Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bully for You

Interesting article at PajamasMedia about the real way to deal with bullies at the other end of the link.  Apparently, Lady Gaga is not just someone who wears meat to her gigs.  She is perfectly capable of being ridiculous on other subjects.

The article touched a nerve in me, making me recall my days in high school, having to deal with a daily shower of shinola for being the fat kid.  And that was just the kids, don't get me started on the phys ed coaches...

Anyhow, interesting article.  As Reformed Trombonist, I posted a response there, am reproducing it below...

As Jean Shepherd wryly said in the classic movie, “A Christmas Story”, in the world of boys, “you were either a bully, a toady, or one of the nameless rabble of victims.”

Bullies of any sort make me steam with a white-hot passion. It’s been forty years since I was in high school, but to this day the memories still smart. If I could change only one decision I had ever made in my life, I would go back to my high school band and give a knuckle sandwich to the senior who had ruined my entire ninth-grade year. Yes, I too was an easy mark — a fat kid who just wanted to get along with everyone. (Apparently, there’s something very satisfying about picking on the fat kid — I don’t know what that is, but I did get to share in the experience.)

The justice behind giving a fat lip to a bully is something many women just don’t seem to get. [Note:  judging from several of the other responses, this was probably unfair.  Apparently, some women do indeed get it. -- Lee]  Since the schools are essentially run by women’s sensibilities, it never surprises me, but always disgusts me, when I hear about some school where the victim gets the same punishment as the bully when he fights back.  Challenge it, and you get to sit in the reviewing stand for the Parade of the Bromides. E.g., “Fighting is wrong, period.” And the ever-popular, “Violence never settles anything.” Pardon my French, but bull-loney. No one believes that hitting a bully is the sort of “Let’s save the world!” grand cosmic-justice solution that gives liberals a tingle up their leg. Rather, it’s a modest but effective conservative solution to an age-old problem — namely, man’s inhumanity to man, junior edition. It’s all about making the world a better place, one miserable bully at a time.

At my high school, at least once, justice was served with a cherry on top.

In my eighth-grade band class (our high school was 8-12), there was the saga of (I’ll call them) Joe and Dino. Joe was our best trumpet player, but he was a trouble-maker of the worst sort. Not a big guy, just mouthy and bullying when he thought he could get away with it. And Dino was his favorite mark. Dino was a big kid, still sporting some “baby fat”, but was so clumsy and spastic he almost seemed mentally retarded (which he wasn’t). Though he was a head taller and much larger than Joe, Dino just wasn’t aggressive, and Joe loved to ride him mercilessly — constant mouthing off, shoving, etc. Well, a couple of years passed, and what happened to Dino was no less dramatic than watching a chrysalis sprout into a butterfly — by the time he was sixteen, Dino looked like an NFL tight end. I’d guess he was about six-four, probably 240 pounds, and chiseled. For the most part, Dino was still a big Twinkie on the inside, but not completely — Dino’s attitude was slowly changing, too. Unfortunately for Joe, Joe’s wasn’t. It was inevitable. We all kept wondering, when is Dino going to do it? And then one day, it happened — the news spread all over school that Joe had bullied Dino one too many times. The evidence was splattered all over the hallway. I would have given a hundred dollars to have seen it. The next year, Joe transferred to a different high school. I’m still hopeful that the experience made him a better person.

It would be an interesting psychological study to follow bullies and their victims into adulthood, to see how their personalities developed. How many of the bullies experienced a moment of self-awareness and came to their senses? How many of their victims overcame their cowardice later in life? And what were the consequences for those who didn’t? Maybe there are some happy endings there, for both. Redemption is a beautiful thing.

But I doubt it works out that way in every case. A couple of years ago, my brother started working at the local mill again after many years of living and working elsewhere. He asked me, hey, you remember so-and-so? This particular so-and-so had once been the most feared bully at our high school. I said, yeah, what’s he like now? My brother answered, “Like a sad old drunk.” A year later, so-and-so’s name was in the obituaries, not even sixty.

At the end of life, wouldn’t it be awful to be remembered as the worst bully at your high school? I guess even bullies deserve some compassion.