Sometimes, I look back on my time as a child and ask myself, How the hell did you get to this point in your life without being murderer for being such a little jerk? In my defense, I was the butt of a lot of jokes, a lot of which have been covered in previous stories, but like most stories, there’s always another side to the coin. There are a lot of responses that a kid can have to being bullied, but one of the more ridiculous ones was one that I once gave a shot: bullying other people back. However, as the communication savvy young man I’ve always been, I made sure that I had a getaway, and what better getaway can you have other than the word of Jesus Christ? I mean, people have used him for years to do super shiesty things: all the way from the Crusades to Chick-Fil-A investments. And how am I to judge any of those people, when I, myself, have used the Lord as a weapon of destruction.
Eighth grade is hard; I was at the peak of my wind breaker phase, and my self-esteem was at an all time low. Other than having an exceptionally close relationship with my teachers, a weekly appointment with the guidance counselor to talk about my acute depression, and an anchor role on “Cherokee Television,” I didn’t really have a lot going for me. I didn’t have a claim to fame for anything other than being the face for “Homeroom Feud” and having exceptionally thick lensed glasses.
When asked if I could go back to any point in my life, which part would it be, I responded, “I don’t know, but it wouldn’t be middle school.” Middle schoolers are mean, mean people that have just started to understand some of the diversities and differences of the world. We’ve graduated into the internet and the dangerous things we can do with instant messaging and Myspace, and we loved nothing more than tearing each other down, so when presented with the opportunity to do the tearing, as opposed to being the one torn upon, I jumped on it. I wasn’t apart of any of the official planning, but when approached in the hallway by the local preacher’s daughter, who was also one of the more popular girls, I followed. That’s just what you do as a middle schooler: you follow the “powerful.” She pointed out our [literal] target: Charlotte Howard.
I had known Charlotte Howard since kindergarten. She had always been the straight laced girl pressed upon way to heavily by her parents. No Rugrats because Angelica was mean; she was allowed to watch Veggie Tales and Wishbone for their religious and intellectual potential, respectively. Looking back on the situation as a twenty-two year old, I probably would have thrown up a middle finger to everything I had known, too. Middle school welcomed a whole new lifestyle for Charlotte: to quote one, Jay-Z, she had “black cards, black cars, all black everything.” She had denounced God and befriended our school’s token Atheist from California. Yeah, California. Essentially, Charlotte had seemingly overnight become the middle school bully’s dream. And in an attempt to alleviate a little pressure off my overweight, nerdy, completely uncool self, I joined in.
Emily handed me a pencil, a light blue piece of unsharpened wood adorned with a Bible verse I can’t seem to recall, and told me the plan. Once she walked out of class, we would set it all into action, and we would end it by taking our weapons and pummeling the demons right out of her. She came around the corner, and I looked down at the pencil, and it was as if future Justin was speaking to pathetic, tiny 8th grade Justin, Dude, look at what you’re doing. Are you seriously going to d– It was too late. The pencil went flying, and we followed with a total mockery of the very thing we were supposedly representing, Jesus, loves you Charlotte! What. had. I. done.
The next day, we were all called to the principal, completely ignorant that we would be called in for something other than an award or accomplishment… especially considering that we were all called in together. So it was quite the surprise that we were all up for pending sanctions for religious harassment, which fell under the Zero Tolerance policy. If it hadn’t been for Charlotte, we would have all been suspended. And the irony of it all, is that her “attackers” are now a bisexual, two known lesbians, a college drop out, and a retail worker. God, the actual merciful one… not the one that we supposedly represented, only knows what kind of hell we were all going through at the time that we decided to do it, because I will stand by the idea that we only exhibit hate toward others because of the insecurities and doubts that we have in ourselves.
When thinking back on the whole charade, I’m sure that it reads as something with a little bit of humor, and even to Charlotte, the story tends to bring a smile to her face, but for me, it’s probably one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever done. After eighth grade, I never went back to another youth group, and I found the God that I worship on my own terms. Charlotte and I just graduated from college together, and somehow along the way, we kind of met in the middle of the Christian/Satanic continuum, if you will. But to quote Saved!, “The Bible is not a weapon!” I just wish that more young, enthusiastic Christians had been sent into Sherry Hensely’s office to shed a little light on the differences between witnessing and full blown alienation.