Written by: Kevin Cann
I am going to write about a very difficult topic for me today. Sometimes you need to stand where you are uncomfortable and put yourself out there to be the change that you want to see in the world.
I have written a few articles this week about my feelings with the current state of this country. These are not just coming out of nowhere. I have experience in these types of situations. You may be asking “How can you, as a white man, have experiences with the mistreatment of different races?”
I was the oppressor in an incident back in 2004. I attacked a Jewish kid in a parking lot. Now, I did not attack him because he was Jewish, but I said some really horrible things to him. He was saying some things about me on his Live Journal account that I did not take too kindly to.
I wanted him to meet me somewhere so that we could fight. He just kept egging me on and would not meet me somewhere. I got so pissed off that I went to his place of work, walked into the break room, and wrote down his schedule.
I showed back up the next day that he was working. He happened to be outside bringing carriages into the grocery store. I approached him, saying some truly terrible things. I proceeded to headbutt him in the face and walk away. I am sure I was continuing to say things at this time, but I honestly do not remember.
You know how much hate and anger you need to possess to head butt someone in a parking lot in broad daylight? To be honest, I never thought I was a hateful or angry person at this time. Everyone else was at fault for my actions.
I was born into hate. My father drank a lot and was verbally and physically abusive. I have very few memories of my early childhood. In fact, I can only muster up one memory of the time before my parents divorced.
I was 9 years old and got into a fight with a kid in the neighborhood. My father was pissed for some reason and slapped me right across the chest. He slapped me so hard that he left his handprint on my chest. It was bad enough that my parents kept me out of school until the handprint went away.
I learned that violence could solve many of my issues at a young age. I went to 4 different school districts between kindergarten and high school. There was always that kid that wanted to pick on the new kid. I just was not the new kid you wanted to pick on.
That kid would pick on me, and without speaking one word, I would immediately throw a punch. This seemed to earn the respect of everyone at the school. People want to be your friend if they think you are tough. Not sure why this is a thing, but it is.
Not only was I learning that violence was ok at home, but it was offering me rewards outside of the home with my peers. I was not being rewarded by the teachers and administrators at the schools that I was attending.
My parents definitely worked hard and wanted the best for me. My mother started as a bank teller, but earned a master’s degree, and a JD while having a full-time job and 3 kids at home. She worked her way up through the bank and continued to work hard. Even to this day. I got my father’s hatred and temper, but my mother’s work ethic.
They found a way through financial aid, to get us into private school. I remember getting into a fight at recess and getting sent to the principal’s office. The principal was a nun, Sister Maureen Joseph, I still remember her today.
However, the only memory I have of her is her screaming at me while clapping her hands aggressively. I remember the frustration that she felt with me because I was constantly getting into trouble.
It is crazy because my daughter is 12 and going into the 7th grade. She is the absolute sweetest kid. It is crazy because at an even younger age than her, I would follow a kid I did not like into the bathroom to be able to punch him uninterrupted.
This violent behavior grew as I grew. Sports was always a great outlet for me. It allowed me to get out my aggression in a much more constructive way. When I was really focused on my sport, I was able to keep myself out of trouble.
The consequences of a suspension from school did not bother me. The consequences of missing a game did. I was always on my best behavior during the season. Sports also got me out of an abusive home.
When my parents got divorced, my father’s drinking and abusive behavior grew. There was a period that my brother and I did not even sleep in beds, we slept on a folded up blanket on the floor.
There was even a night that my father could not get a sitter and we were dragged to the prison he worked at, snuck into the school, and slept on the concrete floors there. I remember being on the bus going to school one day and one of the kids saying “You are too poor to eat there” as we passed the one restaurant in town.
I never thought we were poor, but it really pissed me off. My dad wasn’t too poor to drink there every night and I sure as shit wasn’t too poor to kick this kid’s ass on the bus. You see, when you live with very little, and the one person that is supposed to care for you and love you doesn’t, you feel powerless.
I would go to bed every night just looking forward to the day that I can get out of that fucking hell hole I was living in. I honestly felt like no one gave a shit about me and no one heard my voice.
My father had brainwashed us to think that my mother was the devil so my relationship with her was strained. He found a way to really separate us and put us kids in a terrible position. The Department of Youth Services would show up at times, but we were coached well on what to say so that never was of any help.
Getting back to my voice not being heard. At the time, I thought what I was trying to say was that each kid I had an issue with did something to me. They need to be punished for their actions. In hindsight, and as I have matured it is a much different viewpoint.
I wanted someone to help me. No one ever did. My voice continued to fall on deaf ears. I always got good grades, even though I did not give a shit about school. My mother is naturally smart, so I got that from her too. I know I am bouncing around a bit in this article, but there are just so many random thoughts coming and going here so I do apologize for that.
Eventually my father just stopped paying my tuition bills and I had to drop out of college. He also stopped paying my car payments and my car was repossessed. He made me get the car in his name and give him money monthly, which I did. He used that money on booze instead of paying for my car.
That moment when I had to leave college, I felt so helpless again. I had to move back home into that same environment of hatred and anger. I moved into my dad’s house, into the basement.
I slept on a pullout sofa that had to have been 20 years old. It was more uncomfortable than sleeping on the floor, but at least I had my own room. The basement took on water and there was mold everywhere.
My father did not keep up with the house, so it was falling apart. It would later get foreclosed upon and everyone was forced to move. At this time my father was retired, and the drinking had increased even more.
I can’t even begin to describe how angry this situation made me. I laid in my bed every night waiting to get the fuck out of my shitty situation. I busted my ass on the field and in the classroom in college to improve my situation and get out of there.
Problem is that it is very hard to run away from the problems at home. They suck you back in like a black hole. Now instead of hope, I had nothing but anger and a feeling that the world was against me. My anger would only get elevated by my father’s behavior as well.
At this point I was bigger and stronger than he was. He could not be the aggressor towards me anymore. He knew better. I had no problem putting my hands on him if I had to. I was going out drinking a lot with friends and just getting into a lot of trouble.
We would hang out at bars that no one really gave a fuck if you got into a fight at. I just assumed this was going to be my life. I felt worthless and helpless. I felt that I did everything I could do to improve my situation, and this was just going to be how it was.
I would get into a lot of trouble here. I was arrested for assault, assault with a dangerous weapon, malicious destruction of property, wanton destruction of property. I was no longer being sent to the principal’s office, but instead to court.
My anger would really get me into trouble in 2004. I was not charged with that crime right away, instead it took the FBI 4 years to put a case together and to come knocking on my door. I would be indicted the same year my daughter was born and subsequently fired from my job.
I had been working as a police dispatcher for 3 years at the time. I made good money and had great benefits. I had not been in much trouble over that period of time. I had started to really turn things around.
I removed my father from my life and found sports in my life again. I stopped hanging out with friends that I was constantly getting in trouble with and really tried to do better. I was doing better.
Then I got that knock on my door from the FBI. Again, you cannot outrun your past. This was a terrible situation. I have never felt so low in my life. Twice I had been able to exit my shitty circumstances only to be reeled right back in.
I felt all of the progress I made over the last 4 years was ripped away from me. I would say it was just a fight between 2 kids, and it was, but for the first time ever I am saying it was much more than that.
I did not attack him because he was Jewish. I attacked him because I was filled with hate and anger and felt powerless to help my own situation. Unleashing my anger and frustration like that made me feel powerful. Physically and verbally assaulting someone like I was at home has some symbolism as well. That is how I was punished as a kid and that is how I would punish those that I felt wronged me.
Those that know me now, know that I am not that same person. It almost feels like now I see that person as someone different from me and I see the memories almost through a witnesses’ eyes as opposed to through my own.
I changed because I knew I had to for my daughter. Instead of letting that issue just drag me right back down into a bad cycle, I made some changes. I found a way to go back to school and finish my undergrad degree. I would then go to grad school and get a master’s degree. I was able to start my own business and build a solid professional network. I learned to keep negative people out of my life and to surround myself with people that I want to be like.
If we want change to happen, we need to show compassion for everyone. I was incapable of doing that when I was younger because no one showed me compassion. Martin Luther King Jr said “Hate begets hate. Violence begets violence.” I lived that truth.
When I say that we must show everyone compassion, I say this with real life knowledge about what it feels like to feel like no one cares. I have changed because people showed me, they cared about me and it did not matter what I did in the past. They gave me an opportunity.
I have a very caring and loving wife, that actively helps the poor, inner city community receive healthcare. She also loves me in spite of all of this. My mother and I have a strong relationship now, and that strong relationship extends to my stepfather.
I understand the frustration that a poverty stricken community faces. It feels like you can’t escape it. It is a black hole that just always sucks you back in. I do not know what it feels like to go through those experiences as a member of the black community, but I can empathize with it.
America is supposed to be the land of opportunity. The black community needs a fair hand in going after that opportunity. Just like I was given when I found a way to get my college degree and then my master’s.
If you encounter someone that seems to be full of hate, please try to be compassionate. I know it is very difficult. I can’t even believe that is how I acted at one point, and if I encountered my younger self, I would hate him. It is hard not to.
But that hate can be cast out with people showing compassion and understanding. I literally just wanted someone to tell me that they cared about me and it would be ok. Do not try to insult or yell at someone you disagree with, it will only lead them to find more peace with other hateful people. They need to be surrounded by more love and compassion.
Don’t try to force your ideals onto someone either. It is ok to disagree with them. If you show them love and compassion over time those walls of hate can be broken down. This is very hard to do, to be nice to someone that is so hateful, but if we want a more peaceful world with more genuine equality, than this is a must.