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Carol Perkins: Mean spiritedness at WH Correspondent's Dinner

'Mean-spirited people lurk among us and I have met a few-we all have. Buried deep inside was an event that I wanted to forget but never have. It happened between a student and a teacher when I was in high school.', Carol remembers an incident from high school trying make sense out of why people are being so mean to each other, as they were to Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the nationally televised dinner.
The next earlier column: Carol Perkins: Celebrating Geezerdom

By Carol Perkins

Unless you are the focus of a celebrity roast and know what is coming, you likely would not expect to be seated at the head table of a famous Washington event and become the unexpected joke of the night. That is what happened at the White House Correspondent's Dinner last week to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary. As the camera went from the comedienne to Ms. Sanders, I wondered what kept her from walking out. How could she listen to such ugly things about her looks and her clothes, her job, and her family?

Mean-spirited people lurk among us and I have met a few-we all have. Buried deep inside was an event that I wanted to forget but never have. It happened between a student and a teacher when I was in high school. I was sitting at my desk enjoying our class discussion and to this day can still remember the encounter. The student was a rough girl known to have a mean streak that other girls avoided and boys shunned. One day in a class discussion about "feelings and emotions" among young girls (or something like that), the teacher made the statement that she didn't often cry. "As a matter of fact, I can't remember the last time I did. I just don't cry." This girl set out to prove her wrong.

"I bet I can make you cry," she popped up. The teacher, playing along, said, "I bet you can't." That exchange went back and forth until the teacher jokingly said, "Try if you want to." Without hesitation, this girl said, "Your baby died."

Silence. A few gasps might have fallen, but what I remember was the awkwardness of the moment and the shock waves in the room. She had brought back a painful memory that had long been known to all of us but had happened so long ago. That girl was heartless. I could have ripped her heart out if she had had one.

We all watched as the teacher stared at the student, and for what seemed like minutes, she said, "You are right." Then she walked out the classroom door and stood where we could the top of her head through the glass at the top. No one said a word, but we should have. There is power in numbers. One of us should have had the guts to tell her how mean she was and that she should go to the teacher and apologize. We should have blasted her for what she did, but we sat silently and waited.

When the teacher came back inside, she said nothing. We resumed our lesson. I don't think the girl was punished. What punishment would have been appropriate? If the teacher had a "talk" with her, we never knew it. I often wondered if she felt any remorse. Did the guilt live with her? Whoever said, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" didn't know the girl who told her teacher her baby had died. I wonder where that "woman" is today.

This story was posted on 2018-05-03 12:08:07
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