Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Usually, it’s not ok.

“Usually? What do you mean ‘Usually?’ It’s never ok to bully someone!”

Fine. I’ll do my rant thing. Life would be so much easier if I didn’t always have to explain everything I say. (My posts would be way shorter, as well.)

Bully n.
A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people.

I’m about to get a bit personal, here. I don’t usually do that, but maybe if I share this, I can help someone. Even if it’s just one person, it will have been worth it. I’ve never told any of this to anyone before.

Technically, I’ve been a victim of bullying. It went on in school for years. Though I have to admit, I never felt like a victim. If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, you’ll have noticed that in the “conversation” posts, I’m not one who backs down very easily from a conflict. And I especially will not back down from some dimwitted browbeater – be it physically or intellectually. No matter how much bigger they are than me. (Well, I do back down to those intellectually bigger than me. I may not be smart, but I'm no dummy.)

As one of the smaller kids in school, I was a frequent target for bullies. Very few of them kept it up for more than a handful of times. Yeah, I fought back.

I don’t know what it is that makes people like me stand up to bullying. Or what makes others back down and become depressed and withdrawn. Often enough to the point of becoming unable to face going back to school. Too often these days, to the point of suicide. It’s not like my parents ever sat me down and told me what to do should I ever encounter bullying. I don’t recall being taught at any time by anyone about such situations. I don’t know. It’s just something that was always in me.

Maybe I learned from movies and TV. Yeah, that may sound silly to you, but what were your influences as a child? Mine? Star Trek. M*A*S*H. The A-Team. Super Friends. Stingray. The Dukes of Hazzard. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. And of course, Sesame Street and The Electric Company. I’ll stop the list now or we could be here all day. (I still occasionally watch Sesame Street. I own all the rest [except Electric Company] on DVD, so it goes without saying [even though I'm saying it.] that I still watch those, too.)

Go ahead. Laugh. But what do all these shows have in common? They’re all morality lessons or tales of helping people in need or being kind to people who are different than you or fighting for what’s right. Or educational. But, like I said, I’m not sure what shapes the content of one’s character. Nature, nurture, both?

I shudder to think how “reality TV” influences children these days.

Anyway, back to the bullying.

When I said it’s usually not ok, I was referring to me. You see, little confession: I was a bully, too.

There was a little bit of a difference, though. I bullied the bullies. And that’s ok. Kind of like being intolerant of intolerance. That’s ok, too.

Sometimes, it was physically:
In high school, I remember walking down the stairs between classes and a bully (I remember exactly who it was, and this was not the first incident with him) was flicking me in the back of the ear. Of course, he had an entourage who gave encouraging laughter. (Bullies don’t act without an audience. Otherwise, bullying would be pointless. You can't feel like a tough-guy if no one knows about it.) After I told him to knock it off, the ear flicks became head slaps, which finally became a punch. I say a punch because that was all he got in before I quickly reversed a step and thrust my elbow backward as hard as I could at where I thought his fruit salad was. I missed, but the resulting Charlie horse most probably interfered with his football practice that day. I turned on the stair and locked eyes with him. Just briefly. Nothing dramatic. I made sure he saw that not only was I not afraid of him, but that I was more than willing to take this further.

(In all honesty, the inspiration for looking him in the eye to show I wasn’t afraid came from a comicbook, The Dark Knight Returns [from when it was a 4-issue miniseries, before it was collected in a bound edition and labeled a "graphic novel."]. Crazy? Silly? Stupid? Tell that to a 15-year-old kid who’s been picked on since at least the last five or six years and increasingly more since being thrust into high school where he was introduced to a whole new crop of bullies. Say what you want about comicbooks, but if you pass them off as silly or childish, then you have never read one. And you’ve fallen into the trap of judging something you know nothing about. That’s bigotry, right? Or prejudice? Sure, there are those that are silly. But the best ones are in line with what I said about the TV shows that possibly influenced me: morality lessons or tales of helping people in need or being kind to people who are different than you or fighting for what’s right. Or educational. Anyway, here’s the specific sequence that my15-year-old self thought of as inspiration:

No, it wasn’t about being murdered, it was about being bullied. The sentiment was the same. And no, obviously I wasn’t “awful big,” but at that moment, in my head, I was.)

Then I turned back and continued down the stairs. That was the last time he bothered with me. (No more 'slice and dice.') He moved on to other small kids. I remember later seeing him pushing someone around by the lockers and I got in between them. I’m fuzzy as to how the events unfolded next, but nothing happened and the situation diffused. It’s no fun bullying someone who isn’t afraid of you.

(I realize now, thinking back, that I often inserted myself between bullies and other kids. This isn’t something I remembered until just now. Writing, apparently, jogs the memory. Something new every day. I can remember two other instances of drawing a bully’s attention away from a smaller kid. I can distinctly remember who the bullies were, the bullied kids, and where the events happened.)

Sometimes, it was emotionally:
In high school gym class, we were playing scooter ball and a bully (a different recurring one) kept whipping the ball at my head and pushing me over when the play was nowhere near me. The standard chuckle patch was giggling nearby for encouragement. I looked at the teacher and gave him the hands-in-the-air “What the hell, man, are you going to do anything?” gesture because he clearly saw what was happening. He just looked away. Whatever. I continued on with the game. The harassment continued. The teacher no longer even gave me eye contact. Alright. I tried to do this diplomatically by having the person of authority handle the situation. My turn. (I’m getting quite pissed thinking of all the current stories about teachers doing nothing to help victims of bullying.) The next time I was pushed over, I stood up in the middle of the class and started ridiculing the bully very loudly for all to hear. I don’t recall my exact words, but they were to the effect of ‘How big and tough you must feel by pushing over a guy half your size from behind when he doesn’t expect it. Are you trying to compensate for a little you-know-what? (I pointed at his crotch.) Yeah, I’m so scared of you that shit is running down my leg.’ I do remember specifically saying the ‘shit running down my leg’ line and the pointing. I also remember referencing something about him personally, but can’t recall exactly what. Naturally, the teacher suddenly had the coglioni to tell me to stop or I would be sent to the office. Seriously? Frigging seriously? I was on a roll. I aimed my mouth at the teacher. I asked him what he was going to tell the principal? That he ignored my pleas to stop the bully from hitting me all period and then sent me to the office for verbally and non-physically defending myself? I can’t quite remember exactly how it was resolved, but no one went to the principal’s office and the game continued. Not only did that bully never bother me again, but he started acting like my best friend. Even to the point of giving regular reports on what other bullies were saying about me.

Cases in point:
There was one particular bully who loved to spin fish tales about his masculine exploits. I had butted heads with him on several occasions. He showed up uninvited to a friend’s party one time. Myself and two friends were standing on the front porch and he was on the lawn. He kept saying he was going to kick our asses if we didn’t let him in. We sparred verbally with him for a bit, but nothing happened and he left. That Monday in school, Scooter Ball Bully, my new best friend, informed me that Fish Tale Bully was going around telling everyone how he beat all three of us up and put us in the hospital. If I remember correctly, he gave my friend a black eye, broke my nose and broke my other friend’s leg. Funny how we all healed in two days. Obviously, no one believed that story. Another time, my girlfriend and I were coming out of a flower shop after picking out a corsage for the prom. As we were exiting, Fish Tale and his girlfriend were entering the flower shop. With a large grin, I said, “Hey, pal!” gave a big wave, held the door open for him then kept walking. Absolutely nothing else happened. The next day in class, I found out from Scooter Ball it was going around school that I was afraid and refused to leave the flower shop for a half an hour. Oh, boy. I took the time later in the day to ridicule him in front of a large group of people in the school atrium. He chased me for a bit until we just about knocked over a teacher. Asking what it was all about, I explained to the teacher he was just mad because I embarrassed him for lying about me. Fish Tale Bully was a persistent bully. Our ‘thing’ was never actually settled. But that's irrelevant now.

Like I said, it’s a mystery where I got this thing that makes me defend myself as opposed to shrinking in defeat. I’m sick of all the stories that are coming out now about laws protecting bullies and  rapists being defended (Under NO circumstance is rape EVER justified. EVER.). The raped and bullied victims are killing themselves out of shame for something they should not be ashamed of and I feel helpless to do anything to stop it.

Melissa Harris-Perry Shares A Heartfelt Letter For Steubenville Rape Survivor

I guess bullying is why I started this blog. Political bullying. The mentality that rich, powerful people don’t have enough and poor, powerless people have too much just infuriates me. A system where working full time at minimum wage (which is currently at the 1968 inflation level) forces you to exist below the poverty line and then you’re accused of being a leech on society because you need welfare – which is constantly threatened to be reduced – is also insurmountably infuriating. Rich politicians bullying poor people. Or bullying (subjugating) women by making the Constitutionally protected right to an abortion impossible, then get outraged when women looking for basic health care die after being forced to get back-alley abortions. Do I even have to mention the unjustified blitzkrieg against Hispanics, blacks, gays, anyone-other-than-Christians, immigrants, et al?

But, I digress.

In fifth grade, when I was ten years old, I was walking down the hallway in school. I saw a small group of people huddled near the windows. I went over to see what was so interesting. To my surprise, it was a bunch of people watching a few kids pounding on this other kid. I didn’t know who he was. I never saw him before. I can’t say a comicbook superhero influenced me this time, but needless to say, I dove right in there and helped the kid I didn’t know. I also can’t recall the outcome as it happened over thirty years ago, but I instantly made a new friend. (Knowing my luck, I was probably sent to the principal’s office for starting the fight.) We were pretty tight but I don’t know what has happened to him since high school. I always wondered if he remembered how we met.

Recently, I was in my parents’ attic cleaning out my and my brother’s childhood crap. Among said crap was my high school yearbook. I read all the comments that friends had written. To my surprise, I found this written in the back:

That’s very cool. I guess one doesn’t tend to forget being pushed around by a group of people you don't know – and having a little help.

And yes, I was often referred to in some variation of ‘Batman.’ ‘Spidey’ wasn’t an infrequent moniker, as well. Geek pride. I’m not ashamed. My comicbook and toy collection is most probably bigger than yours.

So, as you can see, I have a deep-seeded contempt for when the strong abuse the weak. In any and all situations. I wish there was more I could do. Every time I see a story about a kid who took his or her life because they were picked on for being fat or gay or small or deaf or autistic or weird or different in any way, I wish I could have gone back in time to tell them everything was going to turn out all right. This pain is A.) temporary and B.) meaningless. Everyone is unique; we’re all weird, which is why no one should be singled out. Life’s beautiful that way. It’s really the bullies who have the problem, not you. It’s something in their life that’s screwed up and they hide their insecurities by taking it out on other people. They’re just trying to feel powerful.

Pearl Jam - Jeremy

I’m not saying everyone could or even should stand up to bullies. The smartest thing to do would be to tell a parent or teacher. Especially a parent. (I think I just admitted I took the ‘not-so-smart’ action.) It’s even possible that standing up to a bully could make them bully you more. Fighting back was simply the way I happened to handle it. I’m just saying it shouldn’t be the cause of enough strife to push you into an emotional hole. Believe me, I know that at the time it seems like the entire universe is against you, but like Dan Savage says, “It gets better." Although this generally refers to the bullying of LGBTQ kids, it extends to all bullied children. I just wish I could help them understand better that bullies are nothing. You are everything. Whoever you are, there is someone who loves you. And there are people out there who can help. Parents, friends, a website, a hotline - someone.

You are not alone.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

For Hearing & Speech Impaired with TTY Equipment:

Please, have a good day. Today and every day.

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And now, a word from Leonard Nimoy on bullying. Brilliant, really. (Click on image to enlarge.)

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One last thing. I take offense to the term, ‘Napoleon Complex.’ It’s supposed to refer to a short person being extra aggressive because they’re overcompensating for their lack of height. This is a myth and in fact, studies show that taller people often lose their tempers easier. 

I always saw it as a term used by bullies in an attempt to make their target seem like the irrational one and to justify the bully's continued picking on people smaller than them.

If you don’t think so, I’ll come over there and kick the living crap out of your six-foot tall Neanderthal ass!

DIO-We Rock

You watch their faces
You'll see the traces
Of the things they want to be
But only we can see

They come for killing
They leave and still it seems
The cloud that's left behind
Oh, can penetrate your mind

But sail on, sing a song, carry on
Cause We Rock, We Rock, We Rock, We Rock

We pray to someone
But when it's said and done
It's really all the same
With just a different name

So many voices
All giving choices
If we listen they will say
Oh, we can find the way

But we'll sail on, sing a song, carry on
Cause We Rock, We Rock, We Rock, We Rock
We Rock, We Rock, We Rock, We Rock
We Rock!

We Rock

You watch their faces
You'll see the traces
Of the things they want to be
But only we can see

They come for killing
They leave and still it seems
The cloud that's left behind
Can penetrate your mind

Sail on, sing a song, carry on
Cause We Rock, We Rock, We Rock, We Rock
We Rock, We Rock, We Rock, We Rock

Ride out - stand and shout - carry on
Sail on - Sing your song - carry on
Cause We Rock, We Rock, see how We Rock
We Rock
That's rock
We Rock

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One, very last thing:
I remember in exquisite detail being bullied by my next-door neighbor when I was five years old. He was a few years older. I did not fight back. I could not fight back. That feeling of hopelessness. That persistent fear – even when I was safe at home, I knew I would see him again at some point. That pounding of my heart that was so strong it blocked out all other sound. I did not like those feelings. No one should have to endure those feelings. They probably, on a subconscious level, had something to do with the way I turned out. Like I said, I don’t know. I can only speculate.

It gets better.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Pea


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