Saturday, February 23, 2013

I Still Remember All Their Names

To This Day from To This Day on Vimeo.

Though almost a half-century now separates me from those days of primary and high school, i can still remember the names of my many tormentors. I haven't thought of those days for some time - the memories still retain so much hurt and isolation. And as i listen to our eleven-year-old tell stories of being picked-on, singled-out for ridicule and bullied, i am forced to remember what i had to put up with. Nor did reporting the countless daily indignities to my parents elicit any relief. i can't recall how and if i reported these indignities, though i expect i tried. What i remember most clearly, if also sadly, is that schooling was place that i was utterly on my own and alone. My good marks served to satisfy my parents that i needed little, if any, attention. My primary schooling happened in a Montreal suburb for which i have less than no affection. I was one of the kids who lived furthest from school and therefore required busing. Public school was denominational and i was enrolled in an English Catholic school. We were bused along with the kids who went to the French Catholic school and who were dropped off first before the bus proceeded to the next school. This was a twice-a-day arena for French-English combat which meant starting every school day with stress and fatigue from trying to survive that wretched commute. And it bookended every day with the same. My primary school days were a war zone i lived between the refuge of my boundless curiosity and our own pathetic version of Lord of the Flies. Thinking back on those bleak years i know that i learned then as much about the capacity for human cruelty, disregard and neglect as i would ever learn. It laid down a template (or perhaps a measuring rod) that i was able to use to understand the more catastrophic examples of human cruelty - from the Armenian genocide (which i learned about from some Armenian neighbours and their grandmother who was my piano teacher for a time) to the Holocaust and so much more. Though i was able to learn the vocabulary of psychology and, later, class (i.e.marxism), with which to reinterpret those years and "see" the context of oppression that structured the sad choices we made, the hurt of those years still lives in me. And, while J'net and i counsel our eleven-year-old with patience and love, when i think of what lies in store for our four-year-old, i am undone. I don't know what choices i will make when it comes time to think about sending our wee one into the public school system. But from the vantage of remembering what almost killed me as a child, i am, to say the least, reluctant to think about sending a child into that world (albeit it seems slightly improved from what i suffered). I obviously have much more thinking to do on all this.

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