This is not a typical ''happy'' Dad Blog... so be warned.
It's unfortunate that sometimes the events that shape us have to be traumatic and humiliating. It's even worse when those events remain in your mind on a daily basis 25 or even 50 years after the fact.
Tonight, my wife was watching THE TALK on DVR while I prepped dinner, and a story came on that immediately grabbed my attention. There on the television was Aisha Tyler discussing bullying (not the first time) along with co-hosts Sharon Osbourne, Julie Chen, Sara Gilbert, and Sheryl Underwood. The subject of the conversation was a 73-year-old man named Carl Ericsson who took revenge on a bully from 50 years ago. After carrying with him the psychological damage of being bullied in High School, Ericsson showed up on his bully's porch, rang the doorbell and shot him dead. That my friends, is revenge served cold - and I can respect that. Now I need to explain why.
In the time around 1988-1990-ish, I was bullied... bad. So bad in fact, that my right hand was broken in one assault - so bad that it's never been the same. It still hurts some 25 years later, and if that wasn't reminder enough, I still think about the events of those two years. There is no "letting go" (something that those who've never lived through it just LOVE to suggest - "Just let it go!"), and the thoughts and faces of my attackers live on inside my brain. I'm 35 years old and still thinking of some idiots from Junior High. This, along with a few other highly unusual and fairly traumatic events have shaped my life, for better or for worse.
I've dealt with anxiety, depression, and anger for much of my adult life, and I would be lying to you if I didn't say that every day is a struggle.
My mother, sister, and I were living in the "Co-Ops" (essentially low-income housing) in Park Forest, Illinois in the years following my parents divorce. Almost immediately, it was apparent that we didn't mesh with a lot of the kids and families living in the shithole "Cedarwood" area of the town. Sure, we tried - but after hanging out with a bunch of the other kids one afternoon, the difference in values was made crystal clear: they were thieves and liars. We were not.
On a trip to the now-demolished SEARS store in what was once the Park Forest Plaza, the neighborhood kids were stealing cassette tapes. We wanted no part of it, so my sister and I ditched the group and headed for home. We became the enemies, and word of that spread to the other kids, who seemed to be a fairly tight-knit group of little scumbags.
They beat us. They verbally abused us. They vandalized our home.
The Park Forest Police Department? Walking piles of garbage.
The first thing that the "Detectives" from the Park Forest Police Department would ask is "what did YOU do to provoke such retaliation?" Yes, let's make the bullies into the victims here. It's a lot like asking a rape victim what they were doing to get raped. The Park Forest Police Department treated us like shit - spending more time interrogating my sister and I than doing anything productive.
What it took for them to do anything was for me to have my hand in a cast, courtesy of a mass-beating by several kids after getting off the school bus and having to walk a couple blocks home from the bus stop. Oddly enough, kids on that side of town were bussed over to Steger for school. In my case, it was Steger Central Junior High School, and believe me when I tell you that they were useless as well when it came to dealing with bullies.
On the day of the mass-beatdown, my mother witnessed the attack on my sister and I from her car as she drove to the scene just moments too late. She was trying to make sure that such a thing never happened. In the end, charges were pressed, we went to court in Midlothian, Illinois, and one of the bullies' parents were forced to pay restitution.
That's not enough.
For 25 years, I have been reminded every, single day of those events. I HATE THE KIDS WHO TORMENTED US. I HATE THE OFFICERS OF THE PARK FOREST POLICE DEPARTMENT WHO FAILED AT DOING THEIR JOBS. I HOPE that my children never have to experience what my sister and I went through.
I know that it's not "PC" to hold grudges and wish ill upon others, but I cannot let these feelings go. I wish all the involved all the ill in the world, and can only hope that the past 25 years of their lives have been filled with misery. In fact, if I were to find out now that some (or all) of them were dead? I would be overjoyed. Because what they did to us is unforgivable. Those kids, their parents, and the Park Forest Police Department are responsible for a quarter-century of mental anguish. They owe me a debt that can never be repaid.
Which brings me to Carl Ericsson.
I get it. I'm not saying a condone murder, but I give this man respect for finally facing his bully some 50 years past. I understand what it's like to hold feelings for your entire life, and I can see why he did what he did.
Bullying has to stop.
And for the bullies? I hope they're looking over their shoulders for the rest of their lives.
About James: A work-from-home Dad with a pair of daughters (Released in 2009 and 2012) - James Zahn is THE ROCK FATHER™.
Bringing over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry into the family realm, Zahn is an Illinois-based Entertainment Writer, Media Personality and Commentator.
He serves as a PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent), has made guest appearances as a member of the Sprout Kindness Crew, was featured in the Father's Day issue of Lake County Magazine, and is a former contributor to Chicago Parent.
Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for the likes of FEAR FACTORY, DIRGE WITHIN, PRODUCT OF HATE, ARCANIUM and others, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands.
James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Blogcritics, Fangoria, Starlog, The River Cities' Reader. Slowfish, Oil, and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360, and in 2013 he's been quoted on CNN, Babble, The Huffington Post, and The Good Men Project, in addition to making appearances on ABC News and WGN.
Learn more here.