Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Aqua Mustang 93 – JUSTICE

I was not worried any more about my parents seeing my report cards that were sent down to Connecticut from the Holderness School in the far north. My grades now were no longer the lowest in the school. They were suddenly the highest, higher even than my twin brother’s. I wondered if I had not by now supplanted him as the twin the family would admire.

But when I was home my mother gave me a look that said we can see through you. Then she read me the comment from the boarding school’s headmaster, the rector, Mr. Weld. “Fred is very concerned with social justice in the abstract, but he is a thorn in his floor leader’s side.”

The problem with the floor leader, Terry Weathers, who had been one of my friends when I thought I had no friends in the school, was that I was never on time for anything, always collecting demerits, which for some reason made our floor look bad. And in the room inspections carried out by Mrs. Chase, the basketball coach’s busybody wife, the grade given to my never neat enough room brought down the floor’s rating. And that wasn’t the only thing. I passed out heavy instant coffee that I made from the hot water tap in the communal shower/lavatory. Also, I would often leave the dorm without permission during study times, and it was suspected, though they had not caught me yet, that I was even leaving the dorm after lights out.

But shouldn’t my parents and the headmaster be happy that I was attuned to justice and injustice not just in the school but in the big world that I would enter one day?

Having political views, particularly about justice, was coming to seem like an identity for me. It may have started, this justice thing, back before all the changes when I was the school’s most unpopular boy. It also may have had to do with my connection to the Social Studies teacher, Archie Stark, who was a Quaker and hated McCarthyism and put me in touch with A.J. Muste’s Fellowship for Reconciliation.

Or maybe it was because I read Dickens and Steinbeck, and had quickly learned that people like school bullies were despised in bigger worlds. Also, books showed me that it was not unusual that people who counted in life and politics had been ridiculed and sometimes beaten by the sort of people who had ganged up on me, ridiculing and beating met at this school. Even Ghandi had had his bad early days. Nothing abstract here.

But what really got me going was my rapid rise in the debating world – the dumb kid in the school one day, and another day the number one debater in New England while not yet 16. Rising by winning arguments.

When I tried to figure it out, I fell back on my days in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, my summers in those big formal family houses. I knew from his books and stories that my grandfather Gaga has been in the first stage of the Russian Revolution. Afterwards he had made a case for Kerensky as being a third way alternative to the Bolsheviks and the Czarists, and no one listened. But I could quote him in debates, compare a possible third way in Russia with a possible third way in China, which had just been overrun by the Communists. Not only would it make some sense, or at least confuse my opponents, it would also tie me to this family where I so often suspected I was an outcast.

I wondered why it should make my mother seem so satisfied that Mr. Weld was looking down on me. I wondered if I could ever right the balance in my family or in the world, or if whatever I did I would still be the bad twin to my brother’s good twin.

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