Great American Heroes

When I was a kid, I attended St. Patrick's Catholic elementary school in El Paso, Texas. It was a good little grade school, which provided me an elementary education that I am grateful for having. At the time I wasn't always so grateful. I didn't like times tables or sentence diagrams (I now owe my life to them). I failed penmanship in 2nd grade with my atrocious handwriting. I failed religion a couple of times with my stubborn nature. After learning about Christ's simplicity in prayer, I felt I didn't need to know the "Act of Contrition" or the "Nicene Creed," because Christ said the "Our Father" was sufficient.

However, at the time there was one thing I did find enjoyable and I was sincerely grateful. It was "Great American Heroes Day." Once a year the school would have a competition with all the students. It would entail picking a hero in American history and dressing up as that hero. Students also had to write a book report and give a speech in character as the American hero. The first year I was Babe Ruth, where I wore cleats and brought a baseball bat. My mother suggested I be the Babe, even though I always liked the Mets over the Yankees. The next year I was Robert E. Lee. I wore a gray trench coat, colored my hair white, and carried a plastic sword. I admired Lee for his principled stand deciding not to betray his homeland of Virginia. Besides, I was a Yankee the previous year. The last year of the contest, I was the American farmer. I wore suspenders and carried a pitchfork. That was the first year of Farm Aid and the plight of the farmer was all the rage. At the time I couldn't figure out how the farmer's plight was brought about, but now I know it has a lot to do with the tax code and subsidies. I enjoyed Great American Heroes Day and I still enjoy thinking about it.

Today, if I were asked to portray a great American hero, I would portray the American child. These children face a plight more ruinous than the plight of the American farmer, and a force more dangerous than Yankee bluecoats. Theirs is the heroic struggle against public education, political correctness, and just plain intolerance. In particular I would like to portray this little five-year old:

"…in Deer Lakes, Pa., a 5-year-old boy suspended for dressing as a firefighter for his school's Halloween party. Part of his costume was a plastic ax."

This kid is my hero. This child had the audacity to portray his hero for Halloween and defy a system of insanity. The plastic ax represented a tool of his hero, used to cut through debris in a fire. This child was persecuted for carrying the representation of a tool, which defied the policy of Zero Tolerance. But surely, the administrator had good cause thinking the tool represented a weapon that could potentially kill. I guess he also suspended the kid, who dressed up as Dracula, thinking that the fangs represented weapon used for serial murders and rapes (maybe I shouldn't be giving administrators any ideas).

My next hero is T.J. West:

"Thirteen-year-old T.J. West was suspended for violating Kansas' Derby Unified School District's zero tolerance policy against racial harassment and intimidation when he drew a replica of the confederate flag on a scrap of paper. The flag was listed as a prohibited symbol of racial hatred."

This kid had enough guts to draw the Confederate flag despite the fact that he may face harassment and intimidation from the powers that be. He was "just a good ol' boy, never meaning no harm" until school administrators got a hold of him. To intimidate is to frighten into compliance or submission. It is hard to show that a kid drawing a flag on paper is a form of intimidation.

My final hero to portray is:

"An 11-year-old fifth-grader permanently banned from an elementary school in Oldsmar, Fla., for drawing pictures of a gun;"

This guy is probably my favorite hero because he was permanently banned for his artistic interest in guns. The boy must be a grave threat to the system if he draws pictures about inanimate objects. The administrator must think he may potentially one day bring in a gun and shoot people. It's kind of funny to think that we live in a society that will not tolerate a kid drawing a picture of a gun, and completely tolerates a police force that draws guns on innocent people with regularity.

I admire these kids for living in a world that I could probably not survive in as a kid. If I took my behavior as a child and applied it to today's nanny-state, I may not have made it. I probably would have ended up weak, submissive, and dumb. In my previous portrayals of American heroes alone, I would have been suspended, reeducated, and eventually expelled. The cleats, baseball bat, plastic sword, and pitchfork may have been used to injure or kill students and teachers. The gray trench coat would invoke a "hostile" classroom environment with the potential to conceal firearms. Besides, the trench coat would be insensitive to the victims of Colombine. Speaking of insensitivity, my portrayal of Robert E Lee would be insensitive to minorities. With that and my Dukes of Hazard lunch box, I would need some intense sensitivity training. Since I'm very rebellious by nature, they would have to drug me with a lot of Ritalin to take care of my "attention deficit."

My violations of political correction and "nannyism" are not confined to my portrayals in Great American Heroes Day. My entire life as a child is in violation, from the games I played to the pictures I drew. Let's take a look back at some of these atrocities I committed in my youth.

In the game department, "wall ball" was one of my favorites. With a tennis ball we would throw the ball from a certain spot in the playground against a wall. If you missed the wall, you would have to run to the wall and touch it. If someone else picked up the ball and beamed you with it, you would face the dreaded firing squad. The firing squad was the best part of the game. In it, the kid would have to stand against the wall with his back to the others, while the others took a turn at hitting the kid with the tennis ball. If you missed during the firing squad, you became an object of the firing squad as well. Today, such a game would be condemned on the basis of safety and sensitivity.

Another condemnable game was "smear the queer." In this game, whoever carried the football, would get tackled by the others. It was fun trying to avoid a bunch of tacklers with no blockers. Of course this game would be seen as too violent and insensitive to homosexuals.

Other games included cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, guns, and BB gun wars.

In the insensitive sing-song department, a favorite of mine was our version of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Today, this song would definitely expel me from school, as it is a gross violation. It went as follows:

"My eyes have seen the glory Of the burning of our school.

We have tortured all the teachers, And have broken all the rules.

We have fired all the cooks, And have burned up all our books.

Our truth is marching on!

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! Teacher hit me with the ruler. I put a hand grenade In her glass of lemonade. She aint my teacher no more."

Today's educators would see this as threatening, causing a "hostile" work environment to teachers and cooks. "This kid may end up burning the school down or grenade his teacher. Much worse, this kid is assuming all teachers are female and such remarks are sexist." While today's teacher is worried about sensitivity, yesterday's teacher would be more worried about the grammar of the song, and as we all know from good English teachers, "aint" is not a word. It may be a safe bet to say that as our humor erodes, so does our intelligence.

In the safety department, my noncompliance would stretch from never wearing a bike helmet to playing tackle football without pads or a helmet. Today, if you don't wear a bike helmet the cops will tackle you to the ground, cuff you, and give you a citation, all in front of your mother. I admire the kid who went through that experience in Florida; he is another one of my heroes.

Finally, in the picture-drawing department, I've drawn weapons ranging from AK-47's to light sabers. I would have been thrown out for my third grade book report about Paul Revere and the Battle of Lexington and Concord. For the cover I drew a minuteman carrying a musket. Today's teachers probably would think I would intend to liberate the school from the tyranny of absolutism, with such a picture. The teacher might be right and such subversive thought would be definite grounds for expulsion.

Of course expulsion from government tyranny is what all men of freedom seek. So I say to my heroes, do not be discouraged by suspension and expulsion. Look on them instead as medals in the pursuit of liberty. Any child, who can persevere and maintain a childhood spirit, through such a system of tyranny, is my hero.

Which leads us to end with a warning for the anti-heroes creating this struggle:

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (King James Bible: MAT: 2-6)

November 29, 2002