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The (Completely Justified) Monster in the Mirror

I remember a moment from my childhood, in elementary school. It has always been emblematic of my experience of society in those formative years. For it to make sense, understand - I was an odd kid. Creative, cerebral, and not particularly socially skilled, I always struggled to find a place in the rural, red-blooded midwestern town where I was raised. Anyway, the moment was this. Two classmates, both well-liked and the 4th-grade equivalent of popular, came over that morning and started hanging out with me. I remember feeling pleased if a bit befuddled. Perhaps the mysterious gears of social connection had turned and I had somehow found a place at the center of things.
That lasted for a few hours, and then just before lunch one of them said the following: "This has been cool. They told us at church group last night that we should think about that weird kid, that loser in our class that nobody liked, and try to be nice to him. Anyway, you're welcome."
Of course, this act …

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