If I Don’t Dissent…I Consent

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In 1967, I graduated from Central Davis Jr High School.  Life’s next great adventure began 3 months later.  My memorable high school years were about to begin as a proud Layton Lancer.  Like most kids, I was a bit intimidated.  Nervous and super excited.  Of course, I would be reunited with my school friends again.  However, the real draw of those high school years were the girls. I was shy and wouldn’t start dating for good while.  But, that’s a happy story for another time and place.

Gym Class

I have one BIG regret that has dogged me all these years. Perhaps, with this post I will finally shake some of my shame.

The unfortunate event, that still brings tears to my eyes, occurred during my 9th grade gym class…in the locker room.  My locker was located in the same row as Rulon’s. There are very few individuals in this world who ALWAYS have a smile lighting up their face.  I don’t recall ever seeing Rulon without his amazing smile brightly beaming.

Rulon was “retarded.”

Today, that’s not a proper way to refer to the mentally disadvantaged.  That’s just the word we used back then.  All of his classes were special education, except for gym. Kids will be kids, boys will be boys and that means constant teasing. Rulon was a constant and convenient target.  A target of pure innocence.  Perhaps he didn’t understand.  I’m afraid he did.  But, somehow his smile remained immutable.

Rulon, I’m So Sorry

Then, one day……..I struggle putting this in writing.  My eyes fill with tears.  I choke back my sobs.

One day……..Oh why did that day have to happen?

One day……..it happened, just a few lockers away.  Two of my friends were teasing, then taunting, then harassing the innocently smiling boy.  They threw him up against the locker wall. I can still hear the dull thudding clank of his body against the metal. My friends roughed him up pretty well.  The evergreen smile disappeared.  Confused and distraught, he couldn’t understand what he had done to deserve such a beating.  A beating……..by friends……..among friends……..witnessed by friends.  At least, he had considered us his friends.

As for me, and several others.  No…I’ll just focus on me.  I sat there and watched. Uncomfortable and frozen.  Repulsed, and passive.  Damnit.

Rulon’s whipping concluded.  He slumped.  Gazed at the floor.  Forlorn and smileless. I sat there.  Then I turned away.  Then I left.

I raised no objection.  I offered no dissent.  I stayed silent and watched.  An innocent happy soul was hurt and harmed.  After the damage was done, couldn’t I have apologized?  Couldn’t I have reached out with words of comfort and love?  I had four years to do it.  I didn’t.

My high school career came and went.  Once in a while, I would see Rulon in the halls. I don’t recall any conversations after that fateful day.  This pure and radiant boy was never the same.  That gym class had changed him.  Skittish.  Jumpy.  Confidence and trust in friends tarnished and tattered.

Many times, I’ve thought of my locker room failure.  I’d like to personally tell him I’m sorry.  But that chance is long gone.  The boy with the ceaseless shining smile is no more.  He died young….decades ago.

Today, I realize that I was complicit with my silence. By not standing for my friend, I gave my consent. By not speaking for my friend, I offered my consent. By just staring at my friend, I granted my consent.

The meek and lowly Rulon was among the “least of these,” of whom Jesus taught us to be mindful.  Failing one of the least, has taught me a mighty lesson. If I don’t dissent…I’m giving my consent.

Today, Rulon, I Stand For You

I’m no longer in high school.  I’m a man, fully grown.  No more consent with silence. Which only gives harm license.  Not in anger or haste.  This time I’ll think & take action.  Not live in disgrace.

I DISSENT, my friend Rulon, I DISSENT.

Where and how am I dissenting?  The answer’s HERE.  267 of us standing together.

If you are a member of the LDS church.  If you oppose policies that have never been approved by the membership.  Consider standing up for those who can’t fight for themselves.

16 thoughts on “If I Don’t Dissent…I Consent

  1. Thank you for taking the time to share this story and these thoughts. It can be very difficult to stand for what is right when surrounded by those who would not see things the way that you do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks David. Difficult to stand? You got that right. But it helps that now there are now 262 standing up for those who can’t fight for themselves.

      Like

  2. Thank you, Sam. We all need to hear your heartfelt story.

    It gets tricky when the people you see being abused and exploited for the gain of others are clueless as to what is actually happening to them. If you attempt to come to their aid, and their response is to zealously defend their abusers … do you back off, or persist?

    If you back off, they will continue being abused.

    If you persist, you likely would drive them even deeper into their chasm of cluelessness.

    At the end of the day, you say and do whatever you choose to say and do, or not, and we all continue charting the course of our own lives as we see fit.

    When someone is innocent, such as a child or a mentally challenged person, there are times when the right thing is to protect the innocent.

    This makes it tricky when The Brethren are abusing innocent children through their clueless, brainwashed parents.

    I don’t have any answers. And I applaud what you are doing, Sam. You have a kind and generous heart. Whatever your choice of action, your behaviors are guided from the Light.

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  3. Sam, I am continually amazed at how thoughtful, loving, and full of integrity you are. You are not the same person you were in that locker room all those years ago. You made a mistake then, but you used it to become stronger and braver in the future, which is true “repentance” if you ask me.
    I’m ashamed to admit I have a similar story in my past, but also now proud to say it shaped me in a similar way.
    Thanks for your advocacy for standing with those who can’t fight for themselves (or who tried but were beaten into submission), and thanks for your brave example.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Sheyenne,

      One day we have go to meet. I’ve met you good husband but not his better half. Thanks for getting the full gist of my post. All My Best to your newly expanded family!

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  4. Sam, My wife expressed my sentiments about you, so I won’t help her to increase the size of your head. I will say however, that I also had a similar experience, but it was for a person that was just trying to fit in, and I was the one doing the damage. I didn’t beat the crap out of him, but I might as well have. I made him feel less than, and to this day, I regret doing it. So I stood with you at conference, and I signed my name. It can’t undo what I did to that young man who was only looking to fit in, but maybe it can help me to help those being bullied now by my church to lean on my for support. Thanks Sam. You are being an example of Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are an example of being Christlike, my friend. I wish that I couldn’t say this, but you and your family are part of the army of people being marginalized by my church. The way you are viewed and treated is un-Christlike. A great loss for the church and for your friends. I am not going to forfeit the blessing of your friendship, just because I’m in and your out. Actually, we are both in. Into the teachings and example of Jesus. At least we’re making an honest attempt at it. Again, congrats on your new son. Tomorrow, my new grandson will be brought into the world. Families are precious. So are friendships.

      Like

  5. We all have been in this situation. I hope you are not too hard on your “young” self. Forgive yourself from that, but learn from it and help it to guide your life now. Let love lead your efforts, not shame of your past. Which is exactly what I see you doing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a powerful story!

    I suspect there isn’t anyone who has made the morally weak choice in a situation like that. I have a similar experience as yours and didn’t speak up because I was glad that there was someone lower on the totem pole than me; someone else to redirect the attention of the school bullies. I felt relief.

    Fortunately, we have been granted the time and wisdom to correct these flaws as we get older.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a poignant story! Now I understand more fully why you do what you do. The other day, someone wrote to you in the Facebook post why you do it when the hope is slim that the leaders will never change, even with your stressful opposition. But now it makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

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