By Jonathan Rehlander
Unless you were the bully in grade school, you had at least one kid growing up that made school miserable sometimes. They would tease you, trip you, threaten to beat you up after school. There was an apprehension that came when you would see them, hoping they didn’t see you. In my case, I had one of these kids who make crude nicknames, hit me with his shoulder when he passed me in the hall, “stack my locker” so my books would fall out when I opened it.
One day, I was hanging out with my friends when this bully said he was riding my bus after school to fight me. One million thoughts flashed through my mind; I considered telling the teachers which would have meant bringing in parents, the principal, and likely more ridicule from the bully and peers. I considered actually walking home, no small task since it would take an hour. The possibilities swirled until one word crystallized in my mind: Enough. I had had enough.
I took the bus home as usual; the bully looked surprised to see me. I didn’t talk to anyone during the ride; I looked straight ahead and waited for my stop. When we got off the bus, he looked like he expected me to run, anything to avoid the conflict, but I just stood there waiting for him. The clash that followed left me with a few scrapes, but one moment still sticks in my memory; I landed one solid shot right to his nose, the kind of shot that makes the head go back and stagger the receiver. That one shot to the nose changed my life. I was no longer the victim, and I showed I could give as well as I got.
I am not saying fighting is always the answer, and I have certainly encouraged my children to follow the example I try to set on a consistent basis; be the better person, don’t get yourself in trouble or a reputation as a troublemaker, but I also tell them they should never have to back down to a bully or feel like they can’t say something clever to turn the tables on whoever is tormenting them. I have also told them that if circumstances don’t let them peacefully disengage, they have every right to defend themselves.
Women who have been through sexual harassment have known this feeling forever. They were ridiculed for calling men on their lewd behavior, labeled too sensitive, and made to feel they had no right to suggest things should be otherwise. Victims were blamed for encouraging or inviting behavior and made to question what they could have done to prevent it rather than the attacker. Democrats had been treated largely the same way; ‘Democrat’ and ‘liberal’ had become synonymous with ‘wimp’. As a character in the television series the West Wing put it, Democrats ended up curling in a ball and saying, ‘Please don’t hurt me’. Then last week, both women and Democrats threw a punch and hit the bully right in the nose. You could see it in the defensive, ludicrous performance by Kavanaugh after Dr. Ford gave her courageous testimony. That Dr. Ford went into the lion’s den at all had shaken the GOP members of the Judiciary committee already; they hid behind their ‘female assistant’ rather than take her on themselves. Sure, they ranted and raved later when Kavanaugh was being questioned, but they didn’t dare take on the woman who didn’t run, didn’t hide, and with a quavering voice brought the boys club to its knees.
Her voice perhaps shook at times, but Dr. Ford was the personification of the word ‘resolve’. She knew there was a good chance her testimony would change nothing in regards to Kavanaugh being confirmed, and she was already taking the slings and arrows from faceless cowards before she even got to the microphone. To borrow a phrase, and yet she persisted. I don’t know if I have seen a delivery this brave in my lifetime. Dr. Ford’s time at the microphone was all the more powerful for her vulnerability and authenticity. The contrast with Kavanaugh’s testimony later made it that much more clear.
The man who clearly felt and still feels he is entitled to the position raged against any and all who might dare to deny this man of privilege his station in life. He took the punch straight to the nose, and his testimony showed he was reeling. It brought his true nature to the surface as he belligerently challenged Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar. That one moment, and the disdain with which he grudgingly accepted his obligation to answer to her, spoke more clearly than his free-range rambling in his prepared statement. Lashing out at the Clintons, Democrats, conspiracies and women in general, it was an unraveling of composure to rival the worst performances of the man who had nominated him for the position.
So when Senator Lindsey Graham, President Trump, and others like them talk about how unfair this process has been to Kavanaugh just remember this: When the bully gets punched in the nose by the kid they were trying to bully, the first thing they usually wail is, “No fair!”