Jacob Lawrence, The Life of Harriet Tubman No. 5.
She felt the sting of slavery when as a young girl she was struck on the head with an iron bar by an
enraged overseer. (1940)
October 20, 2002:
Sketch: Mr. B.
Self-satisfied doctrinaire of that peculiarly American kind. Militarist: served in the
Pacific theater as a meteorologist, alone on an enemy island with a barometer and a radio.
Brought his military experiences with him into civilian life. Beams for instance when little Jean
addresses him respectfully as "sir." Throws his chest out with his shoulders back. He'd
have us all in uniforms with crewcuts, if only we didn't live in a free country.
The war in Vietnam. "I'm not allowed to discuss politics with you. Or to try to
influence you with my opinions. But. I just want you all to know, that my son believes
so strongly in what we're trying to do there, that he's chosen to enlist for a second tour of
duty. That is all."
The John Birch Society. Little Jean's father is a member. She brings this up. He responds
with a wink and a nod which say, I approve of little Jean's father, although I'm not allowed
to say so.
Gender. Boys are active, girls are passive. Boys are leaders, girls are followers. Boys are
rational, girls are emotional. Boys are dominant, girls are to be dominated. He especially
enjoys his personal exercise of authority over the girls in his class. Little Jean is his favorite.
Exercise. "Pull-ups will save your life one day. You'll be running through a battlefield
chased by Communists. You'll come to a wall. Get over that wall,
you'll live. Fail, you'll die."
Antiwar demonstrators. Traitors, cowards. His large peasant face turns purple with rage.
Darwin. Interpreted in an oddly militaristic way. We have two eyes, for instance, not to
perceive distance through stereoscopy, but as a fail-safe mechanism in case an enemy blinds one.
This is what's happened to him, of course, although the blinding was ethical, not
physical, and it wasn't foreign enemies who did it to him.
Contradiction between the ideology and the practice of freedom. As if to say, I'll die to
defend our country's freedom. And I'll kill anyone who attempts to exercise it.
Comes to believe everything you say is a lie. Which is largely right. It's important to hide
the truth from people like him. They have power without wisdom. They'll take you away from the
things that are important in your life.
Confused-looking ten year old. The humidity reading is 100%, but, that can't be literally correct.
Humidity is the proportion of water in the air. 100% humidity would mean 100% water. We'd be
entirely under water. He figures out how the gauge came to read 100%: rain drops have fallen
into the collector, leaving a small pool. Thus the gauge actually is under water. But, we're not.
"Shouldn't I correct this reading to 99%, or something like that?"
In front of the class, Mr. B. rolls his eyes in disgust. This kid overlooks no chance to
rebel. "100%," is all he says. Harshly, like an army officer.
End of discussion.
In San Diego they make people like him teachers. In his case, an elite teacher: 5th and 6th
grades for the county-wide gifted students program. They bus us for miles to work with the best.
Go back to the October TOC
Go back to the main workbook page
© 2002-2013 Mark Phillips.
All rights reserved.
This writing is fiction. Please don't confuse it with reality.