Tag: bullies

A Brittle Truth

incandescent charcoal

Peace and nonviolence aren’t impossible responses to terrorism. Not only aren’t they impossible, they are the only responses that can change the war games everyone’s playing. The thing is, it takes courage to stand up to terrorists without bombs, guns, or fisticuffs. Few humans have real courage. People with guns are not heroes or brave. The only real brave people in the world are those who face opposition without weapons of any kind.

People need to believe that nonviolent responses to violent attacks are impossible in order to maintain the ordered world view they’ve invested their whole lives in. Even I might believe that the only way to deal successfully with bullies is with retaliatory force if there weren’t precedent for nonviolence to remove an occupying force from an entire continent. Gandhi isn’t just a myth, my friends. He’s real. What he accomplished is real and proves the principle I believe in. I believe in it not because it’s a great idea but because Gandhi proved it was a viable one.

More than that, I have practiced it in my own life and found it to be successful.

I have told the story here before a long time ago. For the sake of the recent terrorist attacks against Lebanon, Paris, and Baghdad, I will repeat it.

In junior high school I was the recipient of spit and fire crackers lodged at my locker, while I was at my locker. I was the beneficiary of rocks and bottles being thrown at me from passing cars. Not to mention obscenities being shouted at me gleefully. High school was no different. But in high school I found myself tired of being bullied. One particular punk girl decided that my death rock flavor was deeply offensive and threatened to beat me up regularly.  I’d done nothing that I knew of to deserve her ire or threats of violence. If she was nearby and I sat on a bench she would come along and demand that I move or she’d beat me up. The kind of fuckery assholes the world over do to people.

I was scared of her. That’s a fact. So day in and day out I moved when she told me to move and avoided her whenever I could see her coming. I didn’t want to be beat up. No one offered to stand up to her in my stead. Probably all afraid of her as well. But at some point I got really tired of the threats and the constant dealing with her shit. I didn’t wake up brave or different but at some point I’d just had ENOUGH. The next time KAREN approached me where I’d decided to sit down and threatened to beat me up if I didn’t move – I said this, and this is really true though the quote I offer is probably incorrect at this point since it happened 30 years ago now.

“I’m not going to fight you so if you really want to beat the shit out of me, just do it. Do it now because I’m so tired of your threats. I won’t fight you but go ahead and beat me up-” and I stood up and waited for the beating to begin. Maybe I was less scared because I’d had the crap beat out of me by someone who was supposed to love me half a life ago already when I was 7 and lived in fear ever since, whatever, but I fully expected Karen to beat the shit out of me. She didn’t.

Instead, she decided that I was someone to admire and follow around and be friends with and ultimately she’s the reason I got punched in the face by a drunk skinhead.

Do you get the point? Because the point I’m making is, to my thinking, crystal clear.

A nonviolent reaction to bullies is not what bullies want or expect. And also, it takes fucking guts to do it and a wholehearted willingness to get beat up or killed or bombed or whatever the stakes are. Gandhi knew that. Gandhi knew that standing up to the British meant that people would get hurt. They would get killed. But he knew that a nonviolent approach would eventually demoralize the British into retreat because if the people you’re bullying and threatening and hurting don’t retaliate and you keep hurting them you start feeling like the fucking monster you are. You lash out and faced with complete acceptance and non-retaliation the whole fucking game is changed.

Non-violence requires tremendous bravery. I haven’t faced Al Qaeda. I haven’t fought the British empire. But I have faced people who meant me harm without violence. I’ve won some rounds and gotten bloody other rounds. I almost wrote that I’ve never thrown a punch, but that’s not entirely true.

In sixth grade I had the opportunity to get back at my bully of three years while she lay on the ground in a fight with some nemesis or another, a detail lost in time to me. They were fighting in the alley I always walked through to get home. When I saw my bully of three years on the ground and her aggressor egged me on to get a hit in, I kicked her when she was down thinking I’d feel some kind of satisfaction. Instead I felt sick to my stomach and have felt sick to my stomach every time I remember that moment ever since then. That didn’t stop her from bullying me.

What stopped her from bullying me was me not caring any more. This was long before Karen the rich punk and standing up to her with an invitation to beat me up. I just stopped caring about my great grade school nemesis by the time we got to Junior High.

Nonviolence is not without cost. But the cost of retaliation to violence with violence is a never-ending death toll we have to keep tallying every year in the millions. Every nation on earth continues to NOT learn that meeting violence with violence begets more violence in spite of the fact that all data supports this conclusion.

You may say “But if we don’t fight they’ll win” and other untrue gems. You may say “but if no one fights back more people will die” but I will ask you to tally all the people who will die with the way we respond to terrorism now, because that number is already unconscionably high from all borders.

Those people who say peace and love is naive and useless have never offered themselves up to a bully at full physical risk and won.

I’m willing to die standing up peacefully to terrorists. Who will stand with me? If the whole world stood up and refused to retaliate to the violence of terrorism, fewer people overall would die and terrorism would lose vital power.

I’m an atheist who believes in the power of love and peace. So much violence is committed in the name of religion world-wide. Fuck that bullshit. If you can believe in a deity, you can believe in peace and love, in nonviolence. It seems to me that should be your greatest calling card, if it’s not, you might be an extremist or a very immature person.

I’ve been punched in the nose. I’ve been punched in the stomach. I’ve been held up in the air by my hair while being punched in the stomach when I was seven years old. I’ve been attacked on the streets by a mugger. When I was a child experiencing violence I would have done anything in my power not to experience it, but I had no power. As an evolved adult I have so much more power and I use it to disengage from bullies and terrorists. I experience some residue of fear but it’s less important than exercising my power to say FUCK YOU to bullies.

World peace is achievable if everyone universally chooses to stand together across the planet against terrorism, against bigotry, against oppression. There will always be casualties, but the numbers will never end the way we’re doing things now.

Tonight my love especially goes to peace loving Muslims around the world who are being vilified by my nation, by Christians globally, by everyone globally. I’m an atheist but the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard is the morning prayers of Muslims in a neighborhood I stayed in in Herzliya.

I wish love for everyone. Muslims, Christians, Pagans, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists – AND EVERYONE ELSE OF EVERY OTHER FAITH I’VE ALMOST CERTAINLY FORGOTTEN – love to all of you.

Choose the brave path. Choose peace and freedom.

Learning Chivalry From a Tough Elementary School

gravestone detail

Philip told me it was raining. I went outside and it was still, the crickets said it’s still summer, but I felt no rain. I walked down the porch stairs and path and stood near the sidewalk and listened with my skin. There were drops. Light and slight, evaporating almost on contact with skin. I laid down on the cement path with my head touching the sidewalk and looked up at the night sky.

It was there, more thin drops like small points of sharp light hitting my warm skin, waking it up. I looked up at the lights on in my house and the familiar experience of being outside looking in was, for once, warm and comforting. I belong somewhere with some people. I belong here. The warmth coming from the house was everything any person could dream of.

This is grace. This is fortune. This is what it feels like to live where there is no war or bombs or excessive crime. I don’t take my fortune for granted. I never do. Every scrap of what I’ve got is cherished though I reserve and exercise the right to complain about minor things because it’s human and it’s natural and I don’t believe in saints and martyrs.

I lay there on the cement walkway with the dark grey sky spread out above me and I wished that everyone on earth could experience this quiet peace as I was able to tonight. I remember the car-jacker in our San Francisco neighborhood shooting off a couple hundred rounds of ammunition and our block being surrounded by police and in the end the only casualty was a homeless man who was killed. I mourned him and after 18 years I still think of him sometimes.

So I thought of all the families listening to missiles drop and crush their neighbors, their own children, all across the world, and I made a secular wish that they might all have what I have right now, this night of quiet and peace.

Don’t care about your race or religion – I wish with all my heart that everyone get a moment like I had tonight. It’s the most any of us can hope for but many never get. This peaceful quiet, this beautiful cessation of abrasive noise and danger.

I have renewed my vow to never be silent about things that matter. Even if it means speaking out puts me in a dangerous situation. Even if it means risking my freedom and friendships. I know who I am and what’s important and I know what silence does to honesty. I know what silence does to the abused. I know how fear fuels evil. I will not be party to it – EVER.

I understand the potential cost. I’ve felt the burn of honesty enough to know the real risks. I’m no innocent with shining armour and virtue. I know the waste of noble action and true empathy. I know what I have to lose and I know what it’s worth.

This week I was remembering the first time I experienced chivalry. I was in second grade in a tough multicultural grade school. I was the victim of frequent bullying and my things were regularly destroyed, my lunchboxes found smashed at the school fence. Kids tormented me and one even tried out her early mugging skills on me.

One day I was saving bees from the asphalt, picking them up and putting them on the weak shrubs growing at the edge of the school yard. Some kids were ridiculing me for trying to save the stupid goddamn bees and this one black boy stepped in and told them all off. I remember trying to ignore the hecklers and this knight stepped in and drew a protective circle around me and told the hecklers to leave me alone or they’d be sorry. He liked bees or me, who can say? I know that I loved him for that. I was going to pick the bees up off the tarmac and set them in the bushes even if it meant I’d be beat up for it later but this gallant older student (5th or 6th grade) became my protector and all my life I have treasured his action, treasured his championship, treasured this protection he offered in a tough school I regularly lost out in.

He didn’t do it because I was some awesome deserving kid. He did it because it was in his code to stand up for the meek, to stand up for others, to risk himself to protect people less able than himself. I have no way of knowing what ever happened to him, how life treated him as he grew up, whether he ever needed someone to stand up for him and had his own guardian or if he was let down?

I am strong now and I am strong in part because he stood up for me. I am a believer in humans because of people like him. I didn’t have much as a kid, no sense of autonomy or bravery. I lived scared shitless in my own home. This fine young man gave me a circle of safety that other students respected.

He shaped my sense of ethics and humanity, my obligation to my greater community of brothers and sisters. He showed me the way to act, to protect, to stand up and say no to assholes. Every time in my life that I’ve mustered the bravery to stand up on someone else’s behalf, he’s been in my heart and my memory.

I wish I knew his name. I knew it when I was 7 years old. I wish I could tell him what a profound effect his small action had on my sense of self and how I have worked to become a torch bearer for chivalry because he spread his cloak for me.

So this week as political opinions become increasingly hateful and divisive with regards to Israel versus Palestinians, I will  wear this memory of chivalry pinned straight through my heart because before we are organized by race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or nationality, we are all human and this is the immutable commonality that binds us all together. At the core of everything the only thing that matters is how we comport ourselves in the world, how we treat others, and our commitment to being empathetic human beings who are willing to risk our own skin to protect others regardless of their differences from us.




Violence is Cowardice and Weakness

bicycling for peace

Talk of war is depressing me.  My core belief is that a violent reaction to anything, including violence, is a show of weakness rather than strength.  I keep hearing people talking about our need to show “strength” to the world by bombing Syria’s current despot.  I hear people saying that it’s our responsibility to aid the poor rebels and the best way to do that is to join them in war.  But if the rebels succeed in taking down the current evil leader, will they actually be more humane when they’re in charge?  Will they simply put their own version of evil in power?  Do we really know who has the moral superiority between the two?  I hear people saying it’s our responsibility to lead the world in humanitarian efforts and to squash atrocities.

Here’s my problem with that: war can never be a humanitarian action.  War always results in innocent people being killed.  If your effort to help one innocent person results in killing another innocent person – it’s not a moral victory at all.  It’s a tragedy.

I insist that if Gandhi could lead his nation to push the British out without resorting to violence – the rest of the world’s leaders need to rise to that standard.  He showed us it can be done.  No one can say that non-violence can’t be powerful.  We have seen evidence to the contrary.  It might not be as EASY, but then, the moral road is rarely the easy or fast solution.  It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to violence without a weapon of your own besides your brains and your convictions.

That’s real strength.  To let your humanity lead you.  To face another human who means you harm and to not react to threats, to not give in to them either.  That’s real strength.  And it means you’ll probably get hurt, and maybe killed.  But if everyone stands with you and refuses to use violence with you then it becomes harder and harder for bullies to maintain their sense of righteousness.  That’s what happened to the British.  Their morale went down and their convictions that they were doing right weakened as they continued to shoot and punch and jail people who refused to fight back.

I have personal experience with this tactic working.  I faced a bully without violence or threats.  I told her to go ahead and beat me up like she was threatening because I was tired of her trying to scare me.  I told her I wouldn’t fight back because I don’t believe in fighting.  I told her she should go ahead and get it over with.  It was not the response she was hoping for and she didn’t know what to do about it.  In the end she respected me because I refused to be intimidated by her.

But when I stood up to her I knew there was a good chance I would get the crap beaten out of me.  At the time I didn’t think of myself as doing anything courageous.  I was just so tired of being threatened by this stupid bully and I didn’t see how fighting her would benefit me.  I’d kicked an earlier bully when she was on the ground in a fight with someone else and to this day the feeling of kicking another human being makes me nauseous.  And it sure didn’t make that previous bully stop bullying me.  She stopped bullying me when I refused to be intimidated any more.

Huh.  So I guess I have succeeded in shedding a bully off my back TWICE by facing the bully with calm strength.

Humanitarian actions and aid can never be based on violence.  You give people shelter, political asylum, medical supplies, gas masks, food, clean water, and blankets.  You engage in peace talks, negotiations, disarmament.

Violence is weakness and cowardice.

Wouldn’t it be great if all the world’s problems could be solved with beer and bar food?

I’ve been sewing sets of dinner napkins this week and trying not to strain my back.  I almost started writing this morning (Cricket and Grey) but decided to write here first.  I’m going to have to go heat my back and lie down a little when I’m done here so I may postpone getting back into it until tomorrow morning.

It’s super nice and cool out.  I hope it stays this way!

Max is still on a cheese trying kick.  He tried Babybel, Dubliner sharp cheddar, and elderflower cheese.  He didn’t like any of them.  He did really like the wax covering on the Babybel cheese and commented that it was great because it could be used later for something else, like candles.  I can’t tell if this is a sign that I’ve been raising him to be resourceful during an apocalypse or if this is a sign that he’s a true Williamson and is the new generation of clinical hoarder?  His grandfather saved years worth of lint from the dryer with the vague idea of “doing something with it later”.  The difference is in whether or not he actually does anything with the weird things he collects.

I have finally fallen for Colbert.  My friend Sid has been waiting for this to happen, sure that it had to eventually happen – and she was right!  This week I finally truly GET HIM.

Time to go take care of my back and then decide what to tackle today.  Hope you all have a fabulous Friday!  Hope we don’t start another war over the weekend!

Knuckles, Snowden, and the Summer of Pyjamas

penny talking

I’m a little worried that my knuckle bone in infected or something not good.  It’s twice the size of my other index finger knuckle and still hurts.  If it isn’t better by Monday I think I’m going to consult a doctor.  Everyone keeps saying it probably just needs a lot more time to heal from when I cut myself right near it.  It’s been swollen since then.  Naturally I’m already convinced I have a bone infection.  Cause that’s where my mind goes.

Nasty nightmares again.  Like most of my nightmares lately it included moving.  I’d like to stop having those now, please.

Snowden is a hero and it’s shameful to me the way the United States is calling him a traitor for pointing out that the government has been engaged in unconstitutional activities.  HERO.  It makes me sick.  Philip predicts that Snowden will be dead before the year is out.  He thinks the US government will make it happen.  I hope to god that doesn’t happen.  What’s up with everyone’s hatred of whistle-blowers?  That’s total bully behavior – to crush anyone who exposes your shameful or illegal activity.  You tell on a bully to a teacher and everyone calls you a tattle tale – but if no one ever tells on a bully the bully wins and keeps on winning and everyone is oppressed.  How are we okay with that as a classroom or as a nation?

The days of being loyal to your government like a good soldier – regardless of whether or not the government is doing bad shit?  Those days are over.  I sound like an anarchist or a Libertarian.  I’m not.  I just don’t  believe in following orders without question.  I don’t believe in blind allegiance.  That’s how you end up with a political party exterminating 6 million human beings before being stopped.  I don’t believe that patriotism means never asking questions and never questioning authority.

This world would be a much worse place without those people willing to tell the truth, to uncover bad shit at cost to their own safety and freedom.

Blind loyalty, faith, and subservience are dangerous to freedom and honesty and civil rights.

The government needs to pardon Snowden and start answering for the unconstitutional listening they’ve been doing to the private conversations of citizens.

You know what I won’t be getting?  An award for being a super-mom.  Max has spent most of his summer in his pyjamas playing video games, watching Southpark, and reading Cracked.com.  This is the summer of great neglect.  At least he’s had a good time.  He’s dreading returning to school.  I am dreading that too.

Well, I’ve got things to do, errands to run, and things to avoid.  I hope you all have an awesome Friday!