During my middle school years, at the same time my uncle died, I experienced the lesson of Job for the first time. The lesson of Job is of course a recognition that justice doesn’t exist and there is no order, no big other who wishes to or can make things right. These are the years when smaller male students spend their lunch money on “insurance” to ensure that they would be less likely to be harassed, humiliated, or beaten. I witnessed horrendous behavior. I lacked resources to understand or cope with the experience perhaps due to a more privileged and unworldly upbringing. However, when students arrive to seventh grade on motorcycles, control the classroom, and beat a teacher, one learns this isn’t a serious school, not even to socialize a generation. To me, my landing in the classroom of this school seemed to have been a practical joke. I was made clear that it wasn’t when even the bus ride was a place for intimidation and acting out family desperation.
While in middle school, I took trumpet lessons. My dad, and uncles, all of them, played the trumpet. One uncle played at clubs and weddings. The lifestyle got to him or he sought the lifestyle and drank and smoked himself to death. What was important for me was first, my entering the “men’s club” of music in my family and the ten years of playing, even if it weren’t as serious as it should have been on my part, gave me an appreciation of sound, music, and rhythm. My early idea was to write words and lyrics for music groups. However, my friends who played music in high school went off to Vietnam. My interest in writing music faded quickly when entering college for music I recognized how I had wasted whatever talent I had by not taking the trumpet lessons seriously earlier on. My fellow musicians at college were far superior to me which discouraged me even further from moving in this direction. The music gave me a sense of rhythm when writing, but my solace, again, were words.
I was a skinny suburban boy with two sisters to “protect,” who was about to meet the progeny of WWII’s post-traumatic stressed veterans. At this time, soldiers and veterans were considered cowards to admit to the distress. They were even encouraged to take their own lives if they couldn’t handle the stress. Instead vets tortured their own families and police would escape involvement by saying, “It is a family matter.” Those children would come to school along with those who simply hadn’t eaten or having been abused and shamed for a host of other reasons. Learning would not go on here and anything that purports to have been teaching was a charade. Freud hadn’t arrived in the USA. Needless to say, I learned what I needed to learn: education is not something that is given to you. That exercise was one done on your own. If anyone there had an education, it wasn’t being used or given away. I write this today assured. However, I was certainly traumatized by the experience.