I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. Intimidation and picking on younger kids was the norm. If you happened to be from, say, Taiwan, were black, skinny, smart, had a weird name, or were just strange in any way whatsoever, you got picked on. The bullies stepped up everytime you opened your mouth in gym class, in neighborhood baseball games, or just walking to school. Sometimes they just threatened you. Sometimes they kicked your ass and made you feel their pain.
You needed to know how to fight. Just one clean punch whether the guy was going to win or not was often all it took to get some cred (this mostly in the neighborhood).
Sometimes that didn't work and you had to beat the bastards in team sports. My greatest moment after almost a year of constant hazing in 7th grade (yes, I had my jock strap snapped, nuggies galore, and guys pushing me backwards over a friend crouched behind me in the lunch line) was single-handedly winning a bombardament game (dodge ball) for my team against three 9th grade neanderthals who were the only ones left on the opposing team. I will not use their names because it still kind of gives me the willies, but later in high school the three of them would light up a cigarette in the boys room, force me to hold it, pin me to a bathroom stall, and then go get Dr. Walker to show him that I needed to be taught a lesson (kicked out of school three days for smoking).
Anyway, I beat them in bombardament. I was the only one left on my team. They had all the balls. One after the other charged like screaming banshees looking to decapitate me and win the game. Mr. Johnson, our gym teacher, was very excited by all of this.
But I knew what they were doing. My head was the target, so I timed my jumps perfectly and caught the ball right in the gut like the Oakland Raiders' Freddie Biletnikoff, my football hero. In 90 seconds they were toast. I had won. And the half of the bullies in our class who were on my team came streaming out onto the floor, lifted me on their shoulders and paraded me around the gym. I never got bullied again in junior high...
To tell the truth, every nasty incident I faced in those days, including getting pinned in the bathroom with a cigarette in my hand, made me stronger and gave me a sense of confidence around jerks of all kinds. I've been a skinny, smart, brown-skinned, non-conformist my entire life -- and proud of it.
Is this an endorsement of bullying? To a certain extent I guess I have to say, yes. I can't condone violence or physical abuse, but it happens. And when it does, sometimes it makes us stronger. What worries me in all this fear of "children being children" is that kids don't learn how to handle themselves in tense situations and don't learn to be self-confident and feel empowered. Remember, there are a lot of jerks and assholes that we have to deal with in life. They don't go away just because we graduate from high school.
To conclude, I'll write their names (without getting myself into trouble): Mike A., Dale F., and Jimmy M. I hope they're happy, productive, and loving fathers these days. I know that's what happened to me.