There’s a simple reason why you should never try to kill off the inner “hulk” inside you: your safety might depend on it.

In January, Allen Haywood was a young man who was attacked on the DC Metro green line for no other reason than he was a nice guy minding his own business. I wrote back then that it didn’t have to be that way. Allen was reading a book when a bunch of hoodlums swarmed. He responded by trying to reason with individuals who are not only unreasonable, but in many ways worse than animals (animals act on instinct, but these kids knew what they were doing and ambushed him just for the fun of it).

I wrote back then that the proper response should have been to indicate (through a number of verbal and non-verbal cues) that he was someone who wouldn’t be an easy target. In the comments section a reader I greatly respect posted that my philosophy hinged on the ability to recognize that there are evil people out there and the ability to fully commit to the strategy should the nightmare scenario unfold.

Tonight, for me, it did.

As I came home late from work on the DC Metro Green line, an inebriated older man approached me. I stood towards the back of the Metro minding my own business. The stranger crept up beside me, but just enough to my rear to obscure his actions. There was almost no one else on the train. I angled slightly towards him and he whispered in my ear,  “Why don’t you sit down? Don’t you like black people?” I ignored him. He raised his voice: “Why don’t you sit down? Don’t you like black people?” Again, I ignored him. Since the third time around is a charm I finally answered, “I’ve been sitting all day.”

He didn’t believe me.

The man continued to ask me the question, and when I ignored him some more (all the while paying close attention to his position and body language) he turned his question into a statement. Then, he squared up, stated that I didn’t like black people and pushed his palm into my shoulder, which I immediately swiped down with a force that surprised him. He approached again, reaching out his hand to push my shoulder and I swiped it hard enough to make him stutter-step backwards.

On his third attempt to escalate the situation he came at me from the side and bumped me. I responded by shoving him to the other side of the Metro car with enough force so that, should I have chosen to pounce, the backward momentum with which he was stumbling would have put him at a distinct disadvantage.

At this time the Metro stopped, the man gave me a few hard glares and left the train car.

How would my night have transpired had I wilted when confronted by an angry drunk eager to start a racial throw down? While it’s impossible to know, we do know that the individual was looking for an altercation. Faced with someone who paid him no mind from the get-go and ignored his race-baiting, the man still resorted to physical intimidation. So why did he stop?

I believe the answer lies in the old maxim: peace through strength. When bullies realize that their target is the type of person who could suddenly turn the tables on them, they think twice. Letting a thug—even a drunk one—know from the start that you will be the aggressor in any serious altercation (and thus dictate what options are permissible for its duration) causes hesitation. And, because governments are composed of men—fallible men—in many ways such lessons can be applied on a larger scale. Anything you can do to place doubt in your enemy’s mind about their ability to successfully attack is to your advantage.

If you’re a mild mannered young man (or nation), you should never fear The Hulk inside you. He’s there for a reason, and not using such strength and rage when the situation calls for it would be another crime added to an already-sad situation.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

5 comments

  1. Wow, I didn’t know that this happened to you, but you do bring up a good point that I’ve been making for a while: bullies and punks will think twice if you turn the tables on them. I know this because I defended myself against punks (who picked on me because they thought I was a “retard kid”) in eighth grade and the first month of ninth grade. Sure, I got thrown in detention and in-school suspension for doing so (they often received lesser punishments than I did), but I always believe that i had the right to defend myself and I did give a couple of them pause when I fought back against them. A couple of them never bothered me again. A few continued to antagonize me, but they knew I wasn’t a pushover.

    I’m not a violent man (although my middle school principal thought I was a violent delinquent, and looked for any excuse he could to get me sent to juvenile hall), but I am more than willing to defend myself if necessary. I haven’t gotten into a fistfight since September of 2004. A couple of times in high school and at my old job there were times where I got into verbal sparring matches with people that COULD have escalated into a fight, but didn’t. I remember one customer at the McDonald’s where I used to work tried to challenge me to a fight after he claimed I “screwed up” his order, which was just more amusing than anything. He just wanted to “impress” his wife and son. I told him to piss off and he didn’t return to the store again after that.

    1. I’m always grateful that my parents never discouraged me from defending myself, even as a kid. Bullies prey on weakness (because deep down they are weak and insecure), so showing others that you’re not a pushover is very important. I think physical force should be adopted only in rare circumstances, but it does have its rightful place in society. Sadly, there are people out there who only “get it” when someone stands up to them.

    2. Exactly. My parents always told me to stand up for myself, and I took that to heart. I only used physical force if I absolutely had to, and when I did use it, it gave some of the bullies pause and they never bothered me again and they gained some kind of respect for me afterward, becoming nicer to me. In third grade I was being picked on by some fourth grader who one day made the mistake of trying to shove me down the stairs. I turned around and punched him the jaw and he went home early that day. But remarkably, he never told anyone about it and never bothered me again; in fact, he became a good friend of mine and invited me to his birthday party the following year. He came to mine as well. It was weird how that turned out.

    3. Here’s my take on that sort of thing: Bullies are insecure. Deep down, they are weak and they think that by picking on someone else they’ll feel better. (That never happens, but they continue to do it anyway.) When the victim stands up to him, that person shows that they have inner strength. The bully then realizes that strength is trait they want more of … and oddly enough they are then attracted to the person they recently tried to abuse.

      You stood up to that kid, and he realized that that you have character traits he needed. And so, instead of picking on you he decided to try and befriend you.

    4. I just remembered something… , it wasn’t a threat, nor does it have anything to do with bullying, but it was still messed up. In 2010, a friend of mine went through a bad break-up with his girlfriend. I remember one day I opened up my e-mail (my old Gmail account that I shut down two years ago because someone from Wyoming had hacked it, but that’s something else entirely) and got a message from a couple of losers (to this day, I’m not sure how they got my e-mail address in the first place) who told me what a monster my friend was for breaking up with this girl and how as her friends they were planning to get even with him for doing so. They said, “don’t be surprised if he ends up dead in a ditch along the interstate. In fact, we would encourage you to do it for us, so that we do not have to.”

      That’s right. These losers were encouraging me to murder my own friend… because he broke up with his girlfriend. It was pretty creepy. When I hung out with him next, I brought with me a printed copy of the e-mail and told him that I didn’t want to be drawn into whatever personal problems he was having his with his ex-girlfriend and her friends or otherwise we’d have problems of our own. He agreed, and I only got one e-mail after that, when he and another friend were over at my house. I later found out that the loser who had sent these e-mails was some con man who had nearly roped my friend and I into joining up with his fake comic book company (which I talked about here: http://carl-carlscomics.blogspot.com/2012/07/when-something-is-too-good-to-be-true.html) who, last I heard, was in the slammer for child endangerment. I kid you not. The others were a couple of his buddies who were pot heads and friends of my friend’s ex-girlfriend.

      It was pretty damn creepy, to say the least. But my friend wasn’t so innocent himself, as he was arrested a month later for stalking his ex-girlfriend and spent a month or so at the funny farm. He’s had several run-ins with the laws since, hasn’t learned his lesson and after he tried (and failed) to rope me into a get-rich-quick scheme (he talked about robbing a flea market, but to my knowledge, he never carried out that plan) that would’ve gotten us both in all kinds of trouble, I cut off ties with him altogether. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

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