Friday, 25 September 2009

The day I snapped.

Charles Adler, a national talk show host, recently had a segment on his program regarding bullying in schools. He said that administrators aren't doing enough in confronting their parents about the harm their children's cruelty does to their victims. In my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I had much the same problem with authorities not dealing decisively with my nemesis. Here's an excerpt that tells what happened when he finally pushed me past my breaking point.

Remembering our success with getting Mrs. Parker fired, I spoke to Mrs. Corrigan about the school bully. She listened patiently while I poured out my grievances with him to her.

The next morning, she came and called Charlie out of class. His face was brilliant fuchsia when he came back in. "Atchison, I'll get you for this," he threatened as he returned to his seat.

Terror seized me all through class. I had difficulty concentrating on the lesson. Never had I seen the school bully so angry. When recess came, I retreated to what used to be the swing set next to the junior boys' dorm. The adults had removed the swings and hung landing nets, the type marines use, in their place. Few students played on them since the novelty wore off rapidly.

Suddenly, I saw Charlie coming through the school doors. I quickly climbed to the top of the net to get away from him.

"You caused me a lot of trouble you know," he said. "Why did you have to tell Mrs. Corrigan all that stuff about me?"

I clung to the pole at the top of the former swing set, fearing the worst.

"I'm not such a bad guy," he assured me. "Come down and I promise I won't hurt you." I doubted that, having been tricked by him before. Fortunately for me, Charlie let me go without beating me up.

Charlie teased me as usual one evening at the Dining Hall. I tried to ignore him as the adults continually advised but to no avail. Anger and frustration built up in my mind as I ate. Before I had time to think, I lunged at Charlie and grabbed his throat. He pulled my hands away as he said, "whoa - wait a minute. I was only joking." Everyone at the table sat in stunned silence as I realized what I did. The school bully suddenly became apologetic and shocked. "You weren't really going to kill me were you?" he asked. Charlie was much kinder to me after that.

Though I believe revenge belongs to the Lord and I was wrong to literally take it into my own hands, he gave those in authority the responsibility of maintaining order and justice. Jericho's principal failed her God-given duty in that her lacklustre "talking to" only made Charlie angrier. This incident convinced me that bullies of all sorts, from school boys to terrorists, only respect superior strength. Appeasement is seen by them as a sign of weakness. Our politicians and school administrators would do well to heed the lesson I learned back in June of 1970.

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