Lord of the Flies is one of my all-time favorite books. Yes, I know it’s crazy. That I, a writer of romance and happily ever afters, love a book about a bunch of privileged white boys who crash on an island, throw off civilization, and set out to destroy each other. I could give a million reasons why the book works for me. Golding writes like an angel. He delivers such a thoughtful study of human nature and the evil, he believes, that lies in mankind’s heart—but wait—I’m drifting—that’s another blog.
Why I am thinking about Lord of the Flies now is one scene early on in the book. Roger, not one of the main characters, is walking along the beach looking for something to do. He comes across another kid swimming in the ocean. And if I remember correctly, Roger hides behind a palm and throws stones at the kid in the ocean. He doesn’t hit him; he just throws the rocks around the boy, because he is testing the waters, so to speak. To see if anyone will come running out to tell him to stop. To see if the old rules, don’t throw rocks at people, still apply. No one does. This knowledge allows Roger much later in the book to throw a much larger rock at another character and murder him. As I said up front, it’s a very brutal book.
I was on Facebook recently and among all the horrible and sad posts of the aftermath of November 8th was this one. A friend wrote that her nephew, who carries a Mexican surname and is one-quarter Latino, was told by his lab partner at a middle school in the Midwest that the nephew was too lazy to be a good partner. And that the other boy would do all the work himself. As I clicked the red scowly face, I realized that here was another example of life imitating art. The white lab partner was testing the waters. Now that everyday racism and bigotry seem to be mainstreamed, he was seeing, just like Roger, what he could get away with.
Of course, my heart broke for my friend’s nephew. I am sure that this will not be his last negative experience in the trying times ahead. I hope he has the support at home and at school to allow him to move beyond these and other senseless comments. But I am just as worried for the lab partner. Did anyone step up to really explain why what he said is so dangerous?
I worry that a teacher just threw him that look, stop disrupting my class, and did not deal with the underlying issue. I worry that schools these days are so concerned with litigations and parent complaints that they will sweep these issues under the carpet or maybe even tell the teachers that they must embrace the uniqueness of each child. (This last one I know to actually be true). I worry that teenagers who are testing limits in general (and should be, I have a teenager myself) will see Trump’s victory as carte-blanche to throw as many rocks as they can to see if anything happens when they land. I worry that eventually, they will make their way to bigger boulders that will do much more damage.
The good news is that our nation and our LGBTQ community is not a bunch of boys on an island who just want to have fun without rules. We are, I hope, millions of thoughtful people who can and will step up when we see one person attacking another by truly educating both sides and guiding each to empathy and respect. I don’t pretend to be an expert in any of this, and I know that everyone who is angered by the results of the election will deal with it differently. But hopefully, once the shock dies down, we will all act and not just fall back into our lives. And finally, I hope when the middle school boys are old enough to vote, they will find more common ground and fewer rocks.