The Case for Bullying

 

 

 

I came of age in the 60’s, a young boy in Johnson City, NY, a village that sprung up 50 years earlier to house the Endicott-Johnson factory workers emigrating from Europe to become American shoemakers.  The life experiences of my father, uncles and grandfather working in those factories forged my heritage.

 

Allen Street’s elegant canopy of giant Elm trees arched over the street, shading the some 50 houses along her length.  Ranging from the stately home of the village fire chief to the modest simplicity of middle-class America, to those just on the edge of poverty, the street’s architecture displayed the gamut of divergent social standing.  My family lived on both sides of that vividly stark divide, first at 80 Allen in a third floor, four-room walk-up tenement, then later at 40 Allen, a mansion by comparison, our American dream.

 

On the odd side of the street was 59-61 Allen, commonly known as The Greystone.  This slummy, stormy colored, 3-story, blocky monolith had 13 apartments and looked like it was lifted out of the Bronx and dropped onto a dusty lot, tenants to match.

 

The Baby Boom had produced three Bobby’s from the dozens of kids that lived in the neighborhood; Bobby Wilson, Bobby Wright and me.  Wilson was a few years older, street-wise and mean.  Wright was a one-armed scrapper, capable and willing to pummel anyone foolish enough to rile him.  I was the cop’s kid who was assumed to be a snitch and not trusted.  Wilson and Wright both lived in The Greystone and at times, would impose “travel tariffs” on my passing.  I had to avoid them, hide from them, run from them or face the music.  Much of the time, I lived in fear of those two bullies’.

 

To survive, I formed alliances and made friends with the older, more powerful kids.  I learned how to negotiate, bargain, threaten, extort, anything practical to deal with tough situations.  I learned that life isn’t fair and even sometimes painful and that others have similar problems but together we are stronger than we are alone.

 

The strong-arm of the bully’s eventually exposed their own weaknesses.  I know first hand what their oppression feels like and I came to understand that delivering that oppression was in some ways ironically also a burden to the oppressor.  It helped me develop compassion, while simultaneously making me tougher.

 

A trial best endured in youth, postponing the lesson only makes it harder.  The weak will find strength through struggle and shielding them from it lasts only as long as your control over them does.  From these battles, I learned the power of critical thinking, reasoning, logic and the complexities of human emotion.  The days on the harder side of Allen Street taught me how to think on my feet; sometimes by running, dancing, walking tall and deliberate and on rare occasions, by kicking back.

 

For all of its shadowed darkness, Allen Street showed me the brightness of light and its warmth as well.

 

I came of age in the 60’s, a young boy in Johnson City, NY, a village that sprung up 50 years earlier to house the Endicott-Johnson factory workers emigrating from Europe to become American shoemakers.  The life experiences of my father, uncles and grandfather working in those factories forged my heritage.

 

Allen Street’s elegant canopy of giant Elm trees arched over the street, shading the some 50 houses along her length.  Ranging from the stately home of the village fire chief to the modest simplicity of middle-class America, to those just on the edge of poverty, the street’s architecture displayed the gamut of divergent social standing.  My family lived on both sides of that vividly stark divide, first at 80 Allen in a third floor, four-room walk-up tenement, then later at 40 Allen, a mansion by comparison, our American dream.

 

On the odd side of the street was 59-61 Allen, commonly known as The Greystone.  This slummy, stormy colored, 3-story, blocky monolith had 13 apartments and looked like it was lifted out of the Bronx and dropped onto a dusty lot, tenants to match.

 

The Baby Boom had produced three Bobby’s from the dozens of kids that lived in the neighborhood; Bobby Wilson, Bobby Wright and me.  Wilson was a few years older, street-wise and mean.  Wright was a one-armed scrapper, capable and willing to pummel anyone foolish enough to rile him.  I was the cop’s kid who was assumed to be a snitch and not trusted.  Wilson and Wright both lived in The Greystone and at times, would impose “travel tariffs” on my passing.  I had to avoid them, hide from them, run from them or face the music.  Much of the time, I lived in fear of those two bullies’.

 

To survive, I formed alliances and made friends with the older, more powerful kids.  I learned how to negotiate, bargain, threaten, extort, anything practical to deal with tough situations.  I learned that life isn’t fair and even sometimes painful and that others have similar problems but together we are stronger than we are alone.

 

The strong-arm of the bully’s eventually exposed their own weaknesses.  I know first hand what their oppression feels like and I came to understand that delivering that oppression was in some ways ironically also a burden to the oppressor.  It helped me develop compassion, while simultaneously making me tougher.

 

A trial best endured in youth, postponing the lesson only makes it harder.  The weak will find strength through struggle and shielding them from it lasts only as long as your control over them does.  From these battles, I learned the power of critical thinking, reasoning, logic and the complexities of human emotion.  The days on the harder side of Allen Street taught me how to think on my feet; sometimes by running, dancing, walking tall and deliberate and on rare occasions, by kicking back.

 

For all of its shadowed darkness, Allen Street showed me the brightness of light and its warmth as well.

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2 thoughts on “The Case for Bullying

  1. Wanda Chrysler says:

    Very Good Bob, Growing up it tough on all sides and ways, but eventually worth the ups and downs. So Thankful to God, that we have lived long enough to value all experiences that we come in contact with. Love your Writing. Wanda and Gene, so thankful to be your friends.

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