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by Michelle Nevada


One of my friends from the Midwest wrote to me to explain how upset he was that Israel was in Gaza and Lebanon, and how he couldn't understand why we would engage in "collective punishment" of the "poor Palestinians" and the "poor Lebanese people" by bombing their roads, electrical plants, bridges and airports and, finally, launching a full-scale attack. This was my explanation, in terms my friend could understand.

Dear Friend,

I love peace, but you can't have peace without war. If you try, you just get prolonged war. Hasn't everyone learned this lesson already?

It's something like seething with rage at a co-worker. You can either get your feelings out, or your feelings keep building and your rage gets stronger and stronger and more embedded and builds upon itself.

So, in order to avoid a conflict, you try to talk to the guy in the cubicle next to yours, but he denies you exist.

Now, lets say he starts trashing your office every day, but when you complain, he says you are "occupying" his space, so he has a right to do it. Besides, he never liked you, and he never approved of your position in the company.

Frustrated and confused, you make a plea to your neighbors in adjoining cubicles, but they deny you exist as well. You try to keep your cool. The BOSS put you in this space, he created this position for you, and you know you are doing your job well, but all of your neighbors are cheering for the guy who is trashing your office every day.

You complain to the BOSS, but the BOSS says to handle it on your own and the BOSS will back you up.

You try having a meeting about the problem, but everyone at the meeting says that you are guilty, that you are occupying space in the office, that they never liked you, and they never approved of your position in the company, so they are siding with the guy who keeps trashing your office.

You try to make space, moving the wall over as far as you can to give the guy room (hey, maybe they have a point. . . maybe you are taking more space that you were entitled to. . . You don't really think that, but maybe it will make him happy and you can just do your work in peace).

Now you are working in a much smaller space. You expect that the guy will be happy you tried to be nice, but he says you are still "occupying" his space. Soon enough, the guy on the other side of you starts doing the same thing, for no apparent reason. You are harassed and tired, and you wish they would just leave you alone.

The first guy starts unplugging your computer, destroying your faxes when they come into the office, and badmouthing you to the rest of the office. The guy on the other side of you has a sympathetic ear, and you can hear them talking about how much they hate you. They take their complaints to the other businesses in the building, trying to get as much support as they can. Now, even when you leave the office, you are bullied in the elevator, the lounge, and the restaurant downstairs by people who don't know what is going on in the office but have decided you are guilty anyway. You hear that a few guys in a business a few doors down offered money to the guys who are harassing you to keep it up.

You try to plead with the first guy, but he plugs his ears and says you don't exist (hums something you hate too). You hear him laughing about it with the other guy at lunch. Everyone else in the office begins to plug their ears and say you don't exist and they won't talk to you until you move your office. All the people in the elevator do the same. "Where should I go?" you plead.

"Away!" they answer.

You are frustrated, you want to give up, but the BOSS wants you here and he asked you to take care of the problem. You rally your strength. You belong here, you know you do.

You say, "Stop it or I will fight back."

You say it a lot. He answers by taking your things, important personal things that can't be replaced, destroying them, and leaving them outside his cubicle in ashes. He laughs about it to his friend and posts nasty taunting messages on the office bulletin board and in too many chat rooms to keep track of. Meanwhile, he is launching more attacks, breaking your computer, destroying your workspace, and throwing stink bombs, bottle rockets, and firecrackers over the cubicle wall.

You say, "Stop it." You yell, "Stop it!" You shake your fist.

He laughs and plugs his ears.

Finally, at the end of your rope, you go into his office to retrieve one of your things, which he has hidden and won't return. You trash is office, pull his outlet out of the wall, throw his computer to the ground, and temporarily move your wall back to where it used to be, "disturbing his workspace."

Then his friend destroys and steals important personal things from your office. He gets a whole supply of fireworks from the business a few doors down, and starts launching them at you whenever he can. This is the last straw. You don't care what he thinks, you don't care what his friend thinks, and you don't care what the other businesses think. You know they are supporting them, both emotionally and financially, and you realize that you cannot do your work for the BOSS unless you are finally done with this continuous harassment.

In response, you go to the friend's office to retrieve your things, and destroy some things of his while you are there. Then you go back to the first guy's office and take and destroy some of his things. You demand they return the things they took and make compensation for those things that they destroyed. You also demand that they recognize your position in the company and the office space that was provided for you from the BOSS. You lob firecrackers and stink bombs over the wall, but these firecrackers are very large and much more powerful. You destroy their keyboards, remove the power cords from their computers, and make it impossible for them to do their work.

Then some office-worker from the Midwest writes to complain about what you did, how you trashed those "poor guys'" offices for "no reason," and how you destroyed their things. You shake your head, knowing you will be hated no matter what you do, and you begin to contemplate your next move. You have to protect your office, your home, and your life from these insane people, but you don't want to hurt them any more than you have to.

Wouldn't it be easier, you think, if he just minded his own business in the first place, gave your things back, and recognized that you had a right to be in the office? Sincerely,

Michelle Nevada is a religious Jew from rural Nevada. Contact her by email at


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