May 22, 2019
Bullying starts with bull
I’m not ready to declare meme-debt bankruptcy yet, so I’ll tackle another tag today. Here’s one from Randy about bullying. You’ll have to read his post first to know what the questions mean.
Am I a bad person, if I’m happy to know that the bully did not live a full life?
Randy was pleased to hear that someone who had bullied him died in an accident while they were both still young. I can appreciate Randy’s sense of vindication and relief from further bullying. But if you go on to say “he deserved it” then you’re saying that bullying merits a death penalty. I don’t think I’d want to go quite that far.
Were you bullied as a kid?
Are you kidding? If I had allowed anyone to bully me, I would not have been able to look my father in the eye. He taught me how to fight when I was very small, often forcing me to continue until one of us drew blood. I hated that, but it did prepare me for the playground. My Dad always said, “Never start a fight — but always be the one to end it.”
One day early in my first grade year, a sixth grader decided to pick on me, and started punching me in the arm. Without passion or anger, I followed my father’s advice and gave him a swift one to the nose. He ran off, and I was never bothered on the playground again. Naturally, someone reported this event to my teacher, who could not understand the logic of my actions, and punished me (with a spanking, ironically). Very conflicted, I related all of this to my father that night. He expounded a long and thorough explanation about how society often punishes you for doing what you must, replete with examples from his Air Force career. Then he said he hoped that I had endured my spanking proudly, and congratulated me for standing up for myself. My Dad should have been born in ancient Sparta.
Was bullying as rampant in your schools, as they were in mine?
Bullying was common, especially on the playground and the buses — but I don’t think it was as pervasive as Randy described. I often felt compelled to intervene on behalf of those who wouldn’t stick up for themselves. In those cases, it never came to blows — a well-aimed “pick on someone your own size” usually answered the purpose.
What happened to the bullies in your school?
Despite the fact that I was immediately reported for defending myself, nobody ever reported bullying to teachers. Most were afraid that they would become more attractive targets if they did. For me, I didn’t think telling teachers would do any good, judging from the justice I had received at their hands.
So instead, a silent culture developed — much like in a prison. The best way to divert the unwanted attentions of bullies was to reveal them for the cowards that they were. A satirical comment to others in their hearing about how they needed to pick on the weak would usually do the trick — but you always had to be willing to back that up with physical measures if it had the opposite effect.
But times have changed. I don’t advise my children to get physical. I do advise them to tell their teachers. I believe that schools handle bullying more thoroughly and justly than they did when I was young. I hope to hell I’m not mistaken.
Was it just the boys, or did the girls bully too?
The girls were often worse — to other girls. It’s a good thing that girls back then hardly ever picked on boys, because I would never have been able to use even the threat of violence as a defense. My father taught me that striking a woman for any cause was the lowest form of low. To even imply that you might do so would be a blemish on yoru character that could never be removed.
Sometimes it’s hard to realize just how divided the sexes were in those days. The girls managed their own culture separately from the boys, for the most part. I can recall only one time where I stepped in to reprove a girl my age for picking on someone smaller. That happened on the school bus, and the only tool I could employ was to shame her. Luckily, I’ve always had a way with words.
Were you the bully?
No. I never picked a fight or pushed people around. Even in defending myself, my conscience was always stung by my Baptist upbringing and Jesus’ command to “turn the other cheek”. In fact, I became a radical religious pacifist by age 15 — abrogating even self-defense, much to the chagrin of my father – but somehow I had already established myself in the social hierarchy at school such that I never had to test my commitment to that creed.
I’ve never understood the mind that needs to subjugate others to its will, against theirs. People are generally enough trouble as it is — why would you want to churn up resentment against yourself and make things worse? I don’t want to get all psychoanalytic on you, but I can only think that a bully must have no life worth living – or they wouldn’t need that type of diversion. So back to your first question, Randy — maybe his death was merciful.
I’d like to tag a few people who came to mind as imagined readers while I was writing this post: Shelley, Shelley, Joseph, apotheon, Jessica, TDavid, Kent, Doug, and Cooper (sorry for the quick re-tag). Tell us about your experiences with bullies in school. As always, anyone else who would like to participate, feel free and I’ll give you some linkage. I’d really like to tag Kathy, but I don’t think she’d answer.