By Yangil Kim
The willingness of people in general to allow some individuals to fall through the cracks of societal acceptance in order to elevate their own position in the “grand scheme of things” Amazes me at times. Don’t get me wrong; I am no innocent to the game of “make pariah of the scapegoat”. But perhaps by cataloging the rough treatment of an individual I’ve known, I can seek a modest redemption by bringing similar memories I suspect we all possess to the surface once more. You may not have had such an extreme example of such treatment in your particular frame of reference, but who knows, maybe if we didn’t make the choices we’ve made in life, we could have ended up in worse shape then we are currently in.
It was a very pleasant September morning despite the rain on the eve before, my first day of school actually. The nineteen eighty-five kindergarten class of William H Loesche elementary had gathered around the school doors, all brazen and puffed up with pride for their entry into the hallowed halls of education. That is, puffed up whilst within sight of their doting mothers, come to escort them to what would be home away from home for the next twelve years or so. Holding my own mother’s hand, I swallowed my trepidation at the prospect of being away from home for the next three hours and pondered why there was a little boy sitting alone in the mud by the playground fence. It seems that he had been trampled be the rushing throng of older children in their rush to renew relationships that had been shelved over the fleeting summer months. The thing that struck me odd is the lack of a nagging voice telling him he was ruining his pants, or that he was getting all dirty. We were herded inside at that moment, so I didn’t think too long on the subject. The little dirty boy turned out to be in my class that first year of school. Daniel Bobesh by name, he always seemed to be beneath the notice of everyone else but me. Indeed, it seemed on the few occasions that I in my immense benevolence deigned to converse with him, he was overjoyed at even my condescending companionship. That is of course, until I was questioned about it. “Why do you talk to Dirty Danny, Dave?” I couldn’t answer the query of the rest of my peers. So I ceased to have contact with Dan: an occurrence he seemed to take as commonplace. But I never stopped observing him, even if it was based upon more curiosity than basic human compassion.
Daniel Emmanuel Bobesh spent his formative elementary school years as the butt of every juvenile prank, joke, and derision in the book. Never in the history of regulated public schooling has a single person had his chair pulled out from under him as Dan has. He quietly accepted his fate on the numerous times he was pushed down in the school yard, most often into puddles, or better yet, into mud. That was a favorite, mud that is. “Dirty Danny” never made it through a day without acquiring new mud stains on his clothing. His lunchtime milk was spit into, he was thrown in the trash and his books and papers were stolen and strewn about the halls with a regularity that one could set his watch to. Dan accepted all of this with a characteristic silence and an overall sense of futility. “Dirty Dan, the trash can man”, became our collective target for every tension that can exist in prepubescent existence.
This trend continued into middle school, beginning with Daniel’s broken nose on the first day of sixth grade for “not watching where he was going” and concluding with such a brutal beating that he spent the entire summer between eighth and ninth grade in his house with casts on both of his legs. In between that period Daniel had to endure the attentions of larger environment, all participating in a massive puberty cramp. He never spoke above a whisper, and only when called upon by an instructor. He was accused of bumping into people in the hallways at least once a day; resulting in his regularly scheduled introduction to the damage a human fist can do to some one’s body. Whenever someone felt as if he was the focus of disdain, Daniel was sought out, and summarily insulted until the offended party felt better about him or herself. There was I fine game among young girls during the seventh grade to tell Dan that he was cute, or to confess to him that someone liked him. The party to whom Daniel was referred to invariably had a large and angry boyfriend. The worst example of this game resulted in the broken legs of Dirty Dan, and the cessation of that particular torment. I have never seen Dan finish a lunch in his entire school career. It was always either taken from him, stepped upon, or soiled in some fashion. But never did Dan question, nor complain about his lot in life.
After Dan had his legs broken, I did a little soul searching and could not help but feel guilty for his treatment. Even though I didn’t join in on his harsh treatment, I made no effort to stop it. I resolved to make amends when I saw him again in high school. Unfortunately, that resolution was irrelevant, as Dan elected to go to a separate school than I did. Due to contacts I had that saw him in his new school, I was able to keep track of Dan for the next couple months. It seemed as if the viciousness toward Dan had slacked off in his new environment. No one sought him out to do violence to him, and those that had previously known him as “Dirty Dan” just ceased to interact with him. As a matter of fact, it was revealed to me that no one interacted with Dan. He ate lunch alone, traversed the halls alone, sat in the corner of each of his classes alone, and walked home alone. He had become a specter of a boy, never speaking, and eyes always downcast to the floor. So I forgot about him until I learned that Dan had shot himself on Christmas day that first year of high school in the face with his father’s thirty ought six, and became more permanently silent.
Now I sit back and reflect on my previous behavior, and how I have treated my peers. This is not a rage against social ostracism, because we’ve all been “on the outside looking in” at some point. This isn’t about trying to bring attention to the fact that the people that need our help are most frequently made pariah, because I am sure that you are aware of that. This isn’t even about pitying the lost souls that we have known and heard about. I suppose that I am taking the role of the callus observer once more by stating that Daniel played the role he had been handed quite admirably. Of course your morality is screaming at me right now, but think about it. We have all felt downtrodden at one point or another, looked up from our self-absorption for a moment, and thanked god above that we weren’t Daniel Emmanuel Bobesh, or someone like him. There is always Pariah, it is inevitable, but I feel we should remember those that have sacrificed themselves willingly or otherwise, for our benefit. That’s why I am writing this down. To offer thanks, and give proper respect to an individual that always, without complaint or the slightest inkling of fighting back, absorbed all our self-loathing and insecurity, and allowed us to deal with the frightening aspect of all being Daniel Bobeshs, in one fashion or another. This goes out to you Dirty Dan, may God bless and keep you.