I remember nothing about him, including his name, except that he was in the sixth grade, just as I was.
Nor can I recall the social crime he committed that motivated my friends and me to tease, then ridicule.
I remember my relief at being on the right end of the spear.
Most of all I remember the shame that so quickly descended on me. How quickly it silenced my shouts. How suddenly I stopped, then slunk home, trying to hide the tears welling in my eyes.
Truth is, I don’t remember him at all.
I only remember me, how I felt, what I decided, the vow I made never to be part of the mob again.
Pondering the events of the past week
This memory crowds into my mind now as I ponder the Donald Sterling affair—what more aptly, I think, should be remembered as the Adam Silver affair.
The villain—unlike my unremembered boy from sixth grade, we know exactly what he did to deserve…well, pretty much anything the mob could dish out.
The mob—within my current circle of focus, journalists.
The point of the spear—the NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver.
I don’t like mobs. I don’t like mobs more than I don’t like villains.
And I absolutely hate the point of the spear, no matter who it is or what form it takes.
Not if a mob is holding that spear.
I remember me
I knew, as I stood there on the street watching my friends continue the chase, that that was really me being chased. I enjoyed the chase for that brief moment, and I acted on that joy—no, it wasn’t joy, it was something else.
It was relief that I was not the one being laughed at. And in that brief moment when I was congruent with the mob, I wasn’t attacking some boy whose “crime” I cannot remember.
I was attacking me in another form.
I know I’m projecting.
But I have to wonder as I see how quickly—too quickly for justice to be thorough and satisfied—the mob formed and the craven point of the spear thrust into action.
And especially the self-congratulations of everyone admiring that point for his supreme example of leadership in surrendering to, maybe even cheering on, the mob.
And I wonder if they see themselves in the racist rant of a crotchety old billionaire bigot and they are ashamed of what they see, and by God, propitiation must be made at any cost.
Because they must not allow themselves to feel their own shame.
My own lesson—and a vow
I will move off my projections and confess my own lesson, and the vow I made standing on the street watching the little mob.
What I realized that day was that there was no safety in the mob. It could turn at any moment from that boy to me.
But it’s unsafe in another, more important way.
When you join the mob, you are destroying a part of yourself as you seek to destroy at least a part of someone else.
Vengeance is never satiated.
And I cannot cleanse my own shame by punishing the guilt of someone else.
No matter how much they deserve it.
So I vowed that day that if a mob ever formed around me or near me, that I would stand still and listen and watch.
And ponder the level and direction of whatever commitment to action I needed to make.
This week that commitment is to ask questions and challenge the thinking of the mob.