Lunatics to the Left, Lunatics to the Right, and Not a Drop to Drink

Extremely Dangerous Boy Kid

by Fred Reed

God. Oh God. Oh God, God, God. It is getting worse. Maybe I’ll take cyanide.

Our Guilty Pleasure

I find this inspiriting headline polluting my inbox like rotting road-kill. It’s from Broward County, Florida:

“Child Still Expelled for Toy Gun – a Year Later Parents want their child back in school. School board says no way”

See? Florida collectively is out of its tiny little mind. What if this crepuscular pathology spreads to other countries? Or planets?

“School board officials said the rules are quite clear and that the toy gun constituted a weapon.”

Me, I figure the school-board officials constitute a pack of priggish low-Board simians who ought to be swinging in trees instead of trying to run a school. But then, I’m a curmudgeon.

Think about it. Kid—he’s eight—shows up with toy gun after watching 12,000 hours of shoot’em-ups on the lobotomy box, Luke Skywalker blasting funny-looking milkmen like a pretty little mollycoddle turned psychopath. Kid sees war coverage with heroic GIs in Afghanistan killing anybody they can see. He watches recruiting ads for the Marines, who carry guns and want A Few Good Persons. Why would he possibly be interested in a toy gun?

And why would nominal adults, even the barely educated variety characteristically found on school boards, want to wreck the kid’s life? Actually of course it is passive aggression, an attack on the tyke, said attack masquerading, or perhaps marauding is the better word, as high moral endeavor. See, they’re protecting Western Civilization.

The US these days rolls in passive aggression. The country grows daily more mean-spirited, more wrapped in a miasma of diffuse anger, but you still can’t just go up to a child and hit him with a ball bat, or throw acid in his face. No. Instead you find a smugly righteous way to set him back two years in school, thus making him into a guaranteed social misfit. How very…I don’t think “intelligent” is an adequate word. Perhaps “sublime” is better. Or “supernal.”

As tensions grow in America, as divisions flourish, and the nation leads up to something unseen but ugly, prissy vindictiveness and moral sadism become normal. We have become a gotcha culture, watchful for transgressions meaningless but forbidden, so that we can make the malfeasor squirm. How we enjoy the squirming, the writhing on camera, the heavy punishments inflected for nothing.

The other day I was watching television, which I do in the spirit of Margaret Meade investigating her primitives. It’s an electronic Petri dish. Anyway, a story aired of excruciating importance,.At any rate it was excruciating. A politician had been discovered to have forwarded an email containing a picture of a woman copulating with a horse. Delight erupted, disguised as horror: A chance to make him squirm! His election could depend on revelation of this vile perversion, this sickening transgression against, and so on. All waited expectantly for him to whine and beg and lick feet. This reaction by the public strikes me as kinkier than the horse and its tart.

Let us dive, or perhaps wade for reason of long drought, into Truth. We are all adults here. Let’s have a show of hands: How many readers have never looked at porn online?…Ah, I see that I am writing a blog for amputees. How many have never looked at anything more robustly exotic than Presbyterians in the missionary position? (Raise your stumps.) How many are genuinely shocked, appalled, disgusted etc. by the thought of the dread equestrian email, of whose contents most fourteen-year-olds have probably heard? Tijuana used to be internationally famous for such erotic vaudeville. If it is erotic.

The likelihood that the pol is amorously interested in horses is of course zero. Sheep, maybe. Horses, no.

Back to the eight-year-old. “He made a mistake, but why the severe punishment? I don’t understand that,” said Magdiel Burgos, Sam’s dad.”

What? The child did not make a mistake. He’s freaking eight. He brought a toy to school. Since eight is too young (at this writing) to be made to snivel on camera in delicious auto-humiliating, his parents per force do it for him.

The correct solution to the problem, if there were a problem, would be to tell the kid, “Hey, you aren’t supposed to bring stuff like this. Don’t, OK?” When he is a little older, he might be told that the entire scholarly (which it barely is) establishment constitutes a dry run by Darwin, which he judged a failure and meant to discard, but forgot.

There is something wrong, something fetid and cruel, about anyone who will so treat little boy. It gets stranger:

“The school board said they would admit Samuel into a correctional school for problem children who have been expelled located in Hallandale Beach.”

Oh joy! Reform school! What better way to turn him into a happy and stable boy? (Which he is anyway.) Why not Leavenworth? We could try him as an adult. I recommend solitary, to protect the other inmates. And don’t let him bring his teddy bear. He has to learn that actions have consequences.

I thrash about in search of understanding. It cometh not. Perhaps the explanation lies in physics: The stupidity of a closed system tends to remain the same or to increase. Usually, increase.

This sort of neurotic theater has gone on for years. I remember the boy expelled for pointing (so help me) a chicken finger and saying “Bang!” another for bringing plastic soldiers to school, another for drawing a picture of a soldier with a gun, another for swatting a girl on the butt on the playground. This last resulted in the calling of cops, a handcuffed kid, and compulsory psychiatric treatment instead of an admonitory, “Don’t do that again, Bobby. Do you understand me?” How does a society come to this?

I can make guesses that sound vaguely plausible. The United States is not a happy country. People waste their lives in meaningless jobs, trapped by the credit card, the mortgage, the student loan. They know they are wasting their lives. Racial anger runs high. Women resent men. Divorce screws up kids. There is the two-hour commute to the cubicle and back to the sterile box in the anonymous subdivision, the lack of influence over their lives, life from paycheck to paycheck. And anger at affirmative action, either because they suffer from it or because they need it. Life is just flat stressful.

People get spiteful, mean, like mistreated dogs. They want to make others as miserable as they secretly are themselves. So they torment a little boy. I’m going to change my phylum.

Want Spanish Lessons?

A Marketing Survey

My wife Violeta supported herself for years by teaching Spanish to foreigners in Guadalajara and its environs. A while back a friend, a computer security-and-data-base kind of guy, visited and decided that he wanted to learn Spanish. He checked with Berlitz in Washington, DC and, while not actually hospitalized for sticker shock, came close. We decided to make the experiment of having Vi teach him by telephone.

Administratively it seemed feasible. Textbooks from Amazon, payment by PayPal, homework by email. We had all-you-can-eat Vonage, so phone charges were zero. The only question was whether it would work.

It did. If you dropped Woody in Mexico City, he would have no trouble. Another friend, also studying with Vi, is less far along, but close.

She is contemplating making a regular job of it, and we would like to know whether there is interest. Again, this is just a marketing survey at this point.

If you have not studied a foreign language, a few thoughts:

Language instruction exists to make money for the instructors or school. To attract students, these often say things like “Learn the easy and fun way! Learn easily and naturally! A fun, conversational approach, avoids boring grammar!” and so on.

Good freaking luck. There is no easy way to learn a language, and if you don’t learn grammar, you have an illusion of rapid progress for a few weeks, and then stall utterly.

Vi teaches entirely in Spanish. From experience she knows that if she lets English creep in, the student will come to depend on it, and the lesson will turn into an English conversation about Spanish. You don’t learn Spanish by speaking English. The effect is to front-load the difficulty: You can’t discuss interesting things until you have learned a bit. Then one day you realize that you have just carried on an hour of conversation with a Mexican, and entirely in Spanish. It’s a good feeling.

She is friendly, personable, and merciless. She doesn’t do long silences, or short silences. She will keep you talking or listening during the whole lesson. It is work, but it works.

We’re looking at $20 an hour of phone time, checking of homework at no extra charge.

3 Responses to Lunatics to the Left, Lunatics to the Right, and Not a Drop to Drink

  1. C. Session says:

    A short time ago, I had to watch a first grade class of boys and girls. let them play with some little plastic cubes which could be connected to from various things. Two boys made some very harmless handguns out of the little cubes and began playing war, or cops and robbers, or some other harmless game with their hand-crafted toy guns. One little girl came over to me and very innocently notified me that the boys were shooting at eachother. The boys instantly stopped shooting, and looked at me with terror in their eyes. I guess they expected me to tuen them over to the principal. Instead, I smiled at them and told them that they could continue shooting at eachother but not at anyone else in the class. They were happy, and went back to harmlessly shooting at eachother until the end of playtime.

    When I was a kid we played war nearly everyday, and shot at eachother with sticks, brooms, play guns, and even our trusty fingers. “Bang, bang”, we would shout. “You’re dead!” No I’m not would come the reply, and the war continued until it was too dark to see the “whites of their eyes”. What kind of a nation is this that we live in these day, when a boy cannot play with a toy gun?

    It makes you just want to spank that school board over the head wiht a baseball bat, doesn’t it?

  2. Derfel Cadarn says:

    I find your site liberating. Totally agree with your assessment of the school board and the toy gun issue.I spent a lot of my youth playing war and I believe myself to have remained a serviceable human as an adult. Please post phylum name as I would like to join also.

  3. Fred, don’t show off, dear. “Crepuscular,” indeed. Try plugging in graveyard and it doesn’t work well.

    Now, take my hand, and let us wander back to the happy days of our childhood when we played tin can hockey and nobody said anything worse than “Bring my broom back in when you’re through.” Remember making our own bows and arrows and stabbing the tips hopefully into oleander bushes because our parents had warned us the sap is poisonous. Nobody ever died or even fell ill, but it fulfilled our Neolithic need to protect our caves and destroy enemies. In time we grew up and channeled those inborn aggressions towards earning merit badges, excelling on the SAT, and rising in corporate America. There weren’t any serial killers and nobody shot clerks in convenience stores or MacDonald’s just because they were there. It was a lovely, gentle time, and nobody freaked over cap guns or the sweet, pungent smell of minuscule amounts of gunpowder. Adults knew that kids will be kids and didn’t attempt to regulate every moment of our lives. “Getting in trouble” meant you’d torn your new dress or hidden your sister’s favorite doll. At the risk of making a grown man cry…I was 15 before I heard my first vulgar word and 17 before I found out what it meant. Even then I knew that giggling boys using a word I had never heard wasn’t one I should go look up in the dictionary, far less ask a parent about. Chuckle…little Miss Perfect with lace on her ankle socks grew into the nerd of her class and actually got sent to the Principal, once! Mr. Smith looked at me in astonishment, because back then about twice a year he had to reprimand boys who had put limburger in the heating system. Girls in trouble? Nonsense, except for the time Josephine Phillapella skipped school to go to the county fair and her mother came to take her out to go. (Remember back when such a thing was so scandalous that 50 years later we’re still talking about it?) So I explained to him that Miss Goodlett had us writing book reports every week (but not that I thought that beneath my intellectual dignity), and I was using the works of Aldous Huxley. Raised eyebrow. So I said contritely that Miss Goodlett must have looked up some of the technical words I had used (which, needless to say, I did not begin to understand other than as definitions) and thought I should not use them. He choked back hysterical laughter and told me with admirable sternness not to upset my teacher, there’s a good girl, and if I would promise not to use any more of those words which began with “L” he wouldn’t tell my parents. Complete understanding. “Yes, Sir. I’m sorry.” So I stopped writing “licentious,” “libidinous,” and “lascivious” in Sophomore English, finished the last of the Huxley books, and switched to Lin Yu Tang.

    There, now, don’t you feel all better? Our world really DID exist.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: