Before I get into today's post, I just want to remind my American readers that it's not too late to send cards to recovering soldiers! Go to this post and get the information about what and where to send the holiday cards. Make sure they're postmarked no later than tomorrow. And thanks to everyone who has seen to it that this information was so well publicized! Now, on with the show.
It probably seems like I'm a little late to the party on this one, since the legend of Katie has been going on for some weeks. I was going to post about it sooner, actually, but it seemed like the furor was dying down and then I was diverted by things like my new job and Thanksgiving and Walter Reed Hospital. But I have been following the story almost from the beginning, and I have been invested in the cause for as long as I've known about it.
A little backstory for those of you who are unfamiliar with the saga. Once upon a time, a couple adopted a beautiful little girl named Katie. Katie's mom chronicles the ongoing story of their lives together in her blog, Portrait of an Adoption. Katie, like her father, is a big fan of Star Wars, and was excited to carry a SW water bottle to school...until some of her classmates started teasing her for it, saying that SW is for boys. Katie already felt like an outsider, because she's adopted and Jewish and wears glasses and an eye patch, so this was more than she could stand.
Her mother, naturally distressed, encouraged Katie to continue being herself and turned to the followers of her blog for some support. And you can guess what happened next...as I'm so fond of saying in my posts here, the internet exploded.
Katie's story made national news. Because as fellow blogger Jen Yates put it, Katie's story transcended gender and transcended age. Katie's story was the story of every geek, every person who's ever been shunned or ridiculed for liking something that other people felt they shouldn't. I've been there. Many of us have been there. So Jen put the story out there, and another blogger caught it, and on and on it went.
The outpouring of love and support was phenomenal. See, there's a lot of us geeks on the web, and we don't like to see our geeky brethren being picked on. And when said geeky brethren takes the form of an adorable seven-year-old, well...it can bring out the Mama Bear or Papa Wolf in even the most stoic and surly of geeks. So you might say that we adopted Katie as our own. She represents the geeky child in each of us.
I know bullying happens to teenagers, but I guess I sort of tend to forget that it can happen at the elementary school level too. It's a problem all through the growing-up years. People are in the process of trying to figure out who they are, who they want to be, who they need to be just to survive to adulthood. This is why bullying happens, you know; some people need to believe that they're better than other people just to make it through the day. And when -- to use a bizarre little metaphor I just made up -- you're the only purple fish in a sea full of green ones, it's hard not to wonder if there's something wrong with you.
This is why the internet is so comforting to the geek brigade. Even if you don't know anyone outside of your computer who shares your interest, the odds are good that inside your computer, you'll find someone to geek out with about anime or Sherlock Holmes or Star Trek or ancient Egypt or Ming vases. It helps you to feel not like purple fish should aspire to be green, but rather, like being a purple fish is really okay. And while Katie's a little young for the internet, her mom was able to find great consolation in the literally thousands of supportive comments left by the rest of us for her to read.
Shine on, you beautiful little purple fish.
Today, Katie's story appears on CNN.com, including the mention of all the wonderful Star Wars gifts she's been sent. (I am totally jealous of that lightsaber she got from ThinkGeek.com, by the way. That is too cool.) It's heartening to read that Katie's classmates have been given a much-needed lesson in tolerance, and that her school is working on anti-bullying policies. It's even more heartening to know that Katie's still carrying her SW water bottle with pride.
Tomorrow, December 10th, Katie's school is having what sounds like the best day ever. They're calling it "Proud To Be Me" Day. All the students are being encouraged to wear shirts that display one of their personal interests. More schools should do this. I truly hope the idea catches on.
Meanwhile, the internet will be having its own day, in honor of Katie and also in honor of our geeky unity. Tomorrow is "Support Star Wars and Geek Pride for Katie" Day. We've all been asked to wear Star Wars shirts -- or, if you have no SW shirts, wear a shirt displaying your own geeky pursuit of choice. Katie's parents, responding to the many people who have asked to be allowed to send her even more SW toys, have requested that in addition to wearing the shirts, we donate SW toys to children's charities. (Ties in perfectly with the time of year, don't you think? In fact, my favorite video game store is a drop-off point for Toys for Tots.)
So please consider joining us tomorrow. Let's show the Katies of the world, past and present and future alike, that we're all in this together. And when someone asks why you're wearing that shirt, tell them the truth -- proudly.