Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

Archive for November, 2009

“Mommy, is Thanksgiving a fraud?”

Posted by Gerald on November 18, 2009

According to some of my friends at work, I might soon become responsible for some dewey-eyed pre-schooler asking this of his or her mother.

The community college where I teach is home to a well-regarded day-care center that is the core of a program for training people to work with pre-K children.  Earlier this week, the other history instructor at the college – who is also the mother of a child who attends the college’s pre-school – was asked to some and talk to the little kiddies about Thanksgiving.  We both found this funny, given that – like me – she can’t discuss this topic without frothing a bit and using words like “genocide.”  In any case, she can’t do this when they asked due to her class schedule.

Our assistant dean has now passed the request on to me.  Joy.

I’m really caught here.  On the one hand, while I know not to describe rape, robbery, and murder to little kids, I’m at a loss as to what I should say if I accept.  On the other hand, if I do accept I can at least try to talk about this without all of the layers of mythology (another colleague’s child brought home a kindergarten assignment on T-day that is marked correct if the Pilgrims are described as “eating and playing games” with the Native Americans).

My best thought so far is a friend’s suggestion that I just talk about the Native Americans – that these people were farmers, maybe show some artists renderings, and try to get the message across that not all Native Americans are Plains Indians.

Of course, I could also wind up with a room filled with terrified children looking at the huge man with his newly regrown beard.

I don’t know.

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A Homecoming

Posted by Gerald on November 7, 2009

Rather than discussing why I haven’t been writing, I’m just going to dive in…

This week I witnessed one of the sweetest moments I’ve ever seen.  Before I begin the story, I should note that I’ve had a long-standing policy of not naming people who haven’t named themselves or given me permission to name them in these posts.  I hope in this way to maintain some privacy for those around me.  This does require some circumlocution, however.

To set the stage I need to mention – or remind – readers that I have a friend and colleague whose husband is an officer in the National Guard and that he has been deployed to Iraq for several months.  I was in that friend’s office Thursday afternoon with some other folks.  We were sharing our general lack of desire to do anything work-related (it seems to have been a particularly low-motivation week here in Lake Woebegone Community College).  Right then, my friend got an incomplete text message and then a call from her husband, so we all cleared the room.  A few minutes later she came out and told us that he was “somewhere where he could see the campus on a satellite” and that although he wasn’t supposed to, he wanted her to go out to the fountain in the center of campus so he could take a picture.  This became a group thing very quickly.  Two of my other colleagues even worked up a sign.  At just before 3 pm local (the appointed time) we headed out.

No – even then I didn’t get suspicious.  I was wondering a couple of things.  First, how this whole thing was supposed to be timed.  I mean, were we just going to wave upwards for several minutes?  Still, he is a smart guy and I thought he would probably text her again at the appropriate moment.  I also was wondering which direction we should be looking in.  After all, it is a big sky out there and the chances this thing was directly overhead – and in a geosynchronous orbit – were slight, so it was bound to be at an angle to us.  Still, I wasn’t suspicious.

Yes, there is none so blind as he who will not see.  Somewhere, Occam was laughing his ass off.

So, seven of the faculty and staff of our fine institution, including your humble narrator, spread around the fountain and began waving at the empty blue sky.  A few onlookers seemed rather curious – as well they might at such a spectacle.  Right then a soldier walked up beside me and spoke to my friend.

Nope, I still wasn’t there…

Despite the fact that this man was about eighteen inches from me, it wasn’t until my friend started screaming and then crying that I recognized him.  Her husband had come back from Iraq on leave without telling anyone and had set this whole thing up to surprise her.

I just laughed – mostly at me – but also with the sheer joy of the whole thing.  It was clever, funny, romantic, and beautiful.  I don’t think the rest of us were supposed to be invited out for the photo op, and weren’t supposed to see all of this.  I felt a little like a voyeur looking at something I shouldn’t, or that I was sharing in something that wasn’t mine.  Still, it was so good to see her happy and so good to see him back that I can’t feel anything but privileged to have been a witness to that moment.

May there soon be tens of thousands more moments like it  all over this country.

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