I was, to put it mildly, in shock. Here, sitting comfortably before me, leaning out from the detention room cubbie next to me, was… Nick.
Nick was an asshole. Nick was what I called at the time a CPA: a Certified, Public Asshole. He ran with a lot of kids and was liked by none. He frequently influenced events around him, but lacked the ability or the social juice to affect them alone. Instead he sat like a parrot on the shoulders of stronger kids, whispering into their ears and taking what scraps fell from their mouths. He knew the easy meat when he saw it. He took more than his share. Nick was an asshole.
Nick was also a victim. I would learn later that Nick’s dad was in jail for the umpteenth time and his mom was.. ill-prepared, to be charitable. Nick was a child not without his reasons to be angry and to seek easy victories. This excused absolutely nothing but explained quite a bit.
And anyway: here he was. Docile – chatty, even – in a detention room alone with me. Where he could have done anything. Like the meanest dog in your neighborhood, off the chain and rolling on his back, looking for belly rubs. What the everloving fuck was this?
What the everloving fuck it was
It wouldn’t be until my thirties, long after my bully had disappeared into the landscape, before I recognized the truth: bullies never bully alone. Ever. They pick out the weakest defenses and shatter those walls in full view of their shared social circle. Gym class was always a good choice, if they could manage it, but the lunch room always worked in a pinch. They would find one person to make squeal while everybody else watched.
No. Nobody did anything about it. Yes. A few of his lunkhead friends laughed. But it wasn’t until my adulthood that I would understand that most of the audience were just as terrified to be next. Or at least, uncomfortable enough not to want to change their own lanes in the Darwinist supercollider that is High School. How could they risk it? There are no rules for bullies.
All of which is to say: bullies aren’t just bullying their victims, they’re also forcing the group to cede to their demands. The group itself is bullied. Some go along willingly. Others might be ashamed to see their behavior. But one way or another, all bend to his will because it’s just easier than resisting. Group behavior – the tendency of individuals to act in concert with the group around them – is being hacked by a single sadist. And as soon as things break up, he says, “everybody laughed! It was great fun for all of us!”
But it wasn’t fun for all of us.
Our bullies live among us
In the year 2018, the #MeToo movement has swept through Hollywood like a wildfire, now ready to raze the halls of the Senate, and white men like me are… jumpy. Some of us are belligerent and defensive; some of us have our eyes on our own papers, hoping not to be noticed. Some of us have centered our man buns to achieve the elite yoga pose that is the “woke bro.” But whether by dint of special wokeness, a guilty conscience or generalized anxiety, most of us feel like we need to profess our innocence.
We do so because we’re afraid to be the next under scrutiny. We do it because, in the back of our minds, we worry that being innocent won’t be enough, this time. Or that something we thought was innocent at the time might have crossed some line we won’t be able to defend now. How can we know? The rules have changed.
But be honest with yourself: you’re not a rapist. Awkward? Nervous? Out on a limb?.. An idiot? Quite possibly. But not a predator. Misunderstandings happen all the time. Dating is like that. But awkwardness isn’t a crime.
Neither are the things Brett Kavanaugh stands accused of innocent mistakes. Even in isolation, any of the three accusations is a clear crime according to the law at the time. And your stomach probably would have turned at the thought of his behavior in 1982 as much as it does in 2018. The rules have not, in fact, changed. The willingness to prosecute the law is what has changed.
You’re getting bullied, but not by women
Don’t explain to the women in your life that “wouldn’t do that.” They’ve got your number. It isn’t them and it isn’t Alissa Milano that’s making you feel like shit.
The person that’s bullying you is every asshole who says, “everybody laughed, and we all had fun.” “Boys will be boys,” and anyway, if it happened, it couldn’t have been that bad. It is the men who insist “anyone can get caught” and “you’re guilty until proven innocent.”
It is people like Brett Kavanaugh, accused by three women. Its people like President Donald J Trump, credibly accused by no less than 19 women. It’s the actual bullies. Same as they ever were, riding the shoulders of more ethical men, whispering in their ears and looking for cover in numbers.
These are the men who are the self-appointed arbiters of who among us are the “winners” and who are the “losers.” In Brett’s case, of which private schools’ girls deserve victimhood and which do not. Of which girls are “fuckable” and which are “dateable.” No doubt, the stone-faced Misses Kavanaugh had a very different experience of Brett Kavanaugh than did Miss Blasey-Ford.
Brett Kavanaugh can take care of himself
In fact, not only is Brett Kavanaugh’s behavior not “normal” in any era – not only is Donald Trump not “an innocent man” – these are exactly the kinds of rich kid, private school bully-boys that invariably got fucked at the end of every 80’s college movie, ever. Because nobody really likes those motherfuckers. We’re all quite happy to see them in a movie, covered in mud, their girls gone to hang with the nerds, with some unspeakable thing wrong with their private parts. Yet we’re expected to defend them in real life? Why?
Don’t be bullied. Don’t get conned into thinking that, just because you’re the same sex as an accuser, that makes you the same. Stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the women in your life and demand the law be enforced evenly.