I think I don't understand "childhood innocence." As I recall, kids can be cruel sometimes. They mirror some of the most vicious and uncivil behavior, like in "Lord of the Flies." The funny thing is, when I was assigned that book as a young teen to read, I read it and went, "So... a bunch of stranded kids go nuts." This seemed normal to me. I didn't find the book horrifying or shameful, but I quickly learned I was supposed to be because my English teacher at the time gave me a D. I was apparently not outraged enough, and thus, she assumed I didn't actually read the book. My argument was, "This seems like a normal setup of events in that kind of situation." I just now asked CR if he read the book, and he had the same opinion. "Yeah, kids are mean."
Bullies were like animals I avoided. They were angry animals, out to hunt me for my lunch and feasted from my shame at my many differences. I just heard from a former classmate about one of my bullies, who was not a strong person on his own, but had enough of his pals on the swim team to make for a gang of sick and twisted freaks. Luckily THESE guys were only taunters to me. I think their only physical punishing was pushing me down the hall, tripping me, or grabbing my arm so my books went everywhere.
"[Bully] and some pack of his asshole friends shooting something in the muddy clearing at the end of Davidson road. Raised by serious liberal parents, [a mutual friend] stops and gets out of her car and asks WHAT THE HELL THEY ARE DOING shooting the corpse of a squirrel over and over. They then turn their gun/s on her and she high tails it out of here."
I watched some of those same guys beat up a grammar school kid who couldn't have been more than 10 near a baseball field on Lemon Road. Maybe the kid was asking for a beating, I don't know, but they were mercilessly pounding the kid, and then they'd pause to give him the illusion he could get away, and then they'd push him down and start all over again. One of them was signing Queen's "We Are the Champions" while he kicked the kid on the ground. Then one of them pointed a handgun at me and told me to keep moving. And I did. Some of these people were on the Honor Roll. The swim team. Football. Champions, the lot.
This was normal to me. I didn't even grow up in the inner city; I grew up in upper middle class suburbia. That's why I refuse to blame blacks or Hispanics on crime. I refuse to think child abuse and inbred sex is just a "redneck crime." It ALL happens to ALL classes. Some groups just have better PR.
And it seemed the more moral and righteous they were, the crueler and more savage the bullying. Like my friends who went to Catholic School: they spoke of their experiences like veterans speak of battles. But it wasn't just the school. There were kids of famous or rich parents whose lust for dominance and perfection twisted their views into knots of bigotry and hatred. I was a victim of some of these kids, but ultimately, they were victims of themselves. Many turned to drinking. When I heard about President Bush and his drinking hoopla days, it doesn't seem so odd. I knew his type. Dumb, scared, but trying to be top dog anyway because they were trying to impress somebody who didn't pay much attention to them. Frat boy material, floating on daddy's coattails, and not forging their own paths as much as standing tall in the ruts left by others.
I was not innocent, either. I am no faultless martyr. I once beat FJ Huber's head to the driveway over an argument about Matchbox and Hot Wheel cars. I used to tease my neighbor, John Wickland, mercilessly. I once called an Asian kid "flat face," and beat up a mentally retarded kid because he threw gravel in my face. I knew where Andy Oman hid the neighborhood porn stash, and knew the boy scouts that sold pot. All before the age of 11.
When "South Park" started showing programs, I used to laugh because we all were dirty little bastards sometimes. The innocent child was just a face we showed authority, and all kids I knew led double lives: the lives in front of authority and the lives with our friends. No wonder we all liked comics; almost every hero had some alter ego. "Mild mannered Clark Kent," or "Young boy Peter Parker." Most were reporters or scientists in their "normal lives," and we could relate with their quest to understand events around us. Yet we strove for greatness, wanted to be heroes to the "normals" around us; the adults. We saved the day. Pat Carlton saved his older sister Mickey from falling out of a moving car, and got written up in "Boy's Life." Reka Coves started a campaign to put bird shadows on huge pane glass windows so birds would stop smacking into them, and was in National Geographic. Me? I wanted to use my telekinetic powers to smash bullies into walls. Carrie was my idol...
But innocent? Innocence is inexperience, and kids are certainly not inexperienced. They know more than you think, and anyone who wants to "shield children from the truth" are just fooling themselves.