Posts Tagged ‘Ghandi’

This is the start of what may or may not be a search into myself. Who am I? What made me Me? What factors still influence me? Let’s start at the beginning.

My family has always been supportive of me. I want to say this from the start. We still love each other very much, even though we’ve had our moments and our disagreements. This is about the rest of my childhood.

I had a small group of friends when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old, and after school we’d get together and watch the old Superman series on TV, followed by wrapping blue towels with crayon drawn superman emblems on them around our necks and jumping off the furniture pretending to fly. I think I remember the Moms being ok with it, because they probably felt that it was a great way for kids to get rid of energy and maybe we’d calm down a little after an hour or so of playing superman. For me, even at that age, I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to save someone, anyone, from harm and first and foremost to save the world. (Nothing like starting small, eh?) It was great fun, of course, but it was also a role that I think I took seriously. I also remember that I loved school then, although at the time I didn’t appreciate it like I would later, but that had less to do with what was happening then and much more to do with the hell it became.

Everyone’s life changes, and mine did too when my parents separated. I was 8 years old. We moved away from my school, my hometown and my wonderful friends to live in a small town 45 miles and a lifetime away. Almost from day one a pattern emerged, a pattern that I now know of as bullying that only ended by moving away 9 years later.

I was popular in my old school and I remember crying about losing my friends when I was told we were moving. This is hardly news, it happens to kids everywhere everyday. I was told the same things, “Oh but you’ll make so many new friends. You don’t need to worry about anything” Kids, let me tell ya,, when an adult says that you don’t need to worry about anything, START WORRYING!

Without going into lots of detail, my time in my new school was hell. I know it pales in comparison to what I’ve heard from others. I am going to say that for 9 very long years I was harassed and beaten up almost daily and that for 3 of those years I was subjected to what they called a “Hass hunt” in which at least 5 guys announced (always during art class, just before the afternoon break) with the teacher standing right there and listening, that they thought it was time for a “hunt”, and everyone, including the teacher, knew what they meant and no one acted on it. They would chase me from the instant class ended, giving me a little time to “get a head start” and then hunt me down and assault me when they caught and surrounded me.

By the time I reached Junior High School it got meaner and more physical. By that time the instructors had become accustomed to it and turned a blind eye, in fact a couple of them actively encouraged it saying that if I wasn’t going to stand up for myself then they were right to do it and I had it coming. (Always at least 1 against 3, mind you, even if I wasn’t non-violent, I would have had no chance at those odds I told myself) Until High School I was rarely bloodied too badly, I have to admit. They knew where to hit to not leave visual marks, but the idea of being treated that way left a mark on me for a very long time, much more inside than outside, although that certainly happened too.

It seemed that every friend I made during that time eventually turned their back on me, and decided that I wasn’t cool enough to hang out with anymore. It wouldn’t take very long, a month or so on average but there were some that took longer. I was and still am grateful for the ones who stuck by more for longer than that, but the pain of their betrayal made it difficult to trust people for a very long time. Although I didn’t blame myself necessarily it took years for me to stop wondering if or when my new found friends would, turn their back on me and become a “hunter”, as every friend I ever thought I had in that small hell town did.

All those days of pretending to be Superman paid so many dividends. They set a level of self-confidence that the worst hunter could shake but never break. I believed in my self and my own self worth and I knew even at that age that I was born for much more than they could ever imagine.

We moved out of that small town the summer before my senior year in high school, 1972, the election year, the year of Watergate, the beginning of the final end of the American Song of Innocence. I was elated to go back to Portland. Back to the city life, back to where I knew I belonged. I remember I thought, “Now was going to be my chance. I would show those doubting Thomases that I wasn’t trash, or stupid, or retarded or worthless or less than human or any of the other cruel labels they threw at me and tried very hard to make me believe I was, or wasn’t.”

At my new high school, my first few days were terrifying!!. IT WAS HUGE!!!! The senior class alone was more than three times the size of the entire student body of my little 4-year high school COMBINED!! YIKES!! So many people, I thought to myself. I was so terrified of walking down the halls in my old tiny school with just a small amount of bullies, how on earth could I protect myself from all of these people if they wanted to hurt me?

But they didn’t and something happened there, that I could never have expected, and from a source that I could never have predicted.

The last 2 or 3 years at my small school I was slowly beginning to be exposed to the outside world and that meant the Vietnam war, Muhammad Ali, race riots, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, Eldridge Cleaver and Malcolm X, Ghandi, Alan Watts, the Doors, Jimi, Janis and all the rest of the 60s even though I was a little too young to truly experience them in the way one normally thinks of it, (no I didn’t get to Woodstock.) I started to rebel, in small ways, for example my clothes and my attitude. I decided to become as much of a “hippie” as the situation allowed and as much as I dared, for I knew if I went too far I would definitely get beaten up for it.

Not too long after I arrived at Sunset High, I noticed a quote on some campaign literature posted on the wall, and I slowly started to think about what one of them said, the quote was “I’m sick of old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in” and the man quoted was Senator George McGovern.

The Vietnam War was still raging, and I was getting closer to it everyday, without knowing it. (2 years later, in 1974 my turn to face the army draft came up, they stopped the draft just in time and I would miss being drafted by a scant two weeks) Something about that quote hit a chord with me, as it was designed to. Was this my future calling to me? Hmm,, Sunset High School Young Democrats,, and they have a meeting coming up! My isolation vanished in a blur of political fascination. Maybe this could give me the chance I had wished for so long, to speak out on things, be a part of the world. Of course, Nixon won re-election easily but for me personally it was a time of enormous growth.

The time I spent hiding in the blackberry bushes in the lot next to our house, so wanting to run and play with the other kids but too afraid to, the time I spent in front of the mirror, staring myself in the eyes, trying to force a belief in my own self worth, a sense the other kids were trying so very hard to ruin, all of this went away, not the deeper pain, that took considerably longer, but the more immediate damage, dissipated like mist on a warm spring day.

I had used the solitude not only to hide and “lick my wounds” but also to think deeply about why my life was the way it was. I didn’t want to let them win, didn’t want to accept their low opinion of my self worth. I somehow always believed in myself, no matter how hard they tried to break me down. I found a strong belief, based on my inner strength and things that I heard from news or media or wherever I could find it, that the world doesn’t have to be cruel. I didn’t have the ability to express it in the way I can now but I knew how I felt.

The message on that board and the work that I did after I got involved gave me a sense of validation of my own beliefs about our place on earth and the ability of mankind to better our existence. Unless we act globally we live the life we are taught, or forced to accept, while inside we yearn for so much more, so much better. It seems I’ve always known that but didn’t realize it until then. This campaign and the subsequent ones I became involved in gave me the chance to speak out on the thoughts that I had to keep to myself for all of those years. It was extremely empowering to be sure. I suspect maybe that’s why I feel that empowerment is one of the most beautiful words I know.

After the elections of 72 through 76, I started college and became less and less interested in the day-to-day job of politicians and decided to go on with my normal life as a student of the world and drifted around the University trying to figure out the whole mess. (I still haven’t.) I did get involved in some ways but never with the same drive. This urge still drives me and hopefully it will never go away unless we somehow manage to learn to live together globally. In University I managed to find other ways to express myself, dance, theatre art, poetry and some of them are still interests to me.

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