You Want to Bully Me? Get in Line!
Look, I know some people really had it rough with bullies. Terrible, horrible incidents which make me shudder to think or recall. I’ve had more than my fair share of bullying, too. I never experienced anything so shockingly horrific or violent as some of the stories I’ve read; and for that I am grateful in the extreme.
Be that as it may, I have been a bully magnet for my entire time in Elementary, Middle/Intermediate and High School. Before that, though, I had already been trained in the art of being victimized. You see; I had four more bullies right at home with me. In some ways, they managed to make my days about a hundred million times more hellish than they had to be.
So by the time I entered the social fires to temper the young soul known as Primary Education, I was well acquainted with what a bully was and what they do. I think we all do, but you know what? I would be remiss if I didn’t at least point to you what my personal definition of a bully is in the shortest terms possible:
A bully is someone who will threaten you with harm, actually do you harm, or go out of their way to embarrass, humiliate or otherwise destroy any sense of dignity you might believe you possess in the most public and private of ways. A bully can be someone younger than you, older than you, the opposite sex, more angry than you, more scared than you, more abused than you, sociopathic or can be one of those rare persons who actually enjoy being a bully.
If you have never really been bullied for days at a time, weeks at a time, or have never been treated in such a way that you literally live in dread, shame or fear of coming into contact with a bully you know, then you have never been well and truly bullied. I have been bullied sometimes without even realizing it. Of course, we’re talking pretty young here, but make no mistake, bullies can start pretty early, too. And sometimes your bully has a good twenty year jump on you.
I apologize to all those who have been bullied and cannot get past it, or cannot see at least some wry or ironic humor in at least some of it for what follows. I say this, because my primary defense against being bullied was to literally come flying at them fists and feet aflurry and aflutter, landing blows where I could as many times as I could, yelling, screaming and spitting like a goddamn wildcat.
That doesn’t sound funny and when I was doing it, it wasn’t. I was deadly serious in my intent to inflict as much harm and mayhem on my oppressors as I possibly could. But I always tried to imagine how it must have looked from their point of view, or from that of the other kids. You see this little wimpy bookworm kid is getting pushed around by the bigger kids. A crowd gathers.
The kid is pretty scared, anyone can see that – at least that’s what he thinks, and it makes him more scared to think that. Then the bigger kid, either one of them, swings a punch at the little kid’s face. The blow doesn’t land! The little kid ducked under and is suddenly screaming and swinging, all hell-bent-for-leather! Holy COW that kid’s crazy! Look at him go!
Now for you to really understand why I might have been this hell-fighting furious hamster, you have to have some context. Allow me.
I have three older brothers. My oldest brother is four and three-quarters years older than I. My second eldest brother is about two and three-quarters years older. My next, or third eldest brother is almost exactly a year and a half older than me. I also have a younger sister. She’s about a year and half younger than I am. So there’s the spread of the kids.
My dad was in the Navy for the first sixteen and a half years of my life. He was an alcoholic of magnitude. He didn’t seem to really like being home and raising kids, but he was, often enough in the early days of his bouts of not being out to sea, reasonably okay at least half that time as I recall in my literal toddlership and entry into the school age.
Clearly, some of what I recall is dulled with time. For I know that my three older brothers, while they generally had my back or at least were making sure I didn’t do something to get me killed, had a lot of anger and repressed feelings that they took out on me pretty regularly. All three of them did this. On occasions that can only be called recurrent, all three of them would lay into me, three big kids against the little one.
Nope, it wasn’t fair, no sirree, Bob, it weren’t. You know, I can’t tell you what it was, maybe it’s just a stubborn streak I inherited from my ancient Irish King forebears, or my Native American roots kicking in, or any other number of other potentials that don’t involve nature as much as they do nurture. In any case, something about being held down by two kids while the third takes a knuckle to your shins, or gives you a lovely Indian Rope Burn* (see description at the end of this piece) or repeatedly pops you in the gut until you end up losing your breath from getting hit in the diaphragm just really pissed me off.
I cried when those things happened, each and every time. Nothing is worse than being completely helpless to do anything to stop someone from tormenting you. It doesn’t have to be horrific treatment, you just have to be at the complete mercy of your tormentor and know it for the fear to kick in.
I was this scrawny, forty-two pound kid when I started going to school. I think I might have almost been three feet tall. I don’t remember kindergarten being too fraught with punching and pushing bullies, honestly. In fact, I don’t think I could tell you that I had any bullies in kindergarten. I didn’t get my first non-familial bully until the first grade. Ah, six going on seven, what a wonderful age!
Hopscotch is still okay to play, and so is jump rope and tag – you can even still play with girls, they haven’t gotten cooties yet. But it’s starting. It seems the children take a formative social jump about the same time they are being taught to spell and do math for the first time, normally. The sudden increase in actual learning where story time comes with a quiz and spelling words, and practice sentences, and then there’s this new thing, math, where you have to learn how to add, subtract and count change. It can be tough on fresh young minds if there has been little to no preparation.
There are all kinds of bullies. The first bullies you tend to run into, especially at this young age, are the ones that have issues at home or are now having issues at school that prevent them from feeling adequate with their peers. It’s a hard thing, to feel less than. In the young and not very well disciplined mind of the six-year old, a lot of magical and fantastic type of thinking goes on that pretty much equates to, “Yes, as a matter of fact, the Universe does revolve around me.”
Thus all the good things happening around you are because you are good and because you are wishing for good things to happen. When bad things happen to you, especially at the hands of someone else, even if you have no idea what the hell that was all about, you manage to make it all about you.
Hey, don’t go getting defensive, this happens pretty much to everyone. So when you get picked on in the schoolyard and taunted about your clothes, your hair, your size, your color, whatever, the other kids are laughing at you, teasing you and destroying your sense of self worth – publicly, loudly and without any thought or consideration how it might feel. Right now, they’re having a great time – all at your expense. They didn’t lay a hand on you, but through the sheer power of numbers, they have become a mass bully.
These are the physical bullies. Teasing, taunting, tattling, touching, pushing, shoving, tacks on your seat, chairs pulled out from under you, knocked over in the playground from behind, you get the picture. They round on you the moment the yard duty teacher’s back is turned; or when you turn the corner and are just out of sight of supervision. There’s that second’s hesitation in the coat- room when you’re getting your lunch pail, just waiting for that shadow to appear in the doorway, blocking your path. Oh, I know them only too well.
My brothers and my dad were generally this type of bully. Instead of freezing like a deer in the headlights as most bully victims would do, I’d find a good way to make sure I wasn’t too close to more than one kid at a time. Oh, did I forget to mention, most bullies have at least one or two sycophantic followers. These are either bullies in training, or are too unmotivated to think for themselves and are willing “muscle” for the real bully. Well, that’s probably splitting hairs – they’re all real bullies, but only one of them has the head for making it work.
Later, by grade four or so, you’ll start to run into the other types of bully. There’s the “Child of Privilege,” who, whether boy or girl, can easily outshine, out-show and outspend any other kid in class to make sure they are the “best” or have it. In front of teacher, they are models of good behavior. But in the hallways on the way to the playground, the cafeteria or as school lets out, you hear the sibilant whisper of pure evil in the form of the haughty overlord’s sneer and demeanor.
Think Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter. Without the limp-ass hair. There’s this simpering and whiny, bitchy kid who no-one else really seems to like, but has a cadre of hangers-on – and these are the kids that get to decide for everyone else in school who’s popular, cool or with it. These kids, led by the top-elite, are bullies no less so than the ham-handed kid in the leather jacket that shakes you down for lunch money, milk money and anything else in your damn pockets and make it snappy, squirt!
The form of bullying this provocateur takes on is socially devious and oftentimes subversively covert. These are the kinds of kids that will play a “prank” on you, usually ending up with you face down in a puddle of mud, slipping on dog shit, having milk, juice, coke, mashed potatoes or some other equally distasteful food decoration for the head haphazardly placed there as if being crowned – almost always from behind, of course. Oh yeah, maybe you don’t get a black eye, or a fat lip, but you’re going to be pretty well humiliated, because, for whatever reason, you don’t fit in. This makes you an automatic target for their scorn and vilification.
Around the 6th grade, you start meeting another kind of bully. The passive-aggressive “friend.” This is the person that, for no real reason specifically, decides they are now your friend. You really don’t have a lot of say in the matter. They become controlling and jealous over time. At first, especially if you’re new to the school or are a social outcast, this friendship might seem like a really good idea. Don’t be fooled, because you’re just asking for trouble. I promise you, the “Cable Guy” Prequel is about to start.
How does this person bully? Oh, it’s clever. Once ingratiated and insinuated into your “circle” (which in some cases is all of two: you and your new “friend,”) there are suggestions about how you should dress, how you should say things the way they do, have the same likes and dislikes, no matter what! And it’s not your choice; it’s theirs. You have now been inducted into the pressed service of a domineering and controlling psychopath who, for good reason, really doesn’t have anyone they can call friend. You’re about as close to a living doll as it’s possible to get without having your head torn off.
I know all this is not really funny, but please, take a moment in order to find out how some of us have learned to deal with our bullied experiences. I learned to try to look at it like a movie. There were moments where the last thing I wanted to do was be in some of the scenes. That said, more often than not, I managed to give a pretty good accounting of myself. And later, with time to reflect, there were times when I could manage a wry smile at the surprised looks on people’s faces when I would cut loose on a bigger kid picking on me.
I moved around a lot. I lived with three older brothers and a father, all who were bullies in their own right, each in their turns and in some occasions more than one at a time. This moving around meant that I went to a lot of schools. In fact, from kindergarten to the 11th grade I officially attended eighteen different schools.
Anyone out there know what it’s like to start a new school in November? How about January or March? I do. Being the new kid in school basically sucks. It sucks even more when it’s not at the start of a school year. At least if it’s at the start of the new school year, it’s not as awkward as showing up in the middle of a semester.
Imagine this if you haven’t moved around that much while you were attending school. You show up at this new place. Sure, you’ve been in one of these before; it’s called a school. The only difference is: You’re the only one today that doesn’t know another goddamned soul, doesn’t know your way around, doesn’t have any friends, has no idea where they are in regard to lessons and homework studies or even if they’re studying the same shit you did in the last school you left three weeks ago.
What’s on the other side of the equation? A school full of kids, most who have lived where they are since they were born. A school full of kids who know all their friends and don’t really need any more thank you, very much. Kids that have already begun sorting out the cliques and groups that they are probably going to be in from Elementary to High School; oh and you aren’t really a factor in all that. It’s not fair. No sirree, Bob it ain’t. The deck is stacked against you from the get-go.
You are: alone, somewhat scared, tiny compared to even the girls in your classes, pitted against this system of already entrenched social order. It isn’t until the 7th grade, when, finally, some little Japanese kid is actually shorter than you – the blond haired, blue-eyed, white boy from the Mainland – and you’re not the littlest kid in class. It only took eight years and moving to Hawaii where the incidence of Asian descent tends to level your playing field. Actually, by then I had moved to Hawaii twice.
From Intermediate and Junior High School on, it was a pretty tough row to hoe for me. By now, I had learned early on that the best way to reduce being bullied is to be exactly as I described: once provoked, I would become the Tasmanian Devil like on the Looney Tunes cartoons; arms spinning, feet flying, fists sometimes opened up and grabbed, or scratched, or pulled hair from out of a whirling maelstrom that was screaming like a banshee. From out of the blurry, buzz-saw sounding cloud a tiny fist would “pop!” right against some big kid’s chin and down they’d go, beaten handily by a kid half their size and possibly a third their weight.
How did he do it, they wondered? Honestly, I had kids ask me how I did things like that. I told them. Being so small, I don’t have much weight, but I’m strong. I have a tiny, bony fist. When they hit me, they’re taller so they can’t put all their weight into hitting me, because they’re swinging down. Me? I’m pushing against the entire Earth when I spring up under them and clip them on the chins.
Even though I hated fighting, I managed to put the face of the “don’t you dare mess with me” kid that wouldn’t take shit from people picking on him. I don’t think I carried it off that well, honestly. If I had, perhaps more bullies would have steered clear, right? Or maybe that’s why they showed up, I don’t know.
In addition to getting to know my bullies pretty well, I also spent a lot of time talking to school principals. The fact that I showed up in their offices something on the order of once a month or every other month was always a surprise to them. This little kid? He knocked that big kid’s tooth loose? Really? Who started it?
Oddly enough, bullies don’t always do a lot of fighting when the odds are even. It seems that in general, bullies are a pretty cowardly lot. Always willing to show off and be mean to those who can’t stop them, or when they have their “posse” with them. If you figure out who the boss really is in a gang order and take that one out, you can oftentimes get the whole damn pack to back down – but it is a helluva gamble and one that might not pay off. It can only be done if you can manage to provoke some sort of “One on One, Mano a Mano, contest with the leader.
I never got that sort of chance. I was usually too busy being pushed around a large circle of mean spirited followers without much say in the matter. By the time the main event was going down, I was usually pretty scared, angry as hell, and already of the opinion I was going to get my ass soundly kicked.
Where’s the harm at that point in taking as many with you as you can? I figured, as a little scrapper, with plenty of practice fighting my bigger brothers (who never stood up for me on the schoolyard, not once) I could pretty much hold my own against anywhere from three to five other kids as long as they didn’t grab me and hold me down. If that happened I got pounded pretty good, but it never happened without some repercussions and lots of bruising for them, either.
I’ve had bullies stop bullying me the moment I fought back. I’ve had a few that kept coming back, time after time, like I was some sort of testing ground, no matter how many times I actually managed to come out looking like I won. Sure, I had a black eye and a fat lip, but did you see the other kid? Two black eyes, a bloody nose and a twisted arm. I could never tell: was this going to be the fight that made them leave me alone, become my friend or is this only round one?
I’ve had dedicated bullies, occasional bullies and even the drive-by bully of opportunity. I remember once, walking the hallways of Horace Mann Junior High School in East San Diego. Whites were a whopping 17% or so of the student body. Black kids averaged 38%, Hispanic 29% and 15% Asian in the school population. A thriving 7th to 9th grade school of around 2,300 students.
I was probably on my fifth or sixth day of school at this new place. The hustle and bustle of the hallways was like nothing I was used to – with as many schools as I’d been to by this time – this was the single largest school I had yet attended. It was loud, and really loud, and sometimes it was even louder than that. The occasional ––BOOM!— of an M-80 or even a quarter stick of dynamite blowing up a toilet on occasion seemed normal here, not strange. If there wasn’t a trash can fire at least once a week, I would have been surprised. There was even the occasional knifing.
It was a scary place. It was big – HUGE – by my previous standard, noisy and in this sea of kids turning into young hoodlums-to-be, I was pulled along by the current of bodies going my way. I was just starting to think about what I was going to do in my history class when all of a sudden…
… My vision turned red and green; and there was this incredible sensation of pain at the top of my skull radiating outward, becoming more painful as it spread. I heard this reverberating “ring – ing – ing – ing” in my head and, as my vision cleared, I saw this huge black kid – he must have been at least six foot five and might have tipped the scales at two thirty or so – and he could only be at most, in the 9th grade!
In his hand, which I saw was pulling back from his swing at my head, there was a small metal rod. It was about six inches long, maybe a quarter inch in diameter and had what looked like a two inch diameter wooden ball attached to the end. He was looking right at me with this, “Yeah, muthafucka, ah did that; whatchoo gonna do, honky?” sort of challenging look to his expression as he cocked a smile that was anything but friendly. Then the sea of students swept me out deeper into the hall and larger waves of bigger kids washed his face from my view. I never saw him again. I never forgot him, either.
From there, my troubles only grew worse. It wasn’t like they all got together and said, “Hey, they’s a new kid in school, let’s all go kick the shit out of this little white cracker motherfucker.” Hardly. It was a simple case of the tables had been turned. I was in the minority at school. The only minority that was still a minority compared to the white population of this school was the Asian student base. And they were really pretty much on equal footing, person to person.
To say that I know what it’s like to be picked on, because of the color of my skin only touches the edges of this tapestry of a tale of torment. I have been surrounded by Hispanic kids, Black kids and Asian kids of one ethnic group or another, literally wondering if today I might not live to the end of this encounter. I have been pushed around and against lockers in the hallway for no other reason than that the other kids could – and there were always too many to start cracking heads. I have been roughed up and pushed from person to person down the entire length of hallways, for nothing more than “good fun” at the hands of my Mexican, Black or Asian tormentors for no other reason than I was white, handy and small enough not to be too much trouble.
That is, until I am cornered. I have had many attempts in Junior High and High School by the mean kids of one clique or another attempt to shove me into lockers or stuff me into trash cans. I never made it into either of those things – and it’s not for lack of effort on their part. When I left Horace Mann, a year and a half later, there was a girl who showed up with a rifle and started shooting. So you see, I am pretty lucky when you get down to it. I could have been in the ninth grade there and had to run, better run, faster than my gun. I was probably safe, though, no pumped up kicks.
When they asked her why she did it, she said, “I don’t like Mondays.” This later became a cult hit with many in California by a band named the Boomtown Rats. By then I was already on school number eighteen. Horace Mann was only school number sixteen.
In the tenth and eleventh grades, I had only one fight or altercation of note. It might be that I went from the end of school in the 9th grade from four foot ten, to the beginning of school in the 10th grade to five foot six. I leapt up an amazing ten inches from end of May to Middle of August of that year in 1976. The end of my fighting, though had been presaged a few years earlier in Hawaii.
Remember that Japanese kid in the 7th grade that I was taller than? Yeah, him. One day we were all going to lunch and as we were walking down the stairs to the cafeteria, it just so happened that I was almost the last kid out of the class, because I was putting my stuff away. This other kid, made sure to leave behind me. I might have been in school here for about two weeks or so.
I put my foot on the stairs and the next thing I know, I’m flying down the stairs and my head slams into the cast-iron handrail at the midway landing. God DAMN that hurt! I still have a dent in my skull from hitting that handrail. He could have fucking killed me! Oh I was already pissed, even before I had my wits and vision back.
Then I looked up. There he was, standing at the head of the stairs, hands on his hips, laughing gustily as if that were just the funniest thing he’d ever seen. His face changed very quickly as I leapt up at him from three stairs below him.
I slammed into his chest with my head tucked and my arms reaching out to grip him and pull him under me as I came down. I could have fucking killed him! He hit the concrete walkway with a heavy “Whoof!” and I heard his head give a good “whap!” to the walkway. It was already too late, dead or alive, for this guy in my mind. I don’t mean that I intended to kill him, except in the strictest little kid sense of beating the fucking snot out of him for what he did to me. Without hesitation, I grabbed him by the shirtfront and hit him as hard as I could across the chops with a right cross.
I didn’t even look back. I let him go, stood up and wobbily made my way down to the cafeteria where I had lunch in a corner by myself. My head just hurt too much. My hand hurt pretty good, too by then.
It turns out that ten minutes into Home Room, the PA announces that the principal’s office would like to see me. I know immediately what’s going on. My teacher and all my classmates looked confused – I’m the smart kid, the good kid, what would the principal want with me? I knew exactly what to expect – or so I thought.
I got to the principal’s office and was immediately – and firmly – ushered by heavy hand on a shoulder to the nurse’s office. There, my assailant was sitting on the nurse’s bed, holding a wet paper towel to his face and he was crying. The crying part I didn’t mind, because I could still see in my mind’s eye that laughing rictus of anger after he literally pushed me down a flight of stairs. I actually kind of felt like jumping him and hitting him some more.
Okay, I had some real anger issues at the time. I would never go out of my way to purposely harm someone, so that I was still that mad kind of scared me a little. So I was already sort of having second thoughts about my actions, because, for the first time in my life, I had taken on a smaller kid. He did fucking shove me down concrete stairs, though; so, not unprovoked.
The nurse and the principal spent the next ten minutes grilling me on do I know that I knocked out little Kenny’s tooth (not his real name) and that fighting is not the answer? Am I aware that Kenny’s parents could make my parents pay for his tooth?
Great, just what I need. One more reason for my dad to be pissed off at me. Only in the case of fighting, my dad was actually kind of okay. He told me not to start fights, but if I got in one, by God, I better do my best to finish it. I think poppa would be proud on the whole when looking at my efforts to finish my fights.
I thought about it later, though, in my next class. Wow, I really knocked a kid’s tooth right out? Holy crap. I looked down at my puny and bony little fists. Well, yeah, he was smaller than me, but only just. And he really did deserve it if anyone did. But shit! I knocked out his tooth?!
That was when, small as I was, I realized that I was getting bigger; and bigger enough to really hurt someone. When I got into a fight with my bullies – and that was every time it seemed to make sense to do so – my objective was to hit as hard and as fast as many times as I could any part of my opponent that got close enough to be a target.
I didn’t make up my name, “The Tasmanian Devil.” It came out of the mouths of students surrounding the latest kid pounding when suddenly I unleashed the anger and frustration of all the times my brothers and my dad either hit me, tormented me, embarrassed me, played mean tricks on me, etc, and I would simply go into a rage. I could barely tell you what I was doing in those moments except my level best to make sure I hurt my bullies as much as I possibly could.
In those moments, I can recall a gleeful and grim satisfaction for every landed blow, scratch, kick, bite, eye gouge and gut punch I ever delivered in my fighting. To this day I can find little, if any, reason to be sorry for the harm I caused in those fights. I never started them.
Be that as it may. From the day I knocked out that tooth, I began to try to find other ways to deal with bullies than to turn green and jump. I don’t like fighting. While I was in the thick of it, I could only tell myself, hit harder, hit harder, hit faster, duck, duck, swing, hit, hit, hit, hit, grab and throw! And while in the thick of it, I relished the savage joy of not having to worry I was going to get in trouble by my dad for fighting with my brothers again.
Even while I can relate to you that feeling, I always felt remorse later. Not that I hit some other kid, but that I got into a situation again where someone was tormenting me, usually more than one at a time, and I ended up having to fight my way out of it. The anxiety and stress that comes from all that adrenaline, fear and heightened sense of your impending doom takes its toll on a person. Young kids are especially susceptible to minor symptoms of shock.
Getting that amped up and angry and scared made my stomach hurt for several days. I would be unable to eat well, sleep decently or think straight for up to five or six days after the event. This I can remember since I first was mad enough to really hit my older brothers as hard as I possibly could and folded my oldest brother in half with a sucker punch to the gut. I actually made my oldest brother cry.
I felt bad and good at the same time. For once I made him fear me instead. That felt pretty damn good at seven years old. My oldest brother by then was already eleven going on twelve. It felt bad, too, though. I actually hurt my oldest brother. That felt good, too, though. Oh the irony of guilt and victory at the same moment.
These bad feelings after a fight, though, affected me more than anything else. I hated getting into confrontations and up to the moment where it looked like I no longer had a choice but to fight, I was a physical and emotional wreck. I’d stutter, and get confused – me the smart kid in class – and I’d end up saying the wrong combination of words – giving my tormentors one more thing to fluster and embarrass me with. All that emotion, fear and anxiety would knit itself into a tight ball at the base of my gut and once the situation was over, I felt like I had to puke for a couple of hours I was so stressed out.
I have had bullies throughout my school years and I have had my own family act as my full time on call bullies, including my sister who would tattle and manipulate as her form of bullying. She did catch crap, though, from four older brothers, so in the end, I can’t really blame her.
I cannot thank my bullies, even though they made me tough, brave and more level headed in tough spots than the average guy – because I had so much practice. Because they provided me with a near constant level of borderline anxiety, fear and occasional loathing to even go to school – and I loved (still do) the process of learning in a classroom! I can’t thank them for those lessons, except perhaps in that it made me realize that being scared of others is one thing, but being scared to stand up for yourself is something else.
I cannot forget my bullies, either; though they are legion. Each one’s name that I knew, I still recall. Each incident is etched firmly in my memories. Every major scar along my knuckles, fingers and forearms, each painful bruise, sprain, twisted ligament, scratch or welt I can still recall. It sparks the memory – like watching a home movie in different speeds and from different angles – of the event and the lead-up to that until it’s finish. It all happens in an instant; yet it is timeless.
Those bullies, though, did make me tougher, braver and more experienced at the hard knocks of life, as well as the sometimes-brutal methods members of social cliques will use to enforce their brand of discipline and schoolyard “justice” on those they deem unfit to be permitted to exist at their school.
There’s one last bully, though, that I should mention: Social Culture. Remember how I was the new kid in eighteen different school situations? With all the other kids already well entrenched into their social order, it was usually hard to make friends. It was rare, though it seemed to happen in at least one or two cases per new school, that the popular or friendly kids made any effort to get to know me right away. It usually happened after I was known to be a straight “A” student who was as crazy as the Tasmanian Devil.
More often than not, the new kid is immediately and imperceptibly already ostracized from the groups in school. There is one group available to any new kid in any new school – the outcasts and rejects. They are almost always willing to share the misery of their position with a new kid. While it’s not a step up, it’s better than having no friends at all. Not only did I get bullied, I got to see it from both sides over time as a witness.
I have also gotten into fights by jumping in for my friends at school – my fellow social misfits and rejects. You know, as with any group, if you take the time to forget about the things people get ostracized for, and focus on getting to know the person, you find out they’re usually pretty decent. This is just as true of people in a clique, the popular ones, the jocks, the math nerds, etc. I also discovered that most every group has at least one person in it that qualifies as a titular bully.
It seems that most of my life – certainly all of my school time from Elementary to High School – I had to deal with bullies. In fact, I even had a few of those in the Air Force and at two different jobs in the Semiconductor Industry. My experience, however, has given me what I hope is better and keener insight into what makes people do the things they do to others. And that insight helps me to avoid becoming my own worst fear – a bully to others.
I have tried to take this as lightheartedly as I can, but honestly, I missed the first open call, because I wanted to poke fun at my situation and travails – and I found it’s really hard to find anything very amusing about it, (with the exception of the surprised looks on the faces of bigger kids as I whomped on them in the schoolyard.) None of that, however, can ever make up for the fear, anxiety, stress and worry I experienced in my travels through schools. For eight of my twelve years of school, I was on a daily or weekly schedule of wondering, “Is something going to happen to me today?”
Since those times I have never lost my desire to champion being kind to each other, or to find ways to make things work without having to fight. I have also worked very hard at finding new and more effective ways to deal with bullies. Fortunately, the older they get the less physical they tend to be. There’s very little someone else can truly take away from me these days that I couldn’t live without anyway.
In all that time, I grew up to believe fiercely in the premise that we’re all created equal and that no-one should have to suffer the abuse of bullies, no matter if that abuse is verbal, physical, psychological or social. I also grew up believing that if I did nothing when I saw or experienced abuse by bullies then I was just as much a part of the problem.
Today, it’s not a duck-and-a-jab-to-the-gut in the physical sense when I meet a bully. If I can, I will simply find another excuse to be somewhere else. Not because I’m afraid, but because to challenge them – especially on most matters – just isn’t worth the grief. If it arises that I feel a bully needs to be at least pointed out, I have no qualms telling said person that they are a bully – and while I wasn’t afraid to do it, perhaps it was tactless to call a judge handing out my divorce decree a bully with a gavel in the courtroom while he still had the gavel in his hand. You gotta call ‘em like you see ‘em.
Today, we can see evidence of bullies all around. I will stand up to them, even if I end up getting pounded. However, I say to all you other former victims and others who may be concerned about bullying: There are more good and kind people, willing to protect and help each other than there are bullies. Let’s do what it takes to stop all this bullying and stand up to all of them. All it takes is the willingness to be brave enough to recognize that fear of the person does not have to be fear to stand up for yourself, for others or for what you know is right.
* ( For those that don’t know, the Indian Rope Burn is not used with rope at all. In fact, it’s where someone takes both hands and wraps them firmly ‘round your forearm or upper arm, the fleshier the portion the better. Once they have a decent grip on your arm, they twist both hands, still gripping tightly, in opposite directions. The resultant pinching and rashing effort leaves a series of highly sensitive and bruised skin area that can be quite tender for four or five days. This is right up there with the Charlie Horse, whereby a swift and hard blow to the fleshy meat of the thigh is always good for a few laughs – if you’re not the recipient.)