Like the member of a choir that practices the same hymns over and over, I suppose that I sometimes get a little bored with taking the analytical approach to making a case for sensible trade and immigration policy. It’s refreshing to step outside of that every once in a while. The events of the past few days have prompted me to do exactly that.
As a kid, I guess I’d characterize myself as a fun-loving, happy kid who just wanted to be everybody’s friend. A little meek and timid too, I suppose. Most kids were nice kids, but there were some that weren’t, and I just couldn’t understand that.
I remember vividly the day that changed, at least to some extent. I attended a Catholic elementary school and, on this particular day, we studied Christ’s teaching about turning the other cheek. “If a man strikes you on the cheek, offer him the other.” (Maybe not a direct quote, but close enough.) “OK,” I thought, “that’s what I’ll always do.” That very afternoon, as I walked home from school, a kid that I didn’t like – the kind of kid that I would eventually learn was known as a bully – jumped me for absolutely no reason and began to beat the hell out of me. Remembering the day’s lesson, I didn’t fight back. And I got it on both cheeks.
Upon my arrival home, it was obvious from the black eye and scrapes on my face that something had happened. I explained and my Mom was upset. Then Dad came home. Instead of being proud of me for abiding by the day’s teaching, he was angry – perhaps even ashamed of me – and lectured me about standing up for myself. I was confused, but concluded that he was probably right. People have to stand up for themselves in such situations.
There was another boy in our school, one who probably wasn’t the “sharpest tool in the shed” and so, at the age of 16, found himself still stuck in elementary school after flunking several grades. Perhaps because of that or for whatever reason, he was a hot-head and everyone feared him. (I’ll have to admit, though, that he was quite an asset on the football team.) But one day on the playground, I somehow crossed him, and he began shoving me, finally cornering me against the wall of the school.
At this point, I figured, there was nothing to lose. I was going to get a beating one way or the other. And here was an opportunity to make my Dad proud of me again. Though I was three years younger, I was still a pretty good-sized kid. I hauled off and slugged him square in the face as hard as I could! I can still remember the shocked look on his face as the blow rocked him backward. And the fight was on, but somehow broken up quickly by the nuns.
As I sat in detention later that day, I found myself being cheered by the other kids who were also there for one infraction or another. They couldn’t believe that I had done what so many of them wanted to do. I was a hero to them. Lesson learned. The only thing a bully understands is a slug in the face. They’ll only respect people who stand up for themselves. It was a valuable lesson, though the whole “turn the other cheek” thing would forever lurk in the back of my mind, moderating any urge to lash out unless absolutely necessary.
There were only two other such instances. A kid who made it his mission to begin taunting me every single day as I delivered newspapers on my route. After taking all I could stand, he paid the price. So did another kid from my boy scout troop who, during a game of soccer on the playground where we had gathered before a camp-out, taunted me in the same way.
Decades later, my own son found himself in the same situation. Certain kids were bullying him and making him miserable. “Here’s what I want you to do,” I told him. “The next time he does that, slug him right square on the nose as hard as you can.” My wife was horrified. “He can’t do that! He’ll get in big trouble and so will we!” I assured her that, though he might get in a little bit of trouble, it would be nothing permanent and would be well worth the lesson he’d learn from the experience.
As it turned out, it was some other bully who chose to pick on him soon after that, and my son had taken his lecture to heart. He did get in a little trouble, but no one ever bullied him again at that school and he learned a valuable lesson about standing up for himself.
Those were school-yard bullies, the kids with the brawn to act out on their sociopathic tendencies. In adult life, all of us found ourselves confronted by an entirely different kind of bully. These were the kids with similar sociopathic tendencies who lacked the brawn, but learned other methods of bullying – lying and manipulation – and weaseled their ways into positions of power where they could enhance themselves by bullying the rest of us.
Who am I talking about? The ones who, with a twinkle in their eye, would stand there and tell you that free trade was good for you, that a rising tide in Mexico or China or Japan would somehow eventually lift your boat too, even though you may be losing your job right now. “Change is a good thing and you need to embrace it,” they would say, trying to make you feel like a stubborn goat who wasn’t bright enough to understand what was good for him. (Any time someone tells you that you need to embrace change, you can be sure that it’s a change that works for him and not for you.) They would even bring in the foreign workers from the country where your job would be going and make you train them.
These same bullies want to explode the population with immigrants, not because it’s for your benefit, and not even out of compassion for the immigrants, but because it swells the ranks of consumers and grows their bottom line while at same time keeping downward pressure on wages by keeping the labor force in a constant state of over-supply. “This wave of immigrant workers we’re bringing in is a good thing,” they say, with that same twinkle in their eye. “Immigrants are great entrepreneurs and create lots of new jobs.” The implication is that you’re too stupid to do the same. And, of course, your job is now gone.
Then there’s the globalist bullies and the leaders of countries who thrive on running huge trade deficits with the U.S. “Free trade benefits all,” they say, pooh-poohing any notion that a trade deficit is somehow a bad thing for you. But suggest that maybe it’s their turn to run a trade deficit for a while and watch their reaction. Here come the threats.
For decades now, American workers have been faced with corporate bullies, led by functioning sociopaths who lay off thousands of workers and sleep like babies at night, snoozing in gilded beds with satin sheets and dreaming of even greater profits, free of a guilty conscience because they have none, rationalized away by any twisted logic that works in their favor.
We’ve been powerless. As much as we’d have liked to line up all of these bullies and literally slug them in their faces for ruining lives, our better natures and maturity and laws that impose serious penalties instead of an hour in detention prevented it. Not to mention that it would be completely ineffective. They would laugh in your face as the police slapped you in cuffs, and now wouldn’t even feel compelled to provide any severance. Month after month, year after year, Americans have been bullied by globalists and corporate elites – the top 1% who get richer and richer by squeezing all the rest of us. We feel powerless. We’re cornered against that wall.
Along comes Donald Trump. He seems to be an enigma, someone who emanates from the ranks of these bullies and seems to be one himself, but a strange sort of bully, one who seems to have taken offence to the bullying of his fellow Americans and now relishes the opportunity to give those other bullies a taste of their own medicine.
I think this might explain his ascent to front-runner status in the Republican race. Some blame it on the ever-worsening turn toward the right that the Republican Party has been courting for years now. But I think that’s off the mark. Trump’s rise has been fueled not only by Republicans who are increasingly realizing that they’ve merely been played by the mantra of “conservative principles” espoused by the bought-and-paid for representatives of the bullies I spoke of above, but also by independents and even Democrats who see his campaign as a metaphorical “slug in the face” for the globalists and corporate elites who have bullied them into submission and economic decline for decades.
So here’s some advice for Mr. Trump. Americans are eager to see their oppressors get the “slug in the face” that they’ve deserved for so long. Though we’ve had all we can take from these bullies and long for someone with the backbone to stand up to them and undo what they’ve done to us, it will all be lost if the slugs in the face go beyond the metaphorical and become something that our better natures can’t be proud of. You can be tough as nails and take them on without crossing the line into advocating actual, physical violence. Be presidential, get elected, and then let’s put these bullies in their place.