Bullies

That is a strong word, hate, but it is a raw emotion shared by many who have witnessed and are in the process of witnessing what is happening now to this country. And of course, there are many reasons for hating him and those around him. Do we need to rehearse the litany of racism, self-dealing, corruption, misogyny, homophobia, undemocratic and demeaning behavior, both by him and his supporters?

But all of these behaviors come from one thing: he is at base a bully, and if I had five minutes alone with him I could single-handedly teach him a lesson he would never forget. How do I know this?

Because as a fat kid (and always the biggest both in terms of height and girth in my class) I got bullied by everyone: family, neighbors, school kids, even teachers. Summer camp was perhaps the worst: it was like two weeks of Lord of the Flies between the ages of ten and thirteen. But my last year there I put the kibosh on it. How did I do that?

Simple: there was a single kid who led the charge. One day I saw him alone and stopped him in his tracks. I demanded that he say something to my face now that he was alone and away from his pack. He did not. I started to shove him, and noted to his face his sudden change of heart and cowardice now that he was alone with the person he had been tormenting. I just kept shoving and repeating the demand.

He looked helpless. I will never forget the fear in his eyes. I will never forget the rush of power and adrenaline I felt as I saw it, but I kept going. I did not hit him, I just kept shoving and demanded an explanation for his constant derision. Then along came a camp counselor, who had several years over both of us and was bigger, and put an end to it. But he didn’t do it again – no one at camp did.

Not only will I never forget the fear in his eyes, I will never forget the rush of power I felt. Not immediately, but many many years later now as I look back on that moment, I realize that the episode carried a number of lessons: about fear, about power, and about compassion.

Some forty years later I realize that the lesson was about what power can do, but should not do. I know at base that a bully like our president elect also requires acquiescence and a group to aid and abet his bullying. I also realize that if you get any of them alone and confront them, that their anger and rage, those misplaced, self-indulgent emotions that they have confused with strength, will vanish. They will not push back, because at base bullies are weak and in the wrong. Just recall the minister who confronted the president elect at the podium in Michigan – take away his audience, take away that which feeds the bully and the bullying, confront the bully with the victim, and watch them melt.

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