When I was five years old I lived next door to a kid, Stephen Millstein (or was it Millstone?), who introduced me to life on planet earth by beating me up each day. I was a skinny guy, he was fat. I'd walk out of my apartment, look up, let the warm Los Angeles sun baste my face, inhale the aroma of freshly mowed lawns, breathe in the smoggy air, and then see Stephen leave his apartment, look up at the warm L.A. skies, inhale the smell of cut grass, get a couple of lungs full of smog, then walk over, knock me down and sit on top of me. After this had happened—oh, say, four or five hundred times—I took to avoiding Stephen.
My father heard about this situation and explained the psychology of bullies: they are basically cowards. If I stood up to Millstein (whose father was a psychiatrist, by the way) and let him know that should he try this again he was in for some serious shit (my word; my father didn't swear), he'd back down and the situation would resolve itself. So, against my better judgment—which told me to just head in the other direction, and fast—I stood up to Stephen, whence, he knocked me to the ground, got on top of me, and panted halitosis-flavored smog into my face.
I've always wondered what would have happened had I rejected my father's advice and, instead, gotten out my Lone Ranger six-gun, substituted silver bullets for caps, and ended Steve's sojourn on earth. Would I have spared dozens--hundred--of others from the Millstein treatment? Or did he grow up to be a mensch, maybe even a humanitarian? I wonder what that fat kid's sojourn on earth has been like?