Before I go any further I will also point out I was raised on the wrong side of the tracks and saw quite a few bad things.
Dickson's story was about a young man who was destined to be Emperor of the Galaxy but had to undergo a test to determine his suitability. He had to go on a trip on horseback with a man whose family had always administered these tests - which were about the tester just observing the boy's behavior in whatever situations he happened to encounter.
The boy in question, who might have been maybe 20, fails these tests. He starts a fight then runs. But that wasn't the problem, not really. There were other things he did. It turns out he was a bully. At the end he tries, while drunk, to pull a pistol on the man testing him and the man sticks a knife in his heart. He tells the boy's instructor what the boy's failing was: "Lord, he was a coward."
It wasn't so much his cowardly behavior but the fact he was a bully. And all bullies are cowards. And in the mind of a bully and a coward it’s always someone else’s fault – never theirs.
Probably not two weeks after I read this story I was at school in the gym locker room. There was a bully in there named Don. Don had no sense at all. He had been picking on a wrester named Phil, who at the age of 12 was about 5'4". But being a wrester he was fit and in shape.
Phil finally got tired of this idiot Don giving him a hard time - so he beat him up in the locker room. I saw it. Wham, wham, wham, wham with his fists - and Don collapsed completely in about five seconds. "Stop hitting me! You kicked my ass!" His voice was trembling in terror.
Don was a bully and a coward.
Not more than another two weeks after that I was in the boy's restroom was when about four boys came in. One of them was a boy named Greg, and he was a catastrophe. Very thick glasses that made his eyes fuzzy, mousy hair, walked with his mouth open, scrawny, bad posture.
Another kid followed him in there with a big cocky grin on his face. Apparently he had been picking on this genetic catastrophe Greg and thought he was going to easily beat him up. Hence the big cocky grin.
The fight didn't even last ten seconds. Greg got this clown in a headlock and tried to pull his face over the top of his head with one hand made into a claw. The bully collapsed completely. "You kicked my ass! I give up! Stop hitting me!"
He was a bully and a coward.
I've seen a lot of fights since then and have never seen an exception to the observation that bullies are cowards. As Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) told Wilmer the Gunsel (a tiny man who carried two huge .45s to make up for his tininess) in The Maltese Falcon: "the cheaper the punk the gaudier the patter."
So when I saw Shrub howling on TV, "Bring it on!" and collapsing in insecurity when a reporter spoke French in front of him I knew about all doubt he was a bully and a coward. Especially since he avoided volunteering for Vietnam, as did another coward, Donald Rumsfeld, who told the troops (who were complaining about their poor armor), "You go to war not with the army you want but the army you have." (So much for the Chickenhawks who used to tell me we had the "best-equipped, best-trained military").
Shub's entire administration was full of cowards - Cheney, Rumsfeld, him, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith. I thought, "My God, an administration full of bullies and cowards! They have no sense at all! These wars are going to be complete catastrophes!" (For example, the Wahabis who flew the planes on 9-11 were almost all Saudi Arabians – and Wahabism is from Saudi Arabia and funded by the government. So Shrub and his administrations attack Iraq instead of Saudi Arabia?)
Guess what - I was right. Because I'm an expert on bullies and cowards and can identify them pretty damn fast.
Amazing what you can learn from someone else’s experience, isn't that? Thank you, Gordon R. Dickson. After all, art imitates life!