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.