I was rather small and skinny, and because of this, I had been dumped into toilets, locked into lockers, pushed around, called names, and I was finished with it. No one was going to bully me anymore. That is how I felt in the fifth grade, when for years I had been subjected to torment by my larger peers.
Madrona Elementary was a non-graded school, which meant that we never received a grade, but only a “pass” or “fail.” It is a progressive approach to education, but the playground and the halls were not as modern as one might expect. The issue of bullying still abounded. Perhaps even more so, with troubled children coming to the school to find an easier footing in the Washington state educational system. Though I had been bullied for as long I could remember, it never stopped. Pacifism had not done its purported job.
On my birthday in the fifth grade, I got a basketball from my mother. Basketball was my favorite sport, though I was short. I loved watching the theatrics and the intense pace of the game. Sometimes there was nothing better than going to a hoop and shooting baskets and dribbling around. It was a type of therapy for me.
The day after my birthday, I brought my basketball to school. I wanted to shoot some hoops during recess. After only a few shots, a big kid came up to me and snatched the ball away from me with strong force. At that moment, something surged within me. It was a rage I had never known. It must have been cultivating within me through the years of bullying and mocking. Without a thought, I punched the kid in the face as hard as I could. It seemed like an uncontrolled force made me do it—purely out of instinct. All the pain and shame I felt powered my punch, and knocked the kid down into a crying fit.
The principal called my mother in a calm voice and informed her of my actions. My mother seemed indifferent about it, and thought it was best that I fought back. I think she was right, because after this fight, no one bothered to bully me again, until middle school. But that is another story.
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"Bob Cover was and remains the dominant voice of his generation among legal scholars. These essays, each one magnificent in itself, are, when taken together, even more important. The wisdom they impart is forever."
—Guideo Calabresi, Dean and Sterling Professor of Law, Yale University
"Robert Cover drew his sources for the authority of law—for its violence, but also for its paideic potential—from the structuring stories that spark our communal imaginations. Literally until the day of his untimely death, which still is a shock to the system he left behind, his irreplaceably restless spirit was binding itself with the pages of the Midrash, of The Brothers Karamazov, of Billy Budd, Sailor. It is for us now to work also with these—Bob Cover's stories."
—Richard Weisberg, Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School, Yeshiva University
"The writings of Robert Cover were usually provocative, sometimes exasperating, but always relevant. He regularly insisted that legal scholarship be integrated with the great issues of spirituality. In his last years, he concentrated on Jewish sources as well as mystical and Messianic thought. This collection of his articles is a thesaurus of some of his finest writings."
—Robert F. Drinan, S.J., Georgetown University Law Center