Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Hate crimes

I'd like to ask my father what he remembers of JFK's assasination--and how he remembers it. The whole world seemed to stop, back then. I remember he stayed home from church on Sunday morning, ill, and thus was a witness to one of the only live-broadcast murders ever to take place on TV, when Jack Ruby did in Lee Harvey Oswald with a handgun in Dallas. "I saw it," he said, when we got back home later that Sunday morning. "I saw it happen."

What I'd like to ask him was what he thought of JFK after that whole horrific ordeal because I know very well he didn't like Kennedy--not at all. On a Sunday night in the summer of 1960, when I was still just a kid, an uncle of mine came to our church to talk to whoever wanted to stay after worship. His subject?--how a vote for Kennedy was going to be a vote for the Pope, and why therefore, all good Christians shouldn't vote for senator from Massachusetts. Rome will run America, he said.

I was just a boy, and the speaker was my uncle, my father's brother, but I honestly didn't believe him, even though I wouldn't have dared to say that in our house.

And then there's this. In 1992, I was doing a writers-in-the-schools, week-long stint with a fifth grade class. Part of my gig included the students' having to write their way out of a short story I'd begun. That story was about Socks, the "first-cat," the Clinton's sweetheart house pet (unless you hate cats); and it went like this: Socks gets out, wanders off, and gets lost (my part), now you (my fifth-grade writers) have to get poor Socks back to Chelsea.

I didn't vote for Clinton. He wasn't my hero. I never really trusted him. But that day, when I read the first six pages of that story to the kids, then told them I wanted them to finish it, I looked at numbed eyes. I'd really thought they'd like the assignment; I'd used it at other Iowa Arts Council gigs, in other schools, and it had gone over well. But the kids in front of me seemed frozen. None of them were angry, but they seemed incapable of doing the assignment.

I may be wrong, but I felt, honestly, that some of them, at least, found it impossible to think good things about anything connected to Bill Clinton, a man who'd been so villified by their parents that simply entertaining a sweet fantasy about his cat was nigh unto impossible.

I admit it--I've laughed at John Stewart's outrageous caricatures of George W. Bush in the last several years. To me, George W. often seemed a poor excuse for the leader of the free world. I honestly believe our world doesn't need any more American Cheneys. Even though I've never been a registered Democrat and I have been a registered Republican, I'll admit that for the last five years of the Bush/Cheney White House, I really, really disliked out administration.

But I can't imagine forbidding my children listen to a speech by George W. Bush--or calling the school to make sure no one else's does. It's impossible for me to understand how legions of parents have now called in to say that their children shouldn't have to listen to their President, a man duly elected by a significant majority of American citizens. I just can't get my mind around that much hate.

And what hurts me even worse is that, once again, it's Christians leading the assault. I can't imagine my father, who utterly opposed JFK's candidacy, feeling any joy whatsoever in 1963 during those awful days of national horror when everything stood still. But neither can I imagine him wanting to protect his son, his child, from listening to the first Roman Catholic President of these United States in school or at home. For the life of me, I can't.

Did I mention that the kids who found it hard to write about Socks the cat were students in a Christian school? Did I mention, it was actually the school my own children had attended?


Joel said...

Socks the Cat? I remember getting that assignment from you--I think it was a sixth grade class in that same school. But it was a bit more sinister--something with a lady hiding Nazi paraphernalia under bed and two neighbor children discovering it. Really, it was great (though I was a bit embarassed by the only ending that I could come up with--not even close to the Nazis.)

Anonymous said...

"I just can't get my mind around that much hate."

Thanks for putting my thoughts into words; I'd been rendered speechless by this topic earlier today.

On a lighter note, like Joel says above, I seem to remember a sixth-grade week-long class. Not sure if I remember a Socks assignment, but I do recall listening to snippets of your recordings with Diet Eman (I think you were transcribing them at the time?), and I think there was an assignment about Moses' family...

Kim B

Meredith Morgan said...

My parents weren't much for Kennedy, either. They were strictly blue-collar and somewhat "Dixie-cratic". Kennedy was Boston, Harvard, liberal, and Irish. Not my parents' cup of tea.

The day President Kennedy was shot they sent us home from school early. I walked into the living room and found the unthinkable happening: my mother was watching television in the middle of the day. That had never happened before and I'd bet it hasn't happened since (other than maybe 9/22/2001).

What was worse, she was sitting in front of our old B&W TV, crying.

Politics, religion and class aside: Our President had been shot down in the street, and Mom joined the throngs of people who cried. Not just on November 22, but during the ensuing horrible days. I was a little kid, but I cried too at the funeral, watching the children saying good-bye to their Daddy.

I loathed and despised President Bush, but I always used the honorific title and I would never have celebrated a personal tragedy for him or his detestable family.

Sadly, I know that others in our country (on both sides of the aisle) might behave differently.

Klomp said...

On a side note. Remember the pic of Ruby shooting Oswald. The next time you see that picture, look at the bottom and see the photographers name. It is Bob Jackson, a neighbor of mine and a good friend. He still does speaking engagements to this day around the country. What 1 picture can do for a person????

Dan said...

Let me suggest that your story about Socks may involve a bit of confabulation. Socks did not become "first cat" until January, 1993, when Bill Clinton was first inaugurated. It is certainly possible that you used Socks as a story line with students in late 1992, following Clinton's election in November of that year, prior to his ascension to the White (Cat) House. It is unlikely that students had uniformly been subjected to their parents' vilification of Clinton at that point in time. Most of the venom directed at Clinton began to flow several years later, related in part to the allegations, and eventually proof, of his rather crude behavior in regard to women. So I conclude it is improbable that your students' numbed eyes in response to the 1992 Socks assignment flowed from some deep-seated home-bred hatred of Clinton prior to his inauguration. That, to the extent it was manifest, came somewhat later.

As to the present situation, let our current president put our money where his mouth is on the subject of education. For the low-income children of Washington, D.C. who, thanks to the President and his fellow party members, no longer have access to the vouchers that had enabled them to access a better education, President Obama's stirring rhetoric on a topic dear to their families' hearts will ring rather hollow.

Wickle said...

Dan, your accusation is baseless.

The idea that hatred of Clinton didn't start until the Lewinsky affair requires more revisionism that I'm going to allow ...

"The American Spectator" was casting Hillary Clinton as "Lady MacBeth" before the election. Rush Limbaugh was calling his show a special edition, with the subtitle "America Held Hostage" beginning either from the election or the inauguration ... I don't recall which.

In any case, there was more than a little hatred being poured out. I know.

I was part of it.

Back to the post ... You're right. Christians have made politics into an idol, and it's very scary. The idea now that we think it's inappropriate for the President to speak to school kids is beyond my ability to describe. "Absurd" is too much of an understatement.

Dan said...

I've been reading Jim long enough to know that he exercises literary license to make a point. Yes, I was there too. Paula Jones came on stage in 1994. Gennifer Flowers, though having alluded to a "relationship" with Clinton in the 1992 campaign, did not get into the details of that until 1996. Monica Lewinsky followed both of those, some years into the Clinton presidency. Clinton's skillful use of the term "New Covenant" in his first campaign actually triggered some hope that he offered more than government as usual and that hope was alive at the outset of his presidency. In terms of sheer talent, Clinton had his share. I simply refuse to join the chorus of those who sit around wringing their hands and patting themselves on the back at the same time, bewailing how their Christian brothers and sisters are such hateful people.

Anonymous said...

In 1991, when George H. W. Bush gave a speech to the school kids, the DEMO's were against it too. SO, what is new. Personally, I don't trust the man. He has not lived up to ANY of his promises in his campaign. Only to raise our taxes to a blistering rate that will eventually bankrupt this whole country. Your new grandchild just owes above and beyond a few months ago, a staggering $120,000 plus in it's lifetime. AND ,we haven't even got to the healthcare bill yet.

Anonymous said...

I would not let my kids listen to a speech by Obama who wrote the following and appointed a Czar who is a Communist.

Watch your thoughts for they become your words.
Watch your words for they become your actions.
Watch your actions for they become your destiny.

Everyone of voting age should read these two books. Don't buy them, get them from the library before they are removed from the shelves.

From Dreams of My Father:'I ceased to advertise my mother's race at the age of 12 or 13, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites.'
From Dreams of My Father :'I found a solace in nursing a pervasive sense of grievance and animosity against my mother's race.'
From Dreams of My Father:'There was something about him that made me wary, a little too sure of himself, maybe. And white.'
From Dreams of My Father:'It remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names.'
From Dreams of My Father:'I never emulate white men and brown men whose fates didn't speak to my own. It was into my father's image, the black man, son of Africa, that I'd packed all the attributes I sought in myself: the attributes of Martin and Malcolm, DuBois and Mandela.'
From Audacity of Hope:'I will stand with theMuslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.'

Rick and Monique Elgersma said...

Christians often don't seem to have confidence in what they have as Christians. That's amazing to me. CRC Christians should be even more confident (Theologically Speaking of course, I don't mean to say that CRC rides atop the heap) about their existence.

I liked Bush sometimes and not others. I happen to think he was more good than bad. He needed to be stubbornly resolute sometimes. I don't fault Obama for that either and I didn't fault Reagan or Carter or Ford for resolute behavior either. But he and they didn't change my faith and Bush didn't change my confidence. I'm most certainly not the walking "afraid". I'm good with resolute Christians and resolute Christianity. We, I have to stand for something and we and I are not about to feel guilty for that. But why are Christians so...hyper and afraid? They're almost Mystic in some ways. Dark ages all over again.

Drives me nuts.

Rick and Monique Elgersma said...

Oh and I'd loathe the idea of writing about any cat. You'd probably say I hated Clinton. But, I'm just not a cat man.

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