Bullying On the Prairies
by Rosalea Hostetler
(Harper, KS, USA)
You know how you sometimes have an “eureka” moment in life, when you “finally get it”? Recently I had that moment when it finally sunk in that the reason my journey for the past 40 years has been so hard in Harper County Kansas has been the incessant bullying. It took me my entire life to finally truly understand that I had been a target and of the brutal impact Harper County bullies have had on my life, my health and on the 501(c) (3) nonprofit I established to preserve the history, art & culture of the prairies for future generations. Tragically, this abuse of power has also nearly obliterated our small town. It is not Wal-Mart -- rather, it is the abuses bestowed by bullies in “leadership” on the good people, the talented people who do not have the energy or knowledge to fight such rotten apples.
Now that I truly understand what I’ve endured for FORTY YEARS AT THE MERCY OF BULLIES, I AM NOT TAKING IT ANY MORE. Our monthly grassroots journal will make every effort to educate the public over the next several issues as removing the bullies from power is the only way for our small towns to survive. Hoping to rebuild our historic downtown will be my sweet revenge for the years of abuses. I’ve been lied to, harassed, vandalized, boycotted, shunned, ostracized, ripped-off, put in jail — you name it, it’s happened to me in some form or another. Outsiders often ask how I’ve endured — I honestly do not know except I have always believed that “Good Will Prevail”.
As I study bullying, I have come to understand what it is and what all it entails. It is an educational process. Few people I know grasped the concept 40 years ago or even 20 years ago. Ten years ago there was an awakening but it was still hazy. But more people are learning all the time the way bullying invades schools, the workplace -- and now I include our small towns on the prairies. It causes suicides, physical and mental illness, loss of motivation, fear, stress, apathy and indifference. And overt substance abuse.
Years ago our state Attorney General set up small towns to operate on their own; there are so many it would be impossible to monitor them all. It was expected that there would be trust and truth in these elected officials but alas, through the decades the municipal, county and law enforcement positions have become nothing more than brutal positions of power for weak people who lack integrity to wield the control, sometimes in the most inhumane ways. Usually, these are the people who have stayed behind in a small town, do not have much in the way of higher education, and find little fulfillment in their lives except to abuse power and control.
I cringe to think of the lives these bullies in power have ruined. Worst of all, they have beat down the regular citizen with fear and intimidation, to the point they won’t stand up or speak up to these ruthless smart alecks. Rather, the citizens sit meekly and watch as the gang brutalizes those who fight for their rights. Rather than gathering as a group to run or vote these people out of power, the Silent Majority only allows them to fester and grow more abusive with each new election and each new generation.
Because I’ve traveled so many miles a year across the prairies as a volunteer since 1994, I have seen a lot. The small towns with bullies in leadership positions are withering and will eventually disappear. Only the spare handful that have honest leaders with integrity and the best interest of the citizens at heart are surviving -- and there aren’t very many.
Small town bullies work in gangs or mobs. They do not have the courage to attack alone. They thrive on attacking one person standing alone. It apparently gives them a real ego surge, much like a pack of animals after a single prey.
Because I have stood up to the bullies, told the truth and stayed the course, I have lost virtually everything once important in my life: my Mennonite church, my family ties, two husbands (also bullies) and school chum friendships. For years I was taunted as “the problem.” (I cried a lot in those days.) I’ve lost so much in my life that there is nothing left to lose so now I am ready to speak up wherever I can to tell the world about the horrors of small town bullies with the hopes of bringing Hope to our small prairie towns.
I invite everyone to view my story to be posted the first week in August, 2008, on You Tube, Bullying On the Prairies, to help you comprehend the pain and the loss, and how I am cling to Hope for a brighter tomorrow. I hope it inspires others to never give up. Forty years is a long time to cling to hope, chronically daunted by bullies in authority. Some call me “Crazy.” No, I’m not — I’m a Survivor with a Dream.