Life does NOT imitate the Simpsons when it comes to handling bullies

From Season 1 of The Simpsons (waaaay back in 1990), comes “Bart the General“:

After defending Lisa from school bully Nelson Muntz, Bart becomes Nelson’s latest target. Sick of the harassment and torment, Bart, Grampa Simpson, and Herman (a slightly deranged military antique store dealer with a missing arm) rally the town’s children into fighting back against Nelson and his cronies.

In real life, ten-year-old boys who try to defend themselves bullies (and, admittedly, this ten-year-old made a less than mature tactical decision), face quite a different situation– not from the bullies but from the administration:

Police say they have charged a 10-year-old Ohio boy after he told them he brought a BB gun to school to intimidate students who bullied him because he wears ankle braces and is small for his age.

Elmwood Place police Sgt. Kevin Vanover said Wednesday that the boy was charged with inducing panic after he took the BB gun to his elementary school in the suburban Cincinnati village on Monday. He remains in his mother’s custody awaiting a juvenile court hearing. No hearing date is set.

Vanover says the principal reported that some children said they saw the boy with the gun and thought it was a firearm. Police say the gun’s orange plastic tip was missing.

Did you catch that the school charged a frail, bullied 10-year-old with “inducing panic”?  Even in Marin County they’re not that crazy.  The other day, when some teenage boys were playing in the hillside wearing camo clothes and using air rifles without orange plastic tips, residents reasonably believed that there were snipers in the hills.  After a police manhunt, the boys were let off with a warning:

Twin Cities police, with help from Mill Valley police, Marin sheriff’s deputies and the California Highway Patrol, blocked traffic on Casa Buena and Meadowsweet drives as they searched for the suspect. After about 30 minutes, police contacted two 14-year-old boys with Airsoft rifles, Gorwood said.

“They were not properly marked with the orange tips,” she said. “They were playing on the hillside, shooting at each other.”

Police seized the guns and released the boys to their parents. There were no plans to seek criminal charges, Gorwood said.

Back to the original report, about the terrorized ten-year-old charged with terrorizing, bullying seems to be a lot worse today than it was when I was young.  Incidentally, I don’t have a blinkered, halcyon view of a childhood free of bullying.  As the smallest, geekiest in any school I ever attended, the kid who had thick glasses and always carried a book with her, I came in for my fair share of bullying.  And I’m very embarrassed to say this, but if a child ever appeared on the horizon who was even more of a target than I was, I gleefully sided with my former persecutors, delighted that their attention was on someone else for a change.  So yes, bullying existed back then.

But back then, it wasn’t in the papers, it wasn’t a cause celebre for every TV show or pop star and — and this is a critical difference I think — kids themselves were expected to deal with the bullies.  That’s what makes Bart the General so fascinating.  It’s the last gasp of an era that sees kids turning to grown-ups for advice, but handling the bullies themselves.  Nowadays, kids who try to deal with bullies, unless they’re lucky enough to have a YouTube video go viral, quickly find themselves in police custody, while the bully gets counseling.

I’m not advocating schools that look like Lord of the Flies, with invisible adults who make no effort to protect the children under their care.  I do believe, however, that children must be able to defend themselves.  They also have to be tough enough to take some bullying without crumbling under the pressure.

What we have here is a situation akin to those poor, disarmed Londoners.  In London, criminals know that, if they get caught, they’ll face some kind of punishment from the legal system, although it will be minimal.  They also know that their victims are completely defenseless.  For the bad guys, it’s party time, because there are no disincentives, either from the authorities or from the folks staring into the barrel of their guns.

Here in American schoolyards, the situation is the same.  Because American kids have been psychologically disarmed by Leftist school administrations, the bullies, the ones who have resisted this mental disarmament, know that there is no real downside to their behavior.  They’re like the delinquents in West Side Story who bait poor Office Krupke by telling him there’s nothing he can do to stop them, because they are society’s victims, and therefore deserving of pity, not punishment.  The American schoolyard bully knows that his victims have been trained to passivity, while the administration is trained in amateur, Leftist, 50s style psychology.  It’s a win-win for the mini bad guy.

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  • Ymarsakar

    Another way of saying it is that the police unions are allied with thugs in schools, just like the Left is allied with Islamic terrorists. Because they share a common goal.

  • Charles Martel

    I told this story once before, but it’s too good to pass up repeating.
    When I was in grammar school, a third-grade boy complained to the principal that he was being bullied on his walk home by a fifth grader. He was reluctant to tell her the bully’s name, but she pretty much figured out who it was. Still, with no real basis for confronting the kid, she resorted to guile.
    She called the 12 biggest, toughest fifth and sixth grade boys in the school (I was proudly among their number) into her office one day, including the boy whom she suspected was the bully. All the boys she’d summoned happened to walk home the same way as the persecuted third grader.
    She introduced us to the bullied kid and then deputized us to accompany him on his walk home and protect him from assault. She also implied that if there was any more bullying of the kid, he could feel free to come to us with a name so that we might take the bully gently aside and persuade him to find another hobby.
    We half-assedly accompanied the kid on the way home over the next three days, then lost interest. No matter: The principal’s ploy worked. The kid wasn’t bothered again because his bully was too scared to go up against bigger boys who would have been more than happy to bloody his nose.
    I learned a few years later that the principal was a stalwart conservative. It was one of my first realizations that conservatives rely on brainpower to solve problems while liberals rely on whines, whimpers, and wussiness.

  • jj

    There’s such a charge as “inducing panic,” eh? How about: “inducing nausea?”  Does that count?
    And as far as the wonderful reasonableness of Marin County is concerned: nice try, but the “residents reasonably believed that there were snipers in the hills?”  They “reasonably” believed that?  In other words, that there are snipers in the hills is a reasonable belief in Marin County?  It’s evidently a more interesting place than I ever supposed.  How do they feel about UFOs?  

  • Ymarsakar

    Btw, Book, did you ever take this program? How about anyone else?

  • Ymarsakar

    Martel, that’s a good example of de-centralized authority. The adults hold the ultimate decision ability, but treats the students like apprentices and gives them tasks to prove their bona fides.

    In the old days, two guys would go at it, then when one guy has clearly dominated the fight and is wailing on the other one, the coach comes in and breaks it up. The reality is, the coach was always there and he was just waiting for everyone to realize that “yep, we got a victor”, then he exercises his penultimate authority and everyone in the crowd, both combatants, recognize and submits to this authority. This is “social violence” in action, when done properly.

    We live now in the chaos of the Left’s “global warming” and “class warfare” social violence. Do you think it was going to be “orderly”? No one should ever have given that thought two rubs.

     *In Japan you can see this example where the teachers overseer clubs and festival activities, but the class members are the ones that actually decide what kind of booths, businesses, activity, and entertainments they will make for the school festival. The teachers overseeing clubs do not determine the schedule, but the club President. For a hierarchy, that is a very de-centralized way of dealing with problems. And it teaches kids things such as selling and buying in a market, since they get to sell stuff they cook at the school festival.


  • Charles Martel

    In Marin snipers always make a lot of noise—the better to catch their would-be victims unawares.

  • Ymarsakar

    Come the Revolution, there may be a few snipers around in those hills sooner or later.

  • MacG

    “They “reasonably” believed that? In other words, that there are snipers in the hills is a reasonable belief in Marin County?”

    Of course silly. Until they legalize pot there are farms in them thar hills…and meth labs. You know the dogs that gaurd the place where they make the meth :)

  • Ymarsakar

    Dogs? Wasn’t there a meme around about Obama eating dogs?

  • Bookworm

    This is one of those rare occasions where Marinites were right to be worried.  A few years ago, some teenage boys got themselves onto a balcony overlooking a preschool, and started firing a pellet gun at the toddlers.  So, while I don’t think anyone was concerned about an Islamic terrorist style sniper, there have been problems with people in the hillside area using humans as targets.

  • jj

    You can’t be worried about the behavior of the occasional nut with a pellet gun – or even the occasional nut with a high-powered rifle.  If you’re going to worry about occasional nuts, then all you’ll ever do is worry: there’s no accounting for, preparing for, or guarding against occasional nuts.  You don’t know ahead of time who they’ll turn out to be, at which point you’ll deal with them in whatever manner works best for you.  Marinites – or anybody else – would be right to be worried about the events of that day;  maybe a while ther4eafter for copycats.  Not so right to be worried about it forever.
    Worrying about it forever just makes you the TSA.  Some jerks took over some planes to drive them into buildings, something that had never happened before and something which there’s been no particularly serious attempt to duplicate since.  We reacted in an entirely insane manner, inventing a new federal agency, making sure it’s staffed by overpaid and highly annoying morons to whom we have granted powers that are far too broad; and we have now sentenced ourselves to live with the dumb bastards forever.  This despite that there is just about zero empirical evidence that they have, in the decade since their creation, even once stopped a credible attempt to do it again.  But they’ve managed to inconvenience and annoy a hell of a lot of people.  They evidently have a writ to do so until the stars burn out.
    Does anyone in Marin suppose there are rooms full of kids with pellet guns just waiting to climb up on balconies and start sniping at toddlers?  I think, like 9/11, that happened.  There’s probably a clear half century until it happens again. 

  • Don Quixote

    I don’t think bullying is any worse, Book. Our definition of bullying has changed. We are training our kids to take offense and be scarred for life by the slightest criticism or attack.  What used to be normal roughhousing or teasing is now “bullying” and cause for deep concern.  You can probably tell I don’t think this is a healthy change.  

  • Mike Devx

    It’s too good to pass up.
    Obama and the dogs!  

    This link needs to spread, it’s too good.


  • Bookworm

    Charles: Your story reminds me of the (possibly apocryphal) story about Teddy Roosevelt’s stint as police commissioner in New York City. One day he got word that a famous German antisemite would be speaking and that the speaker insisted upon full police protection. Roosevelt complied — providing the speaker with a security detail consisting entirely of Jewish policeman. (I think the story’s apocryphal because I’m pretty darn sure that all NY police at the time were Irish.)  😉

    Ymarsakar:  That’s a good point about the adult authority acting as a referee.  I’m all in favor of people trying to talk out their differences first.  The problem is we’ve got a mindset where the good kids are being trained that talk is the only thing they can do — and the teachers (or coaches) are abdicating any responsibility for alternative, even physical, approaches to bullying.

    DQ:  I agree we’re more aware.  I also think we make it easier by disarming “nice” kids.

    jj:  The boys with the gun were in the same neighborhood as the last boys bout of boys with guns.  These particular hillsides seem to be tempting.

    Mike:  I loved and linked.

  • Danny Lemieux

    JJ: “They “reasonably” believed that? In other words, that there are snipers in the hills is a reasonable belief in Marin County? It’s evidently a more interesting place than I ever supposed. How do they feel about UFOs?”

    Or…they may have visions of Ted Nugent rattling around in their tiny heads.

    When my kids were in school, I told them the rule was – if a bully says something, you can’t touch them. But the moment a bully touches you, hit back hard. Well after leaving school, my son admitted to getting in some dustups. Today, though, both of my kids know how to stand their ground.

  • Ymarsakar

    Bullying is fundamentally worse than it was years ago, because the problem is prevented from being resolved. Sorta like giving Middle East oil money and thinking their religion will “moderate” if they get Western luxuries. The opposite happens. They steam, they simmer, then they blow up, in your house maybe.

     These aren’t isolated incidents any more. In the past, it used to be you could escape a bad school environment if you just moved. Now a days, what are you going to move to, the teacher unions are national.

     I sometimes place my finger on the pulse of the videos of school fights and things of that nature, and I also get questions asked from students about these issues.

    Someone living in a Leftist fiefdom, may often hear talk about stopping bullying. That’s like Obama talking about ending racially motivated murders. In reality, the worst of those sorts of things happen in Chicago, a city Obama helped make into a Democrat fiefdom. The Left can often times yell very loudly that they are “fixing” problems like bullying, else what are they going to do, wait for the US military to come in and fix bullying? That would totally destroy the Left’s socialist power base. They can’t allow that. But they don’t want to fix the problem either, because they are the ones causing the problems. They benefit from it. They profit.

    It’s not so simple as hearing a bunch of useless Democrats and lying evil Leftists talking about bullying and now all of a sudden “bullying is a PC issue that doesn’t really exist”. The LEft would like it to not exist, just like they would like Islam to be peaceful. Yeah, there’s no problem over there either. If every just sits down with Iran, with bullies, and “talk it”, everything will be okay. Bullies will get counseling, victims will get put in jail and psychologically tortured, the problem will be just another mark in the history of the Left’s totalitarian tyranny. Of course, that would only happen because People Are Not Paying Attention.

  • Ymarsakar

    Another fundamental problem that doesn’t get much light in the media inferno, concerns how the Left uses doublethink concerning violence. When the Left uses violence, it’s okay. That’s called “social justice” and “taking it to the man” and “making sure CEOs don’t fly private jets and go on vacations on the tax payer’s dime”. But when you try to do anything to stop the Left, suddenly what you are doing is now called “violent” and wrong.

    So fundamentally, the Left is much less reluctant to use verbal violence. They incite chaos, in schools, in protests, in the nation as well as the world in general. They incite chaos. When looting happens, rapes, murders, well… they just wipe their hands and say that the ones that caused this were the rich people. Yeah the rich people so angered the poor that the poor went out on a crime spree like in Katrina. It had absolutely nothing to do with verbal incitement and verbal violence uttered by racist pastors… oh no.

     So bullies primarily use verbal violence, and much more rarely physical violence. Bullies are weak to physical violence because generally speaking, bullies are not used to fighting stronger people. And there’s always someone stronger out there. Like most criminals, for crims to survive in a state like Georgia… they’d better not pick the wrong target. And the “wrong target” is more than 51% of us here, just so you know. Crims, both amateurs, pros, and semi pros, know that there are a lot of houses and homes in Georgia, even in Democrat controlled Atlanta, that if you break in and enter unauthorized, and there’s somebody, you Are Not Leaving the House Alive. And that’s just a “little bit” more serious to a crim’s life style than some judge slamming the book at them. So crims, like bullies, use he threat of violence to get what they want, but they are weak to the same use of force.

    The Left, by destroying the ability for defenders to use force, while sanctioning verbal violence and indirect psychological torture of children, has allied themselves with Islam. With bullies. With corrupt cops. With crims. And so on and so forth.

  • shirleyelizabeth

    I think one reason we see a lot more victims to bullying is that kids are growing up unhappy and dissatisfied with themselves and their situations, whether they’ve got plenty to be happy about or not. It puts them into more of a victim state.
    I feel like I can’t relate with all of the people that claim to be bullied. I don’t recall any bullying when I was growing up (which was oh so long ago……). I got made fun of a lot, sometimes taunted. I came from an abnormally large family, I was far more awkward that cute, and I was just …weird. But I was also very comfortable with myself. The jokes meant nothing because I thought my family was awesome, I was oblivious to my awkward body, and I was very comfortable with myself inside my head. I liked myself and knew I was loved by others.
    It seems that even with all the “love yourself” TV campaigns going on, kids, pre-teens, and teens aren’t quite satisfied with themselves. So they all become victims.

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  • bkivey

    Bullying has been going on since time began. I wouldn’t be surprised to look into a Petri dish and see two protozoa ganging up on another one. Because my (Army) family moved a lot, and because, like Book, I was the kid with the book (although minus the glasses), I’d often find myself on the short end of the playground stick when I attended civilian schools.
    Until I hit puberty.
    By Junior High I’d gotten big enough, and pissed off enough, that I didn’t take it anymore. Over the course of a year I got into a half-dozen fights, and won them all. There was remarkably little adult involvement, as kids would ‘encourage’ the loser to disengage when a clear winner emerged. I never had to swing a fist again through high school. In fact, on a couple of occasions a new kid would try his luck with me, and find himself facing a bunch of kids (most of whom I’d beaten) ‘suggesting’ that he pick on someone else. 
    Besides teaching children how the world works, letting them resolve their differences on the playground teaches some necessary attitudes that serve them well. I’ve never had to fight as an adult. The ability to give the impression of credible violence is not to be underestimated, and someone whose never had to fight can’t pull that off.
    I agree with Ymarsakar that bullying is worse than it was a generation ago. Well-meaning people have taken away the avenues of natural conflict resolution, so a kid may feel that the only solution to their problem comes at the end of a gun.