One day last summer Dennis, my brother, sent me a link to a Facebook page on growing up in Franconia. To look at it, I had to re-activate my Facebook membership – something I didn’t want to do.
I don’t know whether it was the fact that I re-activated the Facebook membership or the memories sparked by reading some of the conversation threads that disturbed me, but something kept me tossing and turning instead of sleeping that night.
Although the Facebook activation and deactivation (they make it almost impossible to do the latter) was annoying, I think it was the conversational thread that was disquieting. In particular, two of my former schoolmates were chatting about how they don’t shy away from “mixing it up” when provoked. The one who said that was a former high school wrestling teammate and he was talking to a former elementary school tormentor (or a relative of one -- I can’t remember).
It reminded me of a time when I was victim of bullying by various constituencies of older boys throughout the first eleven years of life. From the neighborhood bully to the classroom bullies – most held back one or more years in academic progression -- I seemed to be a ready target for threats, intimidation and physical harm (force feeding of asphalt, “Chinese" water torture, gang pursuit are just a few examples).
It also bothers me that I inflicted violence on others as my way of coping with anger. My brother was the main victim but there was a memorable time when I knocked the permanent front top teeth out of the neighborhood bully’s brother by jumping on his back in response to a taunt.
By middle school, I was pretty much done with being bullied. Somehow I learned not to be such a target (or maybe I just got bigger). And, gradually (some will say that it was too gradually), I abandoned violence as a way of coping and dealing with frustrations.
I’m not proud my past participation in violence and not happy to be reminded of it. But I guess what’s more disturbing is reading about former colleagues who are proud of their past exploits and seem ready to inflict more violence at the drop of a hat.
The world could use a lot less of that!