On Being "Thin Skinned", as opposed to Just "Skinned"

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ Our Forum ] [ FAQ ]

Posted by parhad ( on October 08, 2001 at 08:53:41:

I had a kid come to our group home in Seattle once fresh out of prison. Well, they don't call it a prison...this one was called "Maple Lane"...and the cell blocks were "Cottages". I can't remember his name, he didn't last long. The day I picked him up the five other boys and I were off to the mountains for a weekend camping trip. I'd gotten the notion that we all needed to be stranded on an island and thought camping out a bit would prepare us for it somehow.

It was strange time of year, even for Seattle. Up north of the city the weather was just turning warm enough to swim in the sparkling and cold rivers. We pitched camp and hiked up a mountain whose top was sheathed in clouds. Hours later we reached the cloud cover to find a magical world of recently fallen snow blanketing everything, and a lot of it too. We were dressed in shorts and though it was cold enough, we were so hot from the climb we didn't mind at all and went running around falling into deep snow banks and having a generally wild time of it. Then snow started falling and everything became still as death, and we quieted down and set off back down the mountain, arriving just as night fell.

The new boy hadn't wanted to make the climb and judging he wouldn't get far if he tried to run away, I'd left him behind. While we'd been off exploring the mountain, he'd built for himself what can only be described as a jail cell. He'd collected driftwood from the river shore and built a kind of cave that he crawled in. He barely had enough room to lie down flat and the "bars" he'd laid crosswise almost touched his nose. You could see him in there looking for all the world like he was upside down on a grill, about to be roasted over a fire.

The next day there was glorious sunshine, the mountain still had clouds at its top but everywhere else there was blue sky and warm sun. The new kid wouldn't come out for breakfast but remained all day lying on his back in his cage. I suppose he felt safer there, to go from a year behind bars to total freedom in the glorious woods and mountains and rivers of Washington State was too hard a transition. That boy, only sixteen years old, carried his own jail around within him...and when that wasn't enough, built one out of anything he could find.

Most of the kids I knew had every good reason in the world to be dysfunctional and mad as hell. They'd been born willy nilly into some of the most god-awful conditions imaginable, conditions which it would be difficult to imagine anyone not being scarred by. If any president or citizen thinks he has the right to bring misery and death to people for some unintended slight or for some benefit to himself and country...then in the Court of Humanity, these boys and girls had every right to extract as much "payback" as they could.

They had the right, but they had only their frail bodies and minds for weapons, and their own lives would be the battlefield...and they would lose. How to convince them, that although I felt they were justified in their fear and rage, it would do them no good, cause them worse harm, if they exacted their "pound of flesh"? It's hard to lie to a kid and tell him he has no good reason to hate the stepfather who raped him and his little sister repeatedly, when they weren't being beaten into submission, or that the hatred he feels can never be taken out on anyone for anything...that this injustice is just something he has to bear for the rest of his life and not let it ruin everything else for him.

It's just as hard to tell the kid the truth...that he has every right to be pissed as hell, and if he could once catch that stepfater alone, anything he wanted to do to him in return would be justified. You have to walk somewhere in between...the injustice was exactly that, but to seek revenge would mean destroying yourself even further.

The kid built himself a jail when he was "freed", because he really wasn't free at all. Many people live behind walls like that...build their own jail cells or never leave the ones they were put into. Most don't even see the iron bars and get accustomed to thinking the bars are on the world instead of in their own eyes.

Assyrians have suffered terribly, been the victims of countless injustices and brutality. But that isn't all they've known. Yet we go on behaving as if someone still opresses us, when it's only us, opressing each other and ourselves. We're still locked into a cell of memories and fear, of feelings of inadequacy and victimization. We build our own cages and walk around in them, long after we've been freed.

This country has in its Laws and policies so many ways we could benefit ourtselves and our people and Heritage. Yet we let them all go by, preferring instead to claw at one another like so many inamtes of an asylum, or a prison where we're locked together at the behest of some "Man" who we try to appease and curry favor with. We "rat" on each other, turn each other in for minor offences, because there isn't much else we have to do... we allow ourselves to do.

The "rebel" is never free...he just squirms and lashes out and fights against the rope that holds him, or the bars that lock him in. When that rope or those bars are internal, of ones own making, then the thrashing and chafing can only lead to disaster because you take the rope and bars with you wherever you go.

To be free is to cut the rope, to leave the cell behind. But the cell and rope are within...and to leave them behind, you have to leave them behind. That is the most difficult thing to do because it seems you must leave a part of "You" behind, deny who "You" are. But it isn't really "You" at all, no matter how used you've become to prison garb and how comfortable you think that jail cell is.

That kid never once went for a swim or a hike, or sat around the campfire with us. And after a week at our home, he ran away and did what he had to do in order to go back to prison, back to where he could be "him".

Follow Ups:

Post a Followup




Optional Link URL:
Link Title:
Optional Image URL:

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ Our Forum ] [ FAQ ]