As a boy, I wasn't much of a joiner. Although I knew many kids, I never aligned myself to one particular group. But as I think back 47 years I remember running with a bunch of guys from the gym where I boxed.
We formed a club called The Knights. Many of our adventures on the mean streets of the Bronx evolved from that club. Denny Malvey was our boxing coach. In 1913 he beat Gene Tunney in a street fight in Hell's Kitchen on the Lower Westside. However, we were most impressed by his knowledge of King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table. Denny introduced us to Sir Thomas Mallory's "Le Morte d'Arthur," and told us about the Arthurian Code of Chivalry.
"Lads," he'd say in his Irish brogue, "It's your duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves."
The reason Denny fought Gene Tunney, who eventually beat Jack Dempsey for the heavyweight championship was that Tunney was a bully who picked on the younger kids.
Denny was our idol. You knew what he stood for; we wanted to be like him. We were gifted fighters, and like Don Quixote followed the Arthurian code "To right the unrightable wrong." So we took on every bully from 241st to Gun Hill Road.
The scars on my face account for numerous altercations that I've had defending others and myself against bullies. However, as a young adult, I learned different skills counseling street gangs in the South Bronx.
Last week I wrote about Back to School Night at LCHS. I ended the write commenting on Ms. Baldwin's admonitions regarding the potential of bullying.
Five years ago I addressed this issue in a write called, "Mean Girls." My words resonated with many as I received numerous e-mails from readers commenting on their nightmarish memories when they were bullied as children. Many expressed how this brutalization left an indelible wound and led to a downward spiral adversely affecting their self-worth.
The handprints of bullies are like a slap on the face and remain stark and defined on the souls of their victims.
The newspapers tell stories of children who have taken their lives as a result of bullies. Phoebe Prince, Asher Brown, Eric Mohat and Sladjana Vidovic are the latest victims.
Where have we been? And I say this because according to Eldridge Cleaver, "If we're not part of the solution we're part of the problem." Why do we allow bullies to steal the souls of our children? Until one is committed to the cause, there is hesitancy/ Thus nothing is done and subsequently another child takes their life on our watch.
Some of our best minds struggle with modalities of prevention, accountability and therapeutic intervention. Many school districts have such paradigms. But it's not good enough! I would rather have a resolute commitment to end this form of slavery because someone who is resolute will find a way. Bullies thrive where authority is weak!
"Bullying is just a part of growing-up," some say. It's not! Although children are born very demanding, why haven't their parents socialized them?
In 1963 my buddies and I made a commitment that we would show no quarter to those who would terrorize another. We were the Knights and we were resolute! Instead of more institutionalized programs we need to be out brother's keeper. John Donne says, "No man is an island, entire of itself. …when the bells tolls for another, it tolls for thee."
The solution lies within us. The power of love, and attention is a prevailing intervention. But, we must be willing to bring hell down from heaven to put a stop to bullying.
My dear reader, it's time to become a Knight and join the ranks of Joey, Blasé, Tony and I, and right the unrightable wrong." That's what Knights do!
Are you in?
JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.