Thursday, April 24, 2008

fighting back

The best weapon against a bully isn't your fist; it's your tongue.

I had an awful time with bullies growing up. I didn't get beat up during lunch; I got beat up in science class while the teacher was in the room, and twice in gym class when the teacher's back was turned. This was in addition to the nonphysical bullying that went on nonstop, day after day, week after week, and year after year from kids like Stacey Hummert and Sean Cole, down through Matt D'Ambrosio and Bill Girhiny.

When I fought back with my fists, it made it even worse.

My mother and my teachers gave me the same bad advice that every bullied kid gets -- don't stoop to their level, ignore them and they'll stop -- and it had the same efficacy for me that it had for every other kid who tries it. It didn't work at all. I had to suffer through it for years until I finally got away.

I still deal with the toxic environment of Penn-Trafford public schools thirty years later.

Looks kind of silly, doesn't he?
A couple years ago, when my oldest daughter started dealing with bullies at school, I remembered what my mother had told me, and I promptly shoved that advice aside. I told her that ignoring the bullies only will turn you into a wounded animal that they'll circle even more.

So I taught her how to disarm their barbs by getting everyone to laugh at the bully. It's absolutely humiliating to the brute, and if you do it really well, everyone remembers the joke long after they forget the insult. No one likes to be ridiculous, so the bullies in her class have learned to leave Evangeline alone.

Laughter works against other monsters too. Bin Laden once said that he would welcome martyrdom but fears being made ridiculous. You may recall that the U.S. Department of Defense made great strides against al Qaeda in Iraq with the release of a video that showed an overweight al Zawhiri fumbling with a gun, uncertain how to use or hold it.

Would Muqtada al-Sadr be a threat to the stability of Iraq if everyone was telling jokes about him?

Copyright © 2008 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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