Adventures in the Primordial Slime
Maybe it's just the end of the year, a time when all kinds of sordid trash is tossed out, but I came across two articles in the newspaper this morning that really made me scratch my head and wonder what kind of planet we're living on. The first story had to do with the response of a white high school teacher in Ohio, who, after hearing one of his African American students say he wanted to become president someday, replied, "We don't need another black president." Now, this teacher has been suspended over the remark, which is why it became news, I suppose, but the larger question is how does a person like that, someone who is ostensibly charged with fostering the hopes and dreams of students end up in a classroom in the first place. And I can only imagine what a gratuitous slap it was to that high school student. The fact is, we do need more black presidents. We also need Latino presidents, Jewish presidents, female presidents, gay presidents, atheist presidents (by the way, turns out we've had a few of those already, though they were rather mum about it). We need all kinds of qualified people to be president. That's the promise of American life, that anyone who works hard enough can rise to the top of the heap. It's not, or it shouldn't be, at any rate, a private club for white Protestant males. Up till now, there have only been a couple of "gate crashers"-first John F. Kennedy, and now, Barack Obama. That's good, but it doesn't yet reflect the broader demographics of this country. As for me, I'm wishing that kid in Ohio who wants to be president good luck; he'll need it with teachers like that.
The second strange story I read concerned a young man in Texas who was arrested and jailed for failing to return an overdue library book. Honest. They put him in jail. Apparently, this is one of the many creative ways they define "theft" nowadays in Texas. Not to get too far into the weeds about this, but the book was three years late. The young man had an excuse, of course, which was that he couldn't return it any earlier because he checked it out just before starting a three year prison sentence for robbery. Okay, this fellow is no peach, and he's probably not aiming to be a future president, but sending someone to the slammer for a library book seems, well, excessive was the word that first came to mind. But really, the correct word should be (and I say this with all due respect to librarians everywhere) "crazy." By the by, our literary felon has learned a valuable lesson from this experience: he says he will never again set foot in a public library, that if he ever wants another book he will buy it from Amazon (Congratulations, you won another convert, Mr. Bezos!).
To me, the real kicker in this story is that the book he "stole" was a study guide for the GED. He was just trying to graduate from high school. That was his crime, but who knows, maybe in the great state of Texas that's exactly what it is. I give up.