Sunday, January 11, 2015

Or maybe, doctor, is it all about bullying...

I remember a long time ago, I was a kid, we went into Utica, maybe to go the big old public library or the Munson Williams art museum, or some errand, and anyway, we went in to this five and dime variety store.  And I sort of went off on my own wandering around, looking at the magazine racks or whatever when this little kid, sort of Eye-talian looking, shorter, comes up and pushes me.  With his two hands against my chest, pushes me.  Firmly enough that, taken by surprise, I step back.  The aisles brightly lit.  Maybe it was winter time.  I'm wearing a coat.  I look at the kid and just kind of stand there.  Kid pushes me again.  I'm just dumbfounded.  I look at him.  I see the look in his eye, as if this is a sort of game for him.  He gets pleasure out of it.  But I am caught off-guard, not understanding the meaning of it.  So I turn and walk away, over to some other aisle, of equal interest and disinterest.  And I'm pretending to look things over as an adult might, whatever kind of products on whatever kind of shelves, and there's this kid again, a push, looking up at me staring with a sort of smile on his face.  And again I just turn and look at him and stand there without saying anything.  I look at him, as if to ask, 'what do you want?  do you want something?  I don't understand.'  I walked away again.  I guess the kid got tired of me, this precious foreign looking fancy idiot, funny looking other kid from somewhere else on his little city hoodlum turf.  But I had no natural aggression against him.  There was no fight.  I just looked at him and walked away, the rational thing to do.

I think of that kid in the documentary.  It wasn't his fault he was born prematurely, that he had a breathing tube taped to his mouth to keep him alive in the incubating chamber for premature babies, or that he came out a little scrawny from the whole affair.  They were told he probably wouldn't last the first twenty four hours.  But the kid made it.  But now he's thirteen and somewhere in Iowa they're bullying him on the school bus as if they were a gang of prisoners in a cell block.  Cuffing him upside the head, poking him with pencils, calling him 'bitch.'  There's not much we can do, but let them work it out, an administrator says in response to an instance of bullying among juvenile females.

But I think this has something to do with my experience.  Of course you can rise above it, like I did, not comprehending it, not getting involved with it, not engaged with the ego.  No skin off my ass, not being able to hang out in aisle C of some shitty Utica variety store pre CVS sort of a thing.  I'm just passing the time while parents shop.  I have no idea what you're up to, kid.

I did not explain to the 'little Guido' that this was not the way to treat visiting foreign emissaries, nor tell him about the Arthurian legends where Sir Lancelot, most noble knight of all the Round Table would show up randomly in humble disguise.  Such pronouncements would have been wasted upon him.  But yet there are the Gospel stories, the rejection at Nazareth, where in the synagog they say, 'where did this men get all this,' his wisdom and references, and he quips that no prophet is regarded as such in his hometown, and they get mad at him for what he says and want to throw him off a cliff, but he passes in their midst and leaves the town.  It's simple, it's almost Chekhovian, in a literary way, simply that Jesus leaves the town, something like that.

Which reminds me of the book I wrote, and it's ending, simple like, "leaves the town."  The douchey reviewer from Kirkus Indie did not see the potential charm of such a plainly told story with such truth in it, remarking the clich├ęs in the dialog, the various literary lackings...

But that's the story, one of bullying, and finding one's self surprised.  Like, how could you treat me like that, here in my home town?  Do we bully people for what they cannot help?  Do we bully those slightly different from the story the mainstream wants to tell, the story of the institution itself as those who currently think they they are the institution want to tell...  Amherst is this, Amherst is that, Amherst is equality, fairness, etc....  Which rubs against how the prophet, the clear-eyed individual, who has a broader view, a deeper view, sees it.  But people are nasty to him, to raise up themselves as much as anything else.

Would that institution even acknowledge a portrait of it that revealed it as imperfect, that revealed the bullying on the part of its specially protected, the tacit female bullying of the male it encounters, for example, the bullying of its very literary sensitivity type people ever protective of the underdog against the underdog it cannot see as an underdog...  The institution caught in its own stereotypes and ways of doing business and getting along with every other institution that it has no language to see, to honor its own people...

Does Amherst want to read my book for its book club?  No, and mine is not published conventionally, does not say the things that institutions in agreement agree to talk about, preferring to talk about the things they like to talk about, that bow to its ways of looking at things.

And what can the clear-eyed one, the prophetic one, what can he do but take his cold comfort refuge in the truth, out in the desert and the lonesome places where he meditates and finds his insights...  Yes, he leaves the town, left alone to ponder the patterns of hair on his naked body or whatever the poor weird bastard does in his vulnerable dream-life or whatever.  Where were the acts of kindness that he might have sought for, simple uncomplicated kindness, no, sorry, everyone goes about their own business to survive and thrive, mine, 'what I've fought for,' 'the choices I've made,' and all that smug shit.

How disappointed Jesus must have been back in Nazareth.  He took it in stride, left, more or less quietly.  And they for their part probably thought, 'oh, fuck him, Mr. Christ complex...'  That's how it goes.

There's Gary Cooper in High Noon.  There's everyone, so smart, so sophisticated, so well-spoken, but yet they can't get the main fact.  They hide, and they desert him.  They pledge help, and yet, they vanish when humanity has to take a stand against the bad guys.

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