By Sean David Hartman
Before I begin, let me state for full transparency that I am a friend and supporter of Byron Donalds. Byron Donalds’ first Congressional campaign was my first time in the arena. He believed in an 18-year-old autistic nobody and he is the reason why I am so involved today in politics, fighting for our neurodiverse community here in Lee County.
But I also want to be clear that I liked and respected Dr. Banyai up until recently. I had what I thought were productive conversations with her on LinkedIn, and I spoke to Anna Eskamani about endorsing her. Anna, for those who don’t know, is an Orlando State Representative and a progressive firebrand who, to put it bluntly, is the biggest threat to Governor DeSantis’ reelection campaign.
I wanted Dr. Banyai to win her primary against Dr. Holden, and was honestly considering voting for her if the nominee was Askar or Dr. Fig. I was thoroughly impressed with her intellect and her spirit, and I think every conservative should be, too.
In fact, I cannot stress enough how disappointed I am in having to write this. Southwest Florida has something quite unique. We have an intelligent progressive and an intelligent conservative engaging in Lincoln-Douglas debates about the issues facing our communities. This is an actual debate of ideas, a clash of ideologies. I have been “geaking out” about this since both won their respective primaries.
Yet my geekiness faded on Thursday when I saw a social media post Dr. Banyai made where she—and I use this word because it describes what she did perfectly—cyberbullied some “fake news” protesters. The protesters were outside Waterman Broadcasting, and in its midst was a man in a Trump costume, wearing a sleeveless American flag suit.
It was here that Dr. Banyai, the progressive intellectual who I have come to greatly respect for bringing some fight to the Democratic Party, chose to ridicule this individual, stating that she hopes he won a costume contest and that he could use the $100 prize to buy some sleeves. She then posted on Facebook, stating “I’m just over here winning on Twitter today.”
This individual, by the way, would be one of the people Dr. Banyai will be representing, should she have the honor of serving Florida’s 19th Congressional District.
Let me be clear…BULLYING IS NOT WINNING.
Now, I assume some people will see this and think it’s not a big deal. I would have to assume none of these people have been victims of bullying. Bullying comes in all forms. It does need to be big and grandiose—though I would argue publicly insulting a person on two social media platforms is just that—minor insults and jabs can be just as effective. The term “micro-aggression” comes to mind.
My point is that just because it does not seem like it is bullying to you does not mean it isn’t to the victim.
And I have been a victim of bullying. I have been a victim of bullying my entire life. I’ve been insulted for my appearance, been called a parasite, ridiculed for my “stimming,” not by children, but by professional adults. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve attempted suicide, but it’s in the double digits.
Thankfully bullies made me stronger, and God protected me from myself every time I tried to take my own life. But there are so many other people, both on and off the autism spectrum, who experience it, and it affects them emotionally, psychologically, and physically. That is why I needed to write this—because bullying is wrong, and it really shouldn’t have to be said to an FGCU professor.
I will openly and publicly say that President Trump is a bully when he campaigns. And I do not like it, and I will not hide my opinions on it. Bullying is wrong, even when it’s done by the President, full stop.
So, let me be clear on this analogy…Dr. Cindy Banyai and President Trump are both bullies. Dr. Cindy Banyai is behaving just like President Trump behaves. Dr. Cindy Banyai, right now, is more like President Trump than Byron Donalds.
What’s interesting is Dr. Banyai expressed her concerns about media fairness with her first debate with Byron. She denoted the lack of coverage for her or her opponent, and I would argue even now there’s not coverage just of her campaign. If this is the only media piece about her that doesn’t cover the debates, that’s sad, and it validates the concerns of those protesters.
Dr. Banyai is running to serve her community. Those protesters, and that Trump cosplayer, are both members of that community. They will be her bosses, they will be who she represents, should she win. Why insult them? Why not try to understand them? Listen to their concerns? After all, she wants their vote, right?
I had the opportunity to address the issue in Dr. Banyai’s comment section. I respectfully asked her not to campaign this way. If Byron campaigned this way, I would chastise him publicly as well. Byron, if you are reading this, don’t make me chastise you publicly!
So, I am asking Dr. Banyai, publicly as well, to pledge not to campaign this way. Please do not insult the voters. Don’t be like President Trump. You need to go high, but you are going low.
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