Stick ’em up

The other day at the gym I looked up from my elliptical to the TV in time to catch grainy video footage of a skinny kid getting body slammed. It was sickening. I gasped in horror and was suddenly fuming with outrage over such senseless brutality.

Bullying. I was so upset and could only run faster to vent my frustration. That poor boy got thrown to the ground and nobody helped him.

The next day I happened upon the rest of the story. The boy who delivered the body slam, Casey Heynes, was defending himself. I felt less sickened until I saw this interview with the other boy involved, Richard Gale.
Richard says he has been bullied his whole life and that Casey started in on him first, calling him names, and Richard admits he overreacted.

Casey says he has been bullied his whole life and that Richard came up to him out of nowhere, started punching him and Casey says he finally snapped and body slammed him. Richard and Casey both claim they were just standing up for themselves and their fight has had me thinking in circles for days.

No one has the right to put their hands on you. That kind of violation of personal space, to me, means entering into an implicit contract of “kick my ass if you can.” If it turns out the victim can, then the bully had it coming.

On the other hand, no one has the right to call you a name, either.

On the other, other hand, damaging though they can be, you can walk away from words.

On the other, other, other hand how much crap, verbal or physical, should someone have to put up with before exercising his or her right to take a stand?

Casey has become something of a hero. He has been soundly applauded by many: strangers on YouTube, high profile women of The View, even Penny Arcade gave him a heartfelt shout-out. This has a lot of people talking about bullying and victims’ rights, which is important. Perhaps all the talk will help teach those who need to be taught about what it means to be a bully and the importance of self-defense.

I will admit that when I learned the body slam was in self-defense I felt somehow relieved. There was at least a reason for the brutality. But then I got upset again. Casey had every right to stick up for himself and I know when a person is that angry he isn’t really thinking about the consequences of his actions, but he could have paralyzed or even killed Richard.

The one fistfight I was ever involved in nearly ended so badly. It was between my sister and me when we were eight and six, over Barbies, I’m ashamed to say. Sister at eight years old dominated the fight, but she didn’t count on the strength I could conjure when fueled by rage. I threw her down, hogtied her with a jump rope and pushed her into our closet. When she didn’t stop crying, I pushed a pillow into her face.

Six-year-old me knew I was doing something very bad. Suffocation had been explained to me. Of course, at that young age I had no real concept of the finality of death and I had the arrogant confidence of a child that I would never be capable of such a terrible thing. To this day I’m mortified by how badly that fight could have ended. My mother was, of course, furious with me and I was in mega-tons of trouble, but sister got into just as much trouble for pushing me to the point of being so angry I would do something like that to her. We were both punished and learned that fighting doesn’t solve anything.

But I also have to admit that watching the video made me feel avenged. I was bullied all through 7th grade by a group of absolutely beastly 8th grade girls. The abuse was mostly verbal and psychological. It was exhausting. My locker was ulcer-inducingly close to theirs. We had a class together and ended up having to sit next to each other. Among other things I endured their stares, taunts about my fashion sense and lack of sexual allure (because that’s so effing important in 7th grade), and name-calling. Every morning my alarm was like a starter’s pistol for my own personal race of “get through the day unscathed” and every morning I wanted to die just so I wouldn’t have to go to school. The one time I “stood up” for myself by telling one of the girls antagonizing me to shut up ended with me getting pushed in front of the lunch room crowd. I didn’t push back. I didn’t get a chance to. The girl who pushed me, someone rumored to have kicked many an ass before, got her push in and then stormed off while she and her friends laughed.

Adult me is ashamed of teenage me.

I have a temper and I have snapped before (just ask my sister), but I didn’t then.

I let someone put her hands on me and I didn’t do anything. If there was ever a time in my life I should have absolutely lost my temper and gone into a bat-crazy rage it should have been then, but I was too scared. There is a part of me that feels a little bit better when I watch Casey’s retaliation.

But then I’m sad for Richard again. He says he was a victim, too. It must have taken a lot of courage to stand up to someone of Casey’s stature and it ended badly. Worse, it’s all over the internet and people are telling him he’s just as bad a terrorist and he’s going to burn in hell. (I thought bullying was wrong?)

The bullying, it seems, will never end one way or the other.

I hope Casey doesn’t spend the rest of his school career or his life getting challenged by even bigger, more loathsome assholes. “Aren’t you that guy who body slammed that kid? Think you can take me?” I hope that despite all this media attention he can still walk away and just be a well-adjusted kid.

I hope Richard will be able to escape the stigma of villain that has been imposed upon him. No one really knows for sure exactly what happened before that camera began recording. I’m sure he felt justified in his actions at the time. I hope he can learn from this and find better ways of coping with any future altercations and be another well-adjusted kid.

I hope this can all, somehow, be a positive turning point for both boys. I hope they can begin to feel empowered to speak up for themselves as well as others. I hope they can sleep better at night and wake up happy in the morning.

7 Responses to “Stick ’em up”
  1. Kate says:

    I haven’t seen this video, but it sounds upsetting. In high school I read a book about bullying called Please Stop Laughing At Me by Jodee Blanco. That book broke my heart and, I think, made me a much better person. As someone who loves to make jokes I try to be conscious never to make them at the expense of others. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. It might make you prouder of 7th grade you.

    Great post!

    • Lindsey says:

      Thanks, Kate! Your recommendation is on the list of “things Idler folks tell me I should read”… it’s getting pretty long…

  2. Angela Vasquez-Giroux says:

    Bullying is often so much more complicated than one-way, as you point out. Every bully is someone else’s victim first, and that thought just breaks my heart.

    • Lindsey says:

      Agreed. Much as I want to just go ahead and write off the girls who harassed me in 7th grade as absolute pure evil, I’m sure there was a lot more to their antagonism. Two of them claimed to already have had/been having sex at that age. If an 8th grader revealing (and being a little too proud of) their sexual activity at that age doesn’t scream “self esteem issues” I don’t know what does. Exact quote from one of them: “I got him, I did him, I’m done with him.” It seems really sad looking back on it.

  3. Crystal says:

    As a victim of bullying myself, I feel bad for both these boys. One thing that I regret about being a teenager is the fact that I saw other kids getting bullied and did nothing. Not physically, I’ve always been a wimp and if anything ever came to blows I would lose, then and now. But I saw tons of kids getting teased, or just as bad, ignored. But since I had my own set of bullies and taunters, I kept my head down. I now wish I had reached out, had lunch with that kid sitting by themselves in the cafeteria, or told the bullies to bug off.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] You’ve seen the YouTube video of Casey Heynes bodyslamming Richard Gale, and probably applauded him as a kid who finally stood up to a bully. But what if Richard Gale was bullied too? And what if Casey had seriously injured him? Lindsey Malta takes on these questions, and her own memories of being bullied in “Stick ‘em up” […]

  2. […] You’ve seen the YouTube video of Casey Heynes bodyslamming Richard Gale, and probably applauded him as a kid who finally stood up to a bully. But what if Richard Gale was bullied too? And what if Casey had seriously injured him? Lindsey Malta takes on these questions, and her own memories of being bullied in “Stick ‘em up” […]

%d bloggers like this: