There’s this scene from “Cabin in the woods”. The city kids roll into forgottenville gas station, owned by cantankerous old coot. Old Coot (OC) starts telling them about how the old house on the hill is dangerous. He says he’s worked at that station since the war and Daphne asks, “Which war?”
OC jumps at her, “You know damn well which war!”
Shaggy walks up to OC and asks, “Was that maybe the war where some guys wore blue, and others gray? Maybe brother against brother?”
OC steps up to him, towering over the young stoner, “You sassin’ me, boy?”
Shaggy doesn’t blink, “You were rude to my friend.”
The story goes right on past that point, but I always loved that scene. In that one scene, the clown stands up and completely changes the game. The bully was walking around, shouting and strutting, and then the smallest of the group dared to insult him, and instead of shrinking from the resultant fury, glared into the eyes of the aggressor and said, “you were rude to my friend.”
A small man can win that fight just by standing his ground. He can hurl insults and walk away unscathed because he simply didn’t back down.
Now, there is some risk involved in a move like that. After all, bullies are not fond of being mocked, and they are not big on complex balance-of-power negotiations. You could end up getting your ass kicked, which is why so few people do this.
What makes that scene great, though, was not that he stood up for himself. It was that the clown, the stoner, the shiftless layabout, dropped his entire attitude because there was something more important. He probably wouldn’t have stood up for himself. If the OC had shouted at him instead of Velma, he probably would have backed down, laughed it off, and moved on.
But he stood up because that’s what you do for a friend.
Recently, Allie put up a post where she explained her view on an ecclesiastical question. Several of our friends joined in with their own views and experiences. Then one pseudo-theologian chimed in to say that Allie didn’t understand the question, and didn’t know what she was talking about.
This was someone who, in years long past, Allie had very much respected. He was someone who I didn’t really want to anger either. In short, he was someone we didn’t want to upset if we could help it.
When Allie saw the comment, she was unnerved. She wanted to just walk away from the whole thread, and pretend it never happened. It wasn’t fun anymore. It wasn’t about her talking with her friends. Now it was about someone in power talking down to her, and treating her like she wasn’t worthy of holding the opinion.
I said, “How about this?” and typed out a short, snarky rebuttal. Allie said no. Then I said, “Well then, how about this?” and wrote an even more scathing, mocking refutation. She was nervous about that one too.
I eventually posted one of the tame rebuttals that wasn’t really as confrontational as I would have liked, but I knew it would stand as a statement that we were not going to just slink away.
Ten minutes later, one of my friends responded to the wannabe theocrat, pointing out errors in his judgement.
A few minutes after that, another friend chimed in to openly mock him.
The tide shifted, and we haven’t heard back from the theocrat since.
Later Allie asked, “We could have just walked away. Why did you want to insult him?”
I just blinked at her, “He was rude to my friend.”