Today I read about a high school girl who got hit and killed by a train when she ran across the tracks and tried to scramble up onto the platform. A tragic event indeed. But then I read this:
'She was a very popular girl among her peers...'
Was she really very popular? Could the other kids have said to the reporter that they really liked her so they wouldn't look bad? You have to admit it's a possibility. If you are a kid at that school and some newsperson turns up, jams a microphone in front of your head and asks did you like that other kid who got hit by a train, what the hell are you gonna say? Of course you liked that other kid! If you admit that you got big kicks from spitting on her and flushing her head in the toilet, you might look bad, then not be popular anymore.
Anyway, the thing is, whenever I read or hear a news report about a high school kid who got killed somehow, they are always *popular* with the other schoolkids. Only popular high school kids seem to get killed. Or could it be that when unpopular high school kids get killed, the news people don't report it. 'Oh well, he or she was unpopular anyway, no need to report it. No big loss, really.'
When they say that these kids were popular, it seems to imply that it is tragic that a popular kid got killed, whereas if the kid was unpopular it wouldn't be so tragic, that maybe it was even for the best. After all, that unpopular kid must have had a pretty miserable existence there, without the approval of those other kids. I mean, what is life when it is not a popular life? Surely it is no life at all. And a sudden violent end to such a life would in fact be a blessing, and not worthy of being reported in the news.
I'll leave you with this excerpt from a short story I read (coincidentally) today:
"When I was in school, there was a meatball just like Mackham. Nobody liked him. Nobody spoke to him. Well, I was a high-spirited kid, Marcie, with plenty of friends, and I began to wonder about this meatball. I began to wonder if it wasn't my responsibility to befriend him and make him feel that he was a member of the group. Well, I spoke to him, and I wouldn't be surprised if I was the first person who did. I took a walk with him. I asked him to come up to my room. I did everything I could to make him feel accepted.
It was a terrible mistake. First, he began going around the school telling everybody that he and I were going to do this and he and I were going to do that. Then he went to the Dean's office and had himself moved into my room without consulting me. Then his mother began to send me these lousy cookies, and his sister - I'd never laid eyes on her - began to write me love letters, and he got to be such a leech that I had to tell him to lay off. I spoke frankly to him; I told him the only reason I'd spoken to him was because I pitied him. This didn't make any difference. When you're stuck with a meatball, it doesn't matter what you tell them. He kept hanging around, waiting for me after classes, and after football practice he was always down in the locker room. It got so bad that we had to give him the works. We asked him up to Pete Fenton's room for a cup of cocoa, roughed him up, threw his clothes out the window, painted his rear end with iodine, and stuck his head in a pail of water until he damned near drowned."
- from 'The Trouble of Marcie Flint' by John Cheever