It’s funny how you can look back at your thirteen year old self and see all the mistakes you made.

The old: ‘if I knew then what I know now…’ kind of thing.

And yet when a kid once asked me what would I change about my upbringing, I looked at him blankly, thought to myself  ‘What an excellent question!’ and answered, truthfully, “Nothing.”

In particular the grade seven and eight years were the toughest and to be perfectly frank there were reasons why I was so targetted and bullied.

I often spoke my mind!

If I had a thought or an opinion, I didn’t have the sense to check and see if it was the popular opinion, I’d just say it right out loud so everyone could hear.

One of the reasons I did this was because in all those Newbery books I read, the heroes and heroines were strong enough to stand up for themselves. I guess I used them as role models.

Big mistake at least socially speaking!

I was dumb enough that when I saw an injustice I opened my mouth and confronted it.

Why on earth would that make me popular with the grade seven and eight crowd?

Maybe I thought naively, that speaking out against such injustice would endear the victims I was defending to me.

Nuh uh. They looked at me puzzled, and then sided with the bullies and thought I was just plain weird.

The only kids who can get away with that kind of behaviour are the trend-setters, the ‘cool’ kids, and even I knew I wasn’t one of those! But foolishly, or not so foolishly, I believed my opinion was just as valuable.

If I had kept quiet, checked the waters before stating an opinion, kept my head down, then I probably would have saved myself a lot of grief.

But do I have any regrets?

Um, actually, no.

I have been humiliated often. I have had a whole class laugh out loud at me.

I have had kids literally chase me and hurl insults at me.

I have been constantly ridiculed for my beliefs and religion.

And what did I learn from all that?

No matter how bad the humiliation gets it doesn’t have to faze me.

So many times I have told myself (and believed it) that I am not defined by the colour of my skin, the wealth I have and what other people think of me.

What defines me are my actions and my character.

And if I had to do it all over again I would stand up for myself differently, more intelligently, but yup, I would still confront the bullies and speak against injustice.

As I’ve grown, I’ve learned so much about dealing with other people.

For a while social scientists were really espousing ways to avoid confrontation.

Confrontation–even the word sounds combative!

In your face! Up in arms.

And yet I’ve been in LOTS of situation where a bit of confrontation would have done a heap of good!

And it occurs to me that the bullying that I put up with as a kid really hasn’t totally vanished. In adult venues people still try to dominate others, but mostly they just use other tactics.

When I first arrived on the internet scene, I was about 33. I got onto a writers forum to get some contact with other writers.

Writing is such a solitary profession!

On this board there was one person in particular who was an absolute bully. Oh how she hounded people, and it was all the worse because it was so anonymous and behind the safety of a keyboard.

It would have been so much smarter NOT to confront her. It would have been SO much smarter NOT to stumble into her crosshairs.

There were days when my heart would palpitate as I got up to read her most recent attacks on me.

The way she could twist your words!

She was very very clever–in a diabolical way.

Reminds me completely of Sarah Palin.

The kind of person without book smarts but with a whole lot of street smarts–and very loose ethics.

Sarah Palin is just the same as that other bully–but with more power.

And then when I was on another internet forum, I came across another bully.

But somehow I found this woman hilarious. She was so uptight and insecure I almost felt sorry for her.

At one point she actually emailed me offlist and hinted that EVERYONE thought I was CRAZY, but were too POLITE to say so.

When I read her poison email message I laughed out loud. Even typing this now, I’m having a good chuckle.

How pathetic!

I told her I hadn’t been aware that EVERYONE had made her their spokesperson and I thought most people gave up on these kinds of popularity games when they were in high school.

My thirteen year old indignant self came out and for a short bit of time I actually tried to help the victims of this lady again. Then I realized something.

This was a turf war.

It’s what I like to call the old ‘king of the dung heap syndrome’ in action, only this time it was with non Muslims.

For those of you who might not be familiar with the term, ‘king of the dung heap syndrome’ is a set of behaviours I’ve noticed among Muslim immigrant professionals.

When mostly doctors and lawyers and other ‘educated’ people can’t seem to make a mark in mainstream society, they impose themselves on their Muslim communities. They go into the mosques and try to infiltrate the administration, becoming president of this Islamic society or that Islamic organization. They don’t want to do any work for the community. They don’t give a hang about their congregations, they just want the titles! To beat their chests like silverback gorillas proclaiming that this is my turf, I am king here, so BACK off!

And if they don’t get the recognition they believe they deserve, they’ll splinter off into their own little dung heap–I mean organization– and plant a flag there and beat their chests there.

But do you know what this really means?

It means they think that this lesser venue is really the best they can do. That they can only ‘dominate’ or get noticed on this smaller scale.

They can’t really ‘make it’ in the mainstream.

It would be sad if it weren’t so pathetic!

Basically this lady/bully had carved out this internet forum as her dung heap and she was going to plant her flag darn it, even if it meant pushing out the people who’d first founded that particular internet forum!

And the sad thing was that most of the forumites wouldn’t take her on.

It felt like the ‘victims’ looked at me non-plussed.

Finally I asked myself, “Does it really matter?”

And I thought do I really want to spend my creative energy on this nonsense?

So I left.

I let her have her dung heap all to herself. She could beat her chest and patrol her domain to her heart’s content.

(Months after I had left the forum, this guy emailed me out of the blue. Apparently this bully was in a knock-down drag out fight with someone anonymous on the forum and this guy thought it was me!

LOL. I had no idea! I told him I was in Ottawa conducting writing workshops with kids during this whole escapade and blessedly had no knowledge of the escapade.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find a touch of satisfaction knowing that she was thus embroiled. But really I was kind of glad because it proved that it wasn’t just me!)

And instead of getting so distracted I concentrated on my writing–the one thing I can really control.

I plan to make it in the mainstream! Forget the niche internet forum stuff! Who the heck cares?

When it comes to confrontations you definitely have to pick your battles.

And it sure does get better with age!

No longer do my days consist of internet confrontations.

I’m actually pretty good at sidestepping them these days (if I say so myself).

I have a great deal of peace in my life–and it’s WONDERFUL!!! (Hmm, I wonder if those bursts of joy aren’t a manifestation of all this.)

I will still stand against injustice. I will still speak my mind freely on any opinion, but tangling with petty Sarah Palin types–nuh uh.

It’s best to detour around them. Their domains are limited.

Entering them will only bog you down.

Fundamentally they cannot define me.

Only I can do that.

Dontcha know the best revenge is living well!

And I don’t need any sort of dung heap to do so!