your pal, erin

Author & Psychic Superhero

Now Trending: Your Childhood Bully

HELLS BELLS if the middle school bully I wrote about in last month’s column didn’t go and get herself arrested for smashing a beer mug into a woman’s jaw at her neighborhood Applebee’s…for speaking Swahili.

The news I first heard from a childhood friend has since amassed 14,400 Google hits, including 2,476 shares from D.L. Hughley’s Facebook page and an link apropos of nothing but the current temperature in Clotarf, Minnesota (?!)

People are demanding that this case be prosecuted as a hate crime. As the former object of her rage, I have no doubt that hate was a mitigating factor. Twenty-eight years have passed since our last encounter, but I still feel the sting of her contemptuous threats, her odium at my mere existence.

This story is causing me to rethink the definition of hate crimes altogether. How many violent crimes are committed that don’t involve hatred of oneself and others? I don’t mean to trivialize offenses that are Hate Crimes by legal definition, but rather to question how we, as a society, have become so desensitized to our abhorrent treatment of each other.

Gun violence is a hot topic, both locally and nationally. People are outraged at our ensuing apathy, but who among us is willing to stop pointing fingers and start loving our neighbors as ourselves? 

Here’s an excerpt from the first draft of this column, in its “exploration of feelings” stage; my initial reaction to the news before it done went and broke the Internet:
WELL, F*%& it all if the middle school bully I wrote about in last month’s column didn’t go and get herself arrested for smashing a beer mug into a woman’s jaw at her neighborhood Applebee’s. 

Now I have to love her. 

Why? Because she’s not some ambiguous but eminent threat haunting a fourteen year-old girl’s hyperactive imagination. She’s a forty-three year-old woman with very real problems made public in the local news. 
Don’t let my altruism fool you. I also lost my shit a little and it wasn’t pretty. Even still, my instinct to love her prevailed: 
Coming face-to-face with her angry mug shot, I was reminded that living in her own skin is worse than any punishment I could ever possibly wish on her. That still didn’t stop me from looking her in the eye and hollering at my computer screen, “You wanna kick my ass now? BRING IT!!!”  

I wouldn’t have had the balls to even think that, let alone say it to her face when I was a kid. But since then, I’ve learned to stand up for myself. Thankfully, I’ve also learned that you don’t kick people when they’re down. 

You love them. 
Loving J was easier when the news of her assault was a tiny blurb with the most incriminating details omitted. Harder when racial bias became a factor in her crime; even harder still when photos emerged of her beautiful victim’s mutilated face; when a woman who had been similarly beaten posted that she was reliving her own PTSD just by reading about the incident.

More accurately, remembering to love J was easier when information was obfuscated. As the story evolved and grew, as critical mass focused its attention on the unconscionable nature of her acts (or heroic, according to one reprehensible chat room) the harder it became to see J as anything other than a monster.

Whenever I am unable to separate a person from his or her actions, I remind myself that we all come into this world as babies. There isn’t child who wakes up one morning and spontaneously decides, “I’m gonna kick your ass today!” Those are learned words. Violence is an observed behavior, the symptom of a larger epidemic.

I have all sorts of thoughts on the matter, but my 700 words are just about up. Tune in next time when we’ll talk more about this subject, how it relates to current events in Savannah and some possible tools and solutions.

In the meantime, let’s all do our best to try and love each other, if only because it’s how we will want to be treated the next time we are caught at our lowest.

Originally published in Connect Savannah (p. 55)