“One of the great attractions of patriotism — it fulfills our worst wishes. (As individuals or as nation), we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what’s more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous.” — Aldous Huxley
I am so ashamed. In a recent article, I told how I, as the drummer for my middle school Honor Guard, “accidentally bashed a bully in the face with my snare drum after he punched me hard in the chest for no reason. It was a lie.
I don’t like lies, even little white ones. As a result, all this week I’ve been sleepless, hands shaking, eyes bloodshot, feet swollen — miserable. Out of a vague sense of virtue, I feel obliged to tell you what really happened.
But, before coming clean to the world, it is probably worth taking a moment to talk about how virtuous people who are not normally liars (except, that is, for golfers and fishermen) get trapped in their own lies.
Things happen in life, like getting bullied. When these things happen, in hindsight you wish you had shown some backbone. But you didn’t. You froze.
In retelling the thing, however, you say what you should have said or would have done. You lie.
To the point, there is nothing more sickening to a man of profound virtue than his own crockpot lie, slow cooked in cowardice, righteous indignation, and seasoned with vengeance.
So, as I wrote, one long ago afternoon, as I stood at the big front doors before a convo waiting to rat-a-tat-tat the Honor Guard in, this big bully walked up and hit me for nothing ... and laughed. That part is true.
But my reaction is not like I said it was. I said I smashed him across his face with my snare drum. But, I didn’t have the guts. I just grabbed where he hit me and looked down and away from him, too scared to make eye contact.
Lucky for me, though, the school principal had purchased a laser-guided, Invisible Potato Gun drone (IPG) programmed to zap kids who were late to class, improperly dressed, or who bullied other students. The IPG splatted a potato against the wall, barely an inch from the bully’s head.
The terrified bully took off running. The Guard guys gave chase. As the bully scuttled underneath a teacher’s desk, a guardsman caught him by his flailing heels. I cheered.
One guy had a loaded water pistol and, without going into the gory details, SQUIRT!, he shot the bully between the eyes. A gathering student mob cheered. But that’s not the whole story.
False virtue is often the source of self-destruction. You know, it’s like someone once said: ”false patriotism is the hiding place of scoundrels.” Or something like that.
Anyway, I later became so entangled in my”tough guy” lie about hitting the guy with my drum I felt obligated to keep telling it. To make it even more real, I decided to try out the drum on a few kids.
It worked. If a kid said something to me I didn’t like, I’d slam the drum across his or her face. Pretty soon, it didn’t take much of anything to provoke me.
Some unsuspecting kid would say ”hello,” and BLAM!, right across the face with the drum I now carried at all times. To be honest, it felt good to be the new bully at school.
Next thing you know, an IPG potato comes out of nowhere and smashes just past my head into the wall. Well, lickety-split, I dashed for safety. I heard the angry shouts of a gathering mob of virtuous classmates.
They caught me. Some kid grabbed me by my heels and started dragging me down the hallway. Other kids took turns whacking me across the face, head and back.
I was all but out of it when I saw the principal’s face. Bloodshot eyes. Twisted lips. His big toe throbbing as his miserable feet burst through leather and shoe laces.
It was then I saw the huge spit ball he held high above his head before bringing it down hard on my head. That, and the sound of students cheering, is the last thing I remember. As the old folks say, what goes around, comes around. Now that’s the truth.
Have a nice day.
Primus Mootry is an Anderson resident. His columns appear each Wednesday.