NeedMy class was discussing the annoyances, frustrations, and evils of our modern American culture. Students deplored violence, materialism, divorce, pollution, traffic, television. Their list went on and on. But even after quite some time my own pet peeve still had not been mentioned.
“One thing I’d personally love to be rid of,” I volunteered, “is advertising.”
Instantly from the back row of desks a young man’s hand shot into the air. He screwed his face into a caricature of intellectual pain. Too utterly disgusted to wait for my acknowledgment he exclaimed:
“But Mr. Skank! Without advertising, how would we know what we need?”
Class ParticipationKaren was a tall, slender, beautiful woman in her early thirties, the wife of a junior officer stationed at the Strategic Air Command. Twice a week she came to my English composition class with her equally beautiful friend Marilyn, a woman about the same age whose husband also was an officer at SAC. The two women looked different from their slightly younger, more casual blue-collar classmates—prettier, cleaner, wealthier, better dressed. Karen and Marilyn wore loose, silky, fashionable clothing in complementary earth tones or, occasionally, crisp sporty outfits in bright citrus colors—always with matching shoes that looked brand new and handsome leather handbags or purses and distinctive yet tasteful jewelry that looked as if it had been designed and crafted by professional artists. Carefully made up, their eyes appeared bigger, clearer, more wide open, as if their eyes shone more brightly than the eyes of others, their creamy skin looked softer, their summer tans more unif
ToddlerDylan asked for crackers. I put four saltines in a small empty cream cheese container. He sat on the couch and ate them while he watched cartoons on TV. One cracker broke. Crumbs fell. How interesting, his face said. Suddenly he crushed the cracker in his hand and scattered the crumbs all over the couch and rug.
"Dylan! Stop that. You're making a mess. Don't do that, please!"
He shot me a devilish look and grin, reached his fingers into the cup, made a big show of crushing the two remaining crackers into pieces, and then swung the cup wildly about, scattering cracker pieces and crumbs around the room like birdseed.
I didn't think. I slapped the fingers of his empty hand, the first time I had ever struck him. It shocked us both. His mouth dropped open, his eyes widened. He gulped. He stared at me. His eyes filled with tears. How could I have done that! I had thought I was way way beyond such an impulsive act. I'd better say something.
"I said no, Dylan. You can't do that.
On SpankingMy father took his own life. Blind, feeble, dependent on medication and on my mother, Kathryn, he was told his kidneys had failed and that he needed dialysis. He shot himself the next day.
My mother was attending a funeral in Stanton, a tiny Iowa town organized around its beautiful Lutheran Church ten miles east of Red Oak. Carroll had planned his death around the funeral so that his older brother Harvey and not my mother would find the body, thereby sparing my mother but upsetting Harvey terribly.
Coming over as usual for coffee, my uncle called, “Carroll?”
Hearing no answer, Harvey searched the house and found my father in the garage, where he’d no doubt gone so as not to make a mess inside the house. My mother’s housekeeping was immaculate, and my father’s was, too. A friend of the family said there wasn’t much blood, since the .22 bullet did not exit after entering Carroll’s forehead between his eyes. A professional machinist and a fine car
"I'm a retired college English teacher who has been working, writing, and drawing for peace and nonviolence since I was ten years old and one day stumbled by accident upon "A Pictorial History of World War Two." I return again and again to the nonviolent philosophies of Buddha, Socrates and Plato, Jesus, Russell, Gandhi, Krishnamurti, and King, and of course to artists, writers, and thinkers everywhere who foster nonviolent responses and solutions to human problems."