Thursday.. January 10, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 121

"I'm Nobody Special!"
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

            I understood a small part of the reason why 15-year-old Charles Bishop flew a Cessna 172 into the 28th floor of the Bank of America building in Tampa Florida—nobody knew what was going on in his heart and soul.
            As a teenager, I felt alienated and disenfranchised from my parents, from my schoolmates, from society at large.  Anger roiled inside me and I kept it hidden, buried deep, covered in the caves of Terrorism in my soul so that no one could see the turmoil, no one knew the angst that haunted me.
            My problem, as was that of Charles Bishop, was that I was a “nobody special.”  Inside, I was an empty vessel, with no real connections to anyone or anything, pretending to try and be somebody, but knowing deep down I was a nothing—and resenting it.
            Bishop’s teachers called him a “sweet kid.”   His parents said they were “shocked.”   Bishop did a good job of hiding his emptiness, his loneliness.
            So did I.
            So do thousands upon thousands of teenagers who, in the turmoil of puberty where hormones rage to transfer the child to manhood or womanhood, the urge to become “somebody” often overpowers the dark, dank emptiness of being a “nobody.”
            I believe that Charles Bishop was a victim of Parental Complacency.   Perhaps even Societal Complacency.
            So often we turn the upbringing of our child’s emotional maturity over to our schools and society.   We forget that the building of human character is a deeply personal effort, requiring a constant vigilance by parental or guardian mentors who, understanding the loneliness of a child’s inner self and its fragility, carefully mold and strengthen the personality of it from the inside out.
            I made every attempt as a father to bolster my children’s emotional strengths, to teach them they were “somebody special” on a daily basis because I knew what it was like to be neglected from within—to walk around as a child with my soul aching to be massaged and loved and appreciated and receiving instead the complacency of parents far too busy struggling with their own identities and emotions to consider mine.
            It perturbs me to hear psychologists rail on the reasons why a seemingly nice young man would fly his plane into a building, and carry a not supporting bin Laden when there was no physical evidence that he aligned himself to the Beast of Destruction prior to his suicide.   They talk about a “troubled teen,” as though Charles Bishop was some exception to the “Rebel Without A Cause” rule that has dominated teenagers since the dawn of time as they strive for an identity in a faceless, seemingly cold and uncaring world.
            While no one can guarantee the outcome of anyone’s life, the foundation for that life can be dug with deep and strong roots to help insure it will grow as strong as possible and weather most any assault on its superstructure.
            That’s where the Pledge of Vigilance comes into play.   The core of its power lies in teaching a child “emotional value” through Parental Vigilance.   A person’s identity—what one thinks of oneself—has everything to do with how emotionally rich or poor an individual will become as he or she matures.
            Children are like clay.  They can be molded into personalities of shame and guilt and intimidation and fear, or into beings of courage, conviction and action.    The guardianship of these feelings rests with the parents or guardians who have ultimate responsibility not just for the physical welfare of a child, but most importantly, for its emotional well-being.
            Children know when they are loved or unloved, appreciated or neglected, supported or left stranded.   It comes down to simple caring about the structuring of the child’s emotional foundations—what does the child think of himself or herself?
            There is only one way to find the answer to that question—and that is to develop those answers for a child—not leave the child to find them on his or her own.   Such neglect invites potential disaster.
            Parents who have children are not unlike any creature who bears a new generation.   In nature, the creatures mold the character of their offspring by teaching them how to survive in a world full of threats and dangers.  
            Last night, for example, my wife and I were babysitting our grandchildren, Sarah, age 3, and Matt, 5.   We often watch the Discovery Channel where the lives of various animals are displayed in an hour-long show called Explorer.   Last night it was about the mountain lion.    It showed how the mother nurtured the babies, taught them how to hunt, protected them, guided them so that they could survive the world they would enter.
            One startling scene was when a mountain lion challenged a mother bear and her cubs, and the mother bear ran off rather than fight and left her cubs to become the prey of the mountain lions.
            It symbolized the two kinds of parents in this world—The Parents of Vigilance and the Parents of Complacency.    The Parent of Vigilance fights to the death to protect his or her child from the world’s harm.  The Parent of Complacency turns his or her back, ignoring the safety of the child, leaving it to be prey for the world.
            If a parent has become a child’s best friend, working with it from birth, through the ladders of maturity, being there for it when it is lonely and frightened, teaching it how fight fear with courage, intimidation with conviction, and complacency with action, the parent will never be surprised at a child’s actions.   The parent will know the child, and the child will know the parent.  They will become one in life.
            Charles Bishop was a Rebel With A Cause.   Nobody knew what that cause was, because he kept it hidden.  
            He was full of anger and rage and resentments against himself and others, and allowed those feeling to boil to the surface as he climbed into the Cessna and aimed it at a building, knowing that his life was no longer worth living, and neither were the lives of the innocent whom he might take with him.   
            If America took an honest poll of teenagers and asked the question:  “Do you feel like somebody special or like a nobody special?” we might be surprised at the answer.  It might shock the parents who think their children are well-rounded, normal teenagers.   Being “somebody” means that you have been recognized deep within by another as being of great value to yourself and others, and that you have a mission on this earth to create value through your actions so that the world becomes just a little better as a result of your existence.  
             Being somebody means you have learned not to be afflicted by what others think of you, or intimidated by the need to be “accepted by others” before you “accept yourself” as being special.    It means a parent, or guardian or mentor must stand at the side of a child at all times, as the mother mountain lion did her cubs, ready to protect it by teaching it how to be “special” in the face of threats to turn it simply into prey, fodder, fuel for others to use to get what they want at your expense.
            As the Pledge of Vigilance clearly states, it is vowing to teach a child to fight fear with courage, intimidation with conviction, and complacency with action.    It starts when the child is conceived, and continues throughout its life.    It means the role of the parent is to become an emotional value coach, constantly fighting the Terror within a child that he or she is “nobody special.”
           There’s a movie out that rings the bell on this issue.  It’s called “Joe Somebody.”   The title alone suggests that before Joe became a Somebody he was a Nobody.    It means he lived a life through maturity walking around feeling “less-than” his fellow citizens—demeaning himself from within for what he wasn’t and wishing for what he couldn’t imagine himself being.
            Joe Somebody’s mother bear left him to be prey to the lions long ago, or wouldn’t want to be Joe Somebody.  He would know he was already.
            Charles Bishop was a Charles Nobody wanting to be a Charles Somebody.
            The irony is, he really was "somebody"--only he didn’t know it. 
            No one helped him really see who he really was--somebody special!
            Had he seen himself for what he was, a young man of courage, conviction and action, he would have wanted to pass those virtues on to others--not destroy them in a suicide crash trying to be "like somebody else."


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