Back in 1990, my son’s teacher sent him home with a yellow ribbon pinned to his shirt – presumably my 5-year-old son was doing so to proclaim his support of the troops in the Gulf War. Never mind that when I asked him about the ribbon his explanation centered on the fact that the teacher gave it to him and all the kids were wearing them.
I had a melt down.
Now there ain’t nobody on this planet that is more supportive of troops than I am. I believe in a strong military. I just wish we’d quit putting them in situations that endanger them for stupid reasons – morally bankrupt reasons.
So. Small child. Yellow ribbon. School.
I sent him back to school the next day with his ribbon. The ribbon was attached to his shirt with a button emblazoned with “What if Kuwait’s No. 1 Export Was Broccoli?”
The older ones among us will remember George Senior’s statement that he didn’t like broccoli.
That pretty much put an end to my son and the yellow ribbon. [If I’d been a really manipulative parent, I’d have told Chef Boy ‘R Mine that the president didn’t like broccoli. Child of Mine loved “little trees.”]
It goes without saying that I had a rocky relationship with the Cabell County public school system.
Like I said, I support the troops. I do not support the use of small children to make political statements. I don’t like it when protesters, liberal or conservative, drape their kids in witty signs and parade them about the village green. First of all, it’s another case of treating children like property. Instead of putting a bumper sticker on our car, we put them on our kids.
[I maintain that the average school child does not have enough of a knowledge base to understand what the sign on their stroller, backpack, or t-shirt means beyond a superficial level. Therefore, in such situations, we are merely using them as a photo op – cuteness exploited to attract attention. Or, in other words, it’s my kid – I can do what I want. Property.]
Second of all, if I’m not going to slap a slogan on my kid, it’s a given that I’m not going to let some teacher do it.
Yes, indeedy, Cabell County Board of Education and I got off to a rocky start. A teacher once told me that children’s official school files were sometimes labeled with a PP. This code stood for Problem Parent and served to alert teachers that the parent they were about to call might provoke a need for an aspirin, a martini, or early retirement paperwork. I’m pretty sure Chef Boy ‘R Mine’s file had a red PP outlined in glitter. In letters about 6” high.
Some day I’ll tell the story about how a principal with a fraternity paddle was the proverbial straw and how the child of atheist/agnostic/pagan parents ended up Catholic school.
By now, you know where this is going.
Obama is addressing school children with a speech to encourage them to stay in school and study hard. Who could object to that?
As we all know now, plenty of people.
Here’s what I know. If either George had wanted to use school time to talk to my kid, I would have screamed blue bloody murder, slapped a trendy sign on my kid and marched up and down Rt. 60 in protest. At the very least, I would have kept him home. It wouldn’t have mattered if the purpose of said talk was to encourage him to eat cruciferous vegetables or study algebra.
I support the wingnuts’ right to get their panties in a tangle. To do otherwise would be hypocritical. I thought George I and George II were so dangerous and so devious that I wouldn’t put it past them to slip some sort of nonsense into the talk – nonsense that young children do not have the wisdom to identify or parse.
A big bunch of folks feel the same way about Obama. I think my reasons for suspecting the Georges are much more logical and well thought out than the He’s-a-Muslim-Hellbent-On-Killing-Grandma crowd, but that’s neither here nor there.
To do other than support their right to object would make me a hypocrite. I’ve got enough hypocrisy and contradiction in my life as it is. Hopefully, they’ll at least use the opportunity to keep their kids at home and discuss the importance of staying in school. Maybe if they look that contradiction in the eye, they might learn how to spot contradictory statements.
That’s probably hoping for too much.
I leave you with my favorite quote of the week. It comes from Tom Robbins’ masterpiece, Skinny Legs and All, and seems pretty profound at this stage of my life.
Contradiction may be an unavoidable trait in a many-faceted sensibility in an expanding universe, but bitterness is reductive in the most trivializing way, and Ellen Cherry was aware that it was her fate to have to struggle against it. Over and over, she reminded herself how fortunate she was to have landed her life in a situation where strange things could happen to it.