Rant & Rave

By Megan Lau

Tuesday, May 25, 1999

A look back
in the mirror

WE were in the fifth grade, an age where the innocence of childhood starts to wane, replaced by those horrible monsters called hormones. Interests shifted to more "mature" things, and I think all of us became increasingly self-conscious.

There was one boy whose name was David (changed here), and he was worth nothing in our eyes. To talk to him was unthinkable -- people might think you were actually trying to be his friend, and friends were something he didn't have. To be his friend meant to be sucked into the bleak black hole of unpopularity.

No one ever wanted to be in a group with him. No one really cared what happened to him, unless, that is, he was forced into your group because he didn't have one of his own. Then, working together became a matter of dealing with this "imposition."

David's life was an unending cycle of rejection. There was absolutely no chance he would ever join the ranks of the "normal." We wouldn't let him. Cooties were long outdated, but the same concept somehow applied to David. I guess that as a class, we unanimously concurred that he had an aura of some unknown disease. If you came into contact with him or something that he had touched, you were contaminated. We had people running around our classroom imaginarily wiping off David germs from themselves and transferring them to others saying, "LTP."

LTP stood for "lifetime protection," and meant that you were forever immune from that particular dose of David germs.

Throughout this whole scene, David would have to look on, disheartened and helpless, witnessing this constant reminder that he was different and would probably remain that way because his unrelenting peers decided it was so.

SO what was wrong with him? What made him different? I'm not quite sure. Maybe it was because we decided that he was stupid. He had the handwriting of a first grader and we didn't exactly consider him the brightest crayon in the box. But really, how much can one learn and express oneself in a hostile environment?

How did he handle all this? He tried to ignore it, and really, that's all he could do. Any attempt to stop our comments, such as telling a teacher, would just give us more of a reason to hate him and continue. As much as our parents try to convince us that "sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you," we all know it's a lie.

David tried, sometimes, to make friends, but for every ounce of effort, he was shoved back with twice as much stinging rejection.

I never felt good about teasing David. In a way, it was if I was part of a machine. If I had left him alone, my acceptance and reputation would have changed, and that was something I wasn't strong enough to risk, even to ease someone else's suffering.

If David had stayed at our school, with the same inhumane treatment year after year, what would have happened? Would he have finally been pushed over the edge, wanting to get back at all of his torture-inflicting peers in the vengeful manner that characterizes the relatively new phenomenon of high school killers?

I'm almost positive that sooner or later, David would have broken down in some way, not necessarily in the violent fashion of the recent Colorado, and now, Georgia student shootings.

I didn't realize this at the time, but David was a mirror. He took in all of the hatred and vicious emotions we never cared to admit we possessed, and let them show. We didn't want to see what he revealed, that there was a darker side to us, that could be so cruel to another human being.

We didn't want to see the truth. In the end, it wasn't about David. It was about ourselves.

Megan Lau is an 8th grader at Punahou School.

Rant & Rave is a Tuesday Star-Bulletin feature
allowing those 12 to 22 to serve up fresh perspectives.
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