Published On: Tue, Dec 1st, 2020

OPINION: A call to civility

By Julia Fahl

I grew up as a gay kid in the early 2000s in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It seems like not that long ago, but it was light years before the “It Gets Better Movement,” or even Facebook and YouTube. I say this because I know, intimately, what it’s like to be bullied. I spent my formative middle and high school years unconvincingly in the closet, and receiving the verbal, social, and even physical abuse for what and who I was.

There are some universal truths to being bullied. First, it is designed to make you feel isolated and alone. Second, being bullied will make you feel that you deserve the mental and emotional anguish of the bullying simply because you are different – and since you chose your difference, you ASKED to be bullied. Finally, bullying is public. It is never done in the proverbial darkened alley; it is done on display because the act of bullying is to create an “us” and “you” and to shame the person being bullied. Bullying makes you feel outside of the pack. In my experience, all of this is coupled with yet one more indignity, that someone watching will always quietly come up to you after and say “Hey, that’s them, that’s not me. I would never do something like that.” In my experience, these comments have only served to further my own sense of isolation.

In moments of my life where I have felt harassed and othered, I often find myself thinking,“Where is everyone else? They see this, right? Am I crazy? Is this not that bad? Do I deserve this? Surely, if it were as bad as it feels, someone would say something? ​I must be doing something wrong.​ ” This cycle of bullying followed by self-doubt and insecurity has followed me well past high school and into the workplace, and now my mayorship.

My guess is that many Lambertville residents reading this have had similar experiences with bullying or abuse. Likely, many of the folks that have been organizing the harassment of me and my family online and in public have also had direct personal experiences with bullying. This is a terrible cycle, and if left unchecked, will continue: hurt people will continue to hurt people. In order to stop this, we have to have empathy for each other. We have to remember that first and foremost, we are all humans, living our messy, joyous, challenging lives together as neighbors in a city we love.

But empathy isn’t enough. The inappropriate actions that we as a community accept today will be the standard of our tomorrow. I can no longer accept the way in which I have been treated by certain members of the community who excuse their behavior by saying that “I asked for it” because I ran for public office, while they hide under the guise of civic engagement.

Over the course of the last year, an organized group of Lambertville residents have threatened myself and my property, called my employer to advocate I be fired, printed signs to hang in windows saying “Julia Must Go,” sent fliers around the community accusing me of multiple ethical improprieties and federal crimes. All of this has culminated in anonymous people tagging my personal social media accounts with memes about my mayorship, with bullying messages like “tag an elected official that you hate” or with memes advocating I kill myself. Most recently, a community member has publicly compared me to convicted sexual predators. While each of these actions have been reported to the appropriate authorities, on a more personal note, this has taken an incredible toll on my emotional and mental well being.

I ran for mayor in 2018 to better my community. I have worked every day since then to help my neighbors to the best of my ability. While these bullying actions have been that of only a few members of our community, it is incumbent on each of us to push back against this type of bullying that is misrepresenting itself as civic engagement. Bullying on facebook is NOT engaging in politics.

This is not just about me and my experience. ​Multiple parents in town have reached out to me to voice their concerns about the tenor on Facebook. We must push back on this bullying not only to ensure that people in the future will continue to agree to volunteer their time for this community but, more importantly, because people — including our community’s children — are watching. Our community is modeling for our children how to engage with not just public figures, but with our neighbors. I do not believe that this is the behavior we want them to emulate.

Facebook itself is poisoning our community. I’m asking each resident of Lambertville to stand up with me against the members of our community claiming “if you volunteer for Lambertville or if you run for public office, you are asking for it.” Let’s model the behaviors and language we want our children to use and get back to addressing each other like the neighbors we are.

In a step of modeling better behavior, the City of Lambertville will be disengaging from its public Facebook page. While the City intended to use this page to disseminate timely information, it has turned into a large source of bullying and divisiveness. Instead of continuing to use Facebook, the City will bolster its existing outreach through its City-wide emails, text messaging system, and Swift-911 phone calls (in cases of emergencies). Please subscribe to both our email and text systems ​here​ to get information on upcoming events, street sweeper changes, road closures, and other Lambertville-centric information. If you’d like to engage with the City administration, please reach us out through the Ask the Mayor button on the ​City’s website​ or, directly, ​here​.

Julia Fahl serves as Mayor of Lambertville.

About the Author

unclecharlie1@verizon.net'

-

Displaying 21 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. ashwurthing@gmail.com' Ash Wurthing says:

    Frederick Douglass said “The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled;…”. Just as necessary these days as it was in his day. So…

    Gathered to watch our struggle- their favorite sport-
    spectators, Divine and Infernal, dwelling inside us all.
    Some well mannered, others the foul obnoxious sort.

    Zealots echoed Intolerance’s jeer, its battle call.
    The field paved and ether was mobbed by their thralls.
    Hatred hooted, hollered, “Let thy blows indiscriminate fall!”
    Hot tempered Anger exhorted, “Burn what is thy enemy’s!”
    Strife condoned bloody foulness, “Lynch those thee abhor!”
    And Havoc, rabid, roared, “Let loose the dogs of civil war!”

    It is unknown what the other side cheered for.
    For the raucous, riotous roars
    drowned out what the Righteous may had deplored.

    A Fate Wrought Testament XV:8:30 Cry Havoc
    woven somewhere on the Web

  2. Jerrymeatballs@yahoo.com' Jerry Aldini says:

    Sorry you’re experiencing this, you seem like a good person and nobody deserves to be bullied. Unfortunately though, you’re not special…social media, especially in the political realm, is a miasma of meanness. Look no further than the months before our election. Online wishes of death to our president and his opponent occurred almost every second. I’ll keep my opinion as to the more guilty side to myself. Also, I would hesitate to conflate online “bullying” of a politician like yourself with the bullying you and other kids experience at a young age, which is truly horrifying

  3. dortik44@gmail.com' Andrea D. says:

    Dear Julia,
    you ran against a man and won! You were elected as a mayor. Indeed that proves that our community is very open minded. The bullying has nothing to do with your personal life. We believed in you and entrusted you with our money, but you forgot about “We the People”.
    You should not pay any attention to bullies, ignored them, rise above them. Instead concentrate on what the citizens want, let us vote and decide on the important issues. Thank you.

  4. Billramponi163@hotmail.com' Bill R says:

    Threatening, rude, and harassing behavior have no place in public discourse, that is certain. I have stopped attending Mayor Fall’s council meetings because she has been quite rude to people who voice disagreement with her. She cuts them off, she interjects, she speaks over them, and she rolls her eyes and acts much like a bully herself. She has pushed through at warp speed several multi-million dollar projects while people are being laid off and businesses are boarded up due to the pandemic. Even her own council looks exhausted by the number and length of her monthly meetings (which appear to be an attempt to rush through legislation before the newly elected council members take office in January). Of course citizens are concerned and scared about the fact that their taxes went up over 10 percent this year and she is proposing to take on millions more in debt. If she would allow for open, honest, civil discourse – at a normal pace – she would not be the subject of such anger and desperation.

  5. robweis@comcast.net' Rob W says:

    Classic blame accusing others of what you yourself do. Right out of the KGB playbook. I have some sympathy now that I know how she became a bully herself.

  6. Julia Fahl had presented herself as a fiscally responsible citizen when she ran for office, but as soon as she got in she went on a spending spree, with big plans to spend 14 million on a new government complex. Now she wants to spend over 3 million to buy the Closson property. So after pulling such a flagrant about face, she now feels like she is being bullied. If Miss Fahl would modify her behavior and do what she said she’d do, she’d find that people like her. So her being bullied is because she provoked it. So grow up and stop playing the poor persecuted lesbian card.

    • dougmg2000@yahoo.com' Doug Graiver says:

      Paul, when someone compares Julia to sexual preditors, calls her employer to malign her, and calls her a “fraud”, among many other things…that is not “playing the poor lesbian card”. That is atrocious behavior that warrants being called out.

  7. I think that transparency and community voice is the civilizing issue. Bullying is unacceptable, threatening behavior is serious , I’m sorry it has gone that far for you, it’s dissapoints me that people can be so cruel in our otherwise good city. . I also realize that as you are smart, capable of things I couldn’t begin to wrestle with. I realize you are young and also have not lived here for very long to perhaps understand fully what makes this city special and has for decades. Acceptance, diversity,community,friendliness, creative souls and not wanting excessive change.ive seen some ugliness pop up also during this stressful time that I did not expect but I’ve also experienced more kindness. I’m glad you expressed yourself and transparency and authenticness should prove beneficial, hopefully. Stay well, peace

  8. daopdyke@gmail.com' Dan Opdyke says:

    The Mayor is right, the divisiveness , name calling and bullying has to stop. Unfortunately, it will not, especially with the false sense of security of hiding behind social media or as a public servant.

    I too have been bullied severely as a child growing up in Lambertville due to childhood poverty and being in special ed classes growing up in Lambertville. Unfortunately, social media has the effect of lowering inhibitions when it comes to human behavior. This is a human behavior problem, which has been goin on for a very long time, has been enhanced by social media and partisan politics and will not go away any time soon.

    I think it important to confront these behaviors and address the underlying issues with them. It is not OK to be bullied, it is OK to be angered and upset by bullying, but I also think it is important to understand where the bullies behavior comes from so that we can be less hurt by them and disarm their behavior before it hurts us. These are the lessons I have learned in my life anyway.

    I also, think it is a bad idea to disengage from the public via the City’s Facebook page because it gives the impression that the bullies win, they have forced you off of social media and a means of direct communication with the City of Lambertville has been taken away from those who have done no wrong. Please reconsider this.

    Also, I have directly asked you, Mayor Fahl and City Council about the discrepancies between a job posting for the City of Lambertville Public Works Department and the Director of Public Works and still not have recieved a reply. It is a simple question and I would like an answer please. I believe the residents of have a right to know why their Dept of Public works is having problems.

    Thanks!

  9. destamplegal@gmail.com' Peter Destamp says:

    This article is the mayor’s attempt to save face. I will give her the fact that some people have been way too harsh and aggressive towards her. A lot of that needs to stop. Having said that, there are members of Lambertville United who have sound reasoning and are legitimately pushing back on ideas the mayor is trying to push through without truly engaging the community. She claims to listen to the community but the reality is the Council and mayor push through voting on ideas the city residents don’t agree with. At the end of the day the council votes…I haven’t seen the townspeople be able to vote on some major changes. The mayor wrote this article to play victim. I don’t agree with the bullying but I also think she needs to be held accountable for making bad judgement calls and decisions, and she has not addressed some of the root issues which have caused this negative reaction from Lambertville residents.

  10. shaowe53@gmail.com' Sharon Owens says:

    Reading the negative comments on the Lambertville page since Julia has been elected has been so disappointing and uncalled for as she tries her very best. I kind of knew when Julia was elected it was going to be easy for her, because I witnessed and heard those who did not want things to change after 28 years of one mayor. Of course, things would be different and of course some mistakes will be made but overall Julia has been exemplary in her role. So please everyone, let her know you believe in her efforts and if you do not, please don’t resort to name calling and negative comments. Thanks Julia for all you do for Lambertville! Take care of yourself!

  11. mishsumi@gmail.com' Mike S says:

    Delete Facebook. It’s toxic place that is poisoning society. Your life will improve 1,000% immediately.

  12. lufetarg@live.com' LH says:

    I’m so sorry this is happening to you. Folks should be grateful anyone volunteers and/or runs for office these days. They deserve respect for the office or position they hold, and for the fellow human being they are. Disrespect is a poor reflection of the giver. It has nothing to do with any issue and just highlights their immaturity. The silent majority needs to get vocal about stopping this harmful harassment, especially the threatening kind. It should be done in strong unison, and will set an example of intolerance for such poor behavior, for others of any age. Wishing you the best in this otherwise fabulous town.

  13. debvari@gmail.com' Deb Vari says:

    Here’s to “modeling behaviors and language we want our children to use”. As we look forward to a new administration to heal our nation I’m hoping Lambertville will follow suit with everyone treating each other with respect and civility regardless of differing opinions. It takes a village but it starts at home.

  14. mergingmusicinc@gmail.com' John DanaherYour Name... says:

    I’d really like to hear a rebuttal.

  15. garytoth51@gmail.com' Gary Toth says:

    Bravo Mayor.

    The people of Lambertville who resort to this and spread misinformation are dispicable. They follow the tenor of our outgoing president and are disgrace to decent folks of Lambertville. You are right they are bullies as an example those who are anti-development; I understand many of these folks live in the developments that are new to Lambertville over the last 25 years. It’s a classic case of entitled people saying lock the gates now that I’m in here.

    The decent people of Lambertville stand behind you whether we agree with you or not. Thank you for your courage.

    PS: Guess I can expect the bullies to come after me now.
    Gary Toth

  16. donaldtripp@yahoo.com' Don Tripp says:

    This is a sad commentary on a community that represents itself as open minded, accepting, and liberal.

    Just like Trump’s MAGA gang, apparently LAMBERTVILLE UNITED operates the same way, using the same threatening tones and misinformation (actually lies)

  17. amycarver@aol.com' Amy Ann says:

    Practice what you preach, mama.

    According to your ex-hire, Alex Torepy, you are the worst offender.

    Get some integrity and stop spending money on image consultants and PR pieces, Julia. This is not the series, “Billionaires”.

  18. Towittertoo@gmail.com' Louisa says:

    Facebook is a cesspool an inch better than Parler. It was constructed for meanness at its origin. Well past time for governments, businesses and any one of any actual reputation to rid themselves of that kind of ilk.

  19. lisa.stolzer@gmail.com' Lisa Stolzer says:

    Just as an FYI, when one signs up for the email and text systems, one is asked if one wants to add the city’s address to one’s address book. When one chooses “yes,” it is Alex Torpey’s email address that is added to one’s address book.
    Thanks,
    Lisa

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>