Jun 13 • 3M

Childhood Bullies

Why did I forget this terrible thing?

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Poetry, fiction, and essays by Sherman a alexie
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I was recently texting and reminiscing with my childhood reservation friend. He was the inspiration for Victor in our movie, Smoke Signals. He and I texted about joy and loss.

And he reminded me of "corn-dogging,” a phenomenon that happened when we were kids on the rez.

The rez bully boys would corn-dog you when they shoved things (fingers, fists, pencils, baseball bat handles, any projectile) into your asshole when you bent over. It would always be through your pants so there was no penetration. But it was still as bruising and painful as hell. We bullied kids had to bodyguard for one another when we drank from the water fountains.

How did I forget this terrible thing? Why did I forget this terrible thing?

I asked other men, white and Indian, if this happened to them in their communities, in their childhoods, and they spoke of the varieties of pain that boys exclusively inflict on boys.

Everywhere you go, men murder men.

To help manage my bipolar disorder, I’ve been in Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) for the last four years. DBT teaches us how to “synthesize and integrate opposites,” so I’m going to employ the opposite of rage and revenge, and reach for retroactive empathy.

Nearly all of the worst reservation bullies of my childhood died in their twenties.

So, here, I ask myself an unanswerable question—a question that I hope is kind: What was happening to those Indian boys that made them so violent and so ultimately doomed?