On Christmas night, the screen time my kids chose (for daddies’ down time) was “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.”

I was happy to hear the familiar music and dialogue in the background as I sipped bourbon and stared at my phone.

Around the fourteenth time Lucy declared, “You blockhead, Charlie Brown,” my older kid asked, “Why does everyone hate Charlie Brown?”

And it gave me pause. Why does everyone hate Charlie Brown?

In the Christmas special, Charlie’s the Christmas pageant director. Leadership often brings up conflict. But all Charlie’s trying to do is focus collective effort on getting the damn pageant done. But just because Charlie can’t control the cast doesn’t justify the near-universal derision of his peers.

It’s not like Charlie’s leading acting exercises that force Lucy to dredge up that time a teacher told her she’ll never amount to anything after which the class bully looked over and said, “you smell like shit and you’ll never find love in life and you’ll end up with warts all over your nose and children will run screaming from you for the rest of your life” so that Lucy dissolves into insecure puddles of whimpering actor-y neediness with the theoretical goal of rendering her a better actor by revisiting childhood trauma.

But I digress. That’s never happened to me.

Later, Charlie buys his infamous Christmas tree out of sympathy for something authentic in the miasma of seasonal capitalism. I mean, sure…a 9 year-old who chooses authenticity (however decrepit) over simulacra would probably earn mockery from his fellow 9 year-olds.

The gang mocks him for his lack of football skills, his inability to cut holes in a sheet to make a Halloween ghost costume, his unlucky kite-flying, his everything, he questions human short-comings, can be a little soap-box-lectur-y, and is definitely a debby-downer. But isn’t Lucy the hateful one? Isn’t Sally the selfish one? Isn’t the “naturally curly hair” girl the one worthy of face-on mockery?

But Charlie’s sorta maladroit and he receives all the vitriol. What’s up with that? Why does everyone hate Charlie BrownIt all makes me think that, ultimately, within almost every human group, there’s that guy who ends up the target of being, well…that guy.

I don’t know how or why it happens, but there’s one person who’s the know-it-all, the naïf, the idiot, in every group I’ve ever joined as a child or as an adult. And that’s the person that none of us want to be. In order to avoid ever being that guy, people (especially children) dump their negativity upon this undeserving soul to keep the down-trodden trodden-upon.

I was desperately afraid of being mocked for, well, anything from the ages 7 to 43, er, I mean 23. To avoid perching on that lowest wrung, I’d manifest my superiority over those I saw as a titch below me. I wasn’t a bully, I wasn’t overtly mean, but I did find ways to cement my social superiority. . with dismissiveness at the lunch table, mockery behind-the-back, or snobbery face-to-face when these few people were being nice to me.

Ugh. I hate myself for having created these memories.

Would I have kicked Charlie Brown just to make sure I was a wrung or two above him? I’m not proud to say I probably would have.

Now, in an era of aggressive anti-bullying, I can’t see that my kids are yet preoccupied with social hierarchy. But they’re young, yet. I won’t be surprised if I sense a cultural domination game seeping into their lexicon.

Maybe I can justify more screen-time to foster discussion of “You’re right. Why doeseveryone hate Charlie Brown? Has he done anything wrong?”

Anything to turn that television back on and settle in with my bourbon and phone-staring time.