This is a stranger’s letter.
This letter was sent to me (and Spammy) anonymously via the Open Letters Campaign. The author decides whether to remain anonymous, and can write an open letter to anyone.
I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles and lived in that city from around 1957 to 1968. I was the son of a Jewish mother and Methodist father. My mother was very domineering and my father was emotionally unavailable.
In my neighborhood I was regularly beat up, tortured and endured anti-Semitism. There were many bullies in my neighborhood and worse yet, my friends would align with the bullies when in contact with their group.
The most abusive bullies were two larger older brothers that lived next door. I was bullied by them for many years. I also endured bullying at my elementary and junior high schools with little or no intervention, concern or help from teachers and staff.
At one point I asked my father to teach me how to fight to protect myself. It wasn’t until I became an adult that my father told me he wasn’t able to help me because he was a pacifist. Today I don’t know if he was a pacifist or a coward. Whether at home, the neighborhood or at school, I had no place that was safe.
I suffered a multitude of abuses at the hands of bullies; however my worst experience was an incident with a group of neighborhood bullies that attempted to hang me.
I was playing with my best friend in his front yard when a group of bullies (including a small group of turncoat friends) walked towards and amassed around me. They began calling me names, racial epithets and threatening to hang me. To my horror, they picked me up, carried me above them and started down the sidewalk with me in tow. I was only nine or ten years old and tried to comprehend the gravity of my situation coupled with the fear of dying.
They carried me through an open gate into a back yard a few houses down. There stood a big tree with a noose hanging from a branch. I struggled and yelled for help to no avail. They forced my head through the noose and started to cinch it around my neck. In a split second, they quickly removed my head from the noose, turned me upside down, put my foot through the noose and cinched it tightly around my ankle. They began to swing me back and forth taking punches at me and calling me names. It seemed an eternity as I wondered if they were going actually going to kill me. After some time passed, the father of the house came into the back yard. I was relieved only momentarily as he laughed along with them.
I was finally released, ran home and told my parents about what had happened. My parents and I walked back to the house where the abuse took place and spoke with the parents. The father’s response was “boys will be boys”. We went home.
That bullying continued until we moved to a neighboring county in 1968. Although there were a few bullies on the block and some in school, they paled in comparison.
I wish it all ended when I graduated high school and got a job, but more suffering ensued that was more insidious than I would have ever have imagined. The many years that followed brought more depression, anxiety and some suicide attempts. I struggled with that for years and had difficulty with relationships and faced additional problems. I couldn’t find my place in life, as it seemed an uphill battle that I was sure to lose.
Along the way I became involved with a fellowship of bikers, which became my lifestyle for a time. Although I started drinking alcohol around the age of eight during the early years of abuse (which gave me the feeling of being safe in an unsafe world), I became even more addicted to drugs and alcohol as that dovetailed with my biker lifestyle. In turn, this only helped fuel my anger, resentment and rage. I had acted out my anger violently as a young adult at times, but it had escalated. I feel this was in part my resulting response to being victimized long term.
All the trials I endured led me to find some solutions. After going through various programs and therapy, I am clean and sober over twenty-six years now. As difficult as these experiences were, they wound up being a gift. I have had and will continue to have the unique opportunity to help others who have suffered a similar fate. Just as important is to educate the ones who do the bullying.
Thank you for taking the time to read this open letter. Please consider writing an open letter to Spammy. For more on the origin of my Love Letters to Spam blog, see here. Or, learn how to submit your open letter!