"And why does it always have to be people like me who have to sacrifice? Why are we always the ones who have to make concessions when something has to be conceded? Why always me who has to bite her tongue, why? Well not this time. This time I am going to think about myself, about what I need. If only to do justice in one case, just one. What do we lose? What do we lose by killing one of them? What do we lose? What do we lose?"
In second grade, I was teased.
This was the year that I began wearing glasses and from that point on, I was an easy target. The usual suspects were a small group of boys that sat in the back of the classroom and made fun of everything I did. One of these boys was named Darryl - - -. He stood out because his teasing was a little different from the other boys. He took on a more relentless and mean spirited, sometimes violent approach. At seven years old, I was quite dramatic and wished all kinds of ill will on this boy. But he was popular enough and had more things going on for him than I did, so to my chagrin his elementary school experiences were a lot smoother than mine. One day, however, during gym class my classmates and I walked out onto the black concrete playground in order to learn how to play a new game or engage in some kind of exercise. I don't quite remember the details but what I do remember is Darryl falling flat on his face and busting up his chin. My first reaction was to laugh, but I decided to take the high road. I snorted out a quiet giggle. Nearby classmates were appalled. Among the gasps, I remember a girl, (I think her name was Chrissy) chastising me, saying "That's not funny." "He could have been hurt," someone else says in an overly dramatic voice. "You should be trying to help him, rather than laughing at him, " little Chrissy continues.
Darryl was crying, which made the situation even more delicious, but being the sensitive person that I was, I stopped giggling. They were right. I understood that I was wrong and that engaging in that kind of behavior was unacceptable. Hell, I knew more than anybody because I was on the receiving end of that kind of behavior on a daily basis and I didn't like being laughed at either. Now it's true any normal person would have forgotten this story a loooong time ago, but not me, I'm petty. Just kidding, the truth is, I thought it was odd. Even as an adult, I think it's odd. My being teased was not odd. My being bullied was not odd. My being laughed at was not odd. I was seven. My classmates were seven. My bully, Darryl, was seven. Children can be cruel, sticks and stones, part of life...blah blah blah we all know the routine with certain age groups. The sudden attack of conscience by the seven year olds in this situation, however. That was what intrigued me. As a seven year old, I felt like it was a law of nature. Someone falls, we all laugh. Someone fell, therefore I laughed. That's how it worked, right? Why were my usually laughing/not caring classmates so serious and concerned? I was never on the receiving end of this kind of compassion before. No one ever ran over to help me up. Why this sudden attack of conscience that I'd always prayed for and finally given up hope for, come at this moment? For that guy?! I remembered this situation because to me, it was the equivalent of a toddler releasing a balloon and watching it float up into the air. I'd learned a new law of nature. When I am bullied, everyone stands around laughing and/or gloating. But should this very same bully fall down, it is my responsibility to be a bigger person and show compassion, and even help him up if I can.
Nowadays, when someone points out a fallacy in my attitude or judgement toward someone else, I immediately discontinue my behavior. Why? Because it's embarrassing to know that I have allowed myself to sink to a level that is so low that it is offensive to someone that is not even the recipient of my obnoxiousness. Someone that is in earshot recognizes my bias, or hangups for what it is. Plain ole' fashioned hate, jealousy or malice...what have you. I personally work everyday to stifle anything that could go on to become these horrible, negative traits. Most times I'd like to say I am good at this, and other times...I could use some prayer. But the funny thing is, when I'm having an off day, there's always someone nearby to point out my wrongness. I've come to believe that this is my lot in life. At birth, I must have took some sort of subconscious vow to always take the high road and God sends a spy to be present every time I deviate for the low road and am about to taste the sweet nectar of revenge, just so a nearby Chrissy can say, "that's not funny!" or "you'd better not get any satisfaction out of that!"
I write this blog today to ask the question...why isn't it funny? Everyone thought it was funny when it happened to me. Where was the attack of conscience then? Why do I have to stifle my pleasure at the irony of karma-induced situations?
In college, I did a 6 minute scene for my Acting 101 class. My specific scene ended with a monologue in which the main character, a rape victim, held a gun up to her attackers head. He was being held prisoner in her basement and she was about to end his life, but not before unloading her feelings about the whole situation. I guess you could say she was getting the ultimate revenge. During this scene, her attacker begs for his life and attempts to appeal to her conscience by pretty-much telling her to take the high road and spare his life. It is then that she says the quote that I put at the beginning of this blog. (Let me just tell you, I acted the heck out of that monologue, but that's beside the point ;-) I thought that this line was perfect to express my main thought that sparked this article.
Why must the little guy or in my case the nerdy girl take the high road? When can I say, "serves you right!"? Why am I expected to throw out a raft to someone who is drowning in a sea of their own doing?
This is not to say that I desire to wake up and have a piss-on-the-world attitude or that I want bad things to happen to other people so that I can laugh and laugh. Not at all. I plan to always turn the other cheek. Treat others as I could only wish they would treat me. Like the time I saw my REALLY mean boss get chewed out by her higher ups. While I didn't feel sorry for her, I didn't gloat in her embarrassment either. Frankly, it did nothing for me. Mainly because I am not anti-other people. I am pro-me. I understand that we all take tumbles for some reason or other, but just like my seven year old classmates banned together to help Darryl and also to hinder any ridicule or judgements, I secretly wish for the same treatment.
I guess to explain it in a big picture sort of way, it reminds me exactly of the current economic crisis. The American people get fingers pointed at them all the time. People have no empathy for someone losing their home or dealing with credit difficulties. It is easy to pass judgement on these people, scoff at them, trick them and laugh "serves you right" while making threatening phone calls and mailing out misleading information to children in order to lure them into the same traps. But when these big businesses take the same fall, it is expected (actually, required) that the "good" American people take the honorable route and lend a helping hand. Which to me, is not a problem...but why the sudden attack of conscience? Why no attack of conscience when Americans were being lowered into the fiery pits of hell in the first place? How come nobody thought, gee...this is looking pretty bad. Maybe we should stop pointing and laughing and start helping. Where was little Chrissy to say, "That's not funny! You should help those people!" Oh wait, I forgot. Even in my original story little Chrissy runs to the rescue of the bully. Laws of nature.
Either way, I feel it is my lot in life to take the honorable route even if it is not being taken in my case. On the brighter side, however, I always find that I get to see some of the most interesting forms of poetic justice unfold right before my very eyes. I mean, seconds before my boss got chewed out, she'd yelled at me for being holed up in my office. Which worked against her, because it allowed me to be in the same room with her and her boss, while she received what should have been a very private, verbal beatdown. So maybe this "house arrest of righteousness," ankle bracelet is really a gift from God that comes with certain stipulations. Maybe the stipulation is that I am allowed to see my bullies and adversaries take a nose dive IF I can keep my mouth shut and/or extend a helping hand to them(if possible).
So I am throwing this letter of recognition up into the atmosphere. I am tellling God...I know how this thing works. I know that I am not allowed the same maliciousness that my onlookers and gossipers are allowed. I know that I have to be the friendliest, most high road-iest person there is and pretend that I give two craps about the same people who have delighted in my everyday struggles. I know that I have to lend a supportive shoulder to my enemies. I know that I have to pay higher taxes to bail out some over indulging, wealthy banks rather than let them drown in their own greediness. I know that everyone else can say my boss is a real bitch that deserves to get chewed out except for yours truly. Why? Because it's a concession that must be made by someone. And that someone is me.