One of the nice things that has happened since I started my own site on WordPress, is that I’ve becomes aware of other people who write about important subjects honestly and movingly. One such blogger, who I follow regularly, is K.S. (Kimberly) Bowers who is a very talented writer, also deeply involved with women’s issues and with issues of abuse towards women. She wrote a particularly moving post this week called:
, which heart-breakingly discusses her own experiences of being sexually abused as a child, within a Christian community and how the community failed her. It moved me so much that I commented there. Please check out Kimberly’s site, because I think her writings will move you and inform you as well. She writes beautifully, in a way that I can only admire and not equal. In the back and forth of our comments on that post I was reminded of the last post I did at Jonathan Turley’s blog.
I was surprised to discover that I hadn’t published it here on my own site. It belongs here because it represents my mantra of living and because it explains why I write. I’ve said before that as a writer I’m a journeyman at best, but what I do well that seems to resonate with people, is that I’m open about my feelings and I’m passionate in my beliefs. This post is the basic philosophy (naive perhaps) that I’ve lived my life by:
Unlike some childhood memories there is a particular memory associated with this title of this piece that is indelibly etched in my mind. So much so that as I write this I can see the scene in my mind’s eye and in my chest feel anew the power of the emotional experience. I will relate it to you as I remember and feel it, then explain how it has had ramifications for my entire life and upon my perspective of the environment I live in.
I was eight years old, so it was 1952 and I was at the dining room table of my parent’s apartment in the Fresh Meadows section of the borough of Queens, in New York City. We lived in a two bedroom, one bath, garden apartment on the first floor. Altogether it was about 600 square feet and was occupied by my parents, my big brother and my maternal grandmother, who had Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. My brother and I shared one bedroom with our grandmother. The apartment was not well-furnished, but kept spotlessly by my mother, who completely cleaned it every day, as she “popped” nitroglycerin pills for her bad heart condition. My mother had often told me that “The Doctor’s didn’t want me to have you because it would make me sick, but I wanted you so much I didn’t listen”. It was a tough burden she laid on me, probably unknowingly, but it weighed heavily on my young mind.
One of my great fears of childhood was that my misbehavior would “kill” my mother. I thought of myself as being a bad boy, because my mother used her illness to control my behavior and typically I remember her with a hand over her heart telling me not to do something, which most children normally did. It was only after my parent’s death, that an Aunt told me that I was the best behaved boy she had ever known and wished that her two sons were as well behaved. It would have been nice to know that when I was young because I certainly neither knew, nor understood that and constantly would internally rebuke myself about my bad behavior. I worked with this over and again through my years of being in psychotherapy. I had lived that “bad boy” image outside of the house and in school. My life, before I met my wife some 35 years ago, was a life lived on the edge. At the point I found my wife, the reality I’d learned from therapy had taken hold and I had come to see that rather than the “outlaw” life I lived, I was really just a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn.
On the table I had spread copies of newspaper because I was painting a model airplane that I had built. There was a feeling I can remember from childhood, that I describe as sort of a “pleasant hum”, resonating inside me that day. It was a wonderful feeling that I associate with the summer and the first day without school, as I would go outside into the Sun and play. It is a feeling of excitement and quiet contentment all at once. I felt that “hum” as I painted that model. A sudden sound from the street startled me and I clumsily spilled over the small bottle of paint on the table. My mother saw it and screamed at me, telling me that I could never paint in the house again since I was so clumsy. The paint had only spilled upon newspaper, I thought in anguish at her getting so upset. Something impelled me to run out of the house and down the street away from my mother and the constriction I felt. I ran for five blocks and arrived at a traffic circle on 188th Street. I knew that circle because it was a grassy area surrounded by hedges. In its center was a memorial stele dedicated to the first soldier to die in the Korean War. The soldier was the big brother of my big brother’s best friend. The tears of rage and sadness at the unfairness of my mother’s attack were flowing and became sobs. Afraid of people seeing me crying, I lay down on the grass next to the hedge, hidden from view and cried for a time.
In my mind I reviewed what had happened and the unfairness of my life. I felt the hurt of being accused of being bad, when it was just the accident of a child. I thought of my life in school and the older bullies who would pick on me in the schoolyard. I thought of my father, a large man with big hands, who when he got angry at me for some infraction would slap me on my face. Conviction grew in me as I cried and I thought about it being wrong for adults to pick on children the way they do and I vowed that I would never forget these feelings that I was having then, when I grew up. And then: In my mind, lying against the hedge, this thought grew and gained power. It became a command.
Don’t Hurt Little People!
Don’t Hurt Little People!
Don’t Hurt Little People!
Don’t Hurt Little People!
At age eight the tests in the elementary school had shown that I was reading at the level of a high school senior, which was far above the rest of my peers. I devoured books at that age and my parents, who had some things wrong, were right when they let me read anything I wanted to. So for an eight year old, I had a very precocious world view. Don’t Hurt Little People in my mind that day expanded to the entire world that I was then aware of. Don’t Hurt Little People expanded to the injustices those with power perpetrated upon people without power.
This was the year my father took me to see the movie High Noon , starring Gary Cooper. The movie had a great effect on my impressionable mind. It was about a Marshal facing a gang of bad men out to kill him and having none of the townspeople stand up for him, going it alone until he kills the last one and rebuffs their lame attempt to congratulate him. He rides away into the sunset, with his bride. My tears abated and I saw myself as the Marshal fighting against injustice and Don’t Hurt Little People! became my metaphor for fighting injustice and cruel behavior, despite the odds, or the opprobrium of those around me. The movies award winning, stirring theme song, which I’ll put at the end of this post, was a song that as time went on I would imagine in my mind in times of stress and danger. It comforted me and it kept reminding me of the resolution I had made that day through my tears. In my own child’s mind I substituted some of the lyrics which you’ll hear in the soundtrack below.
“Do not forsake me Oh my good luck,
Not on this a dangerous day,”
Since those who’ve read my stuff know that I’m not a religious man, I do believe somehow that my karma has protected me in my life with really good luck in times when I was really in need. For instance, I was about to die more than five years ago and I received a heart transplant in record time and it was performed by the best transplant surgeon and human being, in the country. And yes, as I was being wheeled into the operating room, prepped and about to be put under, that song was reverberating in my mind.
As I grew and learned more about the world, that original concept expanded to take in all of the injustices that humans with power perpetrate upon humans without power. This is how I’ve tried to live my life and this is the deep emotional basis of all my political and social beliefs. I am grounded not in any of the philosophical pontificating of people who would develop systems to cast this world in their own models, but in that one little thought from an unhappy child. Don’t Hurt Little People! As Rabbi Hillel the Elder supposedly said: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn”.