You may have seen the video of Casey Heynes getting tired of being bullied slamming his tormentor to the ground.
It can be argued that this kind of a response doesn’t solve the problem, and that’s probably true. Even so, my reaction to that video was an unequivocal “FUCK YEAH”. I feel nothing but disdain for the malevolent little asshole, and when it turned out that he was actually capable of walking away, albeit with a limp, I found myself disappointed.
I can’t justify that reaction. But I can explain it: this is not based merely on the thrill of an annoying person getting his comeuppance, or on some kind of a vague “root for the underdog” impulse. It goes deeper than that, and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling as I do.
I don’t like bullies, and I particularly don’t like them in surroundings where the person being bullied is in no position to simply walk away. An abusive asshole on the internet? Ignoring them is relatively easy. An abusive asshole in your school, workplace or home? You’re stuck with them, and not just physically.
Bullies are poison. The effect they have on people is not linear or localized. The effect is exponential, and it reaches far and wide. When I was a kid, I was bullied — not a lot, all things considered, but enough to make me understand how bad it could get — and to my shame, I bullied some others — again, not a lot, but enough to know how easy it was, and how big a part of it was the knowledge I could get away with it.
There was one instance where I said something to somebody — it was hurtful, and it was also stupid, all the more so because I didn’t mean it, or really even think about it, I just thought I was being funny. There was an adult present, and he shut me the fuck down right there. It was humiliating — not so much because I got told off harshly, but because I knew he was right and I was being the kind of a person I despised. I wasn’t sure how I ended up being that guy, but there I was. It may have been the earliest instance in my life when I was forced to acknowledge that my ideals and self-image did not automatically conform to the reality of my existence — that I had to actively work to keep those things in sync. A valuable lesson, to be sure, one that we should all learn at an early age. I wish I could say that it stuck right there and then. But at the time, I was very young, and it’d take me much more growing up before I could behave myself consistently.
So… yeah, I wanted the bully’s leg to get busted. It’s undoubtedly better for Casey that it didn’t, but the little dick had it coming. I’m not going to pretend that it would have been justice, because that wouldn’t be true. On the other hand, getting slammed to the concrete by the person he was bullying? I’m not entirely convinced I know what real justice is, but that kind of looked like it to me.
There’s this persistent idea that violence is always wrong, and I do kind of agree with that — in principle. I do. But hand in hand with that one goes often that whole “turn the other cheek” concept of passive resistance. That’s great for making yourself look awfully noble and may very well work when the other party can be shamed into stopping. It’s a wonderful tool for taking a public stand when you’re being abused by people who would rather have nobody pay attention to their misdeeds, forcing them to take notice — putting them in a position where they have to either let you do what you want, or be seen behaving in an unacceptable manner. In short, passive resistance tends to work great when you’re against systemic oppression and intimidation.
But it’s utterly useless when they really want to hurt you. For example, if you’re gay and run into a bunch of assholes who want to beat you up and drag you behind their truck, you can turn the other cheek all you want, but these are not people who’re going to see your inherent nobility and stop smacking you in the face with the tire iron just because you don’t defend yourself. Passive resistance isn’t going to stop spousal abuse. It does nothing to deter an enemy sniper. As a tool against muggers, it’s slightly less effective than an epileptic fit. And when some beady-eyed little shit decides to start punching you in the face in the schoolyard, standing there without doing anything isn’t going to keep the next blow from landing.
I don’t really know anything about Casey Heynes, other than what we see in the video, but I’ll say this for him: when the pissant tormenting him was down, he could’ve kicked him in the face. He could have stepped on his throat. He could’ve done some damage. But he stepped away. A bigger boy shows up and confronts Casey — yeah, now you’re stepping in, you unbelievable asshole — but even before that, he was already putting distance between himself and the other kid.
I kind of doubt the other party involved in the dispute would’ve had that sort of restraint or class. They’re not traits generally associated with the type.
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