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These were the three playground "gangs" when I was in second grade. I grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., so the gang naming convention at work here isn't quite as bizarre as it sounds. The Democrats ran the swingset and the gravel pit around it as their personal fiefdom. The Republicans controlled the wooden castle and the slides. The Cobra Venom roamed from place, true to the non-conventional nature of their names, and brought instability in their wake wherever they went.

I was a Republican operative in my callow youth, now my story can be told. We saw ourselves as the noble defenders of the playground; the shoving of girls and other non-combatants on our turf was not tolerated. By the end of the year, I had risen second-in-command of the Republican forces, and master of spies. It was up to me to find out where the Cobra Venom would be on any given day, and what those sneaky Democrats were planning next. My work was not without danger: after one particularly messy three-way shoving match at the top of a slide (one of our slides, dammit!) I was admitted to the clinic, where I had to be given two icepacks, an un-heard-of extravagance.

Life was difficult in those days, but I don't regret the choices I made. The name of the Republicans may mean something very different on the national scene today, but in our time, and in our corner of the world, I think it did something good. I haven't been back to my old school in years, and I don't know if the students there carry on the old ways, the proud traditions of honor and revenge. Maybe it's better if that's all passed away now, because our world could be brutal and terrifying. I still bear the scars of those troubled times, not on the outside, but the inside. If any here think I did wrong, I'd challenge them to do better in my place.

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