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If our part of the circle were 7 o'clock, some houses away at 10 o'clock lived the two children my mother called the “little blond boys.” We all hated them; they were perhaps 6 and 8, and they were mean. We were scared to go up that way when they were outside, because they’d yell at us and … do whatever they did, I guess. Jeer. They were called the “little blond boys” because except for our family and Ellen, they were the only haoles on the street, and again except for my brothers, the only boys. My mother didn’t like them; hence, “the little blond boys” was said with the disparaging tone only my mother could use. “Blond” was stretched out, to a sort of blahhhhnd.

I think some of the mothers had complained, but nothing was done about them. Still, rude little kids were highly uncommon in middle class neighborhoods of Honolulu in the 50s. None of us had grown accustomed to such behavior.

One of our group came down to us crying that day. The little blond boys had been unusually evil, and besides the name calling, had used the hose to turn water on her. She was soaking wet, and ashamed, and her feelings were hurt.

It was obvious to me immediately what needed to be done. None of our parents would or could protect us; clearly, the Law of Mothers did not keep the Little Blond Boys in check. So we had to defend ourselves.

I had a small red wagon that had been a gift from Santa Claus. I ran to get it, and told the others what we would do. I made it very clear that they were to take orders from me, and not do anything till I said to, or it wouldn’t work. They all agreed.

We filled the red wagon with rocks: they had to be of a certain size, which I showed them, because they couldn’t be so big we couldn’t lift them easily, or so small they were just handfuls of gravel. When the wagon was filled, about six of us marched up the circle, me pulling my red wagon, still rattling because it wasn’t all that full.

As we got closer, the little blond boys, still outside and still playing with the hose, spotted us and laughed their sneering laugh. I told the others to not do anything yet, but to wait for my signal.

Since we were all baby boomers, this was not long after WWII, and that’s the only explanation I have for how we knew the signal and could react to it. We kept walking, ignoring their jeering, and when we got within their target range, they turned the hose on us. I’d known that would happen, and reminded them that this was Hawaii, and it didn’t hurt to get wet. We needed to be really close, because we weren't all that good at throwing.

Finally, we seemed close enough to reach them. I said, not too loudly, “Ready…. Aim… FIRE!!!!!!!”

Every child was carrying their first two rocks. They flew quickly. Before the Little Blond Boys could even react, everyone re-armed from the red wagon and sent a second salvo. I don’t want to mislead you: none of the children knew the word “salvo.” We just knew quite well what we were doing, and they all believed me when I told them it would work.

The plan did work. The Little Blond Boys were definitely being hit with rocks. They screamed, and dropped the hose, and ran inside with a flight of rocks after them. We turned the wagon around and ran back to home base as fast as we could go.

Apparently the Moms network had not totally failed. By the time I made it breathlessly back to the next door driveway, Mom stormed out our back door and was waiting for me.*  I and my little red wagon were in a lot of trouble. The other moms appeared shortly afterward, so we didn’t hang out that afternoon.

Besides a spanking, my mother gave me what was to be the first of many lectures concerning weapons – rocks can hurt, they could blind someone, no one ever, ever throws rocks at anyone. She didn’t even care that the Little Blond Boys had been targeting us. No rocks.

I was an obedient child. I haven’t thrown a rock since.

But, you know what? I knew it wouldn't matter. The entire universe is made out of potential weapons, and targets to aim them at. We lived near a beach, and there were sand, fish, crabs and shells on that beach, not to mention lots of slimy seaweed. The hose could distress children, as I'd learned the hard way, and there were water balloons, and buckets of water, and all sorts of things, should they prove necessary.

I think the world needs more organizers. At almost six, I didn’t know that was what I was doing, but I certainly knew why. People cannot let injustices happen to their neighbors. Throwing rocks might not be the least violent method, but when you have no models of successful organizing, it’s not the most violent method either. Sometimes, it’s more important to keep your neighbors believing there’s justice in their neighborhood than to worry about the Moms Security Network.

If this had been 50s movie, instead of a '50s real life event, I would probably have realized the inappropriateness of my own acts. But my dad, Jimmy Stewart, would also have taken a walk up to the 10 o'clock part of the street and had a chat with the Little Blond Boys' father. It would have ended with something uplifting that didn't entail the little girl learning that sometimes organizing for yourselves is the only way to end injustice. Dads would have been relevant to that solution. Moms wouldn't spank. But none of those things was how it really happened.

Now I have a lot of neighbors who get called names by the Little Blond Boys in Washington – useless, lazy; even though they spent their lifetimes working, doing jobs which needed doing. The Little Blond Boys are trying to turn the water hose on them, and will escalate when they learn how to use rocks.

My goal is to find a little red wagon, to figure out how to take down the people attacking my neighbors. Sometimes  a well-written letter works, sometimes even a petition, but I’m in favor of taking over a building too, if that seems the way to succeed. I haven’t yet theoretically precluded burning a building down, though I’ve never yet seen a time that would actually be useful, so it’s not high on my list of potential tactics.

This is just a story I felt like telling instead of writing my fiction, but there is a moral. You can throw rocks or sue, gather people together to shout or stand in silent witness. But doing something is a qualitatively different act than yelling at each other because they aren't doing enough. The world is so sparse of people who know how to do the right thing, and so full of people who want to, that there's only one thing you need to know. If you're doing something to help my neighbors, you're doing the right thing. That is enough. That is plenty.

So for heavens' sake, stop dumping on each other. Each of you, go fill your own wagons with your favorite non-murderous projectiles. (My mother was right.) There are plenty of wagons. Ready, aim, fire -- but at the little blond boys! They're the ones who deserve it.

** Brett disappeared before the action started. It occurred to me while writing this that he might actually have been the one to tell my mother; I always assumed it had been the mother of the Little Blond Boys. Moms’ Security Networks would fail to exist without informants. Someday I will have to ask him.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)


    A beggar on horseback lashes a beggar on foot. The beggars change places, but the lash goes on. --WB Yeats

    by kestrel sparhawk on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 05:49:48 PM PST

  •  when your neighbor is a cruel and dangerous boy, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OldDragon, Lujane

    it helps to make sure you always know where your younger sibling is. because he could be locked in the shed with the hornets' nest inside it, or pushed from the low bridge but hanging on by his chubby hands which are being stomped on, or shoved in front of a big car.

    doing something is a qualitatively different act than yelling at each other because they aren't doing enough.
    enough means i'm omnipotent and omniscient and that's just plain unpossible.

    my friend's hula-hoop rule applies for anyone:
    inside the hoop is MY bidness, outside is NOT my bidness.

    with pie.

    Addington's perpwalk? TRAILHEAD of accountability for Bush-2 Crimes. @Hugh: There is no Article II power which says the Executive can violate the Constitution.

    by greenbird on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 06:54:18 PM PST

    •  Was your neighbor boy that scary? (6+ / 0-)

      Because that is terrifying, and sounds like comments we were sharing on another thread where a little neighbor boy was choking a dog.

      But, of course, there's a difference between the symbolic "neighbor" and an actual psychopath in the neighborhood.

      I mean, technically, the blond boys were also neighbors.


      A beggar on horseback lashes a beggar on foot. The beggars change places, but the lash goes on. --WB Yeats

      by kestrel sparhawk on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 07:26:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  yeah, and he was scary to look at, too. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kestrel sparhawk, Lujane

        we just brushed it all off as best we could, being ignorant kids who also watched 'the three stooges' and 'our gang' with its butch ...

        Addington's perpwalk? TRAILHEAD of accountability for Bush-2 Crimes. @Hugh: There is no Article II power which says the Executive can violate the Constitution.

        by greenbird on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 07:44:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's amazing (7+ / 0-)

          How there really were two worlds of adults and children. My youngest brother was a victim of a few-years-older sexual predator who lived up the street from us -- the predator was about 13 when my brother was 7. It never occurred to my brother to tell my mom or anyone else about it; just part of life, though not a good part.


          A beggar on horseback lashes a beggar on foot. The beggars change places, but the lash goes on. --WB Yeats

          by kestrel sparhawk on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 07:51:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I was 8 when a friend's 12-year old older brother (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RiveroftheWest

            … exposed himself to us and chased us around the yard that way.

            Straw blond, as it turns out.

            Since I was quite naïve and ignorant of anything to do with sex (I still thought babies were made by a pollination-like process going through the air), I thought he was being "silly" ("Our Gang" was on TV in Hawaii too, bless Chubby Roland) but not "wrong."

            The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

            by lotlizard on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 12:21:16 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Exposure (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RiveroftheWest

              I always feel so sad when I learn about kids starting a confused sexuality early. For them, for the ones they exploit.

              "The little blond boys" were unusual in Hawaii, but of course my brothers were blond as well. I think on the Mainland the identification -- say, "the little brown ones" as Bush Sr referred to some of his grandchildren fondly -- might have lots of room for negative connotation. But, like being "silly" without having a sexual context, "blond" without a racist one meant nothing to me.


              A beggar on horseback lashes a beggar on foot. The beggars change places, but the lash goes on. --WB Yeats

              by kestrel sparhawk on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 09:32:53 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Somehow not a very uplifting story (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    flowerfarmer

    A group of neighborhood kids groups come together to stone obnoxious children of a different race. Yes, this is a MODEL of the power for community organization!

    Those who ignore the future are condemned to repeat it.

    by enigmamf on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 07:48:35 PM PST

    •  I can understand you don't find it fits your ideal (5+ / 0-)

      But, though this makes no difference to your point, we were a group of many races. The blond boys harassed the children of other races, and girls in general.


      A beggar on horseback lashes a beggar on foot. The beggars change places, but the lash goes on. --WB Yeats

      by kestrel sparhawk on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 08:32:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It was a pretty good model for a 6-year-old girl (6+ / 0-)

      to invent on the spot.  And the Mother immediately punished the action because of is danger of physical risk to others.  The girl learned not to do the dangerous thing, and also learned how to defend against bullies (and how to organize others to defend against them.)  And in terms of definitive action, it was actually very good.  The bullying stopped, and the other children learned some about working together, and about standing up to bullies.

      And the diarist continued to learn from her childhood experience, and has shared, in metaphorical language (which might be confusing you) how the knowledge gained from that 6-year-old experience has continued to grow and expand for her over the last six decades.

      And yes, I think the story part of this diary IS a model of the power for community organization.  The power that this girl learned was that it's possible to figure out how to stop the intolerable, and how to work together to accomplish that.  It was not the power of community organization that was problematic that day, it was the uninformed method -- and information about the problematic method was instantly forthcoming.

      It's regrettable that this child's methods don't meet your standard of purity.  But then again, she was too young to read Gandhi, and MLK's methods didn't become available for about another decade, iirc.

    •  Your comment seems a little over the top, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, kestrel sparhawk

      almost as though this diary brought up a painful memory from your past...

      I thought the diary was wonderful. Lessons were learned all the way around and no one was physically injured in the process. Yes, the potential was there but it didn't happen so no harm, no foul.

      Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

      by Ellen Columbo on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 11:28:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wonderful story! And you certainly own the art (4+ / 0-)

    of the essay.  A treat to read!

    My favorite bit, with my most favorite bolded:

    The world is so sparse of people who know how to do the right thing, and so full of people who want to, that there's only one thing you need to know. If you're doing something to help my neighbors, you're doing the right thing. That is enough. That is plenty.

    I may need to quote that sometime.

    Very glad you're writing here.

  •  I think this is powerful; (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest

    so many lessons to be learned from your experience. I also think it could be turned into an excellent children's book. Thanks...SSK

    "Hey Clinton, I'm bushed" - Keith Richards

    by Santa Susanna Kid on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 09:21:59 PM PST

    •  A children's book (2+ / 0-)

      You know, I never thought of that, but now I'm having fantasies. With some wonderful illustrator, of course. The kind with the slightly abstract levels of pencil or ink, perhaps, so that the "mother" as just a few lines..  Thank you!

      (with perhaps the last line being -- again, just in fantasy) "good night, wagon.")


      A beggar on horseback lashes a beggar on foot. The beggars change places, but the lash goes on. --WB Yeats

      by kestrel sparhawk on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 09:41:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Lovely story. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest

    You found out that you are an effective leader.  And that leading costs.  But the goal was accomplished.

    Sorry, but that is inspiring shite!

    •  Oh good, inspiring (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      I really was trying to do a little more than just tell the funny story. So glad it worked for you.


      A beggar on horseback lashes a beggar on foot. The beggars change places, but the lash goes on. --WB Yeats

      by kestrel sparhawk on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 09:49:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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