Paris Goodnight: Trying to stand up to the bullies

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 15, 2023

With all the many troubles going on around the world these days, I’m stuck wondering just where America stands these days, particularly in the eyes of others.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues and I heard one recent report of advanced U.S. military systems going in to help defend that country as more personnel come here for training on how best to use the new firepower. Some people here aren’t happy with our sticking a toe deeper in that water, while others say we should venture in even up to our knees if we really want to stop a bully before it’s too late.

That reminded me of my thoughts on America in general, which tend to send me back to a time when I was a young fellow riding home on the bus after a long day of classes at school.

One of the guys who liked picking on smaller kids was at his normal practice of bothering someone who was minding his own business on the bus. The aggressor was getting louder and rougher about it, nearly to the point of bringing tears from his victim. About that time, an older guy walked up from the back of the bus and smacked the bully in the back of the head and said, “If you want to pick on somebody, pick on someone your own size like me.” And he stared the other boy down, waiting for him to make a move or say something.

He never did and I never saw that kid pick on anyone else on the bus again.

Now the older guy, who I knew well as someone you didn’t want to mess with, came from a family with plenty of money. And he was loud. And he had other siblings who were similar in their actions, including a younger sister who would knock you on your butt in backyard football if you tried to tackle her during a pickup game.

I’m not sure he was what you would list as the best and brightest of students who always followed the golden rule or anything near that.

But during that time when no one else, especially an adult, was around to step in to come to the younger kid’s aid, he did what no one else would. And that was to take a stand for what was right.

I wish I could have been the hero to stand up and protect the weaker ones, but I had no such courage.

Now did this young protector always do what was right? Definitely not.

Maybe that’s like America itself. There are plenty of examples in our history when we’ve been accused of doing the wrong thing, or not doing something we should have to help out. But if a bully — from Hitler to Saddam to Gadhafi — steps over a certain line, no one else is likely to stand up to him like the United States does.

Will everybody be happy with the activities we take part in around the world? Not likely. And are we going to leap off a springboard to take on Putin? No way.

But I imagine most would be happy to see any of the bullies around the world get the smack to the head they deserve, as long as it doesn’t lead to some unthinkable world war.

As for the guy on the bus, I never heard exactly where he ended up. But I imagine he did fine for himself after his school days, with some good times and likely some trouble-filled times as well, just like the good old U.S. of A. always has.

Paris Goodnight is editor of the Salisbury Post.