♪ And we’d sit together in Double
History twice a week
And some days, we’d walk the same way home
And it’s surprising how quick
A little rain can clear the streets
We dreamed of her and compared our dreams
But that was all that I ever tasted
She lied to me, with her body, you see
I lied to myself ‘bout the chances I’d wasted ♪
— Ah, the precious pain1 of school days.
Indulge your in-reverie Weekend Politics Thread host in sharing his all-time ever favorite poem in full.
In silence the heart raves. It utters words
Meaningless, that never had
A meaning. I was ten, skinny, red-headed,
Freckled. In a big black Buick,
Driven by a big grown boy, with a necktie, she sad
In front of the drugstore, sipping something
Through a straw. There is nothing like
Beauty. It stops your heart. It
Thickens your blood. It stops your breath. It
Makes you feel dirty. You need a hot bath.
I leaned against a telephone pole, and watched.
I thought I would die if she saw me.
How could I exist in the same world with that brightness?
Two years later she smiled at me. She
Named my name. I thought I would wake up dead.
Her grown brothers walked with the bent-knee
Swagger of horsemen. They were slick-faced.
Told jokes in the barbershop. Did no work.
Their father was what is called a drunkard.
Whatever he was he stayed on the third floor
Of the big white farmhouse under the maples for twenty-five years.
He never came down. They brought everything up to him.
I did not know what a mortgage was.
His wife was a good, Christian woman, and prayed.
When the daughter got married, the old man came down wearing
An old tail coat, the pleated shirt yellowing.
The sons propped him. I saw the wedding. There were
Engraved invitations, it was so fashionable. I thought
I would cry. I lay in bed that night
And wondered if she would cry when something was done to her.
The mortgage was foreclosed. That last word was whispered.
She never came back. The family
Sort of drifted off. Nobody wears shiny boots like that now.
But I know she is beautiful forever, and lives
In a beautiful house, far away.
She called my name once. I didn’t even know she knew it.
— Robert Penn Warren, 1905-1989
“Quit bringing us down, Uvular,” your suddenly called back to reality WPT host hears impatient, somewhat befuddled header readers chorus.2
“Why should we care, or you write, about schoolboy crushes recounted by an urban folk legend and a dead white oral historian of the American civil rights movement?3 Get with making the wordplay and sputtering outrage, eventual monkeypox victim man.”
Uvular slipped into reminiscences of his dateless tween and teen years while mired in a drawn-out interviewing process for a position with a K-12 public education association.4 One interviewer’s question, in particular, shunted Uve from a focus on present problems to a sepia-toned and nonexistent perfect past.
On their journey from the classroom to the shop, factory, office or, in work-from-home Uvular’s case, spare bedroom, children should encounter few obstacles other than mastering the art of book learning, navigating the rough seas of developing friendships and romantic relationships, and discovering how to smoke fat bowls without getting busted by their parents.
Instead, the kids today, yesterday and tomorrow find themselves hammered by the fusillade of fundamentalists and reactionaries who wish to
- Whitewash history;
- Defund secular public schools;
- Publicly fund religious schools;
- Erase LGBTQIA+ children;5
- Persecute LGBTQIA+ children;
- Ban and burn books; and, for real shits and giggles,
- Demonize educators who dedicate themselves to guiding children off the path that leads to becoming an adult who whitewashes history and etc.
Every word of the concluding bullet item deserves it own link. Exercising rare discretion, Uve will defer to the many educators among the Avocado commentariat to tell their own stories.
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free,” Thomas “Problematic” Jefferson wrote, “it expects what never was and never will be.” Which precisely explains why fundamentalists and reactionaries hammer at schoolhouse doors with all the fear-fed fury of villagers storming Castle Frankenstein.
They take George Orwell’s 1984 as a call to arms instead of a dire warning. When they first read Winston Smith’s torturer asking Smith to repeat the Party’s slogan, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,” fundamentalists and reactionaries thrill to the discovery of a great organizing principle.
Trump, who lies about everything, told nothing but the truth when he bleated, “I love the uneducated!” If people of goodwill and positive intent do not rally to save and strengthen K-12 public education, Trump’s successors will have lots to love.