What people forget is that children are cruel. Openly, undeniably, and wrathfully cruel. We treat them as innocent, honest, and open-hearted little things to protect. What we forget is that size aside, what really sets them apart from us is that they are simply naive.
In grade school I remember how they would make fun of him. A boy who memory tells me was Bosnian or some such, with two of his fingers cut off into stumps at the halfway point. It didn’t matter why. It didn’t matter if some cruel bastard had cut them off, if some accident had taken them, or some war brought him to that state. All it matter was that he was missing something, and that made him different, that made him unacceptable. He’d often throw in with an Indian kid in the class, stick up for him. A scrawny, near silent kid with a greasy patch of hair on one of his arms that he’d be tormented for. I don’t think I have any memories of him ever talking, but Bosnia made sure to stick up for him instead. They had to stick together to survive, because they were different. Everyone laughed at them, but now those two are one of the few that I’ve bothered to even remember.
Mostly, I remember torment. I remember being teased for crying because I couldn’t spell Czechoslovakia (I still can’t, although the world has seen fit to rename it so that I don’t have to ), for my rag and bone frame, for sobbing after I’d started a brawl over a basketball game. Really, I just didn’t have the words. I didn’t have the words to tell them that there was no way I could even try spelling that, and that I felt pathetic for having to give up after going so far in the class spelling bee. I didn’t have words to defend myself for being different, words to explain that my anger had run out halfway through the fight as I realized and regretted how idiotic it was for me to start it. I didn’t have the words to defend myself when they came to me telling made up stories about how I got my ass kicked, or berated me for crying in regret after the fight.
How do you tell another person that you just feel weak? That you feel embarrassed and upset with yourself for not having the strength to even use your voice? How do you tell them that you refuse to fight with the cruel language children use to compensate for the weakness of their half developed bodies? You can’t. Because once you admit your weakness they can see it. Their eyes become trained on you the same way they did when you would walk out of that class once a week to see the councilor because your attitude was simply not normal.
We are animal. Violent beings who at their very core desire to fight, desire to fight, desire to hunt. In that cage they took away the weapons of our bodies with guilt, shame, and sometimes beatings. They instill in us that we can never win with our fists, because there will always be someone who hits harder to keep you in line. So we fashion weapons out of communication. We use the tools that let us create a society to dominate others as we used to outside of it. We use our intellects to fight the way that we used to with our fists. We inflict damage blow by blow until we no longer need to cause the physical damage ourselves, our target will do it for us.
We move from this microcosm into larger ones, until we are finally adults and into a world so large that it seems that we’ve finally become removed from the childish infighting and cruelty. Truthfully, the petty of us still remain to step into each others lives personally, while the others with the really big fists hit so many of us at the same time that we don’t notice we’ve even been hit until we wake up the next morning covered in bruises.
What people forget is that children aren’t more innocent. They are more naïve. They’re honest because they have to be, and they fight because they are supposed to. These children never stop fighting as they grow up. They simply learn that there are easier ways to make people do what they want.