Summer Short 6
Looking into Mirrors

The news is full of reports of kids being bullied to the point of attempting suicide. People always seem quite shocked by the cruelty that’s happening in America’s schools and playgrounds. I’m baffled by their shock. Nothing new is going on here.

When I was growing up, I lived across the street from the exact doppelgänger of Farkus from A Christmas Story. No joke. Ask anyone who grew up on Fieldston Road who remembers seeing the original Star Wars movie in the theater, say 8 or 9 times. Red hair, freckles, BB gun loaded and ready to shoot at any small creature from his bedroom window. He was your basic nightmare. I heard he had done some hard time later in life which would surprise no one who knew him when he was 13.

But unlike the cyber, cowardly anonymous bullies of today, Michael Richards was your no frills, in your face kind. A real Green Beret of a bully. With computers still a seed in the adolescent mind of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, Michael had to rely on good old fashioned physical torture. That’s not to say there wasn’t a pyschological element involved. I lived in constant fear of being pinned to the ground and given the worst Indian burn imaginable on a daily basis.

I always was aware of where Michael was at any given time so I could either avoid him or breathe a sigh of relief that he wasn’t around so I could move on with my life. Roam about the yard and neighborhood freely back when kids didn’t need Vitamin D supplements. Sometimes we would actually play with him too. Ok, more like forced. One of the games he’d make us play was called “Runover.” He would be on his bike, we would stand on either side of the road between our houses and run from one curb to the other as he tried to “run us over” with his bike. Good times.

When he was being punished, which was more often than not, he would call us over from his bedroom window and drop coins or candy to lure us closer to him and then try to spit on us or dump water on us. This was another good one.

Being a parent today, I imagine being Michael’s parents was hard but I surmised after years of living across the street from them that having The Richards as parents must have been harder.

Many cliches are true. “Kids can be so cruel” is absolutely one of them. But we hear it and go, “Yeah, so true,” and let it slide right past us, unexamined. But children are not inherently cruel. Children are mirrors. They are pebbles. They do not act how we tell them to act at school assemblies. They act how we really act. They say what we say. The believe what we believe. They are cruel if we are cruel. It’s quite predictable really. It’s trickle-down cruelty.

Which is why I am not shocked that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for President. Saddened and embarrassed? Absolutely. I mean, am I the only one who thinks it is important for the rest of the world to think we are smart and classy? But I am not shocked. Because Donald Trump is a mirror. Maybe not the mirror we thought we were looking into, maybe not the mirror we want to look into but his reflection is looking back at us nonetheless.

Donald Trump is a mirror and he is also a brick.