I have a strong dislike of bullying and sadism. I don’t wish to see anyone or anything suffer, and therefore I cannot understand how one would derive pleasure from being an active participant in such behaviors.
The year was 1984, and I was seven years old.
We’d just moved to Oklahoma from Michigan, and I’d met a new friend named Brad. Occasionally we’d spend Sunday afternoons, in between morning and evening church services, at each other’s houses.
His father, Joe, was your garden variety mean-spirited redneck bully; stupid, loud and easily provoked.
I don’t know what the medium-sized lab-looking type dog they had living in the backyard did to provoke him, but one afternoon I witnessed that man beat the living shit out of it.
He stomped around the yard, stalking the cowering animal, occasionally yelling and lashing out with fist or foot.
Kick to the ribs.
Another kick to the ribs, launching the poor dog off the ground with the force of it.
It seemed like his relentless assault went on forever, even though in reality it likely lasted a minute or less.
It made me sick, watching this, hearing it. I was already afraid of the guy, but now I was terrified and I wanted to go home. What kind of person could do that? I wondered.
I asked Brad why his dad had beat their dog like that. He said “Thats what she gets for bein’ stupid.”
I still remember being jarred by that response. I thought I had witnessed something that to any other sane person would be considered highly alarming behavior, at the very least.
But this was HIS normal. That was reality to him, kicking dogs. Didn’t faze him one bit because he’d seen his dad do it so many times that it seemed routine. It was no big deal.
It was a big deal to me, though, and it along with other incidents involving Joe and his extended family helped shape a lot of my current views on bullies, ignorance, racism and the ease with which people are brainwashed and desensitized, and it all led me to understand that the world was an uglier place than I’d previously imagined it was.
Joe was the teacher that day, though he didn’t know it, and I was his student. The crux of the lesson was that some people aren’t very nice. In fact, some are downright dangerous and not to be trusted. They’re capable of monstrous acts motivated by blind rage and sadism. And they can make their kids just like them.
Brad has pretty much become his father, last I heard, anyway, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he was kicking a dog at this very moment, and giggling about it.