The People on TV Are Cooler Than Me

How come the people on TV are so much cooler than me? When I was in high school I never felt as old or as cool as the people who were playing the high school roles on TV shows and movies. Now that I’m a senior in college I still don’t feel as old or as cool as the people playing those same high school roles. I never had that much style, I never had that much attitude, I never had that much facial hair. And frankly, no one else at my high school did either.

Primetime War

I remember sitting on the edge of the couch watching the exchange of gunfire. I was in sixth grade when the United States lead the Coalition Forces against Iraq. My mom, my brother, and I had just returned home from Wednesday night church. Dad sat in the burnt orange arm chair, watching a man in uniform address the nation.

“What’s on, Dad?” We usually made it home in time to catch the end of Roseanne.

“Quiet,” he commanded. And so we stood there, halfway between setting our stuff down and putting our coats away, and watched the man in uniform. Under the cover of night the strike began. Bombs and missiles were raining down on Baghdad. Tracers from the anti-aircraft guns lit up the infrared TV cameras with a green glow.

After a few minutes we stopped standing there and sat down, letting everything else go unfinished. I didn’t put my Bible or my coat away. I didn’t make my lunch for school the next day. I didn’t even take my nightly shower. I just sat there on the end of the couch–the usual place I had to claim when my whole family watched TV. Part of me was intrigued. This was every G.I. Joe battle I ever imagined right in front of me. And that also scared me. This was for real. Those bombs and explosions meant concrete crumbling, children crying, people dying. I couldn’t sit there and smile that Saddam was finally getting his. I could only sit there with a grim expression, unsure of what to think. War isn’t something you process in sixth grade. Unfortunately, it’s not something men in uniform–who have long since left the sixth grade–process either.

Mrs. Davis, Second Grade Teacher

My name is Sandy Davis and for forty-three years I’ve taught second graders to subtract 5 from 9 and to shut the hell up when I’m talking. You probably think that’s cruel. Lots of people think that’s cruel nowadays, but that’s just too damn bad. I’ve been doing this for forty-three years and nobody’s gonna tell me I’m doing it wrong.

This morning I called Daniel back to my desk. The lunch monitor informed me he’d been pulling girls’ hair, among other things. The lunch monitors are always telling me things I don’t need to hear. I’m not interested in who Daniel kissed. I’m not interested in who wants Daniel to kiss them. I’m only interested in correcting Daniel when he does something he’s not supposed to. I asked him what happened and I actually had to try to hide my smile when I saw him squirm. He knew he was in trouble, and I let him have it. That’s what teachers do. You don’t do this for forty-three years if you don’t love these kids.

If his mother saw it she’d complain. If the head of the PTA saw it they’d complain. If the principal saw it he’d wish I was more tactful, but he’d be glad he didn’t have to talk to Daniel. Alan

I want to be famous

A broken promise and a fitful sleep. The next day ideas roll through my mind like reruns that I can’t remember if I’ve seen before. Why is it that I always want to be something I’m not? I want to be the genius writer who can astound you with his choice of words and compel you with the rhythm of his prose, a writer who can move you like the best of musicians. I want everyone to look at me, even though I don’t have anything to say. I want everyone to hear my story, even though I’ve told it before and there’s not that much to tell. I want to be on stage, even though I stutter in front of people and have no talent worth putting on stage. I want to be friends with famous people

Trip to the Zoo

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! I find it rather odd that a trip to the zoo in almost any city will yield such wildlife. I just don’t think a giraffe would want to live in Minnesota. And isn’t San Diego a crappy place for a Polar Bear? I went to the zoo today, and for once I was able to appreciate the animals. The grace and poise of the tiger. The agility of the snow leopard. The brute force and human-like qualities of the gorilla. And the giraffe

A Great Sense of Relief

Early the next morning he presses a button and a family’s home, with them inside, is destroyed. He thinks nothing of it but duty, completing his assigned task. He could have sat in front of me in physics class, struggling with Newton’s laws just like me. And now Newton’s laws have been harnessed to kill.

The night before he laughed. He exchanged high-fives with his buddies and cracked jokes and passed the time to chase away the uneasiness all of them felt. On the brink of battle any soldier knows he is about to break one of the ten commandments and must prepare himself. Some atone in advance, some choose cowardice, and some hide behind a shield of humor and masculinity. It’s something they’ll shed tears over when their grandchildren aren’t looking, if they make it that long.

The jokes and insults and lies continue in a flurry, the young pilots trying to psyche themselves up for the task at hand. Markers are passed around and they gather around the instrument of death. Everyone is given a turn. Even the deck hands, the welders, the cook. They all want to share in the glory of battle, even if they won’t be pushing the button. But they can proudly tell their grandchildren they cooked the meal for the pilot who killed that family, if they make it that long.

Insults and provocations are written across the bombs, the missiles. “Die Saddam,” and “Suck This,” grace one of the few imports to Iraq that isn’t screened by a special U.N. committee in New York. Early the next morning it will be dropped from on high, like a child dropping rocks on the scattering ants, and then continuing to poke the crushed carcass for spite.

The bombs and missiles will fall on the few shreds of decency left in Iraq. The few remaining sources of water or power, whatever infrastructure is left to bomb. Most of it was destroyed long ago, and what’s left has been in a state of disrepair–spare parts being blocked by a special U.N. committee in New York that fears Saddam will use water purification parts to hurt his people or attack his neighbors.

And the bombs or missiles might miss. Or maybe they hit their target dead on, but the target isn’t what we thought it was. It isn’t an antiaircraft unit, it’s a family’s home–well, it used to be a family’s home. Apparently the family can “Suck This.” Even if it did strike its target, I wonder what the dying Iraqi soldiers thought about “Suck This.” Maybe they accepted the present with open arms, knowing that if a special U.N. committee in New York allowed this into the country, it must therefore bring a great sense of relief. And so it does.

When’s the Slaughter?

It’s 1:00 a.m. and I’m pausing to contemplate life on planet earth. I always stop to contemplate life at such a late hour, and I’m wondering why I’m not in bed. Sleep away the worries of today. But they all come back in the morning, somewhere between the bed and the shower. I’m truly amazed at the world we live in today. We’re so blind to justice. We’re so blind to our very own causes.

I remember the frustration of elderly people on a bridge above the Mississippi River, a river that once carried slaves to freedom. They watched the cars go by, thousands of them an hour, and lamented at how we’re too busy going this way and that way to care about people in pain, people in need. We’re too focused on what we want to notice what others need. And so people die, all around the world while I’m waiting in line at McDonald’s for soda that will rot my teeth and make me a caffeine addict, and greasy food that has fattened a nation–so when’s the slaughter?

The Grass is Always Greener

The grass is always greener on the other side. Or is it? If the grass is greener on the other side, that means it’s thriving. An unnatural ecosystem is encouraged to corrupt the natural order and this is a good thing? Green grass means no diversity. It means no relationships–the glorification of independence. It means an inefficient system is being favored and promoted. It means the triumph of a non-sustainable ecosystem, one that will inherently drain both time and money.

And we’re jealous of this?

God’s Comma

Sometimes I wonder how my current dilemmas fit into God’s view. Does God care that I spent three hours trying to design a web site, only to shake my head because it’s not quite right? Does God care about the comma I missed while editing my work? Does God care about the tag in my shirt that makes me squirm and wiggle until I drop everything and find the scissors to cut it out and throw it away?

Come on, it’s a comma. Why would God worry himself with a comma? Of all the things in this vast universe, why would he take time over my comma?

It seems completely ludicrous to think that God would care about such trivial things, but I like to think he does. Maybe it’s the crazy theological notion of God being outside time which enables me to believe he just might care about my comma. If he’s not bound by time, then it’s not like he has anything better to do. And if he does have something better to do, my comma will still be here waiting for him when he comes back. Do you think God is compulsive about things like that? You’d have to be if you cared about one person’s comma. There’s six billion people in this world. That’s a lot of commas.

I know my comma isn’t that important. Nobody’s going to die if I leave it out. But yet God still cares. It’s a matter of doing the best job I can, of mastering my language as well as I can, of showing the world that I will not accept shoddy craftsmanship. I think God is concerned with all of these things. He demands the best from his people, and that means he cares about the comma.

At the same time, I think God knows when to let it go. After all, it is just a comma. That’s what I like about God. He cares enough to see that I put the comma where it goes, but if I screw it up I’m not immediately bound for hell.