For all of Charleston’s faults, it has become more politically liberal and socially progressive and with that came a greater sympathy for those enduring personal traumas. While it has been far from perfect, the northern transplants that have made this city more progressive have not taken what may be considered the boys-will-be-boys approach to handling personal tragedies. That could not be said for the culture I was raised in. A long time ago and in a more conservative part of the Charleston suburbs less affected by the urban culture of the city, was the hard right and they don’t believe mental health is to be pitied, that corporal punishment is wrong, that bullying is a serious issue, and on top of all of that, they believe that anyone who expresses signs of suffering resultant from traumas like the ones listed, this is America, not Africa, and people don’t have problems here ergo the only logical conclusion is, just like financial welfare queens who feign suffering for money, children feign suffering for attention.
That was expressed succinctly in one of the few recorded instances of my bullying where the bully confesses, with many curse words, that I was bullied viciously but basically I shouldn’t complain about it because I live in a first-world country.
When I was cutting out of extreme anxiety and depression in high school, my vice principal thought the best solution was to ban me from prom for attention-seeking behaviors. My scars would tend to be on my thighs where they would be hidden and, in her office, I would be ordered to lift my pants to see if there were any fresh scars. In the instance where I was banned from prom, she issued a trespass notice and said I would be arrested if I tried to go. She also threatened to have me sent to the board for expulsion if she saw any new scars.
The following October, she received two affidavits that I was suicidal and she was livid that I would again engage in such psychotic behavior for attention. She suspended me from school for three days and if she heard anything about me being self-harming again that she would have me arrested under South Carolina’s equivalent of the famous Florida’s Brady Act. She did that on Friday and I was suspended for the rest of Friday through Sunday but I was scheduled to take the SAT that Saturday. She informed me that it was a trespass notice and that I would be arrested if I went to take the SAT. Thankfully, my father called her superior, the head principal, who overrode her and let me take the SAT. Still, had it been up to her, I would have been arrested for trying to take the SAT because she received two affidavits that I was suicidal.
My suicide attempts had become known widely enough that it became a subject in my being bullied. Some girls from a local private school took a picture of me climbing over a porch railing at one of their houses where they had invited me as a “pet retard” and uploaded it to Facebook with a caption reading that it was me attempting suicide. It makes sense, cutting and suicide are associated with emo culture, in redneck culture those things happen but are fully suppressed, therefore public knowledge of it is weird and anything weird is fair game for bullying over. Those girls didn’t shed a tear for the immense pain behind the scars and suicide attempts, to them, such things were novelties of a novel boy who was their retarded circus monkey. It was amazing the response that the public knowledge of my desire to die got. Not only did my peers help make it happen, when they saw what they’d done, they used it as material and the authorities thought threatening to arrest me for taking the SAT and banning me from prom were appropriate ways to make it stop.
In the end, the culture of masculinity saw self-harm as a sign of weakness, when they did believe it was earnest. Weakness was to be punished. And more often than may be comfortable, they didn’t see it as earnest and believed it was attention-seeking behavior to be punished based on an inaccurate worldview that minor suffering doesn’t occur. The same worldview expressed by the right-leaning justices in the Supreme Court case Hudson v. McMillan where a Louisiana inmate was beaten savagely but had only sustained minor injuries. The defense of the defendants was that there had been no significant injury and therefore nothing was wrong. My vice principal thought along similar lines, I lived in a first-world country and had not been seriously injured physically therefore I had no real problems and must be feigning them.
While in the more progressive Charleston that I live in today it isn’t as bad in those narrow respects, there are elements of it that are not dead. Furthermore, it is a lesson in human psychology. People often look at horrible things and think that it is too shocking to be true but everybody has the same genome as everybody else and the same 180 Brodmann Areas in their brains. Every subculture can slip into any grave crime so the lesson is not obsolete but should be taken to heart and remembered so the same mistakes don’t happen again. I didn’t have the courage to finish my suicide attempts but lots of other people have the courage and even those of us who didn’t die, suffered greatly and our health and lives were impaired significantly due to maltreatment like that.
Screenshot examples of the bullying: