My Kindergarten Commencement Address

I have already tackled the difficult task of preparing a high school commencement speech.  Not surprisingly, no one took me up on my offer to speak at any high school commencement. High school, though, is not the only ground upon which to impart my wisdom.

Perhaps I should speak to a college or university. Public figures and captains of industry often do that. Alas, I am neither. That goal simply isn’t realistic.

What about elementary or middle school grads? I didn’t go to a middle school, so I don’t know anything about that. As far as those entering high school, most of them are morons and won’t listen anyway.

This leaves me with kindergarten, that Petri dish of preschoolers ready to take on real school. I graduated from kindergarten as part of the Harlan Kindergarten Class of 1968.  It was my only foray into private school, as there was no public kindergarten in those days.  I graduated with a haughty sense of entitlement.

kindergarten

Your author’s natty attire belied his naiveté as a kindergartener.

I would have benefited from wise counsel in those days.  I now stand ready to educate kindergarteners on what lies before them.  To paraphrase the late, great drummer, Buddy Rich:  These people.  They are my kind of people. So, here goes:

Hello, kids!  Thank you for allowing me to speak to you today.  Today is an important moment in your young lives.  After today, you are no longer preschoolers.  You are students and shall remain so for many years to come.

As you are no doubt aware, “kindergarten” is from the German, meaning “children’s garden.”  It was created by a German named Friederich Frobel in the village of Bad Blankenburg.  Stop giggling!  That’s the name!  You’ll be calling the world ahead of you blankin’-burg soon enough. 

Up to this point, many of you have gotten by on your appearance.  You are, as we say, cute.  That will rapidly fade in elementary school.  We will lose teeth and become awkward as you grow.  Being cute means nothing.  Every misanthrope and human monster was once your age.  Look at this darling child [I hold this up for the audience]:

Adolf_Hitler_Childhood_Photos-{1}

His name? Adolf Hitler.  Cute, isn’t he?

Many–if not most–of you are unprepared for school.  A great number of you are complete illiterates, unable to so much as correctly spell your full name.  Others are only functionally illiterate.  You cannot read even at the 1st grade level.  Your ability to understand or complete even a simple job application is nil.  Even rudimentary math is beyond your comprehension at this point.  As a result of these limitations, you are unable to function in modern society.  These handicaps, daunting as they may be, can and will be remedied in the coming years–at least to some extent.

Some of you now begin your long, slow trudge to failure–sad but true.  You will annoy your teachers.  You will gravitate to the worst of your lot and mimic their behavior.  Perhaps you will be the ring leader of a group of miscreants.  If so, make no mistake:  You can and will be written off at a young age.  The good news is that–for the only time in your life–time is on your side.  As unlikely as it may be, you can change your behavior for the better.

Many of you are angels or so your parents have led you to believe.  You are sweet and when you aren’t, you are simply misunderstood.  Your failures and shortcomings are not your own.  They are the product of misinformed individuals or society as a whole.  Your parents are failing you daily, but I do not expect you to understand.  Being egocentric as you are, you are comfortable with this arrangement.  This comfort sows the seeds of your ultimate downfall.  When you fall short of expectations at school, your parents will harangue your teachers, blaming them for your sloth and intellectual shortcomings.  Only when you are much older will you realize that your house stands upon sand.  Then, it will be too late.

Some of you are tethered to your parents like pets.  You never leave their sight.  They are determined to protect you from the evils of the world and the world itself.  They will often lunch with you at school.  Perhaps they will volunteer in your classroom.  Some may even seek gainful employment at your school.  They seek to smother you with their attention.  And they will succeed.

A few–and I hope very few–of you are little more than street urchins deposited at school by uncaring parents who neither deserve to have children nor any other human relationship.  There is good news for you.  It is possible–not likely, but possible–that you will encounter someone who can exert a positive influence upon you outside your home. School is the most likely place to find such a person.

You may be an only child.  By that, of course, I mean you are the only child in your immediate family.  YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY CHILD ON EARTH!  Just remember that.

Of course, you will encounter teachers.  In my experience, the good far outnumber the bad.  The good ones will care about you like no one outside your own family.  The bad ones will want to herd you on the next grade while they detest you almost as much as they do their dead-end jobs.  Most of your teachers do the best they can.  Your cooperation will help.

Your teachers may occasionally criticize or correct you.  That is their job.  That is how you learn.  This may be foreign to you.  Your parents may be the type who praise everything you do from feeding yourself to basic hygiene.  Your teachers shall prepare you for the real world where such tasks are not viewed as accomplishments at all.  In fact, society fairly demands you master them.

Your teachers also cannot praise your every move.  I have no doubt that all of you have drawn pictures for your parents.  Let’s say you draw what you called a “horsey.”  In reality, this horse resembles nothing so much as random scrawling with no form.  It is, in fact, completely unrecognizable as a horse or any other living creature.  When you present this picture to your parents they exclaim “Oh, what a pretty horsey! It’s beautiful!”  Such lies are meant to boost your self-esteem by lauding your crude art work.  If an adult produced such a drawing and insisted that it was horse, he or she would branded as mentally deranged.  Institutions and unemployment would be their future.

A decent parent would look at your drawing and ask “What exactly about that looks like a horse?” or “Why don’t we just call it a wildebeest or a fire hydrant?  Makes as much sense.”  I doubt that you have ever received such constructive criticism.  Those days are done.

No teacher worth his or her salt can engage in such foolishness.  If you declare that 2 + 2 equals 11, you cannot be praised.  You are not praiseworthy.

Despite what your parents think, there is almost no chance that you are a genius.  That you are able to distinguish letters of the alphabet means little.  It is axiomatic that most of you are average.  That’s not to say that there aren’t exceptions.  Some of you are far, far smarter than your peers.  That will not change, although you shall be witness to many years of people trying to bring your peers up to your level or you down to theirs.  But you are smarter than these people, too, and they will fail.

You are now headed to a world where failure is, in fact, an option.  The good news is that the educational system is designed to prevent failure.  In addition to your teachers, there are counselors, tutors, study plans and even medication at your disposal.  Perhaps you are now addicted to amphetamines in an effort to help you pay better attention in school.  That might help.  Of course, the downside to living as a speed freak is well-known but better discussed at your middle school graduation.

No doubt you reflect today that time flies.  It seems like only yesterday that you soiled yourself simply because you knew no better.  For a few of you, it literally may have been yesterday.  In any event, those days are behind you now–hopefully.  A new day dawns.

You now leave the garden and head straight into the jungle.  Knowing your penchant for distraction, I have kept my words brief.  Some of you have picked your noses throughout my talk while others have squirmed with annoyance.  Welcome to the rest of your life.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

My High School Commencement Address

It’s graduation time, that time of year when we celebrate our young people moving from high school into the adult world. It causes me to ponder what advice I can give to these young people as they enter the world. They aren’t much different from newborn infants. They are about to be thrown into a world where you learn as you go.

As a little background, I graduated from high school in 1980 from James A. Cawood High School in Harlan County, Kentucky. It was the first consolidated high school in Harlan County. It also no longer exists. Who was James A. Cawood? He was the long-time Superintendent of Schools in Harlan County. When they consolidated Hall, Wallins and Loyall High Schools, he decided that James A. Cawood was a good name for the school.

When I graduated, I did not give the commencement address–mostly because I was not asked to do so. Okay, that’s entirely the reason. I think I was in the top 10 of my graduating class, because I looked like this:

john grad

The gown covers my suit which was 110% polyester, in keeping with the times.

My brother–four years older and much smarter than I–gave the Valedictory address when he graduated. That’s because he was the Valedictorian, which I wasn’t. Our Valedictorian and Salutatorian both spoke, as I recall. I’m sure they did a fine job, just as my brother had done. I don’t recall anything they said, but they were all quite bright, and I’m sure they said nothing inflammatory.

It’s just as well that I didn’t speak. First, I hadn’t spoken in public since the 1st grade when I read Psalms 100 at church. I’m sure I would have been terrified. Second, I was only 17 years old. I would have had nothing useful to impart to my fellow graduates.

johnchurch

I knew just as much about life at 6 years old as I did at 17.

I’m over 50 years old now with a veritable life time of experience behind me. I’ve made decisions–good and bad. I’ve done impressive things and baffling, hideous things. Now, it is my time. So, I offer my services.

Here is my commencement speech:

Good [morning/afternoon/evening]. I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the graduating class of [INSERT SCHOOL NAME] High School. I am over half a century old. This means two things: One, I am much older than all of you–hopefully. Two, I know more about everything than you do. Regardless of your experiences, I know more and have done more. Any story you can tell, I can top it, unless it involves farm animals and dwarves. Even then, let me hear the story, and I’ll be the judge of whether I can top it.

You are now high school graduates, along with tens–if not hundreds–of thousands of other people doing the same thing this year. I am not impressed. Indeed, it would likely take more effort to not graduate than it would to sit in your seats. Assuming he didn’t drop out, a fairly bright chimp could achieve the same thing.

Of course, some of you are impressive people. Let’s take the ones who come from dreadful families. You know who you are. Your parents don’t care about your academics or your social life or your behavior in general. Perhaps they are even abusive. That you have overcome this is impressive. Any achievement should be embraced. To you, I say this: Leave those people behind. You owe them nothing. Do not be shamed into believing that you are indebted to people to whom you are connected by nothing more than biological accident. These people will be millstones hanging around your neck. Cast them off. I am not suggesting that you sever all ties, unless that is necessary. That they fed and clothed you creates no obligation. They were supposed to do that. Take a long look at these people. You can and must do better.

There are also those of you who excelled academically. You, too, are impressive. Regardless of your course of study, that takes hard work. Hard work is good. You have the chance to go to college and excel, because you know the value of hard work in school. You may have the chance to go to any college you wish. Good for you. Here’s a suggestion: If your family can afford to send you to college, by all means choose the very best school. If, however, attending the college of your choice means saddling yourself with debt to pay for it, carefully consider your choice. You might paying that loan back when you’re my age. That’s a bad plan.

A rare few of you may have been born into money and have no concerns about your future. I don’t begrudge you that good fortune. Just do us all a favor and don’t pretend it’s an accomplishment. Do something with your life. Warren Buffett’s children are productive. You can be, too.

Some of you just barely got here today. You did the minimum to get your diploma. The good news is that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I’ve known people who were poor high school students and did quite well in life. Notice that I didn’t say that I’ve known many people like that.

Even some of you laggards and wastrels will go to college. That is good. I’ve never known anyone who didn’t benefit from at least trying to go to college. Here is the catch: If you apply yourself in the same sorry-ass way you did in high school, it will likely be a short stay in college. Then, it’s into the work force you go.

Perhaps you have no desire to go to college and you plan to join the nation’s work force now. To you, I say: Good luck with that. Your diploma qualifies you for a vast array of minimum wage jobs. The minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Assuming you work a 2000 hour year, you’ll make $14,500. That’s not much money. Oh, and it won’t be a fun job or even a good job. You’ll be easily replaced. Don’t think about buying a house or a nice car or much of anything else. You’ll need a room-mate to help with your rent.

Understand, too, that college isn’t for everyone. Whether you lack the drive, motivation or old-fashioned brain power, you may not be college material. There’s nothing wrong with that but be realistic. For example, there aren’t high-paying jobs for video game players. Under no circumstances should your career plans include mooching off your parents. You’ve wanted to be an adult and have your freedom. Your time has arrived.

When I graduated from high school, some people–all young men in those days–considered the military an option. Often, they had good reasons for this choice, an admirable one if there ever was. A few, however, thought of it as just a better option than work. They were wrong. People in the military take it seriously. Nowadays, they would be extra wrong. Our military is in a constant state of war now. The folks who run things take that very seriously. You should, too.

You may have already derailed your life with bad choices–drugs, alcohol, pregnancy and the like. You can overcome these bad choices, but it won’t be easy. You’ve dug yourself a nice hole. You have a choice now–try to get out of the hole or decorate it and make yourself at home. One thing you can’t do is spend any time blaming other people. Your parents may be vile. It’s almost certain that your friends are. Maybe you are, too. Perhaps people have treated you unfairly. You are now an adult, and here is one hard, cold fact: No one cares about any of that. From now on, you are 100% responsible for your actions. Act like it.

What of those of you who are the outcasts? You’ve spent your high school years as a non-conformist. You don’t do things the way others do, and you don’t give a damn what anyone thinks. The world doesn’t work like that. If your face is covered in hardware or you’ve tattooed your neck, that goes over even worse in the real world. The real world seeks normalcy. If you are abnormal, it’s a problem. I’m not suggesting that you kowtow to people, but use some judgment. If you really don’t care what anyone else thinks, you’re probably going to be treated accordingly. Be sure you’re okay with that.

A small number of you are the nerds, the bookish sorts for whom high school might not have been much fun. Take heart. You will sign the paychecks of many of your classmates. That, my friends, is sweet revenge at its finest.

All you need to know can be summed up in a few points. Write them down, for you shall refer to them often throughout your life:

  • Life is not fair. It is random. Fairness is not random.
  • Don’t underestimate good luck. You’ll need a dose of it every now and then.
  • You are not judged on merit alone. How you look, act, dress, speak and carry yourself matter. Again, it’s not fair.
  • If you are the type who won’t follow rules, life from this point forward will become increasingly difficult.
  • Money is good, but once you have your necessities covered and a few toys, it doesn’t make much difference in the quality of your life.
  • Bad things will happen to you, many of which will not be your fault.
  • No one you know will live forever, including you.
  • If you are the same person 20 years from now that you are at this moment, you have done something wrong. Grow up.
  • Learning from your mistakes is natural, but it is not the best way to learn. The best way is to learn from observing other people make mistakes.
  • Play to your strengths. You are good at some–maybe many–things. Find out what they are, and do them.

I should now tell you that the world is your oyster and you can do anything you want, but that would be a lie. You can’t do anything you want, but you can do some things you want and many things that you must do. You will do some of them well and fail miserably at others. That, my young friends, is life and life is good–not easy but good.

Finally, you have spent the past few years believing you know more than you do. You are about to find out all the things you don’t know. One day soon, you will be 50, too, and you will fear that you must depend on the next generation. You will hate their music, their clothes, their attitudes, the way they talk and even the way they look. Take heart, though, somehow it always works out.

Before you depart, take a good look around at your classmates. I leave you with these words from the late Kurt Vonnegut: “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

The Republicratic Commonwealth of Kentucky

Someone sent me an insightful email suggesting that each state in the United States declare its own sovereignty and refuse to follow any federal laws except those they find acceptable. It also recommends such things as jailing of illegal immigrants, drug testing welfare recipients, no gun laws and other acts of sovereignty. It got me thinking about doing this in my home state, the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

If you’ve read much of this self-indulgent blog of mine, you know I’m a lawyer. Anything like that email sets my mind spinning. For instance, states can’t refuse to follow federal law. We have a local sheriff here in Kentucky who claims that he won’t enforce any new gun laws and will arrest anyone who does. Once you get past the laughable image of this guy trying to arrest FBI and ATF agents, you can see that such defiance–if real–amounts to insurrection.

This type of “sovereignty” is secession from the union. States have no right to secede. Before you start screaming, read Texas v. White from the United States Supreme Court. That’s the law. There are exceptions. First, there is armed rebellion. Second is by agreement. Since Kentucky doesn’t have a military (The National Guard belongs to the feds but more on that later), we’d have to hope for agreement of the rest of the states. Let’s face it, we’re Kentucky. They might let us leave. It wouldn’t hurt to ask.

Nevertheless, I’m willing to ignore the United States Constitution and decades of jurisprudence to entertain the notion of Kentucky as its own sovereign state. What would we look like?

GOVERNMENT

We call Kentucky a Commonwealth, just like Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts call themselves. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a leftover from colonial times. The only problem I have with it is that it sounds vaguely communistic. Let’s move on.

As some Americans are aware, we have a republican democracy. We elect representatives who (theoretically, at least) represent our interests. They pass laws which are executed by our executive branch and enforced by our courts. Some believe we have the greatest country on Earth with the greatest form of government. I say bullshit to that.

If we’re going to secede, that means we don’t like the federal government. We don’t want it. We don’t need it. There’s no point in looking anything like it. Kentucky has 4.25 million people spread over a mind-boggling 120 counties. Each county is already its own little fiefdom with elected officials, courthouses, graft and whatnot. I say let each one run its own affairs. They can set up their own governments. Most will likely become dictatorships in short order–assuming they aren’t already, but give the people what they want.

We’ll be a sort of confederacy of counties, but we’ll still need a constitution of some kind. Kentucky has a constitution, of course. It is approximately 60,000 pages long. Okay, that’s a lie, but it seems that long what with all the bizarre amendments made to it over the years. It’s going to have to be revamped.

One problem is that it is very similar to the United States Constitution. It makes little sense to break away from federal rule only to keep in place the same framework that led to our secession. We probably need the Bill of Rights, and Kentucky’s is pretty similar to the feds. I say we copy the Bill of Rights except the Second Amendment which will now read:

The right to keep and bear arms is absolute and shall not be limited or constrained by any law, regardless of reasonableness or necessity. “Arms” means anything that can kill people or animals, whether intentionally or accidentally.

We probably should replace “Governor” with something like “King” or “Pharaoh” in the rest of it. Honestly, I’ve never read the whole thing. I don’t think anyone else has, either. Maybe we can keep the rest of it.

We’re not the smartest people. Let’s don’t make it too complicated. Maybe we can start out with anarchy and see what happens.

Regardless of the form of government, what will life in our new nation be like?

GUNS

This is an easy one–no gun laws. None. No knife or sword laws, either. Why can’t I defend my family with a saber if I want? Maybe I want to scatter bear traps around my yard. So be it. Napalm doesn’t incinerate people. People incinerate people.

No background checks. Why can’t a crazy man defend himself from real and imagined threats? The nuttier you are the more guns you should have. How else will we protect the criminally insane?

Next topic.

RELIGION

This is another easy one. We’ll have the Ten Commandments posted everywhere. I mean everywhere–schools, buses, government buildings, private property, sporting events. Without that irrational United States Supreme Court to interfere, we can even post the entire Book of Deuteronomy if we want. Any kid who can’t describe how to build the Temple can’t graduate from high school.

We’ll pray in school–all day long if we want. It will have to be a Christian prayer, of course. Anyone caught on a prayer rug will be subject to ridicule.  In fact, we might make such ridicule a constitutional right, too.

We’ll even include somewhere in our new Constitution that Jesus wrote it. That will seem crazy at first, but in a few decades people will debate whether or not it is true.

MILITARY

This one is tough. We can’t have a military. Okay, I know some of you are thinking: “Hey, the state runs the National Guard. That’s our militia.” Well, sort of but not really. Since 1903, the National Guard has been run by the feds and–more importantly–funded by the feds. We can’t do it. Plus, who are we going to fight? Hopefully, it won’t be the United States military. Have seen the toys they have?

Remember that we’re going to have plenty of weapons. I think we’ll have enough to fight off an invasion from Indiana or Tennessee. Besides, the chances of anyone wanting to take over Kentucky are pretty remote.

FINANCES

Kentucky receives about $13,000 per person in federal money per year. That’s a hell of a lot. I’m not good at math, but it’s at least billions of dollars each year. Wow.

We have all kinds of taxes in Kentucky–income, sales, property, usage (WTH?) and a bunch of others. I have no idea what it amounts to but I’m sure it’s not close to what we need. Now, that we’re off the federal teat, it’s time to tighten our belts. If we don’t, we might have to raise tax rates to 120% or so. We can survive but how?

Go for the Gold

With the feds off our backs, they’ll close Fort Campbell and Fort Knox. We’ll give them 48 hours to come and get their gold from Fort Knox–maybe we can keep a little of it, too. Would they really miss a couple of tons?

Schools

Okay, on the surface, this may seem like a big deal, given that we are dependent on the feds for school funding. Not so. Ever heard of home schooling? That’s what everyone did back in the Good Old Days when everything was better. Teach your own kids, you lazy bastards.

Our state universities will be in peril. We should be able to offer at least a few on-line courses at the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky to keep the basketball programs afloat.

Police/Fire

Here’s where our friends in the National Rifle Association will help us. Let’s take the idea of an all-volunteer school security force and expand it to all law enforcement and public safety. With the schools closed, these volunteers will be eager to help out. Besides, every community has dozens–if not thousands–of people who want to carry a gun and wear a badge. Hell, most of them would probably be willing to pay the state.

We have a long history of volunteer fire departments. Let’s just do more of that.

Highways

I’ll concede that federal highway money is helpful but only to the extent that you need highways. I suspect that Kentucky has the highest number of ATVs per capita of anywhere on Earth. If any state is ready for dilapidated highways, it’s this one.

What is Kentucky best known for? If you said illegal meth labs, that may be correct, but I’m talking about horses. We have lots of horses, but I hardly ever see anyone riding them. Saddle up.

Unemployment

Good lord, we have a lot of folks drawing disability checks in Kentucky. No more SSI and don’t expect Kentucky to pick up the slack. If you’re too infirm to work, you should really think about moving to the United States. They have systems for that kind of problem. We don’t.

Here’s how it works. If you can work, get a job. If you can’t, leave or maybe you just starve to death. Problem solved.

As far as welfare, bear in mind that’s another federal boondoggle. It has no place in our utopian world so don’t worry about drug testing. We Kentuckians will be free to consume copious amounts of drugs without fear of Big Brother staring over our shoulders.

Currency

We won’t use the worthless United States currency. We will print our own money, just like in the old days. It will bear pictures of Adolph Rupp, Daniel Boone, Jim Varney and other famous Kentuckians.

Rather than the worthless crap printed in the United States, our money will be backed by a secure commodity. We will go on the Coal Standard. Our money will be backed by the valuable coal reserves in our state, which we will now be free to mine and burn with abandon. Of course, we can’t burn too much of it or we will have to switch to the Weed Standard which also runs the risk of being burned.

HEALTHCARE

Let’s get one thing straight. No government health care–of any kind. Medicare and Medicaid–those behemoths of our former overlords–are gone. They won’t be replaced, either. We’ll adopt what I call the Bachmann Plan: If you want health insurance, get a job. If you can’t get a job, see comments above.

In fact, health care in general will be discouraged. Haven’t we all had enough of a bunch of holier-than-thou eggheads with stethoscopes telling us how to live our lives? The Founding Fathers didn’t put up with such nonsense.

You may be concerned about such inane things as public health, life expectancy and rampant disease. Given that our health care services are likely to be substandard, at least by so-called “Western” standards, we don’t need a bunch of sick people lingering around making the rest of us sick. A quick death is much better for everyone.

IMMIGRATION

We’ll just be flat against it–in all its forms. No one from a foreign country, which now will include the United States, is allowed. Anyone trying to float across the Ohio River will immediately be attacked by our fleet of coal barges. We’ll just shoot people from Tennessee. That won’t bother any Kentuckian. Hell, it probably won’t bother anyone in Tennessee, either. West Virginians will be a problem, but they’re so similar to us it won’t be a big deal.

We’ll round up all the foreigners and deport them. Anyone who looks, dresses, talks or acts the least bit different will be a suspect. We’ll just dump them in the nearest bordering state.

This may sound like a daunting task, but remember–this is Kentucky. Most people are trying to leave, not get in. We can expect enthusiastic cooperation.

We will make limited exceptions for immigrants who obtain a 5 Star Visa. This visa program will be administered by the head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky.

“HEMP”

The people of Kentucky want to legalize hemp but can’t because of the narcs in D.C. Now, we can cut right to the chase and legalize marijuana. Why? Well, it’s our number one cash crop for starters. Also, we can dispense with the foolishness of pretending we want to wear hemp clothing and shred our hands on rotted hemp rope. We want to smoke the stuff, not wear it.

MISCELLANY

Like any young nation, we’ll face challenges. Someone like Ashley Judd will try to become dictator. Louisville will probably try to declare itself a city-state like the Vatican. We’ll need to change the state motto from the axiomatic “United We Stand. Divided We Fall” to something less incongruous. We’re up to these challenges.

What if it doesn’t work out? Simple–we’ll just accept massive amounts of foreign aid from the good old U.S. of A. If that doesn’t work, we have a massive stash of chemical weapons in Richmond. That will invite an invasion by the US and the establishment of a new government. That one never fails.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

The 1976 Loyall Spelling Bee: The Scandal That Will Not Die

Four years after the debacle of the 1972 USA-USSR Olympic Basketball game, another scandal occurred.  Like that infamous game, it remains shrouded in controversy.  In a country wearied by Watergate, perhaps it is understandable that it didn’t capture the public’s attention.  The time has come to clear the air.

I was once quite the fine speller. This was many years ago before spell-check rendered me a virtual illiterate. Spelling was my forte. I did quite well on spelling tests, of course. I well remember the first time I missed a spelling word. It was in the 3rd grade in Mrs. Brewer’s class. I cried. I guess I should also mention that I was quite an odd child, too.

I could spell almost anything. I learned to spell “Constantinople” before I even attended school (I think it was in a Dr. Seuss book). One reason I could spell was that I was an excellent reader, far ahead of many of my peers. You might now guess that I was a child prodigy of some sort (note that it is “prodigy,” not “protegé”). Alas, I was not. I was, however, of above average intelligence and armed with some kind of 6th sense when it came to spelling.

I attended Loyall Elementary and Junior High School in Loyall, Kentucky. Loyall is in Harlan County, far off the beaten path for most folks. Don’t be fooled, though–we had our share of smart kids. Just because you live in the mountains of Appalachia doesn’t mean you can’t spell.

loyall

loyall.jpg

Loyall, home the legendary 1976 Spelling Bee. In my day, we did not have the air conditioners shown here. We battled in the sweltering heat.

For most of my education, my spelling was never put to the test. Actually, it was, but those were just spelling tests. We’d occasionally have a class spelling bee, which I normally dominated like an academic version of Michael Jordan with a spelling hang time unseen before.

The 1975-76 school year was 8th grade for me. High school loomed. As with every year of school, my only goal was to go on to the next year. My early school years were marked by two things: 1) stellar academic performance; and 2) spells of habitual truancy. That latter had little impact on the former but great impact on my parents. I spent half the 7th grade at Evarts Junior High where my mother kept a watchful eye on me from her post as a teacher at the adjoining high school. It worked. One semester at Evarts, and I was ready to fly right back in Loyall.

8th grade was mostly uneventful. I promised that I wouldn’t skip school–and I didn’t (that would wait until high school). Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that I was part of Loyall’s Health Fair Championship team.

healthfair

Your author’s odd appearance belied his spelling ability

The other event of that year was the school spelling bee.  This wasn’t just any spelling bee. It was for the whole junior high. It was like the NCAA Basketball Tournament, except everyone got a bid. Every kid competed from the smartest of the smart to the most impaired dullards. It was a Battle Royale.

While I was quite confident in my abilities, I didn’t care for the spelling bee. Over the years, I had grown weary of being thought of as a smart kid. As offensive as this might be to say about myself, I was a smart kid; however, unlike my older–and even smarter–brother, I would rather have been an athlete or just average. I just didn’t care for it.

There was no refusing to participate in the spelling bee. I thought about it, but I figured that would just be another issue for my parents. So, I played along.

As you might suspect, I was spelling like a whirling Dervish dances. Every word lobbed to me was like hitting a beach ball. Not all my classmates were so fortunate. Some were felled by simple monosyllabic words. Although I don’t recall the specifics, I’m sure “cat” and “dog” took some out.  Others choked, such as one lad who spelled “neither” N-I-E-T-H-E-R. That’s the spelling bee equivalent of a called third strike.

We started one afternoon in the gym. Participants dropped like flies as we moved to polysyllabic and more arcane vocabulary. I was cruising. As the day wore down, I became troubled (if I had a hobby back then, “being troubled” was it). A fear gripped me: What if I won? I would have to go the county spelling bee. Who the hell would want to do that? It was probably on a Saturday, too. How was I going to get out of this without looking like a moron who couldn’t spell? It was quite the conundrum.

When the day came to a close, only two spellers were left. Naturally, I was one of them.  The other was a was very smart and a fetching young 7th grade girl. I suspected she had lived somewhere else at some time, because she had that Michigan-sounding accent which was a little suspicious. Now, I had another problem: To get out of it, I’d have to lose to a 7th grade girl to boot.

When we broke for the day, I consulted my friend Norman, my confidante on important matters. Norman was a fine fellow but a bit devious. He always had good ideas about how to get out of ticklish situations. For example, he once broke up with a girl by writing her a letter claiming that his father had gotten a job on the Alaskan Pipeline and that he would be moving to Yukon, Alaska at the end of the school year.  A man of his stripe would know what to do.

He suggested a feigned illness. I know that doesn’t seem very original, but we were pressed for time. With the passage of time, I can’t recall which illness he suggested. He once claimed to have gangrene himself.  He liked to accuse people of having VD, but I doubt that was one of the suggestions.

Nevertheless, an illness wouldn’t work. I had been fake sick so many times that my parents never thought I was really ill. Dangerously high fever or vomiting or both were threshold requirements. I wasn’t going to be able to swing that.

There really was only one choice. That’s right: take a dive. Norman was leery of this, believing that I would lack credibility. I told him that I would just screw up the first tough word I got.

As usual, Norman and I hung around after school goofing off for a while. Then, we started our walk home. We weren’t a block from the school when two of our classmates–notorious ruffians–yelled at me: “WILLIAMS!!” Uh oh. They were sitting on the steps of a church enjoying their after school cigarettes.

I’d known these guys since first grade. They were okay, but I was kind of terrified of them, too. They rarely had a kind word for anyone.

Here’s (roughly) how our exchange went:

Kid No.1: What’s this bullshit about the spelling bee?
Me: What?

 Kid No.2: We’re gonna whup your ass.
Me: Why? (surely my spelling prowess didn’t merit an ass whupping)

 Kid No.1: We heard you’re throwin’ it. Gonna let that girl win.
 Kid No. 2: We’re gonna whup your ass.
Me: I don’t where you heard that…

Kid No. 1: From him (pointing at Norman)
Me: (looking at Norman): Thanks.
Guys, I just don’t want to win the thing.

 Kid No. 2: We’re gonna whup your ass.
Me: Why?

 Kid No. 1: ‘Cause you can’t lose to no 7th grader. We’re countin’ on you. Don’t f— it up.
Me: I’m not throwing it.
 Kid No. 2: We’re gonna whup your ass.

So, with that, Plan B was scuttled.  It seemed too risky.  One of these lads, in particular, was pretty smart, despite his rough ways.  He would probably detect a dive.  The other guy  was like the big guy who put Steve Buscemi in that wood chipper in the film Fargo–very quiet and probably dangerous.  It was a bad combination.

The rest of the evening I vacillated between trying to fake an illness and losing the will to live.  I had one other problem–part of me really did want to win the damn thing.  Why?  I don’t know.  I guess it was because I really was smart.  It was my only real objective strength.

After a fitful night of sleep, I woke up resolved to win and accept whatever embarrassing accolades came with it.  I pictured myself in some sort of World Series of spelling bees with other socially inept children.  Maybe it was just time to accept my lot in life.

We were back on center stage in the gym, spelling away.  We didn’t get the kinds of words you see thrown at these freaky kids today spell in national bees–nothing like antidisestablishmentarianism.  I don’t recall being allowed to have the words used in a sentence or anything like that.  They just gave you the word, and you spelled it.  It was an old school throw down.

We were back and forth for a while until it happened.  I was up.  The word:  “Inquire.”    (I know that’s not a tough word.  This was Eastern Kentucky in the 1970’s.  We weren’t considered linguists). I fired away.  “E-N-Q-U-I-R-E.” Loser!!  I was stunned.  How could this happen?

I was taken down by the most basic of villains–mass media.  As we all know, the National Enquirer uses that spelling.  That is what flashed into my head when given the word.  Yes, my penchant for tabloid journalism was my Achilles’s Heel.  Or was it?

It turns out that “enquire” is a proper spelling, especially in Great Britain where it is used to denote formal queries. You don’t believe me?  Let’s ask Mr. Webster.  He defines it as a “chiefly British variant of INQUIRE, INQUIRY.”  It’s also included in The Oxford Dictionary of the English Language, the foremost authority on the English language.  Loser?  I think not. I was hoist on the petard of my own erudition.

I took the high road, of course.  I did not appeal or ask for an investigation.  I made no public accusations of wrongdoing, though I would have been justified in doing so.  I’m also pleased to report that no ass whupping occurred.  One of my antagonists, in fact, was outraged that my opponent was not required to properly spell the word to prove her superiority.  Although I don’t think the rules required that, fair play certainly did.  I accepted my defeat, much like the sore loser I have been my entire life.  After several days of sulking, I returned to my normal activities which at the time consisted mostly of brooding.

Years of mostly unsuccessful therapy helped me deal with this and other injustices. My spelling skills have eroded over time, the victim of age and technology.  I’ve gone on to bigger and better things.  I’m a reasonably successful lawyer with a 25 year marriage and three strapping sons.  Time goes on and heals all wounds.  Far be it from me to allow one minor incident to stick in my craw.

If you have any questions about this post, as always, please submit your enquiries below.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

Why Mike Rice Paid The Price

rice

Until yesterday, I had never heard of Mike Rice, the now former men’s basketball coach at Rutgers University. Videos of his abusive treatment of players at practice have gone viral thanks to ESPN. Eric Murdock, a former assistant at Rutgers, apparently tried to get the University to intervene earlier. His thanks was the loss of his job.

Forgive me if I am a cynic about stories like these. Yes, Rice’s firing on April 3, 2013 was justified, but to pretend he was fired over the treatment of his players is as laughable as it is insulting to anyone of moderate intelligence. His abuse was well-known. It was the public revelation of it that cost him his job. Oh, and he didn’t win a lot. That may have been his greatest coaching sin.

Consider that his 3 year record at Rutgers was 44-51 with a 16-38 mark in the Big East. Don’t think for a minute that those sad numbers didn’t play a role in his firing. If Rutgers were preparing for the Final Four right now, this would still be a story, but I assure you that there would be a legion of defenders crowing about his “old school” toughness.

What did Rice do? He cursed at his players, physically attacked them and even threw basketballs at them. The video looks like a trailer for Dodgeball II with Rice in Rip Torn’s role. This being a blog and not fit for real publication, I can tell what he said without the need for asterisks. Among other niceties, he called his players faggot (that seems to be his personal favorite), cunt, pussy, bitch and fairy. One foreign player (who has since transferred) was called “Lithuanian Faggot,” which Murdock said practically became a nickname for him. If you’ve played sports on any level, none of this is all that shocking. We all know coaches who act like that.

What of the physical abuse? Rice grabbed players, kicked them, shoved them and hit them with basketballs. We all know coaches like that, too. If they’re successful, we respect them as tough. Who can forget the video of Bob Knight choking Neil Reed? Before you point out that it helped cost Knight his job, remember that the video was simply another nail in his coffin. It also didn’t help that he’d lost at least 10 games each year for five of the past six seasons and hadn’t gotten past the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament in six years. When he was having his greatest success, chair-throwing and cop-punching didn’t hurt his job security any. The psychotic chair-throwing incident is now the subject of a “humorous” commercial for Applebee’s. Perhaps one day Rice can join him with a new slogan: “Don’t be a faggot! Eat at Applebee’s!”

I’m a University of Kentucky basketball fan. We’ve had our own experience with this. After Tubby Smith resigned, UK hired an unpleasant misanthrope named Billy Gillispie. We greeted him with open arms. He was “tough.” Tubby was too soft. Billy Clyde was a stern taskmaster. Tubby was too lenient.

We soon heard stories of two-hour practices on game days, of players’ feet bleeding from running and other inane practices. We didn’t demand his firing. Why not? We wanted to see if he’d win games. He didn’t. Then, we were outraged at the thought of player being put in a bathroom stall at halftime or one being forced to eat Pop Tarts to gain weight! He was a mad man! A mad man who loses too many games and ends up in the NIT will soon be out of work.

Gillispie’s antics continued at his next stop–Texas Tech where they wearied of him after only one year. Tech is now wooing a veteran coach with a much different approach–Tubby Smith. Go figure.

Sports are littered with these guys. In past generations, Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, Knight and Frank Kush were lauded for similar tactics. Is it any wonder that some in succeeding generations followed suit? Knight is praised by ESPN as a god-like figure, yet his behavior was every bit as contemptible as Rice’s. Dick Vitale loudly condemns Rice, while he fawns over Knight (“Robert Montgomery Knight,” as Dicky V calls him), like a school girl gushing over Justin Bieber. Knight had the good fortune to win. Winning, it seems, fixes everything.

They are hired, and we cheer them, because we think they’ll win. Sometimes, they do win. Then, they are heroes, hard-core old school coaches. Lose, and they’re embarrassments to university, the fan base and even their own families.

I have limited personal experience with coaches of this ilk. Only one time did one of my sons play ball for one of these types. It was baseball and, of course, it was a father who envisioned himself a real coach. This clown was an assistant on the team. My son bore up under verbal abuse throughout preseason practice. We made it through one game where my son was verbally abused in the dugout the entire game. When we complained to the head coach, he feigned ignorance, meaning that he was cut from the same cloth. That was our last game in that league. My son has gone on to play baseball throughout high school without a repeat of this kind of foolishness.

We live in a time now where people are keenly aware of bullies and peer-related abuse. We seem less sensitive to the bullying handed out by adults or authority figures, especially when the recipient isn’t a child. Perhaps it’s because college athletes are young adults and more capable of standing up for themselves. That’s a dubious rationalization to allow humans to be treated like chattels. Indeed, if a video surfaced of Mike Kryzewski kicking a player, he could probably talk his way out of a firing. I imagine that a video of him kicking a dog would likely spell the end of his career. What does that tell you?

One of the persistent myths is that sports build character. There is no consensus that this is true. I’m not aware of any studies to support the notion that mere participation builds anything positive. A study of intramural sports at the Air Force Academy concludes that it is only true if character-building is an intended part of the program. That shouldn’t be surprising. When your character is shaped by bullies, it can’t helped but be warped. I suppose there are people from such poor backgrounds that any type of order–even that imposed by a bully–is to some advantage. Of course, that may be the same type of thinking that causes people to join street gangs–some order is better than none.

Imagine trying to build a young man’s character by the example of Mike Rice. Or Bob Knight. Or Billy Gillispie. What life lessons do they learn? If people don’t act the way you’d like, attack them, physical and verbally. Always attack those who aren’t in a position to fight back. How different is that than Jerry Sandusky’s behavior? Yes, by degree, there is a vast ocean of difference. By effect, there may not be that much.

I’m not suggesting that coaches must be Sunday school teachers. My own children can tell you that I’ve yelled at them over such mundane things as making too much noise (as though my yelling would set a good example). Nor am I sensitive to foul language. In fact, I’m given to use it myself. But to excuse such behavior simply because one is a coach makes no sense.

There’s nothing special about being a coach. ESPN’s Mark Schlereth once said that the words “coach” and “genius” should never be used in the same sentence. That’s certainly true. I don’t have unrealistic expectations of coaches. I know that the vast majority of them are not musing about string theory when they aren’t working.

Winning takes care of most coaching character flaws. Embarrass your university, if you must. Just don’t lose a lot of games while doing so. Lest we forget, Rick Pitino is coaching in this year’s Final Four.

The answer to all of this is to clean out the Neanderthals of the coaching ranks. Zero tolerance would be nice. It would probably be effective, too, at least until one of these fools started winning games.

Incredibly, Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti claims he didn’t show the university president any of the videos until after the ESPN story broke, months after he’d seen them himself. Once the president saw them, so the story goes, Rice was fired. If this story is true, Pernetti should join Rice on the unemployment line.

One under-reported aspect of the story is that this isn’t Pernetti’s first experience with this kind of behavior.  Rice’s predecessor, Fred Hill, Jr., was fired after a profanity-laced tirade at a Rutgers baseball game.  As a show of support for his father, long-time Rutgers baseball coach Fred Hill, Sr., Junior loudly cursed at the University of Pittsburgh’s baseball coach.  Consequently, Hill, Jr. was fired.  His replacement?  Rice, who had just ended his coaching stint at Robert Morris University with his own tirade at the end of RMU’s overtime loss to Villanova in the NCAA Tournament.  Pernetti, it seems, may not be the best judge of coaching temperment.

By the way, Hill’s record in the Big East was 13-57.  Starting to see the pattern here?  Flip flop that record, and he gets a couple of months of anger management and a contract extension.

The responsibility lies with the administration of these universities–universities which make jaw-dropping revenues from these students. These revenues are not shared with the students but are used to fund the hiring–and firing–of coaches. When a university steps up and cleans out its athletic department, maybe that will change things. Of course, Rutgers is moving to the Big Ten now where it will make even more money. That, sadly, may be how Pernetti’s job performance is ultimately measured.

What of Rice? He’ll resurface. They always do. Some school at some level will think he can win. He’ll be contrite. He may even actually change, like Colorado State’s Larry Eustachy. Regardless, he better win.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com

The Stuff Of Dreams

I’m a dreamer. Literally. I don’t mean dreams of success or other flights of fancy, either. I mean real dreams, the kind you have when you’re asleep. Being a tad slothful, I’ve never studied dreams or tried to analyze their deeper meaning. When I was in college, I knew a girl who analyzed dreams, but I never paid much attention.

If you’ve read this blog, you know that I am a recurring theme. My stories are about me. My opinions are mine, of course. I even believe that others are interested in my take on things. This post is slightly different. While the dreams are mine, I’m now interested in what others think. What do these dreams mean? With that in mind, I now share a number of my recurring dreams:

1. THE BAD DRIVER/CAR

In this dream, I am a passenger in a car with someone who can’t drive worth a damn. My most recent version had me as a passenger with Lyndsay Lohan driving. She was smoking marijuana and weaving in and out of traffic on a six-lane highway. She wouldn’t stay in the proper lanes, either, and was constantly dodging on-coming traffic. I was terrified and screaming at her to slow down. She didn’t. This dream ended as the always do with a terrific accident. I was unhurt, but rattled. Then, I woke up.

This is a typical variant of this one. Sometimes, the driver is out of control driving downhill. Often, the car runs off a cliff. There is always an accident at the end, and I’m unharmed. I wake up immediately.

Another variation is that I’m driving, but the car has mechanical problems. The most common problems are either I can’t get the car in gear and it rolls backwards or there are no brakes. I careen around the highway–again, terrified–until the inevitable accident ends the dream. Do I see myself as out of control? Do I believe others have my fate in their hands? Do I see myself as immortal?

Perhaps unrelated, I also dream often about not being able to get my car out of reverse. Is this some latent concern that I am not going forward in life? Does it portend future transmission problems?

2. SCHOOL DAYS

In this dream, I am in school again, usually college but sometimes high school. I am approaching finals and haven’t attended class. I’m completely lost. In a panic, I desperately try to determine my class schedule, but I can’t. I am going to fail all my classes. Oddly, the dream always ends before I actually take my finals, but failure is unavoidable. I’m frantic and depressed.

I’ve had some variation of this dream hundreds of times. Sometimes, I’m aimlessly wandering the hallways looking for my classroom. I never find it. I never have any books and don’t even know my class schedule.

What can this mean? Do I secretly regret that I wasn’t a more dedicated student? Do I want to relive my youth? Do I fear commitment? Could this in any way mean I am gay?

3. WORK ABUSE

I work in a small law firm with four other lawyers, and we get along famously. It sounds trite, but we are like family. In almost eight years together we’ve never had a serious disagreement about anything. We’ve been fairly successful and like coming to work. Why, then, do I frequently dream that I am mercilessly abused at work?

This dream revolves around one of my partners–a female who shall remain nameless–berating me over some minor issue. Most recently, I dreamed that our firm had purchased a new coffee maker that leaked. My partner poked my chest with her finger and screamed: “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU ARE AN EXPERT ON COFFEE!!” Nothing of this sort has ever happened in our office. Truthfully, I do have quite a bit of expertise on coffee, arguably more than anyone in my office; however, this has never been a source of contention among us.

In this dream, I’ll be yelled at and called names–maybe even told to leave the firm. It’s always very contentious–the exact opposite of my real life job. I always wake up before there is any resolution of the dispute.

For many years, I had a job that I did not enjoy–at least not often. Perhaps this is post-traumatic stress, and I’m reliving unhappy times in my dream life. Am I expressing some kind of hidden hate for my co-workers? Am I seeing into their souls that they secretly hate me? Do I fear women?

4. GUN PLAY

I’m being shot at. With guns. Real guns. It’s almost always a gun battle where I’m hunkered down exchanging gun fire with someone. One time, it was with Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays. The Say Hey Kid had me pinned down behind my car, and he was peppering it with bullets.

This dream has no context other than a gun fight. I never know how or why it starts. I’m just in the middle of it. Once, my wife was shooting at me (I’m pretty sure that was just a dream). Another time, it was my own mother. Regardless, they just shoot at me relentlessly.

This dream always ends with my being shot but not fatally. It’s usually in the arm. That wakes me up. Then, I know “it was all just a dream.”

What the hell is this one about? Do people want to see me dead? Why would Willie Mays try to drop me? Maybe they don’t want me dead. After all, they only shoot me in the arm. Then again, all that reckless gun fire has to be intended to do me great harm. Why? Do I harbor a belief deep in my psyche that I am a bad person worthy of being gunned down?

5. THE HOUSE

This may be the weirdest one. It’s about a house. It’s a large house. Sometimes, the house is yellow. Sometimes, it is red brick. There is an alley separating it from my yard. I’m in The House and can’t get out. People are in The House looking for me, and I’m hiding from them. I’m usually in the bathroom or a closet. I don’t know why they are looking for me, but I’m scared. I’m always alone in The House and trying to find a way out. The good news–I guess–is that they never find me. The bad news is that I never get out. At least, no one shoots at me.

This dream rattles me more than any of the others. I always wake up wide awake. There’s great relief when I realize I am in my own bed and not The House. To my knowledge, I’ve never seen a house that looks like The House. If I did, I’d probably freak out.

What is The House? Does it symbolize something in my subconscious? Do I feel trapped in my life, unable to escape? Am I a closet paranoid, fearing that others are out to get me? Am I concealing some secret shame that I fear other will discover much like I fear they will find me in The House?

So, they are–my five most common recurring dreams. I have other dreams, like the one where I’m eating something really crappy. Since my wife is not a great cook, I understand that one. For a brief time I look Ambien and had dreams that were so vivid they freaked me out, but that was only for about six months. These five are the windows to be psyche.

Freud believed that all dreams were manifestation of wish-fulfillment based upon “day residue” or events that happen during the day. I don’t know about that. If I’m wishing for this stuff, I’m more messed up than I thought. Some think they’re all about sex. If that’s the case, it’s just as well that I don’t understand them.

If you have any kind of psychology background or if you’ve been in therapy for a while, feel free to offer your interpretation. I don’t intend to seek professional help. I’d rather just open it up to amateur speculation. Bear in my, though, that if any of this means I’m dangerously unstable or psychotic, you might want to take the edge of your analysis.

Now that I’ve gotten this off my chest, I may sleep better, at least. Maybe I’ll even get out of that damn house and get to class on time. Of course, I’ll need to be careful about getting a ride. Hopefully, I won’t get shot before I get there. If I do, someone at work will yell at me. Whew.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

My Flagging Patriotism

flag

I make no secret that I love being an American.  I’ve always been an American, and I’ve always loved my life, at least most of  the time.  I might also like being Swiss or a Liechtensteiner, but I’ll never know.  I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like being a Somalian.

Because I love being an American, I suspect that makes me patriotic.  I certainly have pulled for us in all the wars.  But, when I hear really patriotic people talk, I think I’m a wild-eyed anarchist.  The flag–the American Flag–more than anything else makes feel like that.

Being a bit of a gadfly, I’m leery of blind loyalty to anyone or anything.  Any time people speak of patriotism, I  think of the famous quote that we’ll know fascism when it reaches American because it will be “wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”  Some say that Sinclair Lewis said this.  It certainly sounds like something he would have said.

Nothing swells Americans with pride like our flag.  Old Glory.  The Stars and Stripes.  Unlike some countries whose flags have wild colors and sayings on them, it’s simply designed.  Fifty stars and thirteen stripes.  Red, white and blue.  We don’t have animals or people on our flag.  It’s not all busy and confusing.  I’ve always like the flag, but I don’t worship it.  I really liked the one the Air Force draped on my Dad’s casket.  My fellow Americans, however, are obsessed with the flag.

Prior to the American Civil War, the flag wasn’t so much a symbol of patriotism as it was a marker used to identify federal territories or possessions.  During the Civil War, it became a symbol of the union just as the Confederate flag was a symbol of rebellion.  Since then, the flag has taken on more significance.

Nowadays, the flag is venerated.  Rick Monday was a fairly good baseball player in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  He was a good outfielder, hit with some power and had good speed.  He’s known for two things.  One, he was the very first pick in Major League Baseball’s first amateur draft.  Second, he saved the flag.  During a game at Dodger Stadium in 1976, Monday was playing in the outfield for the Chicago Cubs.  Two “fans” ran on the field, threw down a flag and prepared to burn it.  Monday ran by and scooped it up with one hand just before it was lit.  He got a standing ovation.  Mention Rick Monday to a baseball fan of a certain age, and he or she will remember that moment.   

2006-04-24-rick-monday
Rick Monday’s greatest play.

We have songs about the flag.  “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “It’s a Grand Old Flag” are two of them.  My father was fond of march music, so I I’ve heard Stars and Stripes Forever many, many times.  It’s pretty catchy.

We like the flag so much that we have laws about it.  The Flag Acts of 1777, 1794 and 1818 tell us what the flag should look like.  We have a United States Flag Code which has rules about displaying and caring for the flag.  You can read it at 4 U.S.C. Section 1, et seq.  (I’m a lawyer, and that’s a citation to a statute).  Before you go scrambling to the United States Code to turn in your neighbor, there are no criminal penalties for breaking these rules.  Think of them as rules of etiquette for the flag.  Here are just a few of the rules:

  • Don’t dip the flag
  • Don’t display it upside down (except to show distress)
  • Don’t wad it up
  • Don’t make clothes out of it
  • Don’t draw pictures on it
  • Don’t walk on it
  • Don’t let it touch the ground
  • Burn it when it’s worn out
palin

This is okay, because Mrs. Palin’s bikini is not an actual flag. It’s not okay that she’s wearing a bikini, though.

flynt

First Amendment fanatic Larry Flynt. Wearing an actual flag as a diaper is not okay, but it’s not a crime.  Maybe it should be. 

These are a just a few of the highlights.  There are a bunch of rules.  Only an anal-retentive Boy Scout could keep track of all of them.  Just be glad there are no criminal penalties. By the way, I was a Boy Scout–maybe it was a Cub Scout–for a couple of weeks.  What did I learn?  How to fold the flag, of course.

The bottom line is that we don’t like people being disrespectful to the flag.  People in foreign countries like to burn the flag–our flag.  You can tell they think that infuriates us, and it does.  Some of these folks will hit it with shoes.  That’s definitely a no-no.

Although the flag is iconic, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution allows us to desecrate it.  Like Mr. Flynt, we can wear it as a diaper if we so choose; however, I don’t suggest that, because it will make you unpopular in many circles.

Remember, though, it’s not a crime.  We Kentuckians have made it a crime under state law, Kentucky Revised Statute Section 525.110.  That statute is unconstitutional, of course, but we don’t care.   It’s still a law, even if we can’t enforce it.  We’re well-known in Kentucky for passing laws that can’t be enforced and for periodically embarking on Quixotic battles to display the Ten Commandments.  It’s part of our culture.

Of course, Americans have a Pledge of Allegiance.  Man oh man, the Pledge of Allegiance gets people worked up.  We’re supposed to pledge allegiance to the flag, by God, or so the argument goes.  No one ever explains why we should do this, but we should.  Some–like your author and The United States Supreme Court–believe that Americans shouldn’t have to pledge allegiance to God, country, flags, politicians or anything else.  We’re Americans.  We have the right to be apathetic or downright hostile about everything.

I often see posts on social media lamenting that schools don’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  This isn’t true.  My children attended public schools where the Pledge was recited.  Now, the school can’t force you to recite it.  That’s okay, at least with me.

If you’re going to get all worked up about the Pledge of Allegiance, consider:

  • The original text of the Pledge:
    • I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
  • It was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Christian socialist.  That’s right, a socialist.
  • It was written as part of the 400 year celebration of Columbus’s arrival in America.
  • One of the purposes of it was to sell flags to schools, because there was a belief that patriotism was at a low point.
  • Bellamy wanted to include equality and fraternity for all, but he knew that schools wouldn’t support equal rights for women and African-Americans.
  • About 30 years later, “my flag” was replaced with “the flag of the United States of America.”  The thought was that immigrants needed to be clear about which flag they loved.
  • In 1954, the now familiar “under God” was added.  This was during the Cold War when godless Communism was all the rage.
  • A minister named George Docherty suggested to President Eisenhower that God be added to the pledge.  Reverend Docherty likened the Pledge to something “Moscovite children” might recite.
  • Legally, you can’t be forced to recite it.
  • Schools can recite the Pledge, but student participation is voluntary.  If you think schools are not allowed to recite the Pledge, you are wrong.
  • The vast majority of states require that time be set aside for recitation of the Pledge. So, if you think the country is going to hell because we don’t do it, again, you’re wrong.  Here in Kentucky, we have Kentucky Revised Statute Section 158.175 which sets aside time for it.
  • Groups like Socialists and Fascists love to have people pledge allegiance to the state.

This being America, we don’t force anyone–even children–to pledge allegiance to the flag.  Maybe you think we should, but such things as freedom of speech and of religion stand in the way.  It’s okay.  Those are good things, too.  Think about it like this:  If you’re one who thinks we should be forced to say the Pledge, imagine how you’d react if President Obama said that.  See?

We’re not the only country with a flag.  Other countries have flags, too.  All of them do, I guess, but we don’t care much for those.  Most of them are goofy looking with odd sayings and pictures on them.

andorra flag

Andorra has the typical weird flag combining a haughty crest with cows and odd foreign gibberish.

Some other flags just took no thought at all.  France, for example:

france

The French flag can be easily adapted in the event of surrender.

We want people to fight for the flag, too.  Personally, I wouldn’t do that, especially if I had time to think about it.  I’d probably let you have the flag if it were that important to you.  That’s not the same as fighting for one’s country, although I wouldn’t want to do that, either.

When we Americans get mad at foreign countries, we don’t take to the streets and burn their flags.  To us, that seems over the line.  Oh, we’ll invade your country, kill you by the thousands and overthrow your government, but we’ll be good to your flag.  That’s only decent.

All our states have flags.  Here is the flag of my state, Kentucky:

kyflag

It states the fairly obvious maxim of “United we stand.  Divided we fall.”  I suppose the cartoon on it symbolizes country and city folk coming together.  We also call ourselves a “commonwealth.”  No one knows what that means, but we’re just a plain old state like everyone else.  Kentucky has its own Pledge of Allegiance:

“I pledge allegiance to the Kentucky flag, and to the Sovereign State for which it stands, one Commonwealth, blessed with diversity, natural wealth, beauty, and grace from on High.

Notice that it doesn’t mention “God.”  I think people would be outraged about this if they knew we had our own pledge.  “On High” could be God, Jesus, Buddha or a bundle of sticks.

I’ve been told that this is Alabama’s flag:

alaflag

Weird, huh?  It’s kind of like they’ve just Xed themselves out.  Then again, it’s easy to draw.

State flags aren’t as controversial.  I’ve never heard anyone accused of desecrating one, and I’ve never seen angry foreign mobs burning one.  If someone did, we’d probably get mad, but it would quickly pass.

Everyone knows the famous photo of the flag being raised at Iwo Jima.  It wouldn’t have had the same impact if they had raised the Kentucky state flag by mistake.

Some of our states are fond of the Confederate flag, the Old Stars and Bars.  Only in America could you fly the flag of a rebellion that cost hundreds of thousands of lives and almost destroyed your country.  Of course, a lot of folks are offended by that.  That’s also very American.  Do what you want, but others have a right to get pissed off about it.

Whether you’re conservative or liberal, you might be thinking:  “Hey, does this nut have some kind of problem with flags?”  No.  I’ve never desecrated a flag (at least not on purpose).  I don’t advocate such things, either, but I probably don’t love the flag.  And I certainly don’t insist that you love it or pledge some kind of oath to it.  Just don’t wear it as a diaper, unless you really want to.

©thetrivaltroll.wordpress.com 2013