Debut commenter according2grayson submitted a heartfelt, extensive and thought-provoking reaction to the post about a Lincoln, Nebraska school’s much-criticized anti-bullying advice and the website that spawned them. I’ll have some comments at the end; in the meantime, here is the Comment of the Day on the post, An Unethical Website, Golden Rule Malpractice And The Worst Anti-Bullying Program Ever:
The rule is “Do not attack” immediately “If I attack you.” You’re being asked to place yourself in the shoes of an attacker. NO ONE attacks without feeling angry, hurt, or victimized. Why do homophobes beat up gay kids? Fear that they might be gay too, or offense at people mocking their God. Fear of what’s different. No, fear isn’t always a rational response to something that might put us on a breathing tube. The word “phobia” by it’s definition means “irrational,” and this pertains to everything from Xenophobia to Homophobia to Genderphobia to Arachnophobia. I guarantee that a garden spider isn’t going to put anyone on a breathing tube, but how many people shriek when they see him anyway?
Now here’s the issue– if you lash out irrationally because you’re afraid of someone, and you punch them in the face– that person now has a very rational reason to punch you in the face. But, being an emotional creature and not understanding why your own initial attack was wrong, you’re not going to say “Well, I punched him…..” You’re going to say “Ow! My nose is bleeding, you little shit!”
Until someone does decide to turn the other cheek, it’s only going to keep going back and forth, if not escalating. That’s the entire purpose behind such things as the Golden Rule and Christ’s “Turn the Other Cheek” argument. Read Gandhi. Try to follow the rules of Satyagraha. These rules lead a nation to Freedom without bloodshed. No, it wasn’t a “perfect revolution.” Yes, there were years of hardship that followed. But if you want a perfectly demonized bully (aside from maybe Hitler) British Empire’s your best bet. And these tactics DID take them down.
You can argue that “kids aren’t ready for this.” But I’m sorry, I can only laugh at you for underestimating children. I was 12 years old when my older brother was killed in 9/11. I grew up involved in activism against the wars. I was shoved into lockers, thrown down stairs, beaten up, called a “terrorist” and a “traitor to my nation.” And that was just the latest permutation of bullying I had faced.
I was taught, however, that our duties were to “think globally, act locally” and “become the change we wished to see in the world.” I was told that I wanted to be a voice for a non-violent response to a terrible act– I HAD to learn to respond non-violently to children being children.
And you know what? It didn’t turn me submissive. It didn’t take away a single ounce of pride.
I knew that the assholes picking on me lacked fundamental understandings of most of the reasons -why- they claimed they were picking on me. I knew that if any of these rich kids with their Hallmark Card homes (and, yes, when you go to a private parochial school of 8 kids, you do pretty much know that) had stood so close to national tragedy as any of the family members I was working with– they wouldn’t have handled it. They already couldn’t handle adversity. The gay kids? The black kids? The poor kids? They beat them all up. If other people’s hardships were so terrifying, how would they react to their own?
I laughed at these kids. I went on to graduate third in my class, was the first accepted to college. By which point I’d already worked for 3-4 years with a twice Nobel Prize nominated organization. Already helped organize lobbying campaigns (including one to shut down GITMO with PT & Amnesty International, which Obama recalled the involved groups to respond to in his first press conference) I’d already been a founding member of the World Conference for Peace and shaken hands with one of the last of the habakusha, with a minister who trained under Desmond Tutu, with mothers from Israel and Palestine working side by side (minority though they’ll always be) to end conflict.
In college, when I came out as pansexual, no one batted an eye. Afterwards, when I lost weight and started performing with the NYC Rocky Horror Cast (to an audience of at least 200, weekly. Not factoring special performances at other venues and in NYC cultural events) started performing Off-Broadway, started working with NPR (where a workshop I head-lined along with a few other youths effects by 9/11 won 4 awards including Bronze for “Best Radio Doc of 2011″ from the Society of Professional Journalism) People FLOCKED. Not only was I a hot commodity professionally. But socially as well. I’ll refrain from speaking of my exploits, as this is a mature site– but, when my buddies and I play the “Cassanova” drinking game, I’m usually one of the first to lose, and I always do so in a single scene.
The only argument you can make against any of this is “your life’s not that great” and no, you’re right, it isn’t. I’ve faced many hardships including the death of my brother. Lost my job and apartment in a hurricane last year. But none of that had to do with my response to bullying. And while some of those events may have had me, at times, not in places where I was able to deal to the best of my ability it’s not MY ability in question
ANY child can learn to find personal pride in their own accomplishments, can learn not to take bullies seriously (BECAUSE THEY AREN’T) Can learn not to perpetuate cycles.
And in the end, years down the road, they’ll be getting Facebook requests from their former bullies with notes saying “I’m sorry.” It’s not delusion. I’ve lived it.
I like the post, because it states, passionately and clearly, a whole package of naive beliefs that will be with us until the end of time, and will get a lot of people hurt and killed. There are other statements as well, that are just mistaken, or examples of magical thinking. Let’s see…I won’t guarantee that I will cover them all:
“NO ONE attacks without feeling angry, hurt, or victimized. Why do homophobes beat up gay kids? Fear that they might be gay too, or offense at people mocking their God. Fear of what’s different.”
This is nonsense, of course. Bullies attack for fun in may cases. To show dominance. To show-off. Because they just don’t like someone. Because they want lunch money. The “they are just afraid” is a nice and useful myth, but it is simply untrue in many and maybe most cases.
“The word “phobia” by it’s definition means “irrational,” and this pertains to everything from Xenophobia to Homophobia to Genderphobia to Arachnophobia. I guarantee that a garden spider isn’t going to put anyone on a breathing tube, but how many people shriek when they see him anyway?”
Phobias are always irrational, but fear isn’t. Nor is it accurate to assume that every attack on a gay person is based on the fact that he or she is gay, or that the attacker is fearful. The fact that an individual is smaller, weaker and vulnerable is often sufficient to spark a bully’s attack, and the fact that the victim is gay is incidental.Doesn’t everyone know this? I remember boys bullying girls because they liked them, and didn’t know any other way to interact.
“Now here’s the issue– if you lash out irrationally because you’re afraid of someone, and you punch them in the face– that person now has a very rational reason to punch you in the face. But, being an emotional creature and not understanding why your own initial attack was wrong, you’re not going to say “Well, I punched him…..” You’re going to say “Ow! My nose is bleeding, you little shit!”
So what? The point is that getting hit back is negative reinforcement, which will often be the only thing a bully understands. Maybe the bully will realize his attack was wrong, maybe he already knew it. The point is that there were consequences, and the victim refused to allow the bullying to be a pleasurable experience.
“Until someone does decide to turn the other cheek, it’s only going to keep going back and forth, if not escalating.”
This is one of the great, undying cliches of civilization, and it is a false, and obviously false assertion. “Only”? Sometimes the bully is a coward and retreats. Sometimes the bully respects the victim. Sometimes the victim beats the bully so badly that there is no capability to retaliate. “Turn the other cheek” is a much debated and probably mistranslated piece of Biblical advice, but whatever it was originally supposed to signify, no response is going to be appropriate in every instance. I agree with the commentators who argue that Christ was cautioning against automatically responding to an evil or violent act in kind. That’s good advice. “Always be passive in the face of aggression,” however, is irresponsible and dangerous advice.
“These rules lead a nation to Freedom without bloodshed.”
Or perhaps to slavery, genocide, domination and destruction. No one who has read history can say this without giggling.
“No, it wasn’t a “perfect revolution.” Yes, there were years of hardship that followed. But if you want a perfectly demonized bully (aside from maybe Hitler) British Empire’s your best bet. And these tactics DID take them down.”
Oh, brother. A while back I read an interview with one of the Berrigans who argued that passive resistance might have worked against Hitler, but it just wasn’t tried. Could he really believe this? Gandhi was certainly aware that the British culture and traditions made it particularly vulnerable to his tactics, and he was smart and educated enough to know that hunger strikes would be ludicrously ineffective against a long list of despots, murderers, dictators and conquerors too numerous to mention. Tim Burton knocked this foolishness out of the park in his satire “Mars Attacks!,” in which the U.S. keeps trying to deal peacefully with the invaders, who respond by, first, cackling at our incredible stupidity and then brutally murdering everyone in sight. (Fortunately for humanity, Slim Whitman’s deadly yodeling rescues humanity, but we can’t count on that).
“I was taught, however, that our duties were to “think globally, act locally” and “become the change we wished to see in the world.” I was told that if I wanted to be a voice for a non-violent response to a terrible act– I HAD to learn to respond non-violently to children being children. And you know what? It didn’t turn me submissive. It didn’t take away a single ounce of pride.”
Yes, this is called “presuming a generality from one specific and perhaps anomalous instance” and also “being lucky as hell.”
“I knew that the assholes picking on me lacked fundamental understandings of most of the reasons -why- they claimed they were picking on me. I knew that if any of these rich kids with their Hallmark Card homes (and, yes, when you go to a private parochial school of 8 kids, you do pretty much know that) had stood so close to national tragedy as any of the family members I was working with– they wouldn’t have handled it. They already couldn’t handle adversity. The gay kids? The black kids? The poor kids? They beat them all up. If other people’s hardships were so terrifying, how would they react to their own?”
Bravo! This is a wonderful, illustrative and useful example of responding to bias with bias, contempt with contempt. All in the name of love, of course. I appreciate the transparency.
“ANY child can learn to find personal pride in their own accomplishments, can learn not to take bullies seriously (BECAUSE THEY AREN’T) Can learn not to perpetuate cycles.”
1. True. 2. Depends what is meant by “seriously.” No, their abuse doesn’t mean that they are right about one’s self-worth. But they are real, and can be dangerous, just like a wild animal, a bullet or a falling rock. It isn’t honest or responsible to teach a child otherwise. 3. One way not to perpetuate a cycle is to end the motivation for its existence. There are several ways to do this, not just one.
“And in the end, years down the road, they’ll be getting Facebook requests from their former bullies with notes saying “I’m sorry.” It’s not delusion. I’ve lived it.”
Glad to hear it. I wouldn’t bet the family jewels that this will happen with all bullies or in all instances, however. It’s delusional or naive to think that it will, and cruel and irresponsible to tell victims of bullying to accept a beating with a smile in anticipation of a best case scenario.
16 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “An Unethical Website, Golden Rule Malpractice And The Worst Anti-Bullying Program Ever””
This guy obviously didn’t grow up in the era of Charles Atlas ads and bullies kicking sand in a wimp’s face. The wimp went to the gym and built his muscles up so he could punch the bully. Nowadays the wimps come up with an elaborate rationale for non-violence that makes them superior. Btw, I look to Jesus Christ as someone who wasn’t committed to non-action when He saw evil.
What psychopath-free world is accordingtograyson living in? I understand that in at least one instance, a guy shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.
Accordingtograyson’s pontifications (and autobiography of self-awesomeness) brought things off-topic a bit anyway.
Turning the other cheek is great and important, if you are a Christian, wanting to make a serious sacrifice in order to show an enemy the love of Jesus, and willing to suffer in order to do so.
(It is also not a mistranslation. Nothing in the Bible is any more likely to be “mistranslated” than even far more contemporary works, like Shakespeare’s plays. By the metrics used to judge the reliability of really old books– frequency, volume, and elapsed time from existing copies and the originals– the New Testament is in a class by itself.)
But he discussion Jack started was about an attempt to FORCE/COERCE students into not only “turning the other cheek” as a matter of institutional policy, but also teaching them to “not tattle” (any biblical basis for THAT?), and to agree with and accept insulting and nasty things that a bully says about them (expound on them, even.)
“Turning the other cheek” is a personal commitment. It can’t be a civic policy.
Also, no, DON’T study Gandhi. That guy exactly makes the case against you. He thought he could “melt Hitler’s heart” (Gandhi’s words) by writing him a letter addressed “my friend” asking him to maybe please don’t consider murdering everybody all the time. Bullies like Hitler are really just hurting inside, you see. (Spoiler- the letter didn’t work.)
Also, here was his plan for how the Brits should deal with Hitler’s invasion- to let them:
“take possession of your beautiful island, with your many beautiful buildings. You will give all these but neither your souls, nor your minds. If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourself man, woman and child, to be slaughtered …”
I think the British way of handling Nazis turned out better.
So no, don’t study Gandhi, at least not in the “total life coach” kinda way. You’ll end up just telling your wife one day that you won’t be having sex any more, because aestheticism and stuff (sorry wife! didn’t think I needed to consult you), and then having your grandniece sleep with your naked self as an exercise in same.
Bullies only understand force.
So use it.
I question this litany of life experiences, since it sounds a bit too pat and a bit too neat to be real, or at least it sounds sanitized/incomplete. Those with truly outstanding records usually don’t feel the need to trumpet them. That said, I wasn’t there, so maybe it is all true. I know I tried the non-violent approach a few times, and it just lead to more bullying. I also tried the fight-back approach, smashing one bully’s head against the sidewalk and nearly steangling another, and it frankly didn’t get much more done beyond getting the bullies off my back temporarily. That said, a temporary respite from abuse is better than absorbing abuse every day without a respite. What really broke one group of problem people was a combination of finally going to the authorities and the people overreaching. Despite the justified criticism of Catholic schools (a whole separate discussion), they did have one very big thing going for them: no one who was enrolled had to be, or had any right to be, and dismissal or necessary discipline was easily accomplished.
One day after a particularly difficult bus ride in I finally took things, with names, to the dean of discipline. Somewhere in the week around this complaint one of the same people bullied another student, who weighed maybe 110 pounds soaking wet, by grabbing his nose and twisting it almost to the point of breaking. Needless to say there was no hiding what had happened when that kid’s parents saw him coming home with a nose the size and color of a beet, and frankly I question the gray matter of someone who would inflict a visible injury like that in front of witnesses and expect there not to be consequences. The bullies were subsequently suspended and in the case of the nose-twister removed from the bus permanently, with a warning that one more infraction would result in his dismissal, and the entire busload of students got a stern talking to by the dean, bottom line: unless this crap stopped forthwith, more people would end up finding their own way to school, and no refunds would be made for the bus transportation. That was the end of that, and my conscience is clear for taking action that I probably should have taken earlier.
I have in fact received at least three facebook friend requests from people who I had problems with in the past, one the jerk I nearly throttled to death after CCD, one an idiot who was thrown out of Scouts after pouring Vienna sausages inside a tent and getting caught (he later got into drugs), and the third a then-nascent thug who attacked me for no real reason after school and was finally physically restrained by a crossing guard after ten minutes of verbal and physical bullying. All three were denied and blocked, and I ask myself why these people think I would even want to talk to them after all these years when they don’t offer an apology or even an excuse, not even a lame message to the effect of “can’t you take a joke?” Sometimes the right thing to do is take action, and, although carrying a grudge is probably counterproductive, no one’s under an obligation to let someone back in their lives who brings nothing but grief to the table.
As for the Gandhi/Berrigan question of pacificsm, here is part of an earlier note I wrote, starting with WWI: I’m not sure in the aftermath of World War I that we quite knew what we were getting into with the nascent Communist government in Russia. Lenin ruled with an iron hand, although he disguised it with propaganda, and Feliks Dzerzhinsky, initial leader of the Cheka, which later evolved into the KGB, was blunt about being in the business of state terror. I’m not even sure we cared if we did know. After the brutal trench warfare in France and Flanders and Wilson’s posturing to try to achieve some grand peace, a return to normalcy, even a withdrawal, sounded good to most people. Pacifism sounded like a good alternative, and many attempts to outlaw war, and so forth were tried. However, all this did was allow Mussolini and Hitler and the Japanese the breathing room they needed to rebuild and start conquests, small at first, but then growing bigger and bigger, till Japan turned Manchuria into Manchukuo and the Germans stood ready to take Poland. Still we didn’t take action until the Japanese moved against us. What had the pacifists to say to that, other than Jeanette Rankin, who stupidly cast the only vote against fighting WWII?
World War II was not something we could afford to fight with kid gloves, either, nor should we have. The other side was murdering innocent people by the minute. I saw up close the planes used to deliver maximum damage as used by both sides, and I have no apologies for the Allies raining death on either Germany or Japan after the damage both did. I saw the Enola Gay, which then-Colonel Paul Tibbets used to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. He remained unapologetic to his dying day, and I do not blame him. Neither the Dresden raid, which pretty much burned down that city, nor the atomic bombings occurred in a vacuum. The Germans had repeatedly bombed London and other civilian targets and made no bones about the fact that they were looking to get Operation Sea Lion under way and conquer the UK. The Japanese had attacked the US without declaration of war and then fought us for four extremely bloody years. They were not about to give up, as was clearly shown by their introduction of the kamikaze tactic, and then the manned missile they called the ohka, or cherry blossom, but which we called the baka bomb, the Japanese word for crazy. It was either drop the bomb, or invade the Japanese home islands, there were no other options. Both sucked, but the second one sucked with 300,000 American casualties. The pacifists’ response to our decision to take an action that spared these American lives? The response was to throw blood and ashes at the plane. Those perpetrating this act would rather the Allies had done what? Invaded Japan instead? Halt the war on Japan’s doorstep? Or maybe not respond to the attack on Pearl Harbor at all? None of this makes sense, unless you let your beliefs blind you to facts.
Then came the long drum roll that was the Cold War, armies ready to move, though they never moved, missiles ready to launch at a moment’s notice, and spying and counterspying everywhere. It was here that some of the worst excesses of hard-core pacifism or more likely pacifism functioning as a cover for bad ideology, came to be. Most of the student counterculture was not about bringing peace to Southeast Asia, it was about “turning on, tuning in, and dropping out.” The fact that no one on the political left said word one after the US withdrawal from Vietnam and the relatively easy conquest by the Communists thereafter and that some like Noam Chomsky tried to defend Pol Pot and the “killing fields” gives the lie to the idea that somehow this was all some idealistic young generation reaching out for a cause. It wasn’t. Nor were the many honest-to-goodness traitors to the west who emerged simply misguided idealists. Some like Kim Philby and the Cambridge Five, who passed any number of secrets to the Communists, were motivated by ideology, which is to say they were blinded by their adherence to the foolish worldview they picked up at liberal university during a time when the West was losing faith in itself because of its own failures and Communist lies. Others, like Robert Hanssen, the villain of the infamous “breach,” were playing games for the thrill of it rather than any other reward. More than a few, like Aldrich Ames, were simply unable to manage their finances and sold out to the other side. I’m not sure any of these are the worst, though. A special category, I think, should exist for those who use high-sounding ideals to cover up fairly banal evils, which, without the high-sounding ideals, no one would give a second thought to condemning. John Murtha garnered himself a great deal of attention by speaking out against the war in Iraq and proposing legislative initiatives that would have significantly hampered the effort, as well as his failed attempts to smear American marines regarding the Haditha incident. What’s rarely mentioned is his involvement in the Abscam scandal and his attempts to steer government work to his brother, which was still being looked into at the time of his death. Murtha, who voted for the Iraq war, did not have some great moral awakening, he knew he was in trouble and was looking to deflect attention away from what he’d done. Since the hard left and pacifist movement will defend anyone unconditionally who agrees with them, he looked there. Philip Agee, who died in a run-down apartment in Havana in 2008, after trying his level best to undermine the intelligence capability of this country, including the exposure of literally dozens of agents abroad, was no idealist either. He was someone who had hit a brick wall to promotion because of irresponsible drinking, complete inability to manage his finances, and an inability to stay away from colleague’s wives. So he turned on his former employers, of course saying all the time that the CIA was evil and he was just trying to stop this evil. Again the pacifist sheep flocked to his cause, but at the end of his life he was reduced to attempting to arrange visits to Cuba for American tourists. And let’s not forget Scott Ritter, the weapons inspector who resigned in frustration over Iraqi cheating and retreating, but who suddenly became almost an advocate for the Iraqi cause after being paid off to write a documentary that said Iraq was a defanged tiger and being nabbed trying to set up a sexual encounter with an underage girl. He got only probation for that, but as the dog returns to its vomit, so did he return to this vile practice, and now he faces up to seven years in prison. Yet some on the pacifist left still defend him.
At last comes the present day with us attacked on our own soil by the man we finally took down ten years later. American forces have done more than their best on the peaks of Afghanistan and in the desert of Iraq. The Taliban regime, who hacked off limbs and forced women into hiding is long gone, as is the psychopathic Hussein crime family. Syria has given up its hegemony over Lebanon and Ghadaffi, long-time nemesis of the US and troublemaker, may soon join them in oblivion. Oh, and as mentioned at the beginning of all this, bin Laden is dead, and dumped in the sea, where the fish nibble at his eyes and the lobsters pluck at his feet. Yet through it all the nattering pacifists, or those who call themselves pacifists, have been there every step of the way, saying idiotic things like if we did not take action after 9/11 there would be world peace, or that we should not move on Afghanistan because it would interfere with charity work that no one was benefiting from anyway, or that Iraq was somehow a better place before we took action to remove a tyrant to whom rape rooms and acid baths were a way of life. They offer no alternative solution to any of these problems, they simply say no to any kind of action. The capstone to this idiocy was the unhinged Cindy Sheehan’s statement that bin Laden was not dead and that we should put away our flags and wake up. While she simply opposed the Iraq war she might have had some credibility or at least the sympathy factor, but this last statement has revealed her for what she is, simply a contrarian and a media hound.
It’s my conclusion that pacifism at its best is a bankrupt idea that offers no real solutions to any of the world’s problems, and in fact does nothing but stand in the way of the solving of problems and the administering of justice when it becomes necessary. At its worst it’s a cloak for those who would thwart necessary action by those seeking to protect the Western way of life. There needs to be a fundamental realignment of the discussion of war and peace to the point where pacifism is treated as simply no longer worthy of serious consideration, just as you would no longer listen to someone who said the world was flat, and its adherents as those who have forfeited their place in the discussion and do not deserve to be listened to.
Just to add Berrigan’s discussion to things here, neither of the brothers have/had much credibility if you read their writings, which are essentially rants against America’s defense of the west and the western way of life. Philip Berrigan was frankly nothing more than a vandal, who spent about eleven of the last twenty years of his life in prison for attempts to damage the US military’s capabilities that amounted to theater of the absurd and embraced every cause inimical to the west. I don’t know whether he even deserves the title of useful idiot. Anyone who cites him as an ethical authority is a COMPLETE idiot.
What he said.
Excellent writing, Steve.
Steve, you get a COTD for quality/quantity alone. 2,276 words isn’t a record (for a non-rant, substantive coherent comment), but it’s close. It will be up later.
(bows) Thank you. It seems that I’m at my best on these war-and-peace/international relations/good-and-evil issues. Social issues, on the other hand, I seem to fall flat on.
ANY child can learn to find personal pride in their own accomplishments, can learn not to take bullies seriously (BECAUSE THEY AREN’T) Can learn not to perpetuate cycles.
This honestly enrages me. My eleven year old daughter tried to kill herself because of bullies. We didn’t even know there was a problem because of a kid culture of “not telling” on each other. I can’t see how the policies you have defended so ardently would have done anything other than left me with a dead child. So I am trying really hard not to snarl, but you are not only wrong, you are DEAD WRONG.
Go ahead and snarl. The school fence of silence is arguably more destructive than the blue wall of silence.
I do wonder where this whole pacifist stuff comes from. I mean, people in ancient Rome enjoyed watching the condemned hack each other to death.
when did western civilization become so pussified?
It didn’t. The pacifist tradition of Christianity retreated to the monasteries after Constantine and the warriors held the line until after the Cold War, when Europe became all about “human rights” and America let the counterculture of the 60s take hold.
This honestly enrages me. My eleven year old daughter tried to kill herself because of bullies. We didn’t even know there was a problem because of a kid culture of “not telling” on each other.
If that is the case you have more problems than what some stranger comments about on a blog.
Right, because nobody can ever be upset about more than one thing at a time, and has to devote their entire mind to the most pressing concern they have. Who even knows how long ago the suicide attempt was? How much time and healing has to pass before Alexandria gets your approval to have a problem with what someone says on a blog?
And I don’t even HAVE a daughter, so I’m free and clear to have a problem wiht your concern trolling.
A lot of great comments, here. Nor would I be the first veteran to advocate the use of yodeling (Slim… via loud speakers) as a weapon of war. Is there a Geneva rule about sound warfare?