Monday, July 21, 2014

BULLY FOR YOU: RICK WATSON, MIGHTY GENTLE

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Our BULLY FOR YOU guest poster today is Rick Watson from Life 101. I've never met Rick in person (although he and his wife Jilda were in Jacksonville once and FAILED TO LET ME KNOW but of course I forgave that long ago), but I know he's the kind of person who doesn't bother to open his mouth or tap on his keyboard unless he has something intelligent to say.

Read and learn:

I was born in rural Alabama in the early 1950s. Being small for my age, I was the target of bullying from time to time.

When I was in the fourth grade, one of my classmates was a gentle giant. I’ll call him Jack. Jack was big enough to whip all the boys in class at the same time, but for some reason he always walked away from confrontation.

Spring came a little early that year and we all had spring fever. That afternoon a group of kids lingered on the playground playing dodge ball with a ragged basketball. Afterwards we sat around talking about all the things we’d do when the last school bell rang turning us loose for summer.

The conversation ended abruptly when a kid who was a notorious bully started picking on Jack. The taunting got ugly, and soon the bully was hammering away on Jack’s head with his fist. There were no teachers or adults around so the bully was having his way.

I stepped in to break it up. “Look, that’s enough.” The bully, who outweighed my 30 pounds, wheeled and punched me in the face, knocking me backward. I struggled to maintain my balance. The fist felt as hard as a hammer. This was the first time I’d ever been struck in the face. The punch he threw cut my lip and I tasted blood in my mouth.

Before I found my footing, the bully jumped on my back and clamped his arms around my throat.  It was hard to breathe. Just like in the movies, kids gathered around. Some were shouting for him to stop, and some egging him on.

He wouldn’t turn loose of my throat. Anger flared from somewhere deep inside and I found strength I’d never known. Reaching over my shoulders, I grabbed his neck, and flipped him over my shoulders.

He landed flat of his back hard enough to knock the wind out of him. The throw surprised him, but it surprised me even more. Blood oozed from the corner of his mouth where he’d bit his lip. I thought for a second I had killed him, but at that moment, I didn’t care. I could feel my heart beating in my temples.

What’s interesting is that I didn’t experience a feeling of triumph, or satisfaction, as one might expect. It was almost as if I were embarrassed. Some of the kids who had gathered around to watch the altercation came up afterwards to congratulate, but I was so upset that I had tears in my eyes and I didn’t know why.

I left him whimpering on the ground.  Squatting down by the oak tree in the yard, I picked up my books and lunch kit and headed down the railroad tracks toward home. Jack grabbed his books too and walked home with me. Neither of us said a word.

The next day I feared the bully would team up with his friends and corner me to get revenge, but it never happened. In fact, the bully never bothered me, or Jack again.

That incident taught me something basic about human nature. A bully will never pick on someone strong enough to kick their ass, they seek the weakest one in the herd. It’s how they feed their ego.

I also learned that standing up for yourself is necessary, and often it’s the right thing to do, but don’t expect to walk away feeling like Rocky.


Thank you, Rick. You're right: winning the fight, no matter what kind it is, doesn't always feel good.

Rick has three books available on Amazon, or you can purchase them directly from Rick at Life 101.  They're compilations of his newspaper columns. The titles are Remembering Big, Life Happens, and Life Changes. Read and relax and learn. Rick is our Alabama philosopher.

Please leave Rick some bloggy love in a comment, and I urge you to visit his blog.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

63 comments:

  1. Thank you Janie for the opportunity to do a guest post on your site.
    I appreciate your kind words.
    Rick

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    1. Thank you for joining us, Rick. I appreciate you.

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  2. Janie, I love this post. It says something basic about the nature of bullies. They're a bit cowardly at their core.

    Being a target sticks with you, though. I got a "friend" request from a guy who lived near me when I was in school. The happiest day of my life was when I stopped riding the bus, because this guy would taunt me (or anyone). Like the story, if one starts - other idiots, even more cowardly, will join in. Apparently, he didn't remember that at all, and remembers us as friends. What the heck? I wished him well and "forgot" to friend him. Boo-hoo. Ain't nobody got time fo' dat.

    Hug it out, friend.
    Cherdo
    www.cherdoontheflipside.com

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    1. The Hurricane rode the bus until a couple of months after she began third grade. It was so horrible that I drove her to school, almost every day, until she was a senior in high school and became a boarder at her prep school.

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    2. I agree Cherdo. There were other kids in our school that received a lot more harassment than me. It's an age-old problem.
      R

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  3. All of my boys are big guys. But they are sweet guys, not prone to fight- much like your gentle giant. Mine grew up in an age of zero tolerance, where no matter why you are in the fight, you are in trouble. My oldest son was bullied relentlessly at the bus stop, hit and pushed, because he never hit back. He was a good kid who didn't want to get in trouble. Frustrated, his dad and I told him he had the right to hit back, to defend himself. It only took one punch to stop the bullying forever. And like you, he wasn't at all proud. But at least he was no longer picked on at the bus stop.

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    1. Elizabeth, sometimes there is no way out except to lash back. Most of the time it will stop the bullying in its tracks.
      R

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  4. I enjoyed reading Rick's story. He's a gifted writer.

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    1. Thank you Stephen. I appreciate you kind words.
      R

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  5. As a Daily Mtn Eagle journalist (with some knowledge of biblical history?), you might’ve headlined your story something like “David saves Goliath to stave off Herod.”
    The Bible’s full of stories that seemingly contradict Jesus’ exhortation to “Be kind ” and “Love one another.”

    But what would Jesus have actually done in your situation?
    Like you, he would’ve done something. There’s a stat out there that while the preponderance of bullying happens in front of people, only a brave 10% intervene on a victim’s behalf.

    So, good for you, Rick! And you taught yourself a coupla life lessons as well. I’d dare add 3 more:
    -a biological one abt adrenalin and the fight response.
    -a philosophical one abt the messiness of ethics.
    -a “spiritual” one abt how—unlike in the movies—violence is often followed by profound, almost sacred, silence.
    Maybe they're included in your "Life Happens” book which I’ll definitely get my hands on.

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    1. Thank you Karl. My column that ran in this past Sunday's paper has nothing to do with bullying, but it does talk about trying to do the right thing. I'm posting it tonight on my blog.
      Rick

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    2. Daily Mountain Eagle? You must be very close to me! That newspaper is in Jasper, AL, 30 miles from me.

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  6. So true but it is easier said than done to stand up to a bully. My daughter is going through a rough patch.
    Just a comment on the last post. I am sure if someone wore a yoga pant like that here they would have stoned the person or literally arrested the person..
    www.thoughtsofpaps.com

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    1. Re: the yoga pants: That's fascinating and frightening, PAPS. I wish I could help your daughter.

      Love,
      Janie

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    2. I wear yoga pants, but I can promise you mine doesn't look like those :)
      R

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  7. Glad you found the strength and skill to turn the tables. Gladder still that there were no repercussions. Great story.

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  8. A great lesson--for Rick & us!!

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  9. This story clearly demonstrates a major difference between a bully and a non-bully. A bully derives pleasure out of belittling and beating on another person. A non-bully, even when hitting said bully back in self-defense, gets no pleasure from doing so.

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  10. That's why I have my son enrolled in Krav. So he learns how to whip a bully's arse!

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  11. That would make an awesome scene in a Stand-by-me-esque movie. Especially the unexpected tears and embarassed feeling afterward. I'm glad he let you alone after that.

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    1. I'm not sure what I would have done had he come after me. At that time in my life, I had no point of reference. As I grew, I developed skills to help deal with conflict. Humor for example. It's hard for someone to beat you up when you make them laugh :)

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  12. I'm glad you were able to stand up for yourself and Jack. It's sad that you had to resort to violence in order to end violence, but at least that's one bully down. And you get to keep your dignity since you found no pleasure in your action. Sigh. Thank you for sharing!

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  13. I'm moved by this story. I've been picked on all my life, because I'm extremely short, but -thankfully- I was not bullied to that extent. I have a friend who's a gentle giant. Between the two of us, I'd probably be the one more likely to throw a punch. And I'd probably feel just as Rick did afterwards.

    Thank you, Rick and Janie.

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  14. That was a good story, Rick. 1950/60's bullying is much different than modern bullying. For the most part, you're right, standing up for yourself results in making yourself the Alpha dog in that bully's mind. For me, standing up for myself resulted in two black eyes and my bully ending up as a famous NFL player who retired filthy rich at the age of 34. It's still worth standing up for one's self, though.

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    1. Your NFL player bully may have retired filthy rich at 34, but it's probably gone by now. Athletes, especially football players, are notorious for not knowing how to handle their money. They also quite often support 10 kids who have 10 different moms. They support their entire family. They support friends who grew up with them. It goes on and on.

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    2. Karma has a way of biting people on the butt. Maybe his will sustain a nip or two :)

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  15. I went to an American school, and as a French kid who barely spoke English, I was the target of many bullies. And I was the smallest kid in the class, which didn't help. I loved these green OshGoshP'Gosh overalls that I wore everyday. Whelp, one day I ended up being hung on the back of a classroom door for 45 minutes by the back strap of those overalls. I also ended up in closets, lockers, and even a sink once.

    Standing up for myself only made it worse. Most of the time though, I was not mad or sad, I was impressed! I mean they hung me from a door! That's kind of funny.

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    1. Not to make light of your situation, but I bet that got your (French?) panties in a bunch.
      Apologies for being "naughty," but Janie started this. . .and continued it with her sheer Yoga pants piece.

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    2. Oooooooh, Karl. Lola, on a somewhat more serious note, then did you feel that their intentions were not cruel?

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    3. Their intentions were cruel and I hated them. But I had three amazing sisters, and they never let it to me. With the help of my sister's support, I felt sorry for them to be honest. They bullied me all through middle school and on the last day of school, they all teamed up and pretended like they were going to beat me up after school. At this point I'd had enough and when one of the girls got in my face, I knee'd her in the face. I got sent to the headmaster's office and he slammed the door behind me, sat on his desk in front of me, smiled and said "That must have felt good." He sent me home for the rest of the day.

      Then we were in high school and things completely shifted. The upper class-men rallied around me and told those girls that they had no patience for bullying. I became very good friends with some of the seniors and one day I stopped and realised...they lost. I was happy and liked while they were the quiet ones that no one bothered with. So I guess in the end, I felt I had come out on top.

      To this day though, bullying is a subject I take to heart. Because some of the people enduring the hell (and worse) that I went through aren't lucky enough to have the support I did that kept me sane.

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    4. I'm so glad you had assistance.

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    5. I love headmasters like that :)

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  16. Usually, the most gentle or the smallest or "weakest" ones are the targets. They're seen as easy prey. It's sort of like how a pack of lions go after the weak, sick, or injured zebra. If the zebras all fought back, they would out number the lion pack and win. Instead, they flee for their own safety. That's what happens in the case of most bullies and the bullied. The only real difference is that a lion hunts to eat, a bully hunts because they need psychological help.

    If the bullied all fought back together, there could be more change. We can get laws passed, get the rules in schools to stop being "kids will be kids" so that everyone can be helped.

    Standing up to bullies one on one (or one against a group) can make a change, but it's always a risk on whether it will help or make the situation worse. What's most important is fighting back together until changes are made everywhere. All of the posts in this series are helping to do that. Thank you.

    Love,
    Rachel

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    1. I love that thought, Rachel. I picture the bullied kids or adults hanging out together and protecting each other. The bullies wouldn't have a chance.

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    2. A friend told me that the school he attended (several years ago) implemented a no bullying policy. It wasn't the administration, but the students.The special education kids often sat at the table with the football team. Whenever someone tried to give one of the weaker schoolmates a hard time, a stronger kid would step in.
      If somehow an attitude like that could become pervasive in the culture, bullying would be rare.

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  17. great story, rick. the bullies always seek out the weak. it's true on the unsupervised playgrounds and in world events. the u.s. is always kicking the crap out of some third-world country without a nuclear bomb in its arsenal. there's a reason. thanks for this wonderful story of what it's like to be human.

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    1. I'm so happy to see you, Ed. It's been forever. Do you still write poetry?

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  18. Sometimes a taste of his own medicine is all a bully understands.

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  19. My friend said he only had one fight in his life. I don't remember why he was bullied, but the first time it happened. He took the first punch and got up and beat up the second grader. He had just entered first grade, so he was given a wide berth for the rest of grade school. In seventh grade someone taunted him and rode his bike around the school yard. He threw the last punch he ever threw his whole life and knocked the kid on his rear. He went on to retire from the AF after 200 missions in Vietnam. He said both incidents would have to more bullying if he let it go without a fight. He said that even when he was six, he knew more boys would bully him if he did not beat up the other guy.

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  20. Yeah I get his bullies don't like a fair fight and don't like to pick on someone who could knock their block off if they chose to do so.

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    1. The bullies have a need to build themselves up by picking on other people.

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  21. It's funny how sometimes the smallest guys have more strength than even they realize! I love stories like this. The underdog wins!

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    1. I remember when I was in junior high there was a kid named Stan who was pretty small and a bit effeminate. He probably just hadn't hit puberty yet. My friends and I took him under our wing and insisted he sit with us at lunch. No one bothered Stan because he was part of a group. If he had been on his own, I shudder to think what might have happened to him. He was still small when we went on to different high schools. I've always hoped that no one picked on him.

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  22. I remembered being tormented by neighborhood thugs growing up. I also vividly remember when I finally trounced one of them. The shock on his toadies' faces was incredible. From that moment on, I was never picked on again.
    Years later, I met one of them in the high school cafeteria.
    He asked, "Are you Penwasser?"
    Nervously, I replied that I was, expecting a confrontation.
    But, he just said, "You're and asshole." And turned back to his Fish-A-Ma-Jig sandwich.
    Sadly, after vanquishing my foe, I became somewhat of a swaggering jerk myself. Until I picked a fight with a kid...who promptly mopped the street with my me. When I finally yielded, he said, "I take back all the things I said about your mother, too." Then, he let me go.
    As it turned out, I picked a fight with a nice guy. We actually became friends and I never picked on anyone again.
    I also wasn't picked on again, either.

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    1. I'll pick on you, Penwusser.

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    2. Meet me by the monkey bars mister :)

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  23. Awesome. I had a similar experience once will a bully. All it took was a single hard punch, and after that any time I raised my fist he backed off. It's hard to know when to fight though and when to walk away.

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    1. I have difficulty picturing you prepared to engage in fisticuffs.

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    2. Walking away is often the best option, but sometimes it's not an option.

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  24. Rick, I loved your story, and even if you weren't cheering afterwards, I was certainly cheering for you. I wonder if he went on to bully others, or if he learned something that day? I certainly hope the latter.

    -andi

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    1. I never saw him bully anyone else. Maybe he did, but I didn't see it.

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  25. Same kind of thing happened to my son. He was small, weaker, and thin because of his heart defects plus he didn't believe in violence so he didn't fight back and was picked on a lot in grade school. He finally had enough and just beat the biggest bully up--just took a couple good punches with a little "crazy" icing. They didn't bother him again, either. He was too ashamed to tell me for a couple years because he felt badly that he was provoked to violence. But sometimes you just can't take any more...and they are really asking for it, to be perfectly honest. You're so right in that a bully is not going to pick on the toughest kid in class. They pick on the weaker ones and the ones who won't fight back. They seem to live in a world of violence and only respect someone who can dish it out in return. Sad, but true. :( Once in a while a person has to dish back, I guess.

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    1. It's sad that no one stood up for Dagan and he had to go ballistic to save himself.

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