Dads Against the Divorce Industry
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Dear Andy, a 3rd grade parable to 'just war'Gerald L. Rowles, Ph.D.
March 15, 2003
What follows originated as an email exchange with a young man who argued that President Bush is pursuing an immoral war. This was my final response, but his name has been changed for obvious reasons.Dear Andy,
When I was in 3rd grade, a bully named Jim Mount regularly harassed me in the school yard and often chased me home at the end of the school day. We called him 'the mountain.' Sometimes he just wanted to revel in his ability to intimidate. Other times he would knock me (and others) around or demand money or possessions.
When he chased me home after school, and we would get to my yard, he knew better than to enter the domain which was my safe haven. But he would often taunt me from the sidewalk.
One afternoon, my father was home early and observed one of these sessions just as I made good my escape into the house - I thought. He demanded that I go back down that long expanse of driveway to the sidewalk where 'the mountain' remained in his taunting mode, and punch him. I was terrified by this demand and pleaded and wheedled to no avail. My father insisted.
Now 'the mountain', who had been held back a grade, towered over me and was a pretty stocky young guy with a perpetual scowl. As I arrived to confront him, with my tear-stained face and quaking knees, he stood hands-on-hips laughing and gloating like the giant before Jack from the beanstalk.
Somehow I summoned the courage to spring from the sidewalk, fist first, and miraculously landed a good solid punch right in his nose. As his nose began to bleed, he howled and ran home crying. Afterward, as might have been expected, my parents received an irate call from his parents demanding an explanation of my 'assault' on their poor child. But as eye witnesses, my parents were undeterred in their righteous assertions to the contrary.
Well, the moral of the story was that 'the mountain' never bothered me again. In fact he seemed to retire from the bully ring, and I seldom even saw him. A further benefit derived; other kids who had been his occasionally targeted victims no longer had reason to fear him.
Fortunately, however, this bully had been operating within some predictable parameters. My parents' home and its boundaries - the sidewalk, the edge of adjoining neighbor's yards and our front sidewalk, were a domain that he understood must not be crossed lest he betray his aggression and risk an encounter with my parents. But not all bullies are so constrained.
What if he had not demonstrated that limited bit of social apprehension, and respect or fear of those boundaries? What if he had in fact pulled out a concealed firearm and taken a shot at me as I ran into the house, shattering a window and grazing or wounding one of my sibs, and then ran and hid, or remained defiantly taunting at the border of our property?
Well, undoubtedly the police would have been called - given his level of dangerousness - and he would have been arrested and jailed, by the force of law and arms. And if he had barricaded himself at home, or had convinced his parents or sibs that he was being wrongly pursued, or if they were genuine miscreants who themselves were on the wrong side of the law, there might have been a terrible shootout with resulting carnage.
We have seen such evil, irrational, altogether incomprehensible events unfold in daily headlines.
And so, this eighth grade episode presents a simple parable for the global condition we now find ourselves facing with Iraq. Herein we see the proper role of the State as protector, and the defining role of our borders and the inviolability of the sovereign area and the people contained therein. And we know from life-long experience that the only thing a bully respects is a punch in the nose, because that brings home the reality that was clouded by his own self-delusion, and his resulting abuse of power, whatever its origins.
No degree of intellectual sophistry nor pattycake phrases can veil the simple, basic rules of moral reality. Consequently, many of the most profound life-lessons are learned by third grade. One of those is that sooner or later, we must overcome our fears and assert moral reality. And when words fail, as they often do in the presence of the irrational, we must summon the courage to use sufficient force to get a bully's attention.
Even the most naive can recognize the actions and dangers of a bully and his cohort. Summoning the moral courage to defeat him ... well that depends. Thanks, Dad. And thanks, President Bush.
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