The mainstream media are all agog and aghast in feigned outrage at Porterville, California mayor Cameron Hamilton’s advice to victims of bullying: that they should “grow a pair and stick up for them damn selves.”
This is timeless and eminently sensible advice, passed down by responsible fathers to their sons, or by caring mothers in the form of karate lessons. Yet it’s politically incorrect, in the Obama age, to fight back–at all.
No–under President Barack Obama’s rules, the way to deal with bullying is to educate everyone not to bully others by sensitizing them to the feelings of various special classes of victims.
It is a repeated theme of White House domestic policy, and seems to guide the Obama administration’s foreign policy as well, which basically consists of telling Vladimir Putin that he’s being a meanie by taking other people’s territory away.
(Note that the White House, like the Obama campaigns that preceded it, seems to have no trouble bullying its political opponents–and the media, too, for that matter, who merely come back for more abuse.)
The last thing the Obama administration wants to do is encourage Americans to fight back–whether in the classroom or in the Capitol. It would rather cultivate a generation of citizens unable to fend for themselves without Big Brother.
So it is fashionable to take umbrage at Mayor Hamilton’s statement–to regard it, apparently, as even vaguely anti-gay, since LGBT youth are ostensibly the most at risk for bullying. (Though the White House’s anti-bullying ally, Dan Savage, has bullied Christian children viciously, and gay-tolerance celebrity Macklemore recently performed in an antisemitic outfit that he later claimed to have discovered at random in a costume store.)
Hamilton, thankfully, is not concerned with being fashionable (though that mustache is really quite à la mode). He was careful to point out that he is “against bullying” and that he is not anti-gay. “The message is, together we can all fight this thing,” he told the Associated Press.
Indeed we can, and the value of a good fight has been sorely underrated lately. There is nothing quite as healthy for a child’s self-esteem as fighting back–win or lose.
Case in point: a young boy is picked on at the local school gymnasium by a bully a full head taller than he is. Rather than run away, he reaches up to the bully’s shirt collar, pulls it down, and tells the bully: “Watch who you’re messing with.” The bully, shocked and embarrassed, picks the young boy up and pins him to the wall, unsure of what to do next. At that point, a teacher arrives and the young boy walks away, head held high.
Another example: a kid in middle school is picked on by peers who have decided today’s his day. They gather at the edge of the soccer field at recess and choose their moment to charge. He hears their feet hitting the turf, whirls around, and sees a dozen kids barreling towards him. He sidesteps the first, and trips him. He steps the other way, and trips the second. Then the rest of the pack tackles him, but he stays on his feet. They give up.
A final example: a teenager is walking to class in high school, talking to a nerdy friend. A bully comes up behind the friend and shoves him to the ground. The teenager squares up to the bully: “Leave him alone.” The bully throws a weak jab. The teenager leans in to punch back when the bully is tackled by three teachers. The next day, given a three-day suspension, he apologizes. Years later, he sends the victim a Facebook friend request.
These three examples are each taken from my own life.
Yes, there are reasons some kids are bullied more than others, and sometimes those reasons have to do with race and religion and sexuality. All of that is wrong, and should be discouraged.
Yet we do children no favors when we teach them not to fight back–or not to stand up for each other. There is value in learning to throw a punch–and to take one, walking away with respect.
So cheers to Mayor Hamilton. He is now being bullied–ironically–by the media, which will not give up until it has extracted some statement of contrition from him, like the proverbial lunch money.
And that won’t be the end of it: if he gives in, the media will only watch him more closely, hounding the voters of Porterville to cast him out at the next opportunity.
Here’s to you, Mr. Mayor. May you–and your mustache–grow in strength.