Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Words matter

I believe that politics tends to bring out the absolute worst in people, and as my friends know, I really dislike the entire long, drawn-out political process with all the hateful ads and endless, pointless debates.

I didn’t always detest politics. In fact, when George McGovern ran for president, I was pretty active and vocal in my school’s election activities the way only a 12 year old who is trying to become her own person can be. I had gotten a POW/MIA bracelet*, and was fervently anti-war so I supported McGovern 100%. I don’t  remember who my parents supported in that election, but my younger brother was an avid Nixon supporter as were most of the kids at his school and mine (just like their parents, I guess).

That year I attended a junior high school kind of known for violence. We had a lot of race-based fights, enough so that forks and knives had been removed from the school cafeteria so we could only eat with spoons. I saw girls wearing the giant hoop earrings so popular then, the kind that touched your shoulders have those same earrings torn out of their ears during fights. That's one of the reasons I’ve never worn big earrings.

We also had a lot of bomb threats, one or two a month most months. I’m pretty sure those were tied to test days, but the police department and the school had to take them seriously. Clearing the school would always take about an hour so we’d stand outside in the heat or cold and just wait.

The bus ride to and from school was similarly challenging. The bad kids, the ones I feared, always sat in the back of the bus. They’d yell or throw things and generally just act intimidating toward the rest of us, so I made sure I got to the bus line early so I could sit up front.

One day during the election season, I was late boarding the bus and had to sit in the back, smack in the middle of those boys. I kept my head down and hoped they would ignore me, but that wasn’t the case. They started saying mean things about me, about me supporting McGovern, and calling me names. Then they started spitting on me. Yes, spitting on me. The bus driver either didn’t notice or didn’t care and so I sat, getting spit upon for that endless ride home.

I managed to hold in my tears until I got home. I ran in the front door dropping my coat and books as I headed for the bathroom to wash my hair. I remember telling my brother that this was how people who believed the way he did behaved. I don’t remember anything else ever happening as a result of that ride.

That incident didn’t dissuade me from voting. In fact, I’ve voted in every election I’ve been eligible to vote in ever since. But I remain very private about my political beliefs and wish others would too. If you start ranting about your beliefs, I’m likely to just walk away, and I will most definitely ignore everything you're saying.  

*As an aside, my POW was an Air Force officer and I got to see his return on TV. I lost the bracelet when my house was burglarized so I no longer have it, and don't remember his name. 


Magpie said...

Horrible boys. I'm sorry they were so rotten.

I wear my heart on my sleeve; right now the curbstrip in front of our house is a riot of signs for the candidates we support. But I will not be nasty, I will not call someone a dumb moron for supporting another candidate.

kittiesx3 said...

I can get behind that kind of political expression. It's all the name calling and insults that I won't tolerate.

Judith said...

Which junior high school was that? I must have amnesia. Was it in PA?

kittiesx3 said...

Nope, it was in Lexington at Beaumont Junior High.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I have a story like that -- not quite so bad, though -- from high school. Ick.

I'm sure I'm an offender here, and I'm sorry about it. It's a little too easy to get carried away. But I don't have signs out -- I don't want to have to explain to my neighbor why I think the local candidate she supports is a lunatic. (There really is a candidate for school board here who is running on a platform of overthrowing capitalism. I don't think she has a lot of support, though. People actually do want their school board to focus on the schools, it seems.)