The Doctor Is In

in Poetry

Dr. Wes

Get Your Lejents Right Here

I want to talk about the recent 9th Circuit Court decision about the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, because it's such a hot topical subject. But then I realized that the only experience I've had with reciting the Pledge in schools is over forty years old, so in order to talk about a hot topical subject I'd have to reminisce about my passage through the Fifties as a grade schooler.

Oh well. We love irony.

At the age of six I spent a considerable amount of time testing the hypothesis that if a baseball was thrown at the air hard enough it would bounce off.

Why do you suppose apples are called that? Why aren't they called brullers? Bruller sounds like an English word. A bruller should be something. Why not an apple?

In 1955, when I was six, I solved this question by noting that "apple" is a reddish word, whereas bruller has a coffee color. Therefore "apple" would be more suitable for describing apples, which are far more often red than coffee colored. So we don't call apples brullers.

At that age I spent a considerable amount of time testing the hypothesis that if a baseball was thrown at the air hard enough it would bounce off. I also believed that if I ran fast enough air would support my feet and I could climb skyward for at least six or seven feet before I got tired.

Though I lived 35 miles from Boston at the time I was sure that I could, given time and enough sandwiches in a paper sack, walk almost anywhere in the world. The question was not could I walk to Paris, but how many days would it take. I guessed somewhere on the order of a week. I knew that if I walked due east I would run into the Atlantic Ocean, but the plan would be to sidestep that.

The year before I started grade school the Supreme Court banned the leading of prayers in public schools. However the news of their decision must not have made it from Washington, D. C. to Ayer, Massachusetts, in spite of the easy walk, because my grade school there required me to recite the Our Father thingie for two years.

I call it the Our Father thingie because at that point those were almost the only words I could make out of the whole thing. The teacher would say, "Everyone bow your heads and say the Lord's Prayer," and so everyone was mumbling into their shirtsleeves. I couldn't see their lips moving and it was almost impossible to follow along.

I do remember being able to make out the part about my cup running over and "give me my daily bread." These words had me worried. What cup are we talking about? What's in it? Why is it running (runnething) over? I pictured a boiling cup of potion like in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde movie. I didn't want to drink from a cup like that.

And since when do I have to beg for daily bread? What happened to full balanced meals? Don't I get dessert? What about give me my daily Mars bar?

I started school just one year after Eisenhower got the words "under God" added to the Pledge. Not all of my teachers accepted the change. My first grade teacher had us say it the "traditional way," i.e. without the addition. In my mind it went something like this: I plej a lejents to the flag, something, mumble, something, for which it stands, invisible, with liberty and justice for all.

What, I wondered, was a lejent? And why was I plejing one?

I'm still not sure. And that's where I stand on the 9th Circuit Court's opinion.

OK, I'll clarify a little. What I'm saying is, let's use our schools more to teach kids things like where words come from and how big the world is, and less to indoctrinate them in religion or nationalism. The indoctrination doesn't work anyway.

© Dr. Wes Browning:
2129 Second Ave., Seattle, WA 98121 (206) 441-3247

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