Friday, March 11, 2016

Bullying the Thrifty

Years ago, I read a children's book by Judy Blume, called Blubber. It was a book about bullying. And I was disappointed in it, because it did not vindicate the obese little girl who was bullied. It merely showed the people doing the bullying that what they did was not "nice".

The copy of the book that I read had this cover.
My disappointment need not reflect on the value of the book to other people. I was just hoping for a different book, one that looked at things from the point of view of the person being bullied, who had some secret virtue that no one was aware of, and I wanted the turning point to be when that virtue was revealed. But Judy Blume never showed how the bullied girl felt about anything. Instead, she described in detail the revulsion that even "nice" girls in the class had for not only the person of the obese girl, but also her character: she was phlegmatic, she had no sense of humor about her problems and she did not stand up for herself, making her an easy target. I learned a lot about normal people and how they think when reading this book, but I was disappointed that there was no turn-around, no empathy and no appreciation of a different point of view. In the end, the nice girls decided not to bully, because they did not like how they felt about themselves when they were being vindictive, but not because they had learned to admire and respect the victim of their bullying. Deep down inside, the main character still felt the victim deserved to be bullied, but she now felt it was beneath her to engage in bullying. To my way of thinking, this book represents the "Kindness Movement."

A person who has been bullied isn't looking for kindness. What is needed are honest, smart  people --  people who are perceptive enough to see what it is that each of us has to offer. Victims don't want charity. They crave fairness. Bending over backwards to be kind, ordinary people miss the virtue behind the presumed sin.

In Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy Way, Bertha Higginbotham is a character who resembles the victim in Blubber.  She comes into the camp morbidly obese, and even after losing a lot of weight on the Weihsien diet, she is still quite heavy, when everyone else is emaciated. Jealous of her good health, people accuse her of stealing sugar, on the mere circumstantial evidence of her weight. That would be like accusing your co-worker who earns the exact same salary as you do of theft, merely based on the fact that he has savings, while you do not. People do this every day, and nobody thinks anything of it. Who will stand up for the thrifty? In my book, it was Father Horvath.

When politicians suggest that we tax the rich, they are not going after corrupt people who have stolen from others. They advocate taxing  anyone with savings, and they rely on the hatred of the masses for the financial Bertha Higginbothams of this world, who may seem unattractive, but who have hidden virtues. 


  1. I like your perspective on the issue of bullying. We should not pity the person who is bullied, but strive to see their hidden talents.