We have also learned that at least one of the bully’s parents made no effort to intervene, and may even have encouraged her daughter’s transgressions. So vile was what occurred that media and law-enforcement agents have suggested something must be done.
A call for new laws is, however, misguided. So is an insistence that schools become no-bullying zones where teachers are constantly on the alert for violations. Worse still is recommending that the victims immediately report their tormentors to the authorities. None of these measures are likely to work.
In fact, they are apt to backfire. Thus, a student who has been maltreated by classmates and goes to a teacher for protection is now going to be labeled a snitch. He or she will be despised, not just by the perpetrator, but by otherwise uninvolved peers. Having been a target, he or she will henceforth be converted into a pariah.
This is not to say that adults should tolerate bullying. Parents and teachers who become aware of it should intervene. Nonetheless, those who are its butt should not be encouraged to regard adults as their first line of defense. If they are to have satisfying lives, they must learn to protect themselves.
This was a lesson I learned a hard way. As a youngster, I was smaller than most of my classmates. When we lined up in the schoolyard I was generally the second or third shortest boy. Naturally, this persuaded some of the bullies to assume I would be an easy mark.
Indeed, for a while I was. But then my father told me that if I were to avoid this harassment, I must fight back. At first, I was horrified by his advice. Didn’t he realize that if I put up a fight, these larger boys would pummel me? Why did he want me to get hurt?
Of course, he didn’t. He knew something I did not. Most bullies are cowards. The last thing they want is to be hurt themselves. And so if they are to be discouraged, they must be made to fear for their own safety. They need not be beaten, but they must be made to understand they will not get a free ride.
The moral of this story is that if the victims of bullying are to cease being victims, they must relinquish their victim mentality. Instead of thinking of themselves as the prey of aggressors, they must realize that they too are capable of inflicting pain. The best defense, as they say, is a good offense.
The reason this lesson is important is that there are plenty of adult bullies out there. Accordingly, people who never discover they can protect themselves grow up to be perpetual victims. This world is not always nice, therefore those who are defenseless are destined for a cruel fate.
Nowadays, we are witnessing this same phenomenon in politics. Barack Obama and his circle of partisan thugs are relentless bullies. Cross them and they will not only call you names; they will call out the IRS or other government agencies to do you harm.
We saw what they did in the deficit battle. Their goal, as they acknowledged, was to destroy the Republicans. At minimum, it was to get critics like Ted Cruz to shut up. Rather like the neo-Brown Shirts who shouted down New York City police Commissioner Ray Kelly at Brown University, their weapon of choice was intimidation.
Yet, good people must not be intimidated. They must be prepared to attack when attacked. Luckily for the Republicans, the Obamacare debacle has provided lots of ammunition. Now it is their turn to make abusive Democrats squeal like stuck pigs.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.