Three incidents of the last week give me pause – much reflection – some frustration.
Shortly after I returned from camp I answered the phone to kindly voice; it conjured the picture as a sweat faced, elderly woman. After establishing who I was, she told me she was the daughter of ________ and asked if I knew who _____ was. I said I knew him well, but before I could finish my thought, she interrupted to say, “Well, your father did.” Since I could not deny my father knew ______ better than I, I did not contradict her. She continued, “I hear you tell a very funny story about my father shaving a hippy.” I knew the story she meant at once, but I thought sadly – it is not about her father at all, though I do mention his name at the very beginning of the story as someone who once offered me a job. I was thinking she perhaps wanted to hear the story or to get a copy of it and was trying to think of a way to tell her that unfortunately the story was about someone else, when she launched into a vindictive. She accused me of hurting the feelings of _____’s numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren by making light of his alcoholism. She then demanded I stop telling the story. I was flabbergasted. I assured her that I made no such implication about her father, that the story was about someone else entirely and that I only mentioned _______ in an absolutely true and benign reference to someone who once tried to help me. She would not believe me. Her voice was never raised, but she assured me that she knew the truth – that I was saying hurtful things about her father. She said she had been told this by people she believed and insisted that I stop using his name. Then she hung up. I couldn’t recall her name. I had no way of getting her back to tell the story and give evidence of her father’s totally innocent role in it. So she is left believing that thousands of people have heard her father defamed, and I am left to contemplate ______’s hither to unknown drinking problem and his daughter’s determined ignorance.
I intended to finish Ann Coulter’s book *Godless* sometime over the summer, but never had time to read. I did lend the book to one of my staff. After much reminding, he finally returned it to me the day he left for home. It was warped and growing mold. He assured me he had read it and that it was all “bunk”. Last week I picked up reading where I had left off in the spring. To my surprise Coulter spends the last several chapters of her book debunking Darwin. For years I have been a staunch supporter of Darwin. With great affection I recall Carl Sagan’s calm and quirky voice assuring us that evolution is not a theory – but a fact – that the mechanism of evolution is Natural Selection as put forward by Charles Darwin. I read and reread *Origin of the Species* years ago – and it seemed utterly reasonable, and piled on top of it were the text book pictures of spotted English moths and “The Cosmos” series reenactment of the “growing amino acids in a flask” experiment. From the same PBS program there were all those cute little line drawings that “evolved” in forty seconds from a bunch of squiggled molecules to Eve standing at the foot of the tree of life. I have directed the play *Inherit the Wind* twice at our high school. It seemed so logical; who could challenge it? For years the “brothers across the road” have tried by sending over their photocopied articles and issues of the “Ensign” to dissuade me. But there was never any answer in their harangue, never any challenge in their contentions. Then came Ann Coulter and there went Darwin. Friday, I lent my moldy copy of *Godless* to the Principal of the Seminary. I am left to contemplate the shallowness of my long held positions, marvel at the power of truth, and wonder if there is still another page to turn.
Thursday, in a very hot classroom full of cranky and resentful sophomores, I tried to stir an argument. Somewhere along the line to the idea of “Absolute Truth that exists but cannot be known,” one student blurted out, “Why do you keep attacking Saudi Arabia?”
“Don’t you mean, why do WE keep attacking Saudi Arabia?”
“No you!” – he replied bitterly.
“Why would we attack Saudi Arabia? They are our ally in the war on terror.” I ventured.
“Then why did we blow up Saddam Hussein?”
“We didn’t blow up Saddam Hussein, we arrested him, besides, Saddam is not from Saudi Arabia, he is from Iraq.”
“No he’s not” the student insisted, “He’s from Arabia.”
“Well, maybe his ancestors, but he was the dictator of Iraq,” I ventured.
“No he wasn’t. Why should we believe you? You could just be telling us anything.”
This was a perfect segue into the quote on the board, the same one that is on the masthead of the Agora, and I took advantage of it to move the discussion that direction. At the end of class I called the student forward, hoping to seek together the origins of Saddam Hussein, and perhaps learn something on which to reason. But he replied, as he stalked toward the door; “I’ve got things to do!” I was left alone, in the stuffy heat, to contemplate how difficult it is to get the blind to see.
My father’s words came to me, “No one is so blind as he [or she] who will not see!”
10 months ago