www.whyville.net Aug 16, 2009 Weekly Issue

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I've never been one for hatred or violence. I'm a pacifist; even the idea of squishing a bug sends a shiver down my spine, and I generally stay out of arguments.

Even when a friend told a mortifying secret of mine that wasn't hers to tell, even though it caused a bewildering flurry of arguments, tears, and heart-to-hearts, I never yelled at her. And I've forgiven her.

Even when that boy in fifth grade made fun of me every day, isolated me, sneered at me when I got a single wrong answer on a paper, it's okay now. I've forgiven him, too.

It seems like every time I should get angry at someone over something, despise them, I can't. And I'm glad; overall, it's made me a very level-headed person, someone who gives good advice, someone that friends come to with questions.

Though, sometimes even I get upset.

My band teacher was amazing. We called him Mr. O, and, by all means, he was my favorite teacher. With his silly jokes, laid-back attitude about work, and deep passion for music, he was one of the most remarkable people I've ever met. He wasn't just a teacher, he was a buddy, a best friend . . . but the line between friend and instructor blurred, and a girl claimed he had been inappropriate with her. No real information was given out, so rumors quickly spread; the girl that accused him went from saying that they had simply kissed, to that they had a relationship, to that he had molested her.

I couldn't believe it; Mr. O, doing something like that? My Mr. O, the man who immediately asked what had happened when I was out sick for a week? My Mr. O, with his cheery grin, the man I had made a blueberry pie for on his birthday, and let me stay during part of my lunch period to share it with him? No. He couldn't have done that.

He was removed from the school, put under house arrest. The news reports were cruel, immediately assuming that he was guilty. The man they pictured in papers looked strange, constricted, frightened. It appeared to me as if he was holding back tears. It wasn't Mr. O anymore.

Months went by. His case kept getting put off. I believed with all my heart that he was innocent . . . or, at least, the girl that had accused him had started whatever had gone on. The replacement teacher was alright, but I wanted Mr. O back. I wanted my old buddy. I cried a couple times, knowing I probably wouldn't be able to see my beloved teacher again.

And then the news came out.

Mr. O was guilty.

He was a divorced man, with two kids. His children hate him now, can't stand him. His ex-wife most likely feels the same way, but she won't say anything. A lot of people hate him now, I think, but not me. He was my teacher, a buddy. I doodled pictures for him every day, pinned Origami dinosaurs to his cork board. I don't hate him. I can't hate him.

But I want to.

Hate is a funny thing. I think it's a defense mechanism. I think that if you trick yourself into believing you hate someone or something, it numbs the pain.

Think about it. If you hate the girl across the street, the one that's horribly mean to you, then maybe it hides the fact that otherwise, you'd be heartbroken that she wouldn't consider being your friend. If you're angry at the boy that punched you, maybe it blots out some of the physical pain and the rejection, knowing he dislikes you enough to do something so disrespectful.

I'm not talking about hating spicy food or the Jonas Brothers or Mondays. That's not hate, that's dislike. Hate is too harsh of a word to really use on such trivial things.

I wonder sometimes, if I hated Mr. O, would I still be heartbroken? Would I still cry at night, knowing the man I knew might have just been a facade? Knowing that I could have potentially been in the same position as the girl that accused him? If I was angry at him, if I detested him, wouldn't the ache and the unspilt tears be forgotten? Mr. O was practically a big brother, and with one accusation, one confession, I lost him. He'll never get his job back as a teacher. He's facing up to twelve years in prison. When he gets out, he'll probably move, start a new life. And I'll be left behind with a handful of memories and a hint of salt still on my face, knowing that the teacher I came to know is gone.

I've never had the protection of hatred. I can't hate people. I might say I do, but deep down, I know I don't hate them. I can't hold grudges for long, and instead, I blame myself for the harsh words or stupid actions of others. If I hated, if I was capable of it, maybe I would be better off.

I can't help but think about it.

Keena's out.

Editor's Note: Sexual abuse of any kind is a serious subject. If you or someone you know is going through a similar story, please contact someone you trust like a parent/guardian, or your local law enforcement.


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