(The following is from an episode of my now retired podcast Go Forth & Nerd 🤓)
From trolls to thugs bullies often want an array of things but the one universal thing I've discovered about bullies is that they all want a sense of power. Be that power to take away your dignity, your lunch money, your joy, your piece of purpose on this hurling blue marble, or just to displace their own frustrations on you because of their low self esteem and lack of control in this world.
A bit about me if you've already guessed:I'm actually a quite even tempered guy. I seldom get physically upset. Even more so I deliberately avoid people that are prone to unpredictable bursts of anger. For good reason but the truth is this has roots into the scars I have from being bullied as a kid. To me angry people have crossed a clear line and have acted very violent to me. And it's these scars some emotional some physical that I have learned to live with.
To illustrate the lessons I've learned I'm going to share three short stories that embody the title of this post:
TO HELL WITH BULLIES!
I'll start off with a funny story.
There was this one time I was being bullied by a kid in the second grade. He kept hitting me while we were waiting in line after recess, and I kept asking him to leave me alone. Now it's important to mention that for some reason at this school they thought it wise to have recess immediately after lunch. Then while he was punching me my stomach started to turn. So I told him one last time to leave me alone - in a menacing grin he continued his behavior and punched me again so I let him have it! I puked up my entire lunch all over this jerk! It was awesome! He was covered from head to toe with a hot assault of irony. It was fair to say he NEVER bothered me again! Now we can't always vomit our way out of being bullied but this story reminds me that if you can't beat'em at least make them regret it.
My next story gets quite a bit edgier. Fast forward we were living in Minnesota outside of the 3M Corp - I was middle school aged, short rabbit trail for those curious I never went to middle school. I technically missed not skipped but missed 5th,6th,7th and 8th grade. Which I've been told by many people especially my wife that that is prime time for bullying. Back to living in what was clearly a ghetto in Minnesota. I was the only white boy in the neighborhood. Here I was a shrimpy white ginger kid completely surrounded by justifiably so angry and frustrated African American kids. And they hated me!
Let me explain why these kids were so frustrated - the only white people they knew were the cops that barged into the neighborhood to arrest or assault their family members. To these kids police sirens and gunfire was so frequent it was like a lullaby. These kids weren't in school, they were poor, and treated poorly. I honestly and deeply hold zero grudges against these kids. They were in a system that crapped on them and they felt it. Nonetheless at the time when faced with having my ass kicked multiple times every single day I discovered that:
I was never going to be able to out run these kids. Frankly they could lap me three times on my best day.
I couldn't make them laugh hard enough to forget how frustrated they were - something deep down in them was satisfied in punching out a pale freckled faced red head.
I had no other option but to fight back. That said even when you fight back when you're on your own unless you're Bruce Lee you're gonna lose in someway!
Here's the single greatest thing that changed for me aside from when we moved:
My friendship with Jamal - Jamal was the skinniest scrappiest kid I ever knew! He lived on the bottom floor of our apartment complex and I befriended him after giving him a Maxx comic. He was at that moment hooked on comics! So we became bros! Jamal and I loved watching cartoons together, eating fruit loops until our mouths were numbs and talking about our favorite super powers. Then at a hair pin turn Jamal was by my side when the gang of the usual bullies came to harass me for my timely beatings. Jamal was like a hurricane, he flew at the biggest kid in the group often 2 to 3 times his size and would just wail on the kid until he pleaded for him to stop! Jamal's motto was that you always attack first and go for the biggest meanest looking bully and don't stop hitting until your sure they'll never bother you again! I swear it's like this kid not knowing it lived out Ender's tactic from Ender's Game!
Jamal was such a bad ass. There was one particular time a gang of close to a dozen kids had surrounded me. They wanted to really beat the living crap out of me. Then in a moment of pure insanity Jamal came in - he had skewered a basketball size active wasps nest on a stick and he began to smash it to tinder upside their heads like it was some sorta stinging mace. It was insane!!! If you remember the hornets nest scene from Hunger Games that was the tame version of what this looked like. Close to a dozen kids screaming and flailing in all directions. It was one of the most violent and heroic things I've ever seen. Jamal and I fled relatively unscathed. Though I never gained Jamal's eye of the tiger this scrappy African American boy was my hero! He taught me how to fight back and that power is all about the heart and nothing to do with size.
So sometimes you have to fight back but you need to know your enemy enough to why they want to hurt you if you can. Sometimes fighting back is walking away or ignoring them like I've learned when dealing with internet trolls. And sometimes fighting back is through gaining a scrappy ally that'll march into the eye of the tornado with you like my buddy Jamal. There's strength in numbers and every bully has a weakness.
For my last story I want to throw you a bit of curve ball. Sometimes bullying doesn't look like a direct attack but is part of an underlying mob mentality. And the truth is sometimes people just aren't aware they're being bullies and they're just playing along blindly:
You see I went to Glencoe High school in Hillsboro, Oregon. And like all high schools they had a goofy mascot. But Glencoe high school had by far one of most bizarre mascots I've ever seen. It's called the Crimson Tide, and if you guessed that it might resemble a red wave with a ridiculous cartooned grinned you'd be right. The Crimson Tide was and to my knowledge still is a red cartoon wave of blood. You heard that right BLOOD! Yeah weird right?! My high schools mascot was/is a wave of blood! And not just any blood it's a reference to a specific wave of blood that took place from a historical massacre in Glencoe Scotland. Gross right? I agree. But it gets worse. My grandfather informed me that my ancestors specifically immigrated to the US to flee from the brutal genocide of the Campbells clan that was slaying our clan from Glencoe Scotland. So here I was attending a high school that their very mascot was a wave of the blood of my direct slaughtered ancestors. Can you say bloodthirsty? That was my reality from the following...
One particular day I was walking down the hallway and I saw a fight begin to break out. A shrimpy freshman was about to be crumbled by some massive dude. It was kinda of a Marty McFly vs Biff situation. I having had a growth spurt pushing 6ft tall awkwardly towered over both of them and got between them to try and stop the fight. A crowd quickly surrounded the three of us as these bloodthirsty teenagers chanted FIGHT, fight, fight! Well these kids with their Crimson Tide fury were angry that I got in between them and their entertainment so several of them shoved me to the ground so the fight would continue. And then in a moment it was over, the massive Biff like kid pummeled this shrimpy freshman. I was eventually able to stop the bully again but I learned a valuable lesson that day. People crave violence. Even when it's a spectator sport people like seeing other people being hurt. And because of that being a peacemaker is NEVER an easy task!
The truth is sometimes we need to stand up, walk away or just outsmart these bullies. We can and we're able but we need to fight against the senseless mob, the towering brute or the frustrated and displaced.
So today I want to encourage you by reminding you're not alone, that we all need allies, and that you can as hard as it sounds there is a way tell to take positive stand. As a community we need to have each others back!
As always thank you so much for reading. Let's unite together as we say To Hell With Bullies!