Friday, March 19, 2004

Loyalty and betrayal after school

I never got into fights much when I was a kid. This was probably a good thing since I was and still am thin as a rail. But one time when I was about 7 or 8 my friend Dickie was supposed to fight some kid after school and he asked me to come along. I didn’t know what the fight was about or who the other kid was, but I agreed to tag along to back up my friend. What resulted was one of my first lessons in loyalty and betrayal.

I happened to mention to another kid that day named Ronnie that there was going to be a fight after school and he agreed to come along as well. I don’t remember how many kids showed up in the end but it was something like a half dozen on each side. It was a rather bizarre experience. Sort of like being on a team in a sport where you don’t really know what the rules are or what you are supposed to do. When the actual fight started it was just Dickie and the other kid wrestling on the ground with everyone else just standing around shouting encouragements.

Before the fight actually got underway, however, I found out just how fickle my friend Ronnie’s loyalties turned out to be. As the other group of kids was walking up, Ronnie noticed that the group included a big black kid named Derrick who I’m guessing must have known a bit of judo or something. Derrick proceeded to demonstrate this skill by flipping several kids onto the ground, including me.

When Ronnie saw Derrick, he suddenly stopped and announced “They have Derrick on their side! I’m on their side!” Then he turned around and shoved me. I remember being surprised at first and then shoving him back. Afterwards he kind of slipped away to the back of the group and didn’t participate in any more fighting. Thus ended our brief friendship.

I’ve always wondered whether Ronnie went away ashamed of his actions that day. I kind of hope that he did and that he learned a valuable lesson himself. But I’ve seen that same kind of behavior over the years. People want to be on the winning side regardless of which side it is. It takes a certain amount of integrity to stick it out on the side that you know is destined to lose. This doesn’t mean that you should never change sides. It is also a mark of integrity to change sides if you determine that the side you are on is in the wrong. But that decision should be based on facts, evidence, logic and values, not on the desire to win.

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