John Colson: Hit and Run
September 2, 2011
I note with some chagrin that U.S. Rep John Boehner, R-Ohio, is a native son of the same state that I was born in, known casually as the Buckeye State.
Of course I was only born there, staying only a short time before my mom and dad relocated to the Land of the Cheeseheads, Madison, Wis. So it could be said that fate dissociated me as quickly as possible from anything to do with Boehner and his ham-handed, bullying ways.
Which is a nice segue into the reason I started this column – how best to deal with a playground bully, with a little advice thrown in for our president.
I’ve dealt with my share of bullies over the years. I was a runt for much of my young life, shorter than most and not prone to fighting. One of my best friends in elementary school used to delight in charging me from his desk in a classroom any time I was up and moving. He would pummel me for a few seconds, satisfying his need to dominate someone, and then quit before the teacher came in, leaving me to slink back to my desk.
When my family moved to Maryland in the mid-1960s, I had blossomed into a somewhat taller, ganglier guy. I was a skinny hippie plagued by the taunts and attacks of the greasers and jocks who dominated our school.
One of my tormentors was one Fred Strahley, a champion wrestler at High Point High School in Beltsville, Md., whose greatest joy seemed to come from hassling me and the few others in the school who wore their hair long, hung out in coffeehouses in D.C., and listened to folk and rock music instead of the Beach Boys and soul.
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After gym glass one day, he waited for me outside and dumped water on me from a low-hanging rain gutter, soaking me in a foul smelling soup of dead leaves and bugs. Within moments, we were yelling our heads off at each other, me egged on by a couple of friends, he striking a mildly amused pose and asking, “So, you wanna do battle with me?”
I recall that he took the first swing, missed, and the slugfest was on. He never laid a hand on me – I was a quick little bugger – until after I had landed a solid punch to his mouth and split his lower lip. It gushed like a river, ultimately requiring six stitches, and it enraged him. He wrestled me to the ground, sat on my chest and bled all over me, slapping me occasionally and laughing like a hyena until he was pulled off by friends worried I might drown in all that blood.
After that, he no longer taunted me. I can’t say we became bosom buddies, but I had his respect. I even heard that he once stood up for me when a crew of greasers were discussing how to catch me and beat the hell out of me.
The moral here is, the best way to deal with a bully is to hit back, fast and hard, whatever the consequences might be.
And that, President Barack Obama, is my advice to you. Right now. As you prepare for a speech to the nation and to Congress.
Hit back. Call their small-minded, oligarchic bluff, and lay out a plan to raise tax revenues immediately by closing the loopholes by which the richest Americans manage to pay lower taxes than their secretaries and their maids.
Show a little spine, for once in your presidential life. Remind us all of the forceful, egalitarian, for-the-people candidate we saw in 2008.
But don’t just remind us. Remind yourself, damn it! Unless that entire campaign was a sham, and you really are the stealth Republican you have seemed since getting elected, show the nation that you will not simply knuckle under to the Party of No in the hope that the Tea Bag set and the rest will somehow sink their own ship.
You cannot, of course, call Boehner out on the floor of the Capitol and thrash him, though that might resonate well with many people.
But you can deliver the rhetorical equivalent of a punch to his self-satisfied, smirking kisser.
Remind him, and the rest of us, that the U.S. was never meant to be a place where the über-wealthy call all the shots, and the rest of us slave away at menial wages for a meager life at their beck and call. That it was meant to be a nation where all are equal in the eyes of the law, and the health of the nation, not the personal wealth of a few, is the measure of our worth.
Do it, Mr. President, or lose your credibility entirely.