April 06, 2010

To the Kids of Fulton, Mississippi

First, since you're used to being first, to the kids who went to the big dance:

Congratulations. You, with your parents' help, have just fucked things up for life. Well, maybe not all of you. Some of you were probably planning to start local, dead-end jobs straight out of high school. The rest of you, though...whew.

When it was just school administrators being asses to Constance, you were fine. People looked at that and assumed some of the kids were okay with it, but others were modern humans who were being overly sheltered by idiotic adults. You had a chance to be one of those kids, the ones who have a role to play in the 21st Century. Then you had to go to that dance and ruin everything.

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's the one your parents wanted you to go to. It's the one the cool kids were going to. It's the one your friends were going to.

Fuck. That. Shit.

What you did was wrong. It was cruel, and pointlessly cruel. It was stupidly easy and easily the stupidest thing I've seen in a long time. You gained nothing by it. Hell, you didn't even have as much fun as you thought prom should be. And you lost everything.

Remember how you thought about getting out of there and doing something with your life? Forget it. You're one of "those kids from Fulton" now, and everybody knows what you did. Sure, you can find a school to go to, even one away from home, but it's going to be one of those schools that's no good for anything but sending you back where you came from.

You can find a job, kid from Fulton, but it will be a job that requires someone just like you. Prepare to spend the next fifty-some years of your life taking the same kind of orders you've been taking from your parents and your teachers and your friends. You've just waved goodbye to your chance to grow up and determine how you want to live your own life.

You can find people to laugh with, be friends with, marry, but they'll be the same kind of stupid, cruel people you've shown yourself to be. Chances are good they'll be from Fulton too. Who else would want to hang out with you? But whatever you do, don't you dare to be any different than they are. You've already seen what they do, what you do, to people like that.

Not the life you were looking for? Well, it could still all go differently, I suppose, but it won't be easy anymore. Your one chance at this point is to figure out why what just happened is all wrong--and to fix it. Your chance is to be one of the kids who left Fulton behind them, one way or another.

Good luck with that. I mean it.

Now, to the kids who went to the official prom:

I love you guys. You're awesome in a way that nobody's who's never had to fight to make their own path can ever understand, much less achieve. That may not seem like a lot right now, but it's everything. Just wait and see.


Stacy S. said...

Hear, hear.

apthorpe said...

I will add my bit as a forty-something whose politics and outlook have changed with time, experience, and trauma:

Dear Kids from Fulton,

If I am in a position to hire you, I won't. Not now, not in five years when you loaf your way through a shitty college. I know this is the prime age of your cruelty, but if you can't recognize what behavior is over the line or that that there is a line at all, I don't want you near me. I don't want you on a team I manage. I don't want to have to deal with the issue of a whispering campaign or such thinly-veiled yet egregious pettiness. I don't want the hassle of having you rehabilitated, transferred, or fired. And my while my shoes are not terribly expensive, I value them enough to not want to soil them by grinding you under my heel.

Which I will, because you are reprehensible.

And I can do all this because I'm old enough to be your parents, the low-rent bigoted assholes what bore you. I know how The System works. I'll study our HR policy manual and find out precisely what it takes to invisibly make sure you never get an interview, you never get past an interview, or you get pigeonholed or bounced out of the organization if by some miracle you do get hired. I'll smile and be polite and understanding during the whole process, the same way you put on a happy mask when dealing with your 'different' classmates as you secretly planned to stab them in the back.

And you know what? I'll get away with it and there's not a goddamn thing you can do about it. Why? I'm smart, I pay attention to detail, I'm patient, and most of all, I'm genuine. I have a lot of friends. I made them by treating them with respect, by helping them when they needed help, giving them the benefit of the doubt when I felt wronged, giving them a shoulder to cry on, and sticking up for them when nobody else would. I don't lie to them. I don't cheat them. I may not share their opinions or lifestyle choices or be the same race or sexual orientation or religion, but I accept them as they are because that's all I can expect from them in return.

Unlike you, these are people of good character. They trust my judgment. And if I say you're a bad fit, a lousy hire, a liability, they'll trust me. Because I don't lie to them and stab them in the back. Because you are a bad fit, a lousy hire, and a liability. And none of us want to deal with you or your petty destructive bigoted bullshit.

Maybe in ten or twenty years you'll have an epiphany, pangs of regret, or something that will awaken your essential humanity and shock you out of the complacency of being just another unthinking pack animal, some unholy cross between sheep and rat that typifies the resident of your current community. If I was a praying man, I'd pray for you; as it is, I can only hope you live a life that brings you such an epiphany, sooner than later. Because as repugnant as your behavior is now, I know people can change, often in unexpected and wonderful ways. This I wish for you - a redemption. You may not see it now at this stage in your life, you may never see it, but you have displayed a most horrible lack of character that you will spend the rest of your life making up for. Or as our esteemed hostess has asserted, you will stay right where you are, comfortable in your low station in life, bigoted and cruel just like those low-rent assholes what bore you.

The choice is and will always be yours -- never forget that.

NewEnglandBob said...

Well said, but I doubt the bigoted assholes will read it, and if they do, I doubt they will comprehend it.

Rich said...

I just want to know which prom Trig Palin will go to.

Mike Haubrich, FCD said...

I hope that they have epiphanies, or at least some of them do, when they get away from that little town. I really do. It is sad to think of all those lives wasted on bigotry and distaste for the "different."

Philip H. said...

And people still pick on me because I grew up in Louisiana!

Lisa said...

Well-said, apthorpe! I find it interesting that some of the most successful people today were the ones who didn't conform to the masses in high school...the "nerds" who went on to create computer empires, the top fashion models who were teased for being taller than their classmates... My theory is that the people who are cruel to others sense that they will never stand out from the crowd and don't know what to do about it other than to attack those who do.

Unknown said...

Having spent 60 years on the planet with a condition that marked me as different, albinism, I know about cruelty first hand. Those Fulton kids now have to live with the reputation they have embraced. They will forever be marked as unintelligent and uncaring. Constance will go far in life and will attend many events far more important than a prom and she will at some point be able to marry a partner she loves and be happy with herself. She has a bright future ahead of her and those other kids have dismal futures ahead of them unless they wake up and see the world for how it truly needs to be. Everything is related and if you do bad or stupid things, you will suffer the consequences in some way. That's just the way nature works.

Not even in my experience of cruelty in school in Florida was there ever anyone who thought I should not be able to go to the prom. I didn't go because nobody asked but I could have gone. Nobody would have had a second dance just so he could be with his kind only. What an idiotic stunt that was.

Fulton kids, you take the cake and it's going to make you sick.

Jason Thibeault said...

I wish I had anything to add to this. Wait, yeah, I do:

Kids from Fulton,


- Jason

I mean both acronyms' obvious meanings simultaneously.

Greg Ladenn said...

I think everyone should agree to adopt a young kid from Fulton.

Joshua said...

I'm not sure I agree with this. I mean, yes this was bigoted and mean and cruel. But high school students are often bigoted and mean and cruel. And these kids clearly grew up in an environment that is bigoted and mean and cruel on top of the usual mean and cruel environment in many highschools. I'm not sure I hold this against them nearly as much as I do against their parents and the school administrators.

Moreover, many of these kids even if they had no problem with the student, they may just as well have been subject to a lot of peer pressure to not speak up. Don't underestimate the effect that can have.

If any of them still have these views in 3 or 4 years there will be a point. But based on behavior now that all their peers are doing? Don't punish kids years down the road for stupid things they did in school.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Joshua, I'm not sure you read the whole post.

Joshua said...

Stephanie, yeah I did. And my comment still holds. Consider for example if one of these kids moves out of Fulton and never has anything to do with the town again. But they don't do anything to help fix the situation. Are you going to block them from getting an interview for jobs? It sounds like you intend to.

Joshua said...

If I'm missing something please point it out. It wouldn't be the first time.

Glendon Mellow said...

One of your best posts ever, Stephanie.

MXH said...

Very nice post. I've had the same idea in mind.

apthorpe said...

I reflect on my own life and what a jackass I was at ages 15-20 (some would extend that to the present...) I believed things then that I now find utterly repugnant. I don't recall being extraordinarily cruel to anyone, not intentionally anyways, that may just be a function of fading memories protecting the self against cognitive dissonance. I was generally on the receiving end of cruelty, not so much on the dishing out end.

I know from my own experience that people can change; I've had my own epiphanies and I'm grateful for them. And I can thoroughly understand the notion of keeping one's head down in some redneck backwater, praying you can survive until graduation and then getting the hell out and never looking back. And while that's a perfectly pragmatic strategy, it's still cowardice and it it should haunt someone as a regret. Not as bad as the kids who reveled in the deception and cruelty, but I'm sure we'll find them in five years blowing truckers at the Pilot out near the interstate for meth money.

The important thing is that there is a chance of redemption, that we don't write off these kids forever. But I do not believe it is helpful to give any of them a free pass. They need to think long and hard about what they've done, how they would feel if the tables were turned, and if that's the way they believe good people should behave. For now, for the time being, for the foreseeable future I'm willing to tar them with the same brush, as cowards and bigots, sons and daughters of cowards and bigots. They can prove me wrong by what they do in the next decade. Until then, I want nothing to do with them, for most I suspect, not even then.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Joshua, I think the only thing you're missing is that I don't have to do any of this. (Well, it's possible but unlikely that I could end up with a resume someday, but as apthorpe noted, those aren't that hard to deal with.) These kids are infamous now and easy to distinguish as a group. Until and unless a bunch of them figure it out and stand up to say that what happened was wrong and set themselves up in opposition to their parents and classmates, they'll stay that way. As long as they stand together on this idiocy, they'll fall together.

And thank you, everybody, for the comments.

Tim3P0 said...

excellent post. well said, Stephanie :-)

jaf said...

This is saddening :(

Anonymous said...

"You can find people to laugh with, be friends with, marry, but they'll be the same kind of stupid, cruel people you've shown yourself to be."

We,, that's just what they're dreaming of, isn't it ? Why would they read this and feel unhappy ?

Stephanie Zvan said...

Simple, Christophe. The people who are currently taking the blame for being different will escape, but the people who need someone to blame for their unhappiness won't. They'll still all be there together, and they'll still be unhappy.

That's when they'll turn on each other (well, more than they already do). Want to do something nobody else wants to do? You're responsible for others' unhappiness. Want to wear something different? You're fair game. Want to stay home and rest or spend some time with the family instead of going to the big event or watching the game? You're judging the people who went and must be dealt with accordingly. Eliminate the big differences and the tiny ones become huge. And just as evil.

They're building their own very special little version of hell.

Parabola said...

Like a previous commenter, I'm going with:

gfy Fulton, gfy.

Except, in only one sense of the acronym.

Mike Morris said...

The Hollywood ending for this would have had one or two Fultonians conspiring to stand up for tolerance and make sure that Constance and the others were included. They would be strong enough to challenge the status quo. Sort of a George McFly decking Biff and restoring time on its true path.

That did not happen and the entire school is covered in manure.

Anonymous said...

As a senior who actually goes to IAHS, unlike the people who are commenting on here. i would just like to say a few things without getting my head bit off. first off the so called secret prom wasnt actually a prom it was a dance that the students put together after prom was canceled for the second time. everyone knew about the dance by tuesday afternoon. the parents had given all the prom fee money back to the students. the reason the second prom was cancled was becouse we were supposed to pay for our tickets by the saturday before prom giving the parents a week to set up. constance missed the deadline to buy her tickets. the deadline was not kept secert it was posted all around the school and announced over the intercom ever morning for a week. the parents didnt want to get sued and cause the school to loose there funding. so they gave it back to the school to hold. back to the dance the student body was not told untill wenesday, 2 days before prom. most of the students who had desided to go to the dance found out about the prom after the fact. so there was no secert prom we didnt disclude constance she new about the dance she could have come. now would people have been happy. no they wouldnt have ill admit that but thats because constance has destroyed any chance we had a a normal senior year.
seond thing is to all the people threating anybody who lives in fulton or goes to school there. you all need to get your facts stright, before threating to destroy our careers and basicly our lives. we didnt discriminate agianst gays or people who have learning disabilites. the kids who have learning disabilites are the most popular students at our school. we love them to death. they are some of the best people we have there and eveyone knows it. we didnt, havent , and aslong as there a sane people going to school there, they will never be discrimanted agianst. as for gays, yes we do live in the bible belt and there have been a few problems, but nothing like this. but the so called secret prom was not agianst gays. the seniors of iahs wanted one night of something that was normal we didnt have to worry about the press or being called names for something that we didnt do. i personal went to the dance that the senior and jr. parents put on and hey guess what im gay and i went with my girlfriend. it wasnt prom the students werent discriminateing agianst gays or students with learning disabilities. this whole thing has been blown out of proportion. understand i do not codone what the school bored did i am simply saying that the students arent as guility as everyone wants you to think. so i beg of you to please leave us alone so that whats left of our senior year might be standable. senior year is supposed to be fun, a time to remeber. all i have to say this is something that none of us will forget but we wish you all would.

Anonymous said...

"the kids who have learning disabilites are the most popular students at our school. we love them to death."

"constance missed the deadline to buy her tickets."

With outright lies like that and with your poor grammar, you don't even have to try. Even if you were an activist for human rights, it'd be difficult for you to get hired. Except in your own rednecked town.

And keep in mind, I am the same age as you. Goes to show what kind of variance exists.

I hope Constance goes on to reach bigger and better things in life, living happily with a woman she loves, leaving the rest of you bigots (including YOU) in the dirt, back in your pitiful, hopeless, back-ass-wards "town".

Stephanie Zvan said...

Hey, one of "those kids from Fulton." First off, no one is going to fail to hire you in particular because of your treatment of Constance. They won't have to. They're going to fail to hire you because you're incoherent and can't get your facts straight.

Forget "in time." Constance didn't buy a ticket to your canceled second prom because it was every bit as discriminatory as the original school prom. Nope, still couldn't bring her date. Nope, still had to wear a dress. And it was canceled because the parents who organized knew it was discriminatory and might get them into the same kind of trouble the school board was in.

If you want someone to blame for all of this, blame the adults around you. Blame the school board and the parents who were so gung ho to protect their petty prejudices that they wouldn't give you a real prom if it meant giving Constance one too. They're the yahoos who invited the spotlight and dragged you out into it with them. Now you're infamous. Go give them an appropriate thank you.

Nobody's buying your late embrace of the special education kids, either. Were they not invited to your private prom, or were they so anxious to not spend time with the rest of you that they preferred being outnumbered by the faculty at the country club? Either way, it reflects pretty damned poorly on you.

Rich said...


You obviously care enough about what people think to post this. I can only hope that as a high school senior you have the ability to write better than that. Blog comments are not held to the same standard as cover letters, but that was the equivalent of a cover letter scrawled on the back of a greasy receipt. If you want people to pay attention to your point, you can't turn them off with your presentation. Next time at least wear a clean T-shirt without any holes in it.

Adamo said...

Well, I might considering hiring "Anonymous", but certainly not for anything requiring literacy. And not for anything requiring self-honesty, which therefore means not for anything requiring any kind of honesty. And, nope, not for anything requiring accepting responsibility, either.

Hmmm, on second thought....