I’m an immigrant. A legal, tax paying immigrant. I registered for selective service when I turned eighteen, just like every other kid in the USA. I’ve lived here for 39 years and yet I’ve never taken the plunge to become an American. The last time I renewed my ‘green card’ the woman at DHS asked me why I don’t just become a citizen, as I’m beyond eligible to do so. My answer was- “Because I’m English”.
I’m not some uber nationalist British patriot, I don’t wave the Union Jack and I think the royal family are a bunch of money leeching toss pots. But it’s where I’m from, it’s who I am.
So, today I’m not gonna talk about parenting, sex, kids, drugs, marriage or cancer. Today I want to talk about treatment of immigrants from a first hand perspective, the pledge of allegiance in classrooms, institutional and regular bullying, political correctness, and standing for the national anthem. “I’ll take ‘polarizing issues’ for $300, Alec.”
Pleases remember that I’m just a guy telling a story. If you want to ‘discuss’ anything that is in this entry, go to my facebook page and comment on this link. I’m a techno-twat, and haven’t set up the comments up for interaction. See? I’m a bit of an idiot, so don’t get all huffy. Or do, it’s ok. We’re in this love together.
I moved to Bar Harbor, Maine in the summer of 1977 after spending the first ten years of my life moving all over the gaff- I’d been to four different schools by the time I landed in Bar Harbor which would be the start of my fifth grade year.
I was a professional ‘new kid’ at this point, good at making friends quickly, and able to crack a joke so I didn’t constantly get my arse kicked by the ‘let’s fuck with the new kid’ posse. It was the 70’s after all. Kids played hard, and the adults let us. They also weren’t quite as... vigilant about bullying.
I rolled up on the first day of school feeling pretty relaxed. I’d done this shit before and I’d made a couple of friends in the neighborhood, one in particular who introduced me to baseball in the lot behind his house, using a tennis ball with his older brothers. Some of my favorite memories from that time are those wonderfully American days of summer, playing baseball and having my new friend’s mum give us home baked snacks. It was magic to a wandering kid who’d never had a chance for roots to take hold. That family welcomed me with open arms, and I’ll always be thankful to them because they gave me a foundation in a fantastic community and the strength to get through what was coming.
Quick note- if you’re not from Maine, you’re ‘from away’. If your parents are both tenth generation Mainers, and you’re accidentally born over the bridge in Portsmouth, NH when your parents popped over to the tax free liquor store- then you’re ‘from away’. That should set the scene up for ya.
So, yeah, I rolled in feeling good. I got my new buddy, and he’s a cool kid. First thing I notice is the fecking STARING as I walk down the hall for the first time. I mean like I was on fire or naked or something. Proper staring. Then a girl came up to me, and a little posse of her girlfriends kind of took a step closer. I was effectively cornered.
“You’re the foreign kid right? Do you speak English?”
My young and sweary brain said “Oh, for fuck’s sake. Already?!”
I chose not to take the same tack as my brain, “No, I speak Chinese.” I said in the strongest English accent I could muster. They all tittered, and I went to class feeling like I’d cleared the first hurdle.
The boys weren’t as easy, but I was lucky to make a lot of amazing friends, so we don’t need to go in depth to the bullying douchebaggery I was subjected to. Well, except for when I got shoved arse-end into the waste paper basket by two knuckle draggers. I got stuck in there all folded up, and had to roll onto the floor to try and wriggle out. I did this through much finger pointing and laughing, and once out I realized that the seat of my trousers had blown out, exposing my underpants. Cue hysterical laughter, and ten year old me running home crying. But that was an isolated event perpetrated by a couple of shit heels, most of the kids were great.
No, my major bullying came from the school itself. To allow for some slack, I will say that I started off on the wrong foot, to say the least. Here’s how-
A friend of my Mum’s had a copy of a fake Peanuts cartoon that I somehow got my hands on. It was Charlie Brown and Lucy having a chat, and I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. Here’s the dialogue, you’ll have to imagine the very shoddy drawing yourself.
Charlie Brown- Gee, I’d sure like to get in your pants.
Charlie Brown- Because I shat in mine.
Oh, how I larfed and larfed, because you see I was ten. I had no clue that “get in your pants” meant sex, in England ‘pants’ is what we call underpants. I just thought Charlie was showing a hilarious sense of humor, and a good shit/fart joke is manna from heaven to an English boy. Well, and man ;)
“Oooh, Mum! PLEASE can you run me off some copies for my friends?!”
“”Sure.” Said my equally clueless mother who promptly knocked out a stack of 20 or so, which I promptly handed out willy nilly at school, and then very promptly found myself at the administrator’s desk unwittingly receiving the mantle of ‘Foreign Enemy Number One”.
I remember it well. I sat there and took a heated bollocking, about how I had “desecrated an iconic American symbol”. The dude went off. He was deeply offended by my cartoon. And my mum didn’t help, because she didn’t take the same shit he laid on me.
My mother walked in towards the end of the bollocking, giving me the evil eye for being in trouble and getting called to the school from her new job. She was very apologetic to the administrator and let him tell her what I had done. For about two minutes, right up to “your son has desecrated an iconic American symbol”, my mother sat there politely. And then she laughed. In the dude’s face. Cringe.
“I’m so sorry that I had to waste my time and yours to come in today during work to deal with something that could so easily have been handled on the telephone. Will you be taking any action against my son, or is he free to go back to class?” People learned pretty quick who my mum was. I gotta give the guy some credit, he showed a steady and cool head, and decided not to suspend me. It was in his power to do so- I had broken a rule, but he held back. Then.
Now we move to the pledge of allegiance. Every morning, all the kids would stand up with hands on hearts, face the flag, and say the pledge. Except me.
Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t doing a Kapernick (more on that later). I stood with all the other kids and faced the flag, but because I’m not American I didn’t say the words or put my hand over my heart. I thought that standing and facing the flag was a sign of respect for my new home, but saying the words wouldn’t feel right to me because I’m English. There was never any disrespect meant, I was falling in love with Bar Harbor and America. I finally felt like I could let some roots grow. Unfortunately, disrespectful is how I was perceived. Bummer, right?
One day after the pledge, the administrator came into the classroom.
“Mr. Huttsez, my office please.” Kids oooohed at me as I did the hang dog walk out of the classroom for the death march down to his office.
Here’s the gist of what went down. He chewed me out for disrespecting America. I guess it really touched a nerve for him. I tried to explain that I didn’t think I was being disrespectful because I was standing and facing the flag, but he wasn’t having it. Basically, it boiled down to this- Do the whole pledge, with all the words and hand on heart, or get sent to the office.
Though it was never said, even ten year old me knew that enough trips to the office would get a troublemaker like me suspended. To his credit again, he chose to tell my mother all this on the telephone. Probably wise.
I was scared. But I was more angry. No way in Hell was I gonna do what he said.
“Look, Chooch,” said my mum, “I think you should just say the words and do it. I pissed the guy off, and I’m sorry. It won’t change who you are or where you’re from. You will still be you, and who you are is very special. This will make things a lot easier for everyone, and we need to settle in here. It’s just words after all. Mumble them if you want.”
So, I did it. I put my hand over my heart and said the words while homeboy watched my defeat. I like to think I had the last laugh though. My version went like this-
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the united Tits of America,
And to the RePUDlick (giggle) for which it stands,
One nation, under dog, invisible with liberty and justice for all.
It was a small ten year old boy victory, but I’ll take it. Oh, if you’re offended by that re-writing of the pledge, then you should probably stop reading. In a bit, I’m gonna whip out the Kapernick.
There were other incidents and multiple trips to the office, but things settled down eventually. It was a difficult coupla years, but I made friends that I have to this day.
High school was tough at first too. Kids came from other junior highs in the area to a single centralized high school, so I had to weather a fresh storm of being a foreign kid. Ok, a foreign kid who spiked and dyed his hair, and had an earring. Easy target, right? Whatevs.
Here’s a little taste of the love I received from some of my new school chums.
“Why don’t you go back to England, Faggit?!”
“America’s the best thing since sliced bread.” That one still cuts deep.
There was one dude and his crew that always managed to find me alone, and they laid it on hard. Pushing, threatening, name calling, pinning me against the wall. It wasn’t good and it was escalating. I never went and told on them, but I guess it never reached the point that I had to. Because they got shut the fuck down.
I was in the school library, by myself, when the dude and his crew sat down at my table and proceeded to threaten and generally fuck with me. It totally sucked. Then it totally rocked.
All of a sudden, there was an upperclassman basketball star standing behind them. He was the son of the area’s most legendary and badass basketball coach and teacher, a man who had coached my stepfather when HE was in high school. His son was a solid and well respected leader in the school. For good reason.
He kept it short and sweet, as Mainers tend to do. “Hey boys, if you’ve got a problem with him, you’ve got a problem with me.” And that was it. The knuckledraggers mumbled off, and never messed with me again. One short sentence, and my mistreatment for simply being from somewhere else was over for good. It was a huge moment in my life- I finally felt safe and like I truly belonged. I will never forget that moment, so thank you Scott P, I’m not sure I ever got to say that.
My early years in America were a bit of a mixed bag. I learned to love the people, who are kind and honest, and the natural beauty, which is stunning. I learned a New England work ethic, and even got a touch of it’s infamous pragmatism, just a touch ;). I think of it as my home, because that’s where my roots got to grow.
But I also learned that authority in America was heavy handed, and that bigotry was as alive and well as it was in England (there’s aresholes everywhere, you see). Those early years did a lot to mold my ‘question authority’ outlook on life. I’m still that guy.
So, when Colin Kapernick took a knee during the national anthem and became the target of intense scrutiny, it jogged that memory of the pledge when I was ten. That “Do it, or else” approach that I got as a kid.
I went back to that experience, and put an adult perspective on it. My feeling is that the cartoon deeply offended the administrator, and on top of that, he was offended that I didn’t say the pledge. It then escalated no thanks to my mother’s lack of diplomacy, though I stand by her actions as a parent. But at it’s core lies the original sense of offense.
So, he made me say the pledge against my wishes. I wasn’t going to make a political stand in rural, 1977 Maine, and you know, I was ten. Plus, we needed to fit in. And as stands go it was fairly shit, let’s be honest.
But this Kapernick thing got me thinking. This man- agree with him or not- is doing something he believes in, it’s peaceful protest practically by definition. He didn’t say anything, no fanfare or announcement, no pre event press conference announcing his intentions. He just did it off to the side, almost by himself. Peacefully.
Since it got noticed a lot of people have been very offended, and they’ve been very vocal about it. It’s gone completely ballistic, with high school kids following his lead and getting suspended from school, and social media full of ire towards this professional athlete. Pictures of him in crosshairs, cops threatening to boycott security at the stadium, calls for his firing, and endless memes. It touched on a very passionate chord. Well, two. Patriotism and race. Polarizing as fuck, right?
Liberals be like- “The dude is exercising his first amendment rights! It’s free speech! America is full of conservatives, bigots, and racists!”
Conservatives are all- “Men and women died for this country, they died protecting your freedom! That flag is a symbol to us of the ultimate price they paid for their country! He should stand! He’s disrespecting our fallen comrades! America is full of liberals, weaklings, and freeloaders.”
I fall in the liberal column, and think that he is right for standing up for something he believes in. To me, it is the very definition of freedom. My life experiences have led me to feel this way- I was bullied into toeing the patriotic line, because I had offended someone. It’s natural that I would feel that way.
But what if I had chosen to enlist in the armed forces, and had seen combat in the first Gulf War? Friends of mine were there. What if I was one of the many men and women who have seen HARD combat in Iraq and Afghanistan? Men and women who have seen their friends die violent deaths in far off places. That would make me see the importance of standing for the anthem, because you’re standing for the fallen. It must be a terrible burden to carry the memory of fallen friends, but a burden that I’m sure is carried with honor. People who are offended and angered by Kapernick’s protest feel that way because their life experiences have led them there. Just like mine did for me. Perspective’s funny, ain’t it?
All this perspective got me thinking about political correctness, because everyone gets offended by something at some point.
Liberals like me get offended by “Grab them by the pussy.” I wouldn’t tolerate my son speaking like that (he doesn’t because he’s a good boy), and I wouldn’t want my daughter to be subjected to it. Unwarranted sexual advances are sexual assault, end of.
Conservatives are offended by Colin Kapernick taking a knee during the anthem in protest, because they feel he is showing no respect for the many fallen americans who died for their country.
So, if we all get offended, then maybe there actually is something to this PC nonsense after all. Let’s see what the thesaurus has to say-
unoffensive, nondiscriminatory, unbiased, neutral, appropriate, nonpartisan; informal PC. ANTONYMS offensive.
Antonyms? Just one- offensive. It seems odd to me that political correctness gets such a bum rap, when it speaks to kindness and civility. Not bad things in my book.
But political correctness got a bum rap anyway. People bemoan having to change old ways just because it ‘offends’ some group or person. “You can’t do ANYTHING without offending someone anymore!” they decry on social media. “What do you mean I have to say Happy Holidays?! It’s Merry Christmas! PC gone mad!” I agree that ‘political correctness’ can be overused, I live in Northern California so I see it first hand. Believe.
However, I think it’s time for conservatives/PC haters to get on the PC bandwagon, or at least touch it whist walking alongside if they can’t commit to a full seat. Why? Because we ALL get offended by something at some point. There’s no avoiding it.
It is hypocritical to bemoan a ‘PC world gone mad’ , and then yell from the rooftops when you’re offended. Seriously, stop and take a proper look at yourself and the double standards you’re using. If you are the only person in the world who has never been offended by anything ever, then bemoan on you crazy diamond, otherwise think before you act the next time you take offense to something. If this is a free country, then you have to accept other peoples version of freedom. It’s called civility. You can’t push your version of freedom on others. That’s called oppression.
Right, now for the liberals.
Load of bloody hypocrites as well. How can you sit there saying ‘Elections can’t be rigged’ when you screamed about Bush stealing the election from Gore . So it’s rigged, then it’s not? Ummm, Bernie? Try explaining that to your kids and maintain dignity at the same time.
Also, I don’t think it’s ok that Hillary has taken money from the Saudis.
I’m all for respecting people’s cultures, it’s one of the liberal cornerstones. But I can’t respect a culture that treats women as second class citizens, beheads homosexuals (and women!), and rules under oppressive medieval laws. So liberals? Take as hard a look at Islam as you do at the conservative christian right. Mega liberal Bill Maher feels the same, check him out with Charlie Rose, clickety click. They both warrant your ire. If you truly stand for women’s rights, then take a good long look at yourself and what you’re supporting.
Hypocrisy on both sides and everyone gets offended. What a load of bloody children we all are.
The split in America will never go away, we’re all just too different. BUT, we CAN come together with just one word.
Liberals- Maybe you should try and put yourself in the other persons shoes if you think of yourself as open minded. ‘Liberal’ is defined as ‘open minded’ in the dictionary. Try and think about why that person feels the way they do. What were the life experiences that formed their outlook? Get past the memes and surface bullshit and you’ll come to see that we’re not that different, we’ve just lived different lives. I get why people are so angry about the Kapernick protest, maybe you should too. Believing that he’s entitled to his stance is completely separate from being an actual liberal person who wants to bridge the gap with your countrymen. Idiots. I’m just as guilty of this as you, but I’m working on it.
Christians- How about you ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?”, and then actually do it? Ask yourself this on a constant loop, non stop. You will make the world a better place. See- Jimmy Carter.
Conservatives- No more yelling about political correctness if you get vocally offended by things. At it’s core, political correctness is about living together, and it’s time to remove the stigma. If you love your country as much as you say, then you need to work on bridging the gap as well, because we’re in this love together. Try and find some common ground, it’s there. We all love our kids and want them to succeed. We all love are pets and want them protected. We all love. It’s not fecking rocket surgery. Come on!
Tell a friend who has opposing views a story that illustrates why you feel the way you do.
I used to think that two of my friends were total knuckle dragging, gun nuts, so vehement is their protection of the second amendment. But then I found out WHY, and it changed my entire perspective. I would want my right to own a gun as an impeachable right if say, a crazy co-worker starts stalking my wife and restraining orders won’t physically protect her. What if some neighborhood boy gets all obsessed with my daughter when she’s older and it gets creepy? And he gets threatening? Restraining order? Hmmmm.
Emapthy leading to perspective and communication.
Pfffft, you’re an idiot because you don’t think like me and I hate you and everything you stand for.
Yeah, I’ll take door number one, Wink.
Well, I think I’m all ranted out, and it feels like a good place to stop. Plus it’s ridiculously long, sorry about that. I’ll do a nice short, light hearted one next time. Maybe about making cupcakes or shagging.
That’s it for now.
Thanks for reading, see you soon.
“...the unread voice of a generation.”