Bobby in the school yard and Harper in Ottawa both made the classic bully mistake
December 7, 2008
December 7, 2008
Bobby was his name and bashing my face was his aim.
I was the awkward immigrant kid, literally less than a year off the boat. Still mangling English with my Greek accent and showing up to school in a buzz cut and Honest Ed’s specials, which was all my family could afford for clothing at the time. I was an easy mark for ridicule for my jive-talkin’, long-haired class mates in their “cool” 1970s-era duds.
He was an athlete and a favourite with the girls. If there was an election, he would easily have been voted one of the most popular kids in the school, and he knew it. And boy did he have the moves. Punch, counterpunch, hook and upper cut – he could perform them in quick succession, weaving in and out like a pro, thanks apparently to some boxing training he’d had and was always keen on showing off during recess.
We were both 11. And clearly headed in different directions during that early stage of our lives.
There was no need on that cold December day in 1974 for Bobby, one of the most popular kids in the school, to pick on me, firmly entrenched as I was at the bottom of the social ladder in our school. I was already licking my wounds from the beating I received from one of his friends just a few days earlier.
But Bobby was a bully, I was easy pickings, and I guess he couldn’t resist the temptation.
In the late afternoon I was informed by his buddies that “3:30 I was dead” – the usual message one received at our school when there was to be a fight after school. I had come to know the drill well. When school was out I would try all four of the possible exits. I would find each of them blocked by some of his buddies. Not able to escape I would be escorted to the back of the school, forced into a circle of jeering kids and the fight would start. It wouldn’t end till I was on the ground, kids all around celebrating my latest humiliation.
And so it went this time around. I was pushed into the circle to find Bobby already dancing around showing off his boxing moves, a big smile on his face. He already knew how this would go.
Except this time, after a year of beatings as the new immigrant kid, something in me finally broke. I stood there amidst all those eager to experience my certain pounding and cried. But these weren’t just tears of fear; they were also tears of pent-up frustration.
Bobby started dancing around me then showing off his fancy boxing moves, still laughing. I didn’t know how to fight so I just started swinging my arms around wildly like windmills, so many tears stinging my eyes I could hardly see Bobby.
Bobby was as incredulous at my ridiculous attempt at defence as the rest of the kids.
He was confident. He was fast.
THWACK. I can still remember the sound as my left fist arching downwards from a weird and wild angle caught him smack on the nose, knocking him to the ground. I remember his eyes wild with pain and disbelief. Blood streaming from his nose he couldn’t get up, the realization of what had just happened quickly hitting him harder than my fist had – he had just been beaten by the class whipping boy in front of all his friends. His status as one of the “cool” kids had just evaporated.
Why am I telling this personal story, so long in my past? Because it’s the best, and obviously most personal way, I can find to describe what’s happened to Stephen Harper of late.
You see Stephen Harper, like Bobby, is a bully. No matter what you think of his political ideology, he’s regularly acted as such. And Stephane Dion has certainly been the whipping boy in Ottawa, leading the Liberals through a disastrous election and now forced to relinquish his leadership of the party.
There was no real reason for Harper to pick a fight with either the Liberals or the NDP by pushing to pull public funding for government parties. In fact, considering the economic situation, there was every reason for Harper to reach out to the opposition parties to forge a bipartisan approach to dealing with the economic crisis, as US president elect Barack Obama has done.
As the Globe & Mail pointed out in a recent editorial both the Liberals and the NDP “busy licking their election wounds, were not out to pick a fight in the new Parliament. Mr. Harper gave them one anyway, turning his government’s economic update into a partisan document aimed less at strengthening Canada’s economic position than at undermining their ability to compete in the next election.”
As the Globe & Mail editorial pointed out: “Mr. Harper is ultimately responsible for this unhappy state of affairs. It is the byproduct of his machinations, and the product of a failure of leadership.”
In my own words, Harper is a bully, who like Bobby back in that schoolyard in 1974, committed the ultimate mistake all bullies make: He picked one fight too many. And so, like Bobby, he should face the consequence of his overreaching and step down to save his government.
As for Stephane Dion leading a new coalition government, I’m afraid he’s no more ready to do that than I was to suddenly become one of the “cool” kids after knocking Bobby to the ground.
With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics. All posts by Lou Smyrlis