Monday, April 9, 2012

Damaged Ones - Tale 3, "The Thriller"

(Originally writtern Tuesday, September 12, 2006; the events described would have taken place in the early 1980s.)

This will come as a shock, I'm sure, but I've never been within spitting distance of what you would call "hip." I've always been a couple steps out of phase of the rest of the band... which is fine when you're in 4/4 time. D'oh... there I go again! (You see, it's not really cool to know too much about band!)

But things do change; I have come a long way since the sixth grade and my violent opposition to popular music. What... you didn't hear about the time I bit a kid on a field trip over "Thriller"? Well, sit back:

It was a Christian school in Phoenix, and my parents had sent me there because they didn't like the friends I was making in public school. At the scandalous age of 9, I was learning dirty words and dirty jokes on the playground, MAD magazines were showing up in my school bag, and I was showing signs of interest in female genitalia, so they were worried about my influences.

I spent three years in the Northwest Community Christian School, and to be brutally honest.... it wasn't Christian enough for me! You see, I was Born Again at age 11, which made my family very proud, and I meant it. I was a True Believer, right down to my Holy socks, and it made me angry to see the other kids around me at this supposedly "Christian" school constantly reveling in everything Satan put out in the world to tempt them -- slasher movies, raunchy TV shows, naughty magazines and book, and worst of all Rock music!

I proudly listened only to Family Life Radio, where every night Dr. James Dobson would talk on Focus on the Family about the dangers of letting your children be exposed to harmful and worldly things. I took every word to heart.

 You have to give me credit: I was genuinely worried about my classmates. I honestly believed that their souls were in jeopardy, and that they would end up running around campus with their pants down, setting fire to cars and buildings, doing drugs while they mutilated pets... picture Bill Murray, a la Ghostbusters -- "Dogs and cats, living together... Mass Hysteria!"

That was my fear.

And then came the field trip. One of the girls in my class was the daughter of an extremely wealthy construction mogul in the area, and he sponsored a field trip to his house for our class, complete with a fleet of limousines for the students. Looking back, this makes no sense; I have no idea what the educational value was in tramping about on his huge estate looking at his antique car collection and his enormous pool. But, there we were, and on the way back to the school, someone discovered the radio.

There were several of us in the car: my friends Robert and Scott, and the class bully, Todd. Upon discovering the controls for the radio, they promptly tuned in a Top 40 station. I protested... arugments flew... and I accused them all of loving Satan. This may be where the break-down in civility occured.

Somehow I ended up pinned to the back seat by Scott, while Robert cranked the volume. "I love this song," he crowed. It was "Thriller". You have to understand that in my mind "Thriller" represented everything that was wrong with our society at that time. It was about zombies (the undead, a tool of Satan), it encouraged dancing (think "Church Lady"), and worst of all: Michael Jackson was a Jehovah's Witness!!!

Yeah, lame. But I was so mad that I leaned up and bit a chunk out of Scott's sternum.

In retrospect, it was extremely stupid, and for so many reasons. But until it happened, I didn't realize what a completely unreasoning dogmatic prick I was growing into. Receiving four swats from the principal of the school (I pleaded with him that I was defending the faith while he tried valiantly not to laugh at me) was a wake-up call.

That certainly wasn't the point where I started questioning God. That wouldn't come for at least another 5 years.  But it was the point where I began to doubt myself. It was the point where I realized that being "saved" did not wrap one in a blanket of righteousness where I could do no wrong.  It did, however, wrap my in self-righteousness, and made me an insufferable prick.

I can still be an insufferable, self-righteous prick, but thanks to that experience I learned to watch for the danger signs. When I first discovered Socrates - "it is not in the nature of things that a bad man should injure one better than himself" - I thought back to the kid I was in that limo.  A kid so sure that my attitude and actions were justified, that I could physically assault someone out of righteous rage.

I don't bite people anymore. It's not a very Christian thing to do, of course.  But more importantly, it isn't moral.

But I still don't really care much for Michael Jackson.

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