Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Appeasement Story: Turning the Other Cheek 

8th grade, goofing off with a friend in the halls at school.

I was accidentally pushed into a bigger kid standing nearby. I suppose it's possible I mistranslated the ritually required "excuse me" since I didn't speak Goonish very well. I'm not sure how else to explain his failure to answer with the customary "no problem" -- unless shoving me and grunting "F*** you" is how they say that in Goonish.

So there we were, geek and goon facing off in a crowded hallway, and it was my move.
If you've been reading my blog at all, you can tell I didn't choose Option 1 -- would I dedicate a whole post to telling a story just to advocate appeasement of bullies? No.

Then again, I hadn't seen Karate Kid yet at this point in my life, so I didn't really have a Crane Kick, go-to move for taking down a charging HINO -- Human in Name Only. Or as my musically inclined wife might put it, I hadn't had enough vocal training to hit the HINO. I'll stop now, before I make you guys angry too.

So with Option 2 ruled out, my only remaining option was a valiant attempt at using humor to soothe the savage beast. I immediately realized my first job was to defuse that F-bomb the goon had so carelessly left lying around, so I furiously searched my brain for just the right calming formulation.

"Don't tell me you're the kind of guy who would want to, NTTAWWT."

I wish I could describe to you the look on his face when I said that, but his fist had me on the ground before I had a chance to check. I guess that was Appeasement Lesson One in this sordid affair: if you are going to appease at all, go all the way, because if you try to straddle the fence, the bully will eventually have to knock you off.

As I got back to my feet, all I can remember is his demanding in disbelief, "What did you just say to me?" Ok, at this point, I have to confess that Lesson 1 is really only so obvious to me now, in hindsight. Faced with a second chance at exactly the same options, I figured if my joke hadn't calmed him down the first time, it was probably because he hadn't understood it. So I tried again, slower this time.

"Well," I started, "you said to me 'F*** you', and then I responded by asking if that meant you were the kind of ---" Yeah, I was on the ground again, and technically this post is mistitled because unfortunately he hit me on the same cheek.

Before I had a chance to give it a third try, this time with added sign language, a bunch of teachers intervened -- totally unnecessarily, I felt, since I was really close to handling it myself. They dragged him away, threw him out of school, and I became known as the guy who got the goon tossed. And nobody gave me any trouble after that; although, I if it were me, I would have harassed me at least a little bit just for the entertainment value.

So now I've finished the story, and you're probably thinking I'll be forced to conclude that a little mealy-mouthed half-appeasement actually can work, and that the cartoon crisis -- nay, the entire Clash of Civilizations -- is therefore well on the way to being solved already. Perish the thought. Appeasement Lesson Two is that a little appeasement can work, as long as you have a bunch of big teachers ready to step in and toss the bully out of school for you when he doesn't reciprocate your humor and generous non-violence.

Turning the other cheek doesn't always work, especially when it's just a universal prescription for absolute-pacifism, for ceding control of the world and its innocent citizens to the winner of the Most Ruthless Would-Be Overlord Contest. On today's world stage, there are those who would bully us, and we have no strong authority backing up our well-meaning concessions to their demands. The UN is more like the crowd of kids standing around waiting to take bets on the winner when the fight goes all the way.

There are times where the goon has the geek alone in an alley on the way home from school, and that's a whole different ballgame. And If that were the situation I'd faced, I'm sure I would have popped that guy in the teeth so hard he'd have been able to chew his own tonsils.

Really. No, I mean it. What's that? Why don't you come over here and say that!?

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