When I was in the seventh grade a boy in another seventh grade set fire to my hair. It was supposed to be our solemn communion at St. Monica's parish church in Montreal. I promptly punched him between the eyes and put out the fire. He went down in the centre aisle before the assembled congregation. I was lucky because he did not come after me to retaliate.
That isn't always the case. I once made the mistake of dating a co-worker. After the inevitable breakup, he started pulling my hair in the workplace. Every time he passed my desk he'd reach out and pull my blonde hair. One time I was trying to close a lucrative deal. I was working for the The St. Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto. So, I had this yoyo pulling my hair while I was trying to persuade a benefactor to part with some major cash. I was on edge. I admit to stopping my co-worker. Maybe I should not say what I did in print. It involved the telephone and a desk. Thankfully no one was seriously hurt. And I did close the deal. But I also learned a valuable lesson. It never ends where you want it.
Jilted boyfriend with a wounded pride times two waits for me in the parking lot after work. Luckily, I always seem to have some very big friends who want to walk me home. But the take away lesson for me was that the problem with violence is that it always seems to escalate. You know, you punch me; I punch you. An eye for an eye. And it just seems to spiral upwards (or perhaps more appropriately downwards). I learned: this is how war starts.
These thoughts came rushing back to me when my kid was bullied at school. My child had the curse of being half the size of his classmates but often twice as smart (or so the School Board told me). To my amazement, he took a pacificst approach. I remember sitting in one principal's office and being asked if I wanted to press charges. I looked at my kid and he says at age seven, "They have anger mangagement issues but I still want to be their friend." I guess it showed that his heroes were Ghandi and Luther King Jr.. But it made protecting him almost impossible.
He has gone on to be a social activist in his own right –the kind of kid who will sit down in front of car to stop it from moving. Mount digital petitions to thwart school cutbacks. Engage politicians and work the system when I would have been too jaundiced to try. Recently, when a trans-friend of his got stabbed in a school washroom my child decides to wear a dress to school in defiance. Of course, I have my heart in my mouth.