I have long believed that if my father hadn’t intervened during the second grade, I might have grown up a liberal.
In 1961, my dad was transferred to Hickam AFB on the island of Oahu, in Hawaii. I was seven years old. My parents believed in living on the local economy (rather than in base housing) so that we could experience the culture. That worked out great for my mom, as she had quite few Hawaiian friends and even took Hula lessons. I, on the other hand hung out with the other Air Force dependent children who lived in our neighborhood.
We lived in Ewa Beach which was a ferry ride across Pearl Harbor from Hickam. Quite a few Air Force families lived in the area, and I had lots of friends. But, my mom was determined, and during the summer of 1962, she sent my 8 year old butt to a summer camp that was run, staffed and frequented by local Hawaiians. I pleaded not to go. I had had enough experience with Hawaiian kids to know that I wasn’t going to have any fun. They called us white kids, houlies(sp). I’m not sure of the spelling, but I do remember that when any of us heard “Hey, houlie boy!” we knew we best get to steppin’! So, I was in a panic at the thought of spending all day, all summer with these guys.
But, my mom would have none of it, and my dad was working a second job building patios after he was done at Hickam, so he was no help. The very first day at the summer camp, a handful of Hawaiian kids in my general age group started teasing and threatening me. The second day, one of them demanded the quarter that my mom gave me to buy a drink with my lunch. I felt defenseless and didn’t want to get beat up, so I gave him my quarter. This went on all week.
The next weekend, I cornered my dad and asked him to convince my mom to pull me out of the camp. He said, “Bub, I can’t do that. You’re mom has made up her mind and she can’t get a refund.” I would do anything to keep from crying in front of my dad back then, but this time I just couldn’t help it. I broke into tears. He knew it was big deal for me to cry in front of him, so he sat me down and asked me what was wrong. I explained what had happened that week.
What he told me then turned out to be the first in many lessons he taught me about being a man. He asked me why I had given up my lunch money. I said that I didn’t want to get beat up. My dad said, “Losing a fight that you didn’t start is no disgrace, but not sticking up for yourself is.” He said that bullies always look for the weakest target because they’re not looking for a fight, only an advantage. He said that refusing to give up my money, even if it meant I got beat up, would solve my problem. I was incredulous. “How is getting beat up every day going to solve my problem?”
He said, “Bub, those boys don’t respect you. They respect you even less for giving in to them. If you fight back, they will respect you, even if you lose, because you refuse to give in.” “And, I bet after you fight back once or twice, they’ll leave you alone.” His final bit of advice? Hit him in the nose. Very Hard. I was physically ill the next Monday when I went to camp. I was so scared. I had never been in a real fight.
At the first opportunity, my “friends” came around to get their quarter. When I refused, the leader, who I think was named Frank, said, “Houlie boy, you gonna get hurt real bad.” And he pushed me in the chest, and I fell down. The fear must have been written all over my face, because he smiled, sat on me and straddled my legs. Mustering every bit of courage I had, I hit him in the nose with a straight jab. It didn’t even bleed. He took my quarter and beat the crap out of me. The camp counselors called my mom to come get me because, MY nose bled all over my clothes.
My mom was all set to go to the head of the community center to complain, have the boys kicked out, and the camp counselors disciplined for not protecting me. Thankfully, my dad would have none of it. He said, “The boy needs to learn to handle his own problems. If he thinks going and tattling to the administrators is the way to go, let him do it himself.” Now, I thought it was a fabulous idea and I said so. But, my dad told me that if I went to the camp administrators, they would take care of my problem, but what about next time? What if there are no administrators to run to? What if you’re down at the beach and something happens? Sooner or later, I would be out in the world on my own, and I needed to learn to take care of myself. He said, “People will always try to take advantage of you. Sometimes, because they think they are tougher, sometimes because they think the are smarter, and sometimes because they think they are just “better” than you. “Bub, you really should handle this yourself, if you can. But, if you don’t think you can, I’ll understand,” he said. “It’s your decision.”
I went back to camp the next day, got my butt kicked, and lost my quarter. But, I did get a couple of good licks in this time. I wish I could say that, over time, I started to win the fights and never gave up my quarter again. But, it didn’t happen that way. I ended up giving up my quarter a few more times, but it became clear that Frank was losing his enthusiasm for screwing with me. And after a couple of weeks, he left me alone. On the last day of camp, Frank made a point of coming over to me and saying, “See you next year….Rick.” And I knew I had earned his respect.
I’m reminded of this today because of Neil’s unfortunate experience outside of circuit city last evening, and Jeff’s link to this from Matt Stoller.
It sounds like Stoller, and most liberals in my opinion, could have used some advice and guidance like my dad gave me. Instead, they learned to run to the administrators for every problem, learned to despise physical violence for any reason, and that government and “authority” are they’re saviors.