(/sites/default/files/uploads/2014/05/Mayor-Cameron-Hamilton.png)Recently Mayor Cameron Hamilton of Porterville, California stirred a bit of controversy with his suggestion that people pushing anti-bullying measures need to “grow a pair,” and that victims of bullying should simply stand up for themselves or for those who can’t. Naturally, this incensed progressives in the media who believe government intervention is the answer.
His comment came during a City Council meeting earlier this month after Councilwoman Virginia Gurrola asked the Council to support a student-led anti-bullying program. The program would establish off-campus safe zones citywide for teens being bullied after school.
“I mean, I am against bullying,” an exasperated Hamilton said, “but I am getting damn tired of it being used as a mantra for everything that ills the world when all most people have to do is grow a pair and stick up for them damn selves.” Gurrola retorted, “It is hard to stand up and maybe grow a pair when you are maybe a 10-year-old little girl.”
Outrage quickly grew in the mainstream media, which gleefully jumped on Hamilton’s phrase as being sexist and inappropriate advice for children. He appeared on TV numerous times to clarify his remarks (meanwhile, no one in the media accused Gurrola of sexism for suggesting that girls can’t stand up for themselves).
Last week, for example, CNN invited Mayor Hamilton to discuss his comments on CNN Special Report, hosted by Don Lemon, with a panel featuring myself and legal analysts Mark O’Mara and Mel Robbins. I was invited to appear remotely from CNN’s Hollywood studio based on an article I wrote a few months ago entitled “We Are Raising a Generation of Wimps.” That article wasn’t specifically about bullying, but about our increasing zeal as a culture to create ultra-safe environments for our children, a paranoia which doesn’t serve them well as children or as the adults they will become.
Hamilton again tried to explain his position and was rudely dismissed by Robbins, who told him he needed to “grow a few brain cells” and realize that bullying must be solved by adults – specifically, educators rather than parents: “How are we gonna teach kids how to respond to bullying except to have communities inside of schools with a zero tolerance policy and that stick up for kids that are getting bullied?” O’Mara agreed with Robbins and derided Hamilton’s recommendation that kids physically defend themselves as “Neanderthal.”
The mayor noted that zero tolerance policies don’t teach kids to stand up against bullies: “They teach kids to stand down because they’re going to get in the same amount of trouble as the kid that’s causing the problem.”
“If they hit somebody, yes, they should get in trouble,” interrupted Robbins, “’cause that’s not how you deal with this situation. You may have dealt with things like that 20 years ago, but that’s not appropriate in 2014.”
“I think that’s very naïve,” the mayor correctly retorted. Bullies today are not kinder and gentler than those of 20 years ago. They are not more responsive to reason or dialogue or authority. They are the same as they have always been: cowards who respect only a dose of their own medicine. They target the weak and the fearful precisely because that is their predatory nature. Fight back and they disintegrate.
Even the CNN crew grasps this basic truism. After the commercial break, host Lemon noted that “everyone in the studio, about seven people, agreed that the best way to handle bullies was to fight back, to stick up for yourself.” (After the show I chatted with a female crewmember at the CNN Hollywood studio who also agreed.) He told of his own experience being bullied as a child, and said his father taught him to deal with it by commanding Lemon to fight back. That seemed to work for Lemon, as it does for pretty much everyone. Anyone – myself included – who has ever decided to physically stand up to bullies knows that that works and very little else does.
In my contribution to the discussion, I agreed with the mayor and asserted the necessity for kids to be emotionally, psychologically, and physically prepared by adults to deal with bullies themselves, and that preparation includes the use of defensive violence. But Mark O’Mara, like Robbins, rejected this notion. “There are more appropriate ways to handle violence.” Neither he nor Robbins mentioned what any of those appropriate solutions are. Robbins simply insisted, in her closing remarks, that educators must handle bullying, which she was quick to blame on parents: “Kids that bully are taught how to bully, typically at home,” she asserted. So her stance was that parents are part of the problem, therefore the schools must step in and protect our children for us (or is it from us?).
That is the solution of progressives (who have elevated political bullying to an art form): Let the state protect you. Don’t fight back, don’t defend yourself, because all violence is equally bad. Their refusal to acknowledge that self-defense is morally justifiable violence leads to such ludicrous zero tolerance extremes as suspending kids from school for pointing index fingers like gun barrels. The result is that American children are molded into risk-averse, helpless pacifists that, not coincidentally, can be easily controlled by the state. This will do nothing to stop bullying; it will actually exacerbate it.
Councilwoman Gurrola’s plan, for example, to establish off-campus “safe zones” for teens being bullied after school sends the message to bullies that they have won, that instead of the perpetrators being confronted and put in their place, their victims will simply retreat to a safe haven to huddle together in fear. It sends the message that the territory beyond those boundaries belongs to the bullies. It sends the message that we don’t have to grow up because the state is our protective father figure. If you want to see the real-world results of this kind of defeatist thinking, look to Europe, where Islamic bullies expand their sharia zones unchallenged by impotent authorities and largely unarmed citizens.
As the ancient Roman saying goes, if you want peace, prepare for war. If you don’t want the bullies –schoolyard punks, progressive radicals or government despots – to win, teach your children to fight back.
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