The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 27, 2023 - 2:13:23

Conflating toughness and bullying

Katie van Schaijik, Feb 10, 2010

Something about these lines from an LA Times op ed about the Chicago way of politicking bothered me.

That style is tough, focused, immune to any distractions but cosmetic niceties. And did we mention tough. A portly, veteran Chicago alderman once confided only about 40% jokingly, that he had taken up jogging to lose weight but quickly gave it up as boring because “you can’t knock anyone down.” That’s politics the Chicago way.

It reminds me a little of those who speak of suicide bombers as martyrs. I see them rather as fanatics willing to kill innocents mercilessly in the name of their faith. Martyrs are the opposite. They are innocents willing be killed rather than abandon their faith. And they frequently die imploring God’s mercy on their killers.

I see “toughness” as a kind of courage, an imperviousness the fears and pressures that beset the untough. A habit of using violence and coercion to get your political way—a penchant for knocking people down—is not toughness. It’s thuggery. Thugs and bullies are famously weak and cowardly. Not tough at all—just intimidating for anyone who isn’t really tough.