Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Anybody here seen my old friend John?

Kennedy assassination One of Tuesday's big stories (besides a few state primaries, but I'm not all fired up about those) was of the Alabama geometry teacher who used a lesson on tangents to mention the assassination of the President of the United States.

Oh, I know, I know...don't be so hard on him. After all, it was a student who brought it up first, saying, "Well, if you shoot the President..." and then geometry teacher Gregory Harrison went along with it and said:

OK, if you shoot off his ear, that is a point of tangency.

Sure thing, Mr. Harrison, so it is.

It is also completely irresponsible for you to condone, in any way, shape, or form, such a horrid remark about shooting the President of the United States of America, let alone continue the joke. The proper response would have been, "No, Joey, we don't shoot the President of the United States, because that is wrong, remember? That is an act of treason, and it is murder. Assassination is bad, mmmkay?"

Normally, I wouldn't get my panties in a wad about something in a far off land like Alabama. But the more I thought about it, I realized that this is my country, too, and Alabama is part of it. If they are saying things like that in front of kids that might be a part of my national government one day (although I have to express skepticism about that, she said with an arched eyebrow), I feel the need to speak up. I found an email address for Corner High School of Jefferson County in Alabama: I don't know if it's a valid address, but I sent the email a while ago and haven't received a failure notification yet.

Why did this bother me so much? I think it was because although I was too young to remember the assassinations in the 60's, I have actually made the effort to read about that turbulent time and try to understand the impact that it had on our country. My Dad was in the National Guard and was called out for local riots; my sister was a member of the SDS and protested the war (although not the soldiers); my friend Dan Edwards assisted with a sculpture commemorating Robert Kennedy's speech in Indianapolis after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, a speech that was credited with staving off the rioting that occurred in other large cities at the time. So many people I know speak of that time with sadness, horror, and regret. I have taken the time to try to learn about it and understand what an impact it had upon our country and upon the world.

RFK assassinationFor this student to make such a hateful, ignorant remark, and for the geometry teacher to go with it rather than pointedly saying that it was completely inappropriate, completely appalls me. It is this sort of rhetoric that hurts me deeply and makes me wonder what is wrong with some people in my country. Whether it's a Facebook group praying for the death of the President (oh, but it was only a joke, they say!) or a teacher in Alabama joking about shooting off the President's ear, you know what? It is not one fucking bit funny.

I was looking for pictures for this entry, and I came across President Kennedy's autopsy photo, as well as a closeup of his wife reaching for his exploded head. I chose not to use those, because I still found them horribly upsetting, and I was only a year old when that happened. However, I am intelligent enough to read and learn and understand what a horrible time that was for our country, and why we never want to experience anything like that again. It doesn't just affect us, it affects the entire world. And on a more personal level, it would certainly affect a wife who calls our President husband, and two young girls who call him Daddy.

Teachers play a part in kids' lives. Not just formal education, but also in the foundation for being a good citizen and responsible member of society, someone who realizes that change comes not from chaos and murder, but from working towards making things better for all. The tacit approval of this teacher with his joking comments made me feel that he has no place in guiding those children who will soon be taking their place in our society.

The deaths of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. have left a lasting mark on our country and a deep sadness in our psyches. These were men cut down in the prime of their lives, and who knows what they might have done as they grew older? They have already left a profound legacy...what might they have done if they had been allowed to continue their lives in peace and prosperity, rather than have their heads blown off by lunatics swayed by propaganda? This is the danger that many of us sense, and many of us are speaking out about. The rhetoric of the far right who continue to ratchet up the anger in the name of ratings, those who advocate the violent overthrow of our government, the ridiculous hyperbole of those who call Obama a socialist/communist/fascist, what have you...this is the sort of thing that gave rise to the tumult of the 60's, and led to the death of three good men who were trying to make a difference in our country.

Make no mistake about it: people like Beck and Limbaugh do not worry about who might act upon their words. They want ratings. Beck's ratings are dropping, and Limbaugh is making ridiculous statements about how the Sierra Club should be paying for the BP oil spill cleanup. Even the 'rightiest' of the right have to realize how insane that sounds, so I hope that people are starting to figure out that it's not a good idea to get all of their Instructions for Life from these fucktards.

MLK assassination I'm sure that some will say that they advocate change through the ballot box, not violence. Well, you might want to tell your teabaggin' friends about that, because they don't seem to be getting the message. People might take you a little more seriously if you put down the fucking guns and stopped threatening to blow people's heads off. Okay, not really. Most of us still won't take you seriously. But yeah...the blowing people's heads off stuff doesn't help matters one iota.

I would ask these people to remember...or at least to do some research. This is not something we want to revisit. It was a divisive, horrible, upsetting time that lingers with us over forty years later. Look at the picture of a President shot in the head with his wife next to him; look at the picture of his brother, a presidential candidate, shot in the head and dying in the arms of a busboy whose hand he was shaking when the bullet entered his brain; look at the picture of a man who advocated peaceful protest and equality for all, shot in the head and dying on the balcony of a Memphis hotel. Look at these men dying and ask yourselves if that is what you really want. Ask yourselves if you think that killing good men is the way to achieve the change YOU want.

If you don't want that—and I believe that the majority of you don't want that—then speak up and tell your like-minded friends to lower the level a bit. Tell them that it's not funny to joke about assassinating the President. Tell your kids' teachers to be true leaders rather than spewing their own ideologies. Make the changes you want by pulling the lever at the voting booth...not by pulling the trigger of a gun, or by advocating it, or by giving implied approval by not speaking out against it.

A bullet in the brain is not funny. Ever.


  1. what bothers me beth is that the new generation will be taught it is ok to act out with violence , it makes it easier to fight than communicate ,politics is such a sensitive spot with people that it and religion should never be used in a derogative manner what if it was Jesus I bet more people would of been outraged and offended .not that I hold the president even close to jesus but he does deserve our repect that is something this country don't have is respect for others .

  2. this should be submitted to a magazine or newspaper....and you should be paid for writing it. It is very well written. And, i agree with it all.
    i have always felt an infinity for RFK and MLK....and also JFK. I have many books about their lives and i agree that this teacher really did not handle the situation well at all.

  3. These crazy wingnuts should be classified as "enemy combatants" and disappear in some secret government holding facility. Beck is loonier than Rasputin and his followers are gun nuts -- this can't end well.

  4. Thank you Beth for writing what I am sure we would all want to say about the Lisa has said it should be submitted to a newspaper...down in Alabama...IF they would dar eto print it !
    Love Sybil

  5. We can only hope that a grassroots movement to stop this deviseness emerges.

  6. I think that the polarization is needed. People, those in the middle will get the clue even in Texas.

  7. I never did like Geometry ... now I've found a reason to hate it even more. with judgment like that, that teacher has no business being in the classroom.


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?