Saturday, September 13, 2008
Sitting at my instrument of enlightenment, I realize that I am patiently waiting for my lights to go out. It is the occasion of the advent of Hurricane Ike in my hometown. Although I reside almost three hundred miles from the coast, this accumulation of wind, rain, thunder and destruction has set its sights on my electric service. I realize that I, as previously admitted, have little adeptness in the realm of clairvoyance. I do not really know that the electricity is going to cease, but I do. I dwell in that part of my hamlet that is clearly several notches down on the priority list the local energy provider maintains in their efforts to endow its customers with the miracle of light as given us by the Great Spirit. My lights go out when there is no reasonable explanation. Perfectly sunny days and wonderful spring evenings are just a susceptible to outages as when circumstances deliver the most egregious of atmospheric situations. The income level of myself and my neighbors is significantly less significant then other portion of the kingdom. Hence, when the tempest arrives I will be candle bent and darkness bound. (Yes, I am listening to a country radio station)
My resolve this afternoon is to finish something worthy of publication on the World Wide Web. I have eschewed the apple of my eye (cable television) in a quest for determined implementation of my craft. Enough, however, I need a theme. Once more I go to a predominantly irritating topic, in my opinion…Patriotism.
I sat at my desk one afternoon last week attempting to catch up on my new duties as an ENGLISH teacher. I looked around at my cluttered desk, and an even more disorderly work table wondering how I am ever going to teach six different grade levels of ENGLISH. I capitalize the word ENGLISH because it is the ultimate instance of irony I can think of. I hated ENGLISH teachers going through school. They were always getting in the way with their insistence on proper grammar and scolding me for using split infinitives. My comma usage sucked, and my handwriting has all the similarity in the world to what that demon of a seventh grade ENGLISH teacher called “Chicken Scratch.”
As little as just three months ago I existed in a world where I had exposed them all as fiendishly erroneous in their morally bankrupt assessment of my abilities. Not only had I succeeded in life in spite of my “unconventional” method of written communication, I became what some call a righteously gifted writer.
I never remember even knowing what a split infinitive was, until I attended a speech by a gentleman who was a former United States Teacher of the Year. He told a story of speaking with a student one day, and the distress in the young man’s life seemed to make grammar usage insignificant. After he finished speaking, I realized that the subject taught matters little when stacked up to the kid in front of you. The experience made me remember two of those self fashioned “demons” who made a difference in my life. One was my eleventh grade ENGLISH teacher who told me it was just fine with him if I did a paper on a famous Spanish Bullfighter because I thought I could become similarly famous, and Sister Anne Georgine. That “demon” knocked the crap out of me one day because she thought I was making fun of her behind her back. She also gave up her lunch period to talk to me about what was going on with me. At the time I could not tell her that I hated my stepfather, and she told me that when I was ready, to put it on paper. Forty-three years later, here I am, following her instruction and teaching ENGLISH. Go figure.
Now I can get to the true object of my ramblings this blustery afternoon. I had one of my kids come and tell me he joined the Marines. The information unquestionably broke my heart. No longer did I trouble myself with all that is ENGLISH. I looked in this kid’s eyes and checked his body language and realized that he is serious. He explained that he felt it in his heart to follow in his brother’s footsteps and fight for his country. I wanted to scream at him, and shake him, and tell him that it is a bogus war. I wanted to sit him down at my computer and bring up all the articles about how the American people and been lied to by the President. I wanted to forbid him from going. I wanted him to stay alive!
What I wanted had nothing to do with what I did. By becoming an ENGLISH teacher, I accepted the idea that what I want is secondary to the kids. What I believe can only be an opinion. What is important is to accept the limitations of my ego, and just listen. I am not a counselor. Just a teacher.
What I could do was tell him the truth. I told him the truth about what he will experience. I told him that he was giving up several of his constitutional rights. I told him that if he was told to do something he did not want to do it, they could and would put him in jail. I told him that every Marine is considered a front line soldier, regardless of their military specialty. I told him that he was going to change, and that it might not be in a good way. I repeated this so that he would understand. I went into the service and came out changed. Everyone I know who is a veteran entered the service and came back changed. I told him about my Uncle Buddy.
I also told him that what he is doing is an honorable thing. Despite my vehement opposition to war, I remember volunteering for patriotic reasons, and thought it was the honorable thing to do because it is. If you’ve never served, this is a foreign ideal to you. It is not for any Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Coast Guardsmen, or veteran. And God Bless them for their courage.
I put down my grade book, and turned off the monitor of my computer. The muddle would be here when I got back. I did the only meaningful thing I could. I told him I was proud of him. I told him that I loved him. God, please make it enough. Peace.