Essay Preview: Perceptions
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“You can choose to be like everyone else, or you can choose to be different”, the religious tract left on my car’s windshield extolled. It was just the other night while I was among my geekish peers at the gaming shop Borderlands; I was leaving to go home when I came across the leaflet left by some random stranger while I was away. Obviously, the point was for personal choice toward God, but the opening line wasn’t lost on me. I blinked, noting that no other car had this specific tract placed on the windshield. Obviously my car showed me to be different, since it was decked out with a “Cthuhlu for President” bumper sticker on the back and a coyote tail on the rear-view mirror. But it left me wondering if I was strange enough to be picked out among a group of those already considered to be on the outside.

As it has for millennia, society today has an inherent need to classify people. Holding everyone to a preconceived societal norm, many people seem to relish dividing people into “normal” and “strange”, with the thinking that those outside the normal are somehow wrong. Of course, on the other side of the coin, those who are considered strange look on those who society calls normal and wonders what’s wrong with them.

Those that society considers normal usually react to those they consider strange in one of two ways. The first way is that of secret admiration. Usually conferred to outsiders who have found a way to garner fame, they are admired or envied for the ways they get away with flaunting or staying outside the rules of society. Rock stars are a clear example of this admiration: many have strange habits, attire, and looks. But they have many fans that would consider themselves normal, and the stars’ strangeness is an intoxicant for the fan, a way to temporarily escape their own life.

The other usual reaction outside the norm are much more sinister. In Bartholme’s story “Not Knowing”, he describes an incident involving the narrator and a group of young boys that carried over to the whole of the West Village region of New York. A number of them were carrying weapons, and confront the narrator, asking him if he is straight. When the narrator asks neighbors about the gangs, they tell him that the boys had been roving around the Village for at least two years. “There are these bands of little kids wandering around … beating up gays,” he was told, “And nobody seems to be able to do anything about it.”

As this perception of deviation from society builds, there are times when those perceived as different turn those perceptions into a weapon against themselves. “Being an idiot isn’t so terrible,” said Julio Cortazor in his essay “Only a Real Idiot”, “but it does set you apart from others, and while it’s sometimes good, at other times you feel a certain longing.” Many set apart from normal society feel depressed as they begin to believe the words from those considered normal. Turning into self-loathers,

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