"When I was a kid, there was always a bully around. And eventually, some quiet kid would turn out to be the one not to be trifled with. The bully would mess with him, and in the end, get the living shit kicked out of him by this quiet guy, as his little flunkeys walked away and the rest of the school stood around and cheered on the quiet guy."
Minus the cheering, I was the quiet guy.
I was always the fucking quiet guy. I liked to read. I was weird. My parents were divorced back when nobody got divorced. I went to a weird-ass church (Hi, Mom!). I got swapped around to different grade schools during an aborted redistricting plan, so I didn't have a lot of friends. We were poor. I didn't really hit my growth spurt until high school, so I was usually one of the smaller guys in class. I was a bully magnet.
So I would take their crap until I finally decided that no matter how badly things went, it couldn't be worse than just continuing to suck it up, and then someone would get hurt. It was usually them, but once in a while it was me. See, my siblings are all older than me, quite a bit older, so when I finally got pushed into a fight, I was in it to win it. My brother and I stopped sharing a room one day after he started picking on me and I decked him and left him with a bloody nose. He was 16. I was 7. As he leaned over me, I waved my little left fist under his nose and while he was watching that I pulled my right hand waaaaaaay back and dropped him with a haymaker that he didn't even see coming. I couldn't believe he fell for that. Of course, I also ran like hell before he could get up and retaliate.
Skip forward to Jr. High... One of the Hayes boys had been picking on me for months. He walked by and casually shoved me against my locker. This time, however, I dropped my books, tackled him right there in the hallway in front of Mr. Hutton's room and put him in a headlock. I put my fist right in front of his face and told him: "This time, I'm not punching you in the face." He tried to squirm away and I tightened my grip and repeated, "This time." After a totally flabbergasted Mr. Hutton pulled us apart and took us to the principal's office, the Hayes boys never bothered me again.
Fast forward a year. Marty was dumb kid. He was a year behind me, but only because they flunked dumb kids back then. He was also mean. He and his little droogie were walking behind me as I walked home from school, and every so often they would speed up and give my backpack a kick. I was finally sick enough of their shit to do something about it, so I knocked him down and told him to leave me alone or I would have to hurt him. His little droogie danced around us making noise but didn't intervene. Marty said he would leave me alone so I let him up and continued walking home. A few seconds later, I heard the crunch of running tennis shoes on the gravel behind me. I stepped sideways, turned, and clotheslined him. I repeated the lesson about not messing with me, but this time I emphasized it by thumping the back of his head against the ground on the important words, and this time the lesson stuck. His little droogie ran away and left him there.
OK, that time there was a little cheering, but we were in front of the line of busses picking up the high school kids when it happened.
It didn't always go down like that. I wasn't a particularly tough kid or a very good fighter. Mostly, they were so shocked that someone was actually standing up to them that I took them completely by surprise. One kid just dropped me like a bad habit. One punch and the fight was over. It turns out that in addition to being a jackass, he actually was a particularly tough kid and a pretty good fighter. You know what? He also decided that there were easier kids to mess with, and he left me alone after that.
My strategy was to hurt them a little, and let them know that that the next time the gloves would be off. The fear of what I might do was always going to be worse than anything I could actually do. Am I going to share this strategy with my son? Hell, no. Back then, kids didn't take guns to school. The worst you would end up with was an ass kicking. Even so, there's an important lesson in this. You've got to stand up to the bully, even if you lose in the short run. If you never stand up to them, they'll never stop, and you'll just have to keep sucking it up.
So here's my question for our elected officials: Can you please stop sucking now?