Schools across America are cracking down on bullies, with a zero tolerance policy toward any type of physical or verbal abuse between students. This comes in the wake of some terrible incidents reported in the news the last few years, in which students have committed suicide because they could not tolerate the bullying they have endured in classrooms, playgrounds, or on school buses.
At first glance, this is a good thing. No child should have to have suffer from a bully, or be afraid of going to school.
But then I get to thinking that maybe we need bullies. In one way, I think they serve a purpose.
You wouldn’t know it to look at me today, but as a kid, I was a skinny little runt. And because I was always the new kid in school, wore glasses, and was a bookworm instead of an athlete, I met my share of bullies. More than once, I had my books knocked out of my hands, I was tripped, teased, or called names, while onlookers snickered.
Today, school policies don’t allow such nonsense, but I grew up in a different era. We were expected to handle things like that on our own. I tried to handle it by winning the other kids over with my sense of humor, and played the class clown a lot. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t.
I learned early on that there are times when you just have to stand up to the bullies, and more than once when we moved to a new town, I came home with a fat lip, or a black eye. But it usually only happened once, because I always tried to give as much as I got.
That’s not politically correct today, but I learned a valuable lesson in those schoolyard tussles. The world is full of bullies, and sometimes you have to fight them. You may get banged up a bit, but bruises fade and cuts heal a lot faster than the pain of running away. Because if you run today, you’ll have to do it tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
As I look at the world today, and at our society, I think maybe we need bullies. We have raised a couple of generations of Americans who have been taught that fighting is bad, and that reasonable people can settle their differences in far more acceptable ways.
That sounds good in theory, but in the real world, not everybody is rational and wants to solve their differences in a peaceful fashion. In the real world, we still have bullies. Bullies in our school, in our neighborhoods, in our cities and towns. And we have bullies on an international level. Eventually, somebody has to stand up to the bullies, or they take over.
If you have never had your nose bloodied, if you’ve never had to get down in the dirt and slug it out, your only choice is to run from the bullies of the world. And you can’t run forever.