Friday, May 11, 2012

The Boy with the Green Hair

From five years old to age thirteen I attended Garfield School. At that time it enrolled students from Kindergarten to 8th Grade. Being a rather large and sprawling school it had a main entrance for the public and several designated entrances for the students depending on their grade level. Seventh grader got to use the entrance nearest the school’s parking lot on the school’s southeastern corner. It was a convenient walk from the street I walked up to get to school and from the gas station on the corner of Stone and Garfield with its extensive collection of candy and my favorite and frequently purchased cough drops. The only other students that regularly used that particular entrance were the 5th Grade boys serving in the AAA Insurance Company sponsored safety patrol.

One morning, after completing my safety patrol assignment crossing the younger children, I made my way back to the school. The school bell had rung and there were few people entering that door at the moment I spotted the boy with the dyed hair. It was Jack (not his real name). Of course, I considered this rather odd but I had no animosity toward him for doing such a, as my mom would put it, “goofy” thing. I liked Jack and considered him a friend. I don’t recall saying anything to him about the fact his hair was no longer his natural color. We walked through the school doors together and made our way to our classes.

I never saw Jack, again.

Jack didn’t return to school. No one provided any one of the curious an explanation. I even tried going to his home to find out what had happened to him. No one would tell me. The home was deserted not long afterwards. The family moved away.

I liked Jack. I really liked Jack. Even at that young age, I sensed that there was something different about Jack. I suspected that like me, he was keeping a special secret about himself. And, I never got the opportunity to find out if my suspicions were correct. For years, I was bothered by what had happened that day. It was a true mystery that only informed speculation might come close to solving. Through the years, I have looked back and realized two (or more) lessons from the day that Jack dyed his hair. If you have a secret, keep it to yourself. And, if you choose to act out or share that secret you must be prepared for dire consequences.

I don’t know if Jack was gay or just messing about for some needed attention. I imagine he got somebody’s attention, hence a move to a new school, mental institution or somewhere else. And, as I now think back to what happened, I realize it must have contributed to my own fear of being discovered. I feared being beaten, disowned, and sent to “Lapeer”. Just for being queer.

Sometime around the time this all was happening in my young life an old 1948 movie was shown on a daytime or Saturday morning movie show on television. “The Boy withthe Green Hair” was a story about an American orphan whose hair turned green one day. He was shunned. He was persecuted. He was bullied. The movie had an anti-war theme and the Boy with the Green Hair was its messenger. And, we know what sometimes happens to the messenger.

Of course, as a young sensitive queer boy with curly blonde hair, the story moved me, not as much as the movie adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, but it touched my heart nonetheless. Now, if you please, my heart strings are easy to pluck and my Christian education with its many New Testament stories of service and sacrifice and giving have shaped me as a human being. I was taught true Christian values and was, if I may use the term specifically, inspired to seek a career that helped people. I choose to become a teacher partly out of a sense of Christian duty but also because I discovered that I was good at it. It was always satisfying to see those light bulbs going off and the “aha” moments as I taught.

Now, it seems that in another part of Michigan in another school nearly during the same time period, a boy came to school one day with blonde streaks in his hair that fell down over one eye. His Cranbrook peers would have none of it. A young Mitt Romney led the group of rich and privileged brutes in chasing, then holding the boy down on the ground while Mitt cut away the offending locks. Romney was, as are most bullies, never punished for this assault and battery.

That story about Romney is now in the news and will no doubt have a short life and will be soon forgotten. And, honestly, I don’t care if Mitt was young and dumb at that time in his life and that all sorts of folks have dismissed this as trivial. I don’t. Bullies, bigots, and fabricators don’t change as they grow older.

The High Priest of pandering, the gold medalist in flip-flopping, and the Cranbrook hector is not worthy of the Presidency of the United States. Mitt Romney’s most recent lies about supporting the bailout of the auto industry should give everyone a reason to laugh him off the stage.

But, in Republican land – he’s ………………………….. okay, because he is not Barack Obama. And, he’s white. The magic underwear is all but ignored, as well………..

Winter is coming. And, it may last 8 long years and more if Mitt is elected.

The boy that Mitt bullied passed away a few years back. Perhaps, if I am lucky and persistent, I may someday find out what happened to my boy with the green hair. He was a great kid and I hope he has lived long enough to become an accomplished and happy adult.

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