TDG Banner

Scrawny Ronnie

SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE, SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE. Ronnie was a boy in my school. He was darker than the rest of us white kids. He had really curly hair. He spoke English with an accent.

SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE, SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE. Ronnie wasn’t very smart. He could not read well. He could not do simple arithmetic.

SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE, SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE. Ronnie tried hard, but he was a terrible soccer player. Same with football and baseball. He couldn’t run fast and he ran in a silly way.

SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE, SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE. He was a terrible fighter, so it was easy to pick on him.

SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE, SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE. We could make him cry! It made us feel good.

The leader of our playground was a boy who shall be called “Bully.” Bully was very smart and could control us. He had about five boys in his inner circle, his best friends. I wanted to be in that circle, but my family went to the wrong church and I was small. So I was often a target of Bully’s attacks. Sometimes I could be part of that circle and be a bully; sometimes the circle bullied me. But I never got bullied as bad as Ronnie.

One winter day, the custodian of our school made a pile of snow in the middle of the playground. This allowed us to play “King of the Castle.” One boy would start as king and stand on top of the pile. Other boys would run up the pile to try and push him off. The king would push back to defend his position. When a boy pushed the king off, that boy became king.

Bully was king. His back was to me because he was pushing other boys. So I ran up the pile, put my hands on his back, and pushed him off. I was going to be king for a very short time!

When Bully looked back, he saw that it was only little me who pushed him off. He stopped the game. He started pushing me around the playground: “Don’t you know you can’t push someone from the back!” he shouted. “Don’t you know you should shout a warning before running up the pile?” After three or four pushes, I fell over. Bully kicked snow in my face and continued shouting. None of the other boys, even my best friends, would defend me.

So I was all alone, crying in the middle of the playground. A gentle hand touched my shoulder. It was Ronnie. We didn’t say much, but he knew how I felt. It felt good to have such a friend.

The next week, Ronnie and I stayed away from the other boys. We got our own football and passed it to each other during recess. It was fun because I too was not a good athletic. I tried to help Ronnie with his math. The other boys tried to tease us: DAV-VEE AND RON-NEE SITTING IN A TREE. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. But Ronnie and I were united. Their teasing had no effect.

Then one day the teasing changed. SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE, SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE. The boys were no longer teasing me. SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE, SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE. Ronnie was getting it all. SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE, SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE. Bully and his inner circle were leading the chant. SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE, SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE. Maybe this will be the time I can be part of the inner circle. SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE, SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE. So I joined in. SCRAW-NEE RON-NEE.

A few months later, Ronnie gave up. He stopped trying to play with us. He lived close to school, so he would only show up one minute before the morning class started. He stayed by himself during recess. He went home for lunch and showed up one minute before afternoon classes started. He sat in the back of the classroom and quietly did nothing. Eventually the authorities put him in a special school. He only stayed there one year, then stopped going to school altogether. He was only 14 years old.

Without Ronnie around, Bully needed some new victims. I was bullied more often but still not as bad as Ronnie had been bullied. Then Bully went to another school. I won’t say that bullying stopped at our school, but my life sure got better. And those kids who were his inner circle weren’t the big bully like their leader was.

Ronnie went into a life of crime, stealing from cars, houses, and stores. The police put him in prison. In prison, he got into a fight. Because he never became a good fighter, he was killed. Now that I am an adult, I understand that I had a small part in his death.

Ronnie accepted that he was different. He knew he wasn’t smart and athletic. He only wanted some boys to play with. He did nothing to deserve the treatment we gave him.

Published on 2014

2023 Addendum

This story still brings me close to tears. Ronnie only wanted some boys to play with. He did nothing to deserve the treatment we gave him.

Ronnie passed away without much of a legacy to follow him.

There is a connection between the behavior in our political arenas and behavior in our playgrounds. A kinder, wiser democracy will bring a kinder, wiser playground.

Maybe Ronnie’s legacy is to convince you that you need to help build that kinder, wiser democracy.

Rationality & Poverty

Negative Welfare