Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cowardice Is Its Own Punishment

"A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit" - Thomas Jefferson

I didn't learn everything I need to know in kindergarten, but middle-school was pretty close. The one thing I remember more vividly than most everything is that cowardice is is own punishment.

There were three things that happened, and of course I don't remember the sequence. But I think I was 12 when all three occurred.

The first is that I read a story by Gordon R. Dixon called "Call Him Lord." It was about a boy, about 20 I suppose, who was to inherit the mantle of Emperor of the Galaxy. He was sent to be tested by a man who belonged to the family that had tested all the potential emperors for a few hundred years.

The boy turned out to be a bully who attacked the weak but ran from the strong, and in the end the man who tested him had to kill him. When the boy's teacher asked where the boy had failed, the answer was, "Lord, he was a coward."

The boy was a bully, and like all bullies he was a coward. And his cowardice was its own punishment.

The second concerns a boy named Greg. Greg was a genetic catastrophe. He walked with his head sticking forward, sort of hunchbacked I'd say, had grey skin, mousy brown hair, had a mouth than hung open all the time, and had these thick glasses that magnified his eyes and make them fuzzy. Even without all that he would still would not have been good-looking.

I was in the bathroom when a boy I did not know walked in with a big cocky grin on his face. He was followed by Greg and a few other boys.

Apparently the boy with the cocky grin had been picking on Greg and thought he was be easy pickings because of the way he looked.

He wasn't.

The fight seemed to last about five seconds. Greg tried to rip his kid's face off. He made some sort of claw with his hand, got the guy in a headlock - and tried to rip his face off.

The kid collapsed and started begging Greg to leave him alone.

I was impressed.

The third thing that happened concerned a bully named Don. Don made the mistake of picking a fight with a wrestler named Phil, who only weighed maybe 115 pounds.

Phil got Don in the corner and just pounded him. And Don collapsed and started begging, "You kicked my ass! Leave me alone!"

I was impressed.

Since that time, every time I've seen someone stand up to a bully the bully has collapsed. If someone shows spirit the bully will back down. If not, they'll spend years being picked on.

It's doesn't surprise me that one of the Four Cardinal Virtues is Bravery. The other three are Prudence, Justice and Self-Control. If you don't have one of them you don't have any of them.

Bullies lack bravery and so lack the other three. A bully who picks on someone because he thinks they are weak, and finds out they aren't, certainly isn't prudent. Or just. Or has any self-control.

I am, as always, reminded of the scene in The Maltese Falcon when Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) needles Wilmer the Gunsel (a tiny man carrying two large .45s) with the comment, "The cheaper the hood the gaudier the patter."

The bigger the blowhard, the bigger the coward.

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