOS- eating disorder not otherwise specified. There is no specific “look” for someone with an eating disorder. You don’t have to be super skinny to have one. You don’t have to have scars on your knuckles or rotting teeth, blood pressure that bottoms out, blotchy, dry skin, or unusually thick hair growing on your body. Not everyone who has an ED has anorexia or bulimia, and it doesn’t always lead to severe medical consequences that are obviously related to the disorder.

I probably could have taken that comment from my friend as a teaching moment, but I was too mortified and humiliated. Aside from that, she’s a lot older than I am. What made things worse is that I know she didn’t mean to be hurtful. So there I was, sobbing at the table, talking to Bill about these really old issues that I thought were mostly gone. They aren’t totally gone, though. They always lurk in the shadows, popping up like a bad case of shingles when my guard is down.

I remember hearing comments from the people who had created me… supposedly the people who should have been my biggest supporters. My dad touching my back and saying, “You have some fat that you need to lose.” My mom looking at me in disgust, saying “I wish you would lose some weight. My dad calling me names like “hog”. My mom pleading with me, telling me she’d buy me a new wardrobe if I’d lose twenty pounds. The night before my wedding, my grandmother, whom everyone adored, looking at me in my wedding gown and saying, “Oh, so you do have a waist, after all.” or comparing me to another relative’s very obese ex wife. Or my sister telling me that I’d never been the “ideal” size and encouraging me to do sit ups and go jogging because once I stopped growing, I would get fat.

I’d hear them from medical professionals, once I was an adult. The very first (and only OB-GYN) I have ever managed to visit was an Air Force doctor who told me I was going to gain weight in Armenia, as I sat trembling in her office, having been tortured and traumatized by her oversized speculum. I was a virgin at the time… felt too unattractive to date anyone. She confirmed it by making comments about my weight. She asked me if I wanted a prescription for birth control and sent me on my way. I was absolutely horrified and humiliated by that exam. It was twelve years before I had another, that time done by a much kinder physician’s assistant. And it’s been fourteen years since that second exam.

I even heard them from mental health professionals. One doctor put me on a medication used for migraines and seizures, not because I had either of those problems, but because one of the side effects is appetite suppression. I remember him telling me, with glee, that the medicine would make me forget to eat. It did suppress my appetite, but I didn’t lose any weight. It made some things taste weird and made me disinterested in most other things besides food. Bill didn’t like the way that drug affected me, and every time I went to get the prescription filled, I had to get the third degree from the pharmacist, since I was also taking Wellbutrin, which is contraindicated for people who get seizures because it can cause them. I don’t have seizures, but the fact that I was also getting medicine used to treat seizures would raise red flags. My psychiatrist just thought I was too fat and wanted to fix me with a drug.

Or, when I lived in Armenia, I’d hear them from perfect strangers who wanted to sell me Herbalife. In the late 1990s, Herbalife had come to Armenia, and there were many people on the streets trying to peddle it. They saw me, a foreigner, with an obvious “problem” that they could fix with a dubious product from a notorious MLM scheme. They’d approach me with before and after pictures, thinking I’d be dying to buy from them, since I was an American who clearly had money (NOT) and just needed a magic bullet cure for my grotesque body. I’d tell them to fuck off, shaking my head at the intrusion.

The way some people talked when I was younger, I realize I must look hideous today. But I wasn’t a particularly fat kid, and I still got those comments back in those days. I was in good shape from riding bikes and horses, and I was dieting a lot then. I would go days without eating, trying to muster inspiration from books and movies. Sometimes I’d faint, or become really hyper bitchy or moody. But I didn’t have a terrible figure, even though I was obsessed with dieting at the time. It probably came from watching my sisters, who were also obsessed with calories, jogging, and slimming down. And for what? Men?

I gave up those behaviors years ago. They probably mostly stopped when I was in graduate school, living on my own. Then, I met Bill and he made me feel beautiful. He doesn’t care that I’m not the “ideal” size. He loves me for who I am. Moreover, I look around, and I see that many people look like me. So I just kind of tossed away that issue… and it stayed mostly buried until last night, when someone made a comment that came across as unkind, even though it wasn’t meant that way. She doesn’t know about my past… it’s not something I talk about very much anymore.

After I finally calmed down following my crying spell, I took a deep breath… and I saw Wil Wheaton’s Facebook page. He was wearing two face masks. I’ve got no quarrel with that. I know a lot of people think it’s a good thing to do in the wake of COVID-19. However, I have no desire to wear two masks myself. Despite having told myself, yesterday, not to comment with negativity, I felt compelled to post when I saw commenter after commenter leaving thumbs up and kudos for Wil Wheaton’s responsible double masking. Others were chiming in about how they double mask, too. Once again, I felt triggered, because all of the virtue signaling about double masking makes me fear for the future. Before I knew it, I typed:

“I am not wearing double masks. Forget it.”

I know I shouldn’t have. In fact, as I hit “enter”, I knew that I would get comments. Much to my surprise, there weren’t too many of them. I thought I would get bombarded with them. The first came from a friend who explains what he does. I clarified that where I live, cloth masks aren’t allowed anymore. We have to wear medical masks in Germany. In some places, not even a surgical mask will cut it. I understand that this is due to the virus and it’s a necessary step. However, I am feeling so overwhelmed by depression, anger, and hopelessness, and the overall attitude of people who feel like hyper-reaction is the best reaction… and if I am not cheerfully complying, I need criticism and “re-education”. COVID-19 has taken most of what I enjoy about living, and I’m getting ready to snap.

Then some guy wrote, “What’s your problem?”

My response to him was, “You.” He gave me a laughing emoji.

Someone else asked if I had been “forced” to wear double masks. I haven’t, but I suspect it’s coming. If I complain, I’ll get a ration of shame and shit for not getting with the program and doing my part to crush the virus.

It doesn’t matter that this lifestyle is soulcrushing and makes me wonder why I stick around in this fat, hideous, unsuitable body that so many people, some of them total strangers, feel fine commenting about… It doesn’t matter that it’s a healthy body that, at least until very recently, has taken care of me perfectly well and allowed me to do most everything I’ve wanted to do. It doesn’t matter that it makes pretty music or allows me to write this tripe in my blog. It doesn’t matter that it houses the parts of me that make people smile or even laugh. All that matters is that it’s not as beautiful as I’d like it to be… or apparently, others would like it to be. And that makes people feel like they have a license to add their opinions.

I unfollowed Wil Wheaton, not because I don’t like him or his posts, but because the crowd following him are the type to crawl up in people’s grills about things like mask wearing, and the “proper” or “best” way to do it, or any other “cause” that people like to preach about. One guy on another post wrote that he thinks pepper spray is a good way to teach the “anti-maskers” (of which I am not) to properly social distance. I thought that was an unnecessarily hostile comment, so I posted that I thought the pepper spray idea was a good one. I’d carry it for perfect strangers who feel it’s necessary to confront me about my mask wearing habits instead of practicing social distancing and staying the fuck away from me. Or really, for perfect strangers who want to confront me about ANYTHING that is not their business. Just leave me alone.

And now, Bill has made breakfast, which I will sit down to eat… even though maybe I shouldn’t. I didn’t manage to eat much dinner last night after that conversation about ED.

We’re all under a lot of stress. We all have different ways of coping. I probably need to unplug from social media. I probably need to unplug from everything. I’d like to go to a spa or enjoy a lovely meal in a restaurant… but that’s off limits. So here I sit in snowy, rainy, depressing Germany, writing about crying over an unintended slight that brought back pain that I thought was long buried. I really hope things turn around soon.

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celebrities, complaints, condescending twatbags, psychology, rants

Has Trump “desensitized” Americans to abuse?

Yesterday’s post about Tom Cruise and his nuclear meltdown over social distancing on his movie set led to more interesting discussion. One friend wrote this:

I hunted down the recording and listened to it. Fuck the message; that’s a mood-disordered, entitled shithead if I ever heard one. Maybe it’s just a bad idea to make movies until everyone can be vaccinated.

I agree with the idea of suspending movie production until more people can be vaccinated. The fact is, people are really tired of COVID-19 and they’re going to do human things, even though people have been preaching about COVID-19 precautions for months. It’s perfectly normal and natural for people to want to socialize with each other. In fact, it’s a healthy thing for most people to socialize– that is, when there isn’t a pandemic going on. I’m sure working with Tom Cruise is hard. He’s a well-known perfectionist about a lot of things, and as we noted yesterday, he’s not shy when it comes to throwing massive profane tantrums.

Another commenter assumed that maybe Cruise had finally just lost it after multiple meetings about taking COVID-19 precautions. This same commenter is irritated about people not following the pandemic rules. Because of that annoyance with people flouting the rules in general, in the commenter’s view, what Tom Cruise did is totally okay. I had written that I disagreed with that notion. I think Cruise could have made his point about maintaining social distancing without calling his employees motherfuckers and screaming at them. I think he could have done that, even if there had been “multiple meetings” and he was at the end of his patience with his crew. He certainly could have addressed this problem without flying into a rage, even if it meant counting to ten and cooling off for a few minutes first. I think most people have enough self control to contain themselves if they try. Clearly, Cruise didn’t think he needed to try to control himself.

This morning, I found this comment from the commenter who is fine with a good old fashioned hissy fit:

Perhaps I have been desensitized by having listened to Trump for the past years. Given everything he’s gotten away with saying and doing I’ll still give Tom a pass. 🙂

I had to stop and think about that for a moment. Because of Donald Trump’s completely uncivilized conduct, some folks are now “desensitized” to similarly bad conduct by other people? Based on that comment, I’m assuming that this person isn’t a Trump fan. Indeed, I remember when Joe Biden was announced the winner of the 2020 election, this person expressed delight that we might soon be rid of Trump. But now, because of Trump’s constant abuse of his position and the people who work for him, they are “desensitized”? Does this mean that Trump has now made people meaner and less civilized? Even the ones who don’t admire him and his toxic brand of leadership?

I think it’s really sad that some people are evidently willing to accept Trump style leadership in people like Tom Cruise, just because they’ve had to listen to Trump’s verbal diarrhea for the past four years. Even if Cruise had a valid point that his staff needs to practice health and safety precautions on the movie set, his message is drastically weakened when it’s delivered in the way it was. And, to be totally frank, I doubt Tom Cruise really cares that much about COVID-19, anyway. To me, he sounded like he was getting off on the power of being a movie star and Scientology power player. No one else is going to be allowed to freak out like that on his movie set. And certainly, they won’t be allowed to do it to Tom Cruise. He’s made it clear that he’s just itching to fire them.

I didn’t want to get into an argument with this person, even though I completely disagree with the notion that Cruise’s outburst is acceptable because of Donald Trump. I pointed out that listening to Tom scream like that brought back awful memories of my father’s alcoholic and PTSD inspired rages. My dad never used the language Cruise used. He hated profanity. I almost never heard him use a word stronger than “damn” or “hell”. I think it was because his own father, who was also an abusive drunk, would go into rages and use a lot of filthy language. Hearing curse words would remind my dad of those ugly rages he’d been on the receiving end of by his own father. But even though my dad didn’t curse like Tom Cruise obviously does, the insanely angry mood was still there.

I remember, when I was a child, being terrified when my dad would get extremely angry. His face would turn red. Veins would pop out. His eyes would glaze over and look piggish as he would let loose with his fury. My dad, who was much bigger and stronger than I was, would grab me and administer corporal punishment with all of his strength and energy. Afterwards, I would be left quaking in my room, hysterical, while he’d finish cooling off. Then later, he would act like nothing happened. I was expected to forgive and forget.

I always hated my father after those rages. I didn’t have respect for him for beating on me or screaming at me. I was angry and humiliated, and his outbursts made me afraid to be around him. Thankfully, I’m a decent person, and I would eventually forgive him. At least until the next episode.

Fortunately, my dad didn’t go into rages on a regular basis. It happened more times than I can count, but it wasn’t like it was a weekly or even a monthly thing. And in between those rages, he was basically a good man. As an adult, I realize that he had his own problems. He was chronically depressed and never dealt with the traumas of growing up during the Great Depression with an alcoholic father. He went to Vietnam and saw action, which caused him to suffer from PTSD for the rest of his life. He used to have nightmares that would cause him to jump out of bed while he was still sleeping. One time, he almost lost his middle finger because he punched the wall while he was sleeping and having a nightmare. He injured his finger so badly that there was talk that it might need to be amputated.

The end result of all of this is that I have a very low tolerance for verbal abuse. I can’t stand it. It brings out a visceral reaction in me. This effect has gotten worse the older I get. I used to be able to put up with being screamed at a lot more than I can now. So, in my case, being exposed to people like Donald Trump and Tom Cruise has made me more sensitive to abuse, rather than less sensitive. But I’m only one person. Maybe some people are fine with a Tom Cruise style freak out in the workplace. I am definitely not, and when people freak out on me now, they can expect to be kicked out of my life. There’s no place for that in my world. But then, I also realize that my position is a very privileged one. If I were trying to support a family, I might be forced to accept abusive behavior from a narcissistic creep like Tom Cruise or Donald Trump.

I mentioned yesterday that I think Cruise’s fit was less about COVID-19 than it was about being in control. It’s interesting to me that the commenter on my thread brought up Trump, because I think Cruise and Trump have some things in common. They are both very wealthy and famous. They are both charismatic. They both had abusive, neglectful fathers, although Trump’s dad at least stuck around when he was growing up. In the Wikipedia article about Cruise (sorry, not the best source, but I’m lazy), it says of Cruise’s father:

Cruise grew up in near poverty and had a Catholic upbringing. He later described his father as “a merchant of chaos”,[11] a “bully”, and a “coward” who beat his children. He elaborated, “[My father] was the kind of person where, if something goes wrong, they kick you. It was a great lesson in my life—how he’d lull you in, make you feel safe and then, bang! For me, it was like, ‘There’s something wrong with this guy. Don’t trust him. Be careful around him.'”[11]

I find it very interesting that Cruise supposedly said those things about his dad. I see the very same tendencies in him. I have read about him being very generous and heroic in some situations, and that makes him look like a great guy. I’ve seen news articles about how Cruise has a tendency to sweep his love interests off their feet and shower his children with luxurious gifts and outings. But then, when Cruise gets pissed off, I read other accounts of the hellish fury he delivers on those who land on his shit list. If you’ve ever studied the behavior of abusers, you find that this is a very familiar pattern.

Special thanks to Wikipedia user Avanduyn, for making this image available in the public domain.

Actress Leah Remini, who knows Cruise personally, and was a Scientologist and a member of the Sea Org, says that Cruise’s tantrum was for publicity reasons only. She’s quoted in US Magazine:

“Tom’s reaction that was released yesterday shows his true personality. He is an abusive person,” the King of Queens alum said of Cruise, who is a high-profile member of the Church of Scientology. “I witnessed it, I’ve been a recipient of it on a small level … This is the real Tom.”

“Tom does not care about the families of his crew; this is all for publicity,” Remini, a former Scientologist, continued. “Tom does not believe in family values. I mean, how anyone is falling for this is just mindblowing. I would bet that Tom had this rant written for him and had his Scientology assistant record and release it. Hearing a rich actor with enormous power address his crew in this way is a sign of weakness and a deeply troubled person. This is not just a rant of another a–hole actor. Tom Cruise pretending that he cares is why a few have called him out. They know this is a publicity stunt, they know what Tom really is and what Tom really believes.”

Yes… you see, it kind of blows my mind that Tom Cruise would allow anyone on set to have a recording device handy. Seems to me, he’d want his staff to sign non-disclosure agreements and put their phones away for safe keeping. But either way, someone knew that he was going to melt down and was ready to record him. Whether or not he orchestrated this rant in an attempt to make himself look “caring” to the masses, or someone snuck in a recorder and taped him unawares, it says something that he was recorded going off like this. Either he’s done this as a stunt, or he’s abusive often enough that someone was fully prepared to tape his next meltdown. They knew it was going to happen.

While many people are siding with Tom, mainly because so many of us are so sick of the pandemic lifestyle, and many more of us are feeling sanctimonious these days, the fact remains that Cruise’s meltdown was totally inappropriate. If he had been going off about anything besides COVID-19, would people think this was okay? How about if he threatened bodily harm because he was enraged? Imagine how he must behave behind closed doors.

Remini continues:

“No one needs to be ‘addressed’ by Tom about safety codes. There are producers who could have and should have handled the situation privately and professionally. What more likely happened was, two crew members who were in the same zone were talking to each other and Tom saw this as an opportunity to appear as the epitome of strength; of a leader who is taking this pandemic very seriously,” she added. “This behavior is not normal or appropriate. No one can respond to his outburst without being fired.”

Exactly. There are other people on that set who can deal with the crew members, and they would have handled the situation professionally and, hopefully, privately. It’s not really Tom’s job to go off on crew members like that. He’s just trying to look “heroic” and doing so in the most bullying manner possible. I think his stunt has backfired, though, because although a lot of people are fully supporting him, other people are seeing his behavior for what it really is– pure verbal abuse and narcissistic rage. It was completely unprofessional and inappropriate.

Still, I am baffled by the notion that Donald Trump has “desensitized” people to this kind of behavior and some of us are willing to let it slide because of our feckless soon to be former president. Donald Trump is not someone I want to emulate in any way, shape, or form. I would not praise someone else for emulating Trump’s abusive style of leadership. I would not excuse someone for behaving the way Tom Cruise did because I’ve been “desensitized” by abusive behavior from an authority figure like Trump or my father. Having studied human communication, as well as having taken a few courses in counseling and undergone it myself, I would never condone the screaming approach as a means of effecting change. All it does is cause people to shut down and become depressed or anxious. And it just makes Cruise out to be a tyrannical bully.

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