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Monday, November 19, 2007

Making Amends

I tried to start another show last night, but ended up trying to write the
show still at 3:00 am or so. Never finished.

Anyway, decided I'm not sure what to say about this particular topic.
It's not done yet. I have a vague idea of the questions, but no clue as
to the answers.

This weekend, off singing Kareoke at one of my primary bars (I've pretty
much given up on one location, but that's a story for another day), I ran
into someone I hadn't seen in a couple of decades.

He turned out to be someone who used to bully me back in High School. He
turned out to be someone who is now a recovering alcoholic. And he turns
out to be seeking to Make Amends, as required by one of the 12 steps. I
have no idea which one, but one of them. He didn't expect to see me, but
upon seeing me, he decided he needed to Make Amends to me, too.

Which raises the question: How do you make amends for bullying?

For the first four years of my life, the only people I encountered were
family, and a very few, very close neighbors. My oldest friend from those
days wasn't even born then.

Then I went off to school, kindergarten. They didn't have Day Care back
in the day. My first meeting with people other than that little group.

It was a long time ago. But my first memory of Kindergarten, my first
memory of meeting anyone not family and dealing with them day-to-day, was
of being bullied by a big guy named Bruce. I don't remember his last
name, and it's possible I never new it. It's not like it would have been
my top concern.

Up to that point, I had gotten along okay with nearly everyone I'd ever
met in my entire life. The few exceptions included three guys from the
next street over who'd already been bullying my brother, and decided since
I was nearby, I was a target, too.

And then I went to Kindergarten, and became a target.

Sometimes I wonder whether this whole Aspergers Syndrome thing means
anything. Take any child and torment them from the age of five, for the
rest of their young lives, and see if that makes it hard for them to
socialize, to react with extreme stress to the contact or even closeness
of anyone. See if romance is utterly absent from their lives. See if
they start rocking, flapping their hair, and staring at the ground.

Bruce tormented me through the next six years of my life. He created a
culture of abuse focused on me, as part of a culture of abuse that was as
much a part of our school system as number 2 pencils. Your school system,
too, probably.

"Boys will be boys."

Maybe that's true. Let's ask an expert on boys, like John Wayne Gasey, or
Jeffrey Daumer.

I was tormented for so long, and by so many people, literally a culture of
abuste, that by my junior year in high school, people were tormenting me
by calling me names that had had a particular meaning in Kindergarten, but
no one but me (and Bruce) actually knew what the hell those abusive names
referred to. People would call me those names -- I haven't quite gotten
to the point of closure where I can even type them -- and think them
nicknames or terms of affection. I eventually blew up at my desk-partner
in homeroom, because he called me one of those names. After I explained,
he told me he'd had no idea what the name referred to.

I managed to turn maybe half of my Senior year of high school into
something resembling a good year. But I was still fouled up. Call it
PTSD, it's not a bad description. I was voted the Most Intelligent of my
senior class. I didn't graduate with my senior class. I had to take
night school to finish one class, and summer school to finish another,
both required courses.

At the time, I could have attended college locally, at a fully-fledged
college, for free, funded by my state, for a four-year degree, anyway. I
didn't go. My experience up to that point had been that school meant
abuse. School meant ridicule and humiliation and torment. I didn't want
more school.

Then, one could get a Good Job with a High School diploma -- I've got one
of those, barely. Now you can't get a decent job without college. I've
got none, I'm a telemarketer.

So, let's make amends.

How do you fix that? As George Cluny put it in another context, "So who
do we see about that?"

He wants to fix the mistakes he made. And yes, he was part of the torture
I went through for a dozen years. But he wasn't the only one, and I
didn't remember him by name, so I suppose he didn't own such a big piece
of that pile of crap. But I'm 49 now, no education, no decent life, no
American Dream for me, can't do a job interview without being overwhelmed
by expectations of ridicule. I'm a telemarketer. "So who do we see about
that?"

Does it make it better that he just bought into the existing culture of
torture? Does it make it better that he was just accepting the pain
others inflicted, while only creating a little more pain himself,
directly?

How does he make amends for that, for not standing up?

How does he make amends, for just being a soldier in the army, for just
following orders, for whatever reason -- if you're not with us, you're
against us, you're against us, if you're not a killer, you're a victim.

Sure, Killer seems such a strong word. "That which does not kill me makes
me stronger." And that which takes away most of my life -doesn't-
essentially kill me?

How does he make amends? How do you fix that?

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