Lessons In Conservatism In The Sixth Grade
Sure it seems a bit early, but one has to face reality sometime.
In any event, let’s assume that I’m following in the President’s footsteps and thus I need to make it clear in this rather small disclaimer that any and all “facts” presented in the following story may or may not be true, may or may not be composites of people I knew, and the described location(s) may or may not accurately reflect any actual geographic location that may or may not have actually existed at the time that I may or may not have either visited similar or dissimilar locations and it is entirely possible that I may or may not have resided close to or at the location which I have already fully disclosed may or may not have existed in the first place. Further, in the interest of full disclosure, the chronological order in which I present the events may or may not reflect the actual order of those events which may or may not have occurred.
Shall we begin?
By the time I enrolled in sixth grade I had already been fully immersed in what were, back then, rather quaintly known as “liberal values”. Some of my older readers may remember how it was when the left was young and even liberal Americans thought naughty thoughts about saving the world. Someone had started a rumor that by sharing all that was great about America we might well be instrumental in improving the lot of those less fortunate to the point where they too could live in their own nations of milk and honey where all were equal and nobody went hungry. Ah, it was a glorious time when no mountain was so steep and no ocean so deep that Americans could not be found busily sticking their noses into everybody else’s business accompanied by truckloads of money and vanloads of experts.
There was a pride and a purpose in being an American and though every effort may not have always met with the success which was predicted, by God, and with the support of all that was holy, which for what turned out to be a very short time happened to be a President with the initials, JFK, we could do it, we could do it, we simply knew we could do it, because all it took was American know how coupled with the uniquely American “can do” spirit. It was our destiny to help others achieve what we had achieved. All men were equal and all differences surmountable, and a brand new world of peace and harmony was surely in sight, if we only worked hard enough and kept the faith.
Some of you may be able to imagine my surprise when it turned out that all those liberal values which had seemed so admirable when expressed by the adults around me as they unwittingly stirred within this young boy the desire to “save the world”, were actually nothing but the overt expression of a much less admirable ideology of bigotry and prejudice, and, perhaps even worse, one could not hide oneself from the well-known fact that this hideous philosophy of tolerance and love for one’s fellow man was sometimes predicated on a God in Heaven and a spiritual duty to improve the lot of those who were less fortunate. The more general understanding of the evilness which insiduosly permeated every level of this distorted ideology was to come later, and though it may have been too late for me, those from the new left sensed the problem and, quite rightly in my opinion, soon bannished any thought of integration or assimilation from the drawing rooms of proper liberal society. I must confess that I lay much of the blame for my ideology of hatred and intolerance on the nefarious early influence of a community which only now can I realize was evil to its very core. In this little community of which I speak there was a most alarming notion propagated, enforced, and yet so fully engrained that it seemed silly to have a rule reflecting the obvious fact that it was the quality of the individual’s character which was of the upmost importance, and that such extraneous factors as color, religion, and ethnicity were, at most, interesting side shows which might make for some interesting conversations, but certainly did not define the inner qualities of the individual in question. How quaint. How "out of touch".
In any event, the fact that one of the most popular boys in school was “black” and that his reign as elected King of the Prom was shared by his blonde southern belle date who had also been elected Queen in her own right was certainly noted, as they made a beautiful couple. It was the beginning of the summer of love and yet in my world there was never any doubt. There was a downside though, exemplified by a boy who had transferred in at around the same time as the first, but, in his case, had brought with him memories of what must have been a real inner city school where the lockers were searched for guns and other contraband on a regular basis. I'd have to imagine that his memories of the school are quite different as he unfortunately brought his attitude with him. I can’t remember for certain if he even showed up for the dance, but I can say his circle of friends was much more limited. He obviously saw through all of the kindness and acceptance on display and let the rest of us know that he was fully aware of the evil darkness that lurked beneath every white skin.
In any event, I have yet to tell my story, so let me begin anew, and see if I can quickly get back on track. As I mentioned previously, most of those around me during my early years called themselves liberals, and somewhat ironically, many still do. On occasion I get a bit confused as to who I really am, until I remember that I am a bigoted and prejudiced conservative who is selfish and greedy with absolutely no sense of social responsibility and who is a festering sore infecting all those around me with a disease known as conservatism, a disease which most unfortunately seems to have no known cure. So, am I ever going to tell you how I got to be this way? It all happened in sixth grade and this is my story.
I played some sports and although I still occasionally reflect on my award for "Most Guts", I was rarely "first pick". On the other hand ,the seats around me in class were highly coveted, and most particularly when exams were scheduled. I’m not claiming perfection, as you will soon see, but honesty and integrity have always been characteristics for which I have had the highest respect. I didn’t mind being the study leader, or even helping those who needed a bit of tutoring to complete their homework assignments, but I really resented those who wished to copy my work. This resentment only increased when those to whom I refer suggested that it was I who was being selfish and inconsiderate. Call it the origin of my conservative tendencies if you wish, but even worse were those who suggested that we could “share”, apparently under the impression that my resistance was based on a feeling that he would be unwilling to do the same. Obviously I saw this as a particularly empty gesture, considering that not only did I prefer to be assessed on the quality of my individual work in which I had the upmost confidence, but why would anyone think I would trust someone else’s work over my own? On what basis does anyone feel proud, or even satisfied, when his accomplishments come as the result of cheating, rather than being a reflection of his own efforts and abilities?
So, some may have already understood that, at least in my mind, I learned three lessons about socialism as a result of these experiences. The first lesson was that the underlying premise of socialism is that fairness is defined by the underlying belief that the many have the right to ride on the coattails of the few, and in addition, that the many really don’t much care about how much effort is required on the part of those few. The second lesson was that in order for any exchange to be truly beneficial to both parties, each must receive something of perceived benefit specific to each one's particular need or desire and thus those benefits are rarely a simple exchange of the same exact good or service. The third thing I learned was that most people are much more interested in the ends, rather than the means and that to expect the majority of the population to work through a problem simply for the joy of solving it is unrealistic to the extreme. If effort is not required to receive a benefit, most people will take the benefit and not make the effort.
But what about me? After all, I did mention that I make no claim to being perfect. Perhaps one of the most significant events of my life occurred during sixth grade math class and relates to the fact I finished up the test early and took it up to the front to give it to the teacher. Fate played a hand, and another student was apparently having some kind of problem, and thus I was forced to wait my turn right at her desk. My roving eye happened to light on the teacher’s open textbook which she had, for whatever reason, left open at the page which revealed all the answers for the quiz I was about to turn in. Lucky number thirteen did not agree with my answer, which was zero, and my sixth grade self lost the battle between good and evil right there in math class. I’ll give myself credit for struggling with my conscience, but it just seemed so unfair, at the time, that so many others less honest than I had either tried, or succeeded, by doing much worse, including trading on my efforts, and in so doing had made my job that much harder. I'll note here for those who may not remember that on those occasions where a teacher grades on the curve it makes a significant difference as to what each individual student scores. "Was honesty truly the best policy?", I asked myself somewhat self-righteously. I lost the battle, quickly changed my answer to the fractional number listed in the teacher’s book, and turned in my paper. guilty, but inarguably still willing to take that first step. Apparently she had opened the book hoping to grade all the papers without the need to take them home and before I could even leave the classroom I learned another lesson I will never forget. She called me aside before I even left the class. The book was wrong! It was a misprint, and any fool knew that the answer should have been what I had written in the first place…a big…fat…zero….which is the grade she put in her book right beside my name. I avoided her for the rest of my tenure at that school. Cheaters may or may not prosper, but a society of cheaters always takes a beating, and the so-called authoritive expert may not always be right, no matter if it is down in black and white.
Thank you for your indulgence.