Like everybody else in this world, I've seen some ugly things. People being rude, kids acting out. Once my business partner was attacked in Austria (we think either because he was an American or Jewish or both: we were never sure because the attacker was speaking German at the time). The Austrian guy was muttering in German at a table next to us at an outdoor restaurant, causing the waitress to yell at him in German and apologize to us in English. Wanting to avoid a confrontation, we got up to leave, and as we did the man stood and kicked my partner Michael in the butt. I'm happy to say Michael turned around and gave the guy a hard shot in the solar plexus, knocking him across two tables, three chairs, and to the brick floor below. Last we saw of the Austrian bully, he was hobbling off across the street, hunched over and groaning.
Another incident that comes to mind is when I was in my 30s and living in Queens. I used to take a walk every day at the same time (about 8 a.m.), and every day, in the same spot, young teenagers were waiting for a school bus. The sidewalk in that spot was narrow with the busy street on one side and large hedges on the other. And every day I would have to inch my way past the hedges and the five kids who refused to move to let me pass. Finally, one day, I'd had enough. I pushed through the middle of the kids and one of them smacked me on the arm. To their utter surprise -- because of course nowadays adults are supposed to just take the abuse kids dole out -- I turned and punched the kid, a girl, in the shoulder as hard as I could. She was stunned. Her friends were stunned. All of which worked to my advantage, because by the time they became unstunned that an adult had the audacity to stand up to them I was a block and a half away. They started yelling at me, cussing, waving their arms. I remember thinking "Whatever," and that maybe next time they wouldn't be so quick to bully somebody. Of course I never knew. The next day I changed my route.
Yes, I've seen some ugly stuff. But never in my life have I seen anything like the video of the kids bullying Karen Klein, an elderly school bus monitor in Greece, New York. The link is below. The video is long and horrific and something every one of us should watch in its entirety because it gives us a hard look at what is happening in our country. Something is going terribly wrong.
I can't say why Ms. Klein didn't react differently to this abuse. She was, after all, a monitor -- and therefore an authority figure -- on the bus. Maybe she was afraid. Maybe her instructions from the school were to take no action. Maybe, as she said on a news program, she is a non-confrontational person. Okay. To each her own. However, if those insufferable brats had been speaking to me that way, I have no doubt that I'd be in jail right now. I don't like to curse on this blog because I think swearing in writing suggests lazy skills. But I'll you what: if those foul mouthed ill-raised middle-school crumb-crunchers had said to me what they said to this grandmother of eight, I would have stood up and beaten the living shit out of every one of them. With my purse. With my shoe. With my belt. With anything I could have gotten my hands on. And after I was done with the bloody little halfwits maybe in the future they would have thought twice before they bullied somebody else; and yeah, I would have said bring it on to their parents who clearly don't have the first idea about child rearing. Throw me in jail. Do your worst. But by God I would not have let these ignorant monsters off easily, nor would I have accepted the forced and insincere apology that's sure to follow. They would have gotten the message that words and actions have consequences, sometimes painful ones, and I would have said to the cops, to the judge, to the parents, and to the world: it's time to say ENOUGH.
The Internet community has been kind to Ms. Klein. Money is being raised, people are saying they're sorry this happened. Again, okay. But what about the next time? What about all the incidents that aren't being videotaped? Sending Karen Klein on a vacation isn't going to educate young people about inflicting emotional or physical pain for no other reason than their own sick pleasure. The kids on this bus were like a pack of dogs who smelled fear and attacked. Parents: wake up. You're raising rabid animals, and sooner or later -- and like it or not -- rabid animals go down.