Here’s what came of my most recent writing group session…
There’s a meme going around Facebook where you give yourself a point for everything on a list you haven’t done.
One is “punch someone.”
I suppose I have. You can’t get through toddlerhood without punching someone.
The only fight I remember never made it to punches. My memory might be biased, but as I recall, in elementary school—I don’t remember the year—there was a playground bully. I don’t remember what he did—that all the boys didn’t also do—I only remember the moment of climax. For some reason I was prepared to fight him, to do actual battle. Maybe it was from having two older brothers, that bullies didn’t frighten me so much.
I stood up to the bully. I have a memory of me standing in front of him, fists raised, surrounded by schoolmates.
But he backed down. How, what exactly happened, I don’t know.
Whether I’m remembering this accurately doesn’t matter so much as I’ve grown up with the notion that bullies should not be tolerated.
Or maybe it was those two brothers.
What is a fight, anyway?
Physical fisticuffs, certainly.
But also a struggle. The fight for civil rights, for gay rights, for women’s rights.
To stand up for one’s own honor, dignity, and principles.
Over the years, I quit a lot of jobs because, as I said at the time, I don’t work for assholes. My most notable fight, conflict, struggle, whatever, was when I worked at a magazine. I started as editorial assistant. It was a dream job. I used to pinch myself that I actually got paid to play with words.
When the copy editor refused to do something he thought excessive and quit or was fired, I took on his responsibilities. When the managing editor (a man) couldn’t deal with the head designer (a woman, coincidentally?), I took on that job.
Only the jump to managing editor got me more pay, so when asked to take on all IT—computer maintenance—I balked and said I’d need more money. The editor refused. So I quit.
These days you’d call it a toxic workplace. As computer and desktop publishing were brought in, the five designers and typesetter were replaced by two part-time designers. The publisher was a bastard. He placed blind ads for workers, then talked the ad director out of quitting only to fire her a few days later, admitting he just hadn’t heard yet from the guy he’d hired to replace her.
I was happy to be out of there, even though it left me with no job. I struggled to pay bills through freelancing over the next couple of years before landing a permanent gig.
My first job other than babysitting, I was told I had a bad attitude because I vocally disliked being treated like dirt.
I just finished an excellent article in The Atlantic about collaborators, the people who go against their better judgment, against the Constitution, against all common sense to support the dangerous policies of the president.
The author gives all sorts of reasons, using East Germany and Vichy France as comparisons. Why do some people refuse to go along right from the start? Or go along for as long as they think they can make a difference before getting out? Or get out but then don’t say anything? They don’t fight back. Why?
It boggles my mind how supple politics can be—where you are for something one day and literally the next day against it simply because going along will gain you something—power, money, some legacy in the form of judges whose rulings will outlive you and promote your cause.
Did we run out of older brothers to teach us how to stand up to bullies?
About the photo: No, I don’t own the rights to this. But who can resist! It’s Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2. If you haven’t seen it, well…