In third grade my school held a contest to create a short slogan that “countered all forms of harassment in our schools.” My entry: Everyone is unique in their own special way. If you think I ripped it off; this was more than a decade before the South Park song, and I never watched Barney because it was my younger sister’s favorite show and therefore my least favorite show.
My seating partner, Kimberly Smith, plagiarized me: Everyone is unique in their own special way IN THE WORLD. That cheap addendum was justification enough for me to harass her about her buckteeth—probably because they weren’t so unique, as I was a bit of a Bucktooth Bunny myself at that age.
At recess my best friend Black Steve and I joked about everyone actually being uniquely gay in their own way—our political incorrectness was less unique than it is these days. Weren’t unique qualities such as being homosexual often the precise motivators for bullies?
A week or two later, our teacher, Mrs. Young, came into class with a brown envelope and pulled out a certificate with my name on it. I’d won. I was eight years old and had already infiltrated the egalitarian liberal mindset—and believe me, Quebec’s English school boards are very liberal—that refused to see anything but the positive interpretation of my statement. To them, “unique” couldn’t possibly mean anything besides “special” in the good way. Everyone is equally unique. Uncover the unique qualities in each person and by doing so, bullying shall henceforth cease to exist. Bullying solved.
The contest judges must have seen in the word “unique” that kind of palatable ambiguity in such words as “diversity” or “tolerance.” In the tolerance-obsessed world of liberals, your character is judged by your interpretation of words, and there’s zero tolerance for any interpretation that deviates from their narrative. For instance, an objective evaluation of affirmative action is automatically considered an affront to the term “diversity”—whatever that means—and therefore a declaration of one’s own racism. Likewise, criticizing the socially constructed buzz-term “rape culture” even a little bit not only makes you a rape apologist, it makes you Captain Touchy Hands onboard the SS Diddle sailing away to Rape Island. With this contest, “unique” was cemented as meaning something positive—rather than, say, uniquely stupid or uniquely violent—and to think otherwise could be construed as pro-bullying.
Defining words to your advantage is a tactic as old as I was young when I won the contest. I wrote the slogan, then turned right around to bully Kimberly. Remembering her cry as I made weird toothy faces at her almost makes me sad enough to cry right now. Almost—because I was also bullied and am now stronger for it. Everyone has and everyone is. Even though Black Steve and I talked about how gay the contest was, it didn’t stop me from proudly putting that certificate on the fridge or enjoying the candy I bought with the prize money. If someone as antisocial as me is capable of winning an anti-bullying slogan contest, how many people are out there right now fooling you under the auspices of countering evil?