Friday, March 19, 2010

Pick Your Poison; or, Why I Love Email Forwards!!

I like to keep my finger on the pulse of America, as manifest in the email forwards I get. This week, the pulse was telling me that Americans are tired of being outnumbered by rules by a factor of 5 to 1. Also, they miss the good old days when every decent high school had a smoking dock.

As a general rule, I don't talk back to America's pulse (except maybe to say "thumpa thumpa thump," a sort of pulse-speak greeting), but in this case I felt an exception was necessary. The present needs someone to speak up for it, and why not me? After all, in the past I would have died at twenty-five-and-a-half.

So without further ado, I present to you an email I got forwarded, and a response I like to think of as a forward striking back:

HIGH SCHOOL -- 1958 vs. 2008

Scenario 1:

Jack goes quail hunting before school and then pulls into the school parking lot with his shotgun in his truck's gun rack.

1958 - Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack's shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.

2008 - School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario 2:

Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.

1958 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.

2008 - Police called and SWAT team arrives -- they arrest both Johnny and Mark. They are both charged with assault and both expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario 3:

Jeffrey will not be still in class, he disrupts other students.

1958 - Jeffrey sent to the Principal's office and given a good paddling by the Principal. He then returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.

2008 - Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin. He becomes a zombie. He is then tested for ADD. The school gets extra money from the state because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario 4:

Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt. Billy must do chores to earn the money to pay for the window.

1958 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college and becomes a responsible, successful businessman.

2008 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. The state psychologist is told by Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has an affair with the psychologist.

Scenario 5:

Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.

1958 - Mark shares his aspirin with the Principal out on the smoking dock.

2008 - The police are called and Mark is expelled from school for drug violations. His car is then searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario 6:

Pedro fails high school English.

1958 - Pedro goes to summer school, passes English and goes to college.

2008 - Pedro's cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against the state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English is then banned from core curriculum. Pedro is given his diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario 7:
Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from the Fourth of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle and blows up a red ant bed..

1958 - Ants die.

2008- ATF, Homeland Security and the FBI are all called. Johnny is charged with domestic terrorism. The FBI investigates his parents -- and all siblings are removed from their home and all computers are confiscated. Johnny's dad is placed on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario 8:
Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.

1958 - In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2008 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy .

This should hit every email inbox to show how stupid we have become!!

Unfortunately, this ad wasn't included in the original forward.
Scenario 9: Mother wants baby to stop crying NOW.
1958 Mom smokes, experiences "the Miracle of Marlboro,"
doesn't smack kid.
2008 Mom never sees an ad like this and forgets to smoke,
yells at her baby. Feels guilty. Watches Oprah. Repeats cycle.

2008 vs. 1958

Scenario 1: Tyrone, who is black, and Amy, who is white, go to prom together

2008: They have a great time, date a while, and then break up because they're going to different colleges.

1958: Tyrone gets lynched.

Scenario 2: Bobby's dad gets extremely angry a lot.

2008: Bobby's mom reads something online and wonders whether depression may be manifesting itself as isolation and anger in her husband. She waits a few days and finds the right moment and way to ask if he's feeling OK and if a visit to a counselor might help. Because he knows his wife is smart, Bobby's dad goes and gets treatment. He still gets angry but not as much. For the rest of his life, Bobby feels special compassion for people who struggle with anger.

1958: Bobby's dad is still thinking about all the weird crap he saw and went through in the war but doesn't feel like he can talk to anyone about it. He feels alienated from his wife, who can't figure out why he's so different than he was when they dated, thinks (possibly correctly) that his kids are spoiled brats, and only feels good when we can wander out back and drink for a while, although some nights the alcohol just makes the anger worse. His son Bobby decides he hates everything and becomes one of those scary bitter hippies who shout abuse at Vietnam vets.

Scenario 3: Pedro's little brother, Gerson, is still in elementary school. He has trouble focusing all day because he still struggles with English.

2008: Gerson's teacher happens to speak Spanish and occasionally clarifies instructions in Spanish when he and the other immigrant kids look lost. Gerson also spends an hour with an ESL group each day. A college student who speaks Spanish comes in once a week through a volunteer mentor program to help Gerson with homework.

1958: Gerson's teacher happens to speak Spanish, but the school has a strict English-only rule. One day, the teacher tells Gerson, in Spanish, to pay attention, and the next day she gets fired for it. (Note: if she'd been caught, this could have happened to my grandma.)

Scenario 4: Mary would rather solve logic problems or do math than go outside and play.

2008: Mary goes on to study computer science, comes up with some new ways to organize information on the internet while daydreaming in class, and is a billionaire before she turns 30.

1958: Because she's a girl who likes math, Mary is a freak. Whenever she answers a question, she gets laughed at--so she stops answering out loud and just takes notes to herself. In college, a nice boy pays attention to her and she tells him some of her ideas about making numbers into machines. He steals the idea, makes a million dollars, and she doesn't even bother to try to tell anyone because they won't believe her anyway.

Scenario 5: James notices that his left testicle has grown larger and feels sort of hard.

2008: James does some reading on the internet and suspects he has testicular cancer. He talks to his parents about his concerns and sees a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor sends him out for tests, confirms the diagnosis on the same day, and tells James that the survival rate for testicular cancer patients is over 95%. James gets treated and quickly goes on with his life. He gets married and has kids.

1958: James doesn't know how to bring up the subject of testicles in his idyllic 1950s home. He decides that whatever is going on, he can just tough it out. Eventually, he goes to the doctor who tells him that he has a near-incurable form of cancer and probably only a few months to live. Experimental treatments make all James' hair fall out and cause countless horrific side-effects, and then James dies anyway. The medical bills bankrupt his parents and his brother takes a hazardous industrial job to work his way through college now that the family savings are gone. The asbestos at that job later gives him cancer and he dies, too.

This should hit at least a few inboxes to show we've been crazy for a long time.


  1. Well done. Well-written. It is true that a lot of things were better 'back then', but but it is also true that a lot of things have become so much better since. That is human existence. We are filled both with nostalgia for the past and a hope for the future. Thanks for writing this.

  2. Also, in terms of the aspirin example in the first e-mail (and several of the others) the 2008 situation simply isn't true. Most of the kids on our high school fencing team kept aspirin in their fencing bags, and would take it during practice or competition if they pulled something. Other kids took aspirin during classes, if they felt a headache coming on. I thought this was all pretty weird, but it was also pretty common. Aspirin doesn't bring a drug raid. Not even illegal drugs usually bring a drug raid, as the amount of marijuana smoked by people at my high school showed.

  3. Speaking of problems in the 50's. I recently watched a documentary called "Crips and Bloods: Made in America."

    The film describes how some of the "invisible" problems of the fifties leave a very visible legacy even today.

    The film-makers argued that by preventing young black boys from taking part in any sort of positive socializing activity (such as Boy Scouts), white America helped create the sort of stagnant situation in which mischief thrives. Then, by always treating young black boys as criminals, white police trained the boys to think of themselves that way.

    After the Watts riot in 1965, in which policemen and national guardsmen fired on unarmed civilians, the rising generation got the message and saw themselves as enemies of the government.

    One line that really struck me, from a man who was one of those black boys in the fifties-- "The mechanics of oppressing people is to pervert them to the extent that they become the instruments of their own oppression."

    Here it is, fifty years later, and children are still reaping the bitter fruit that an earlier generation sowed.

    Sorry for hi-jacking the thread.

  4. Amen to the responses.

    Here's one to add to your response:

    Scenario 6: 15-year old Ann is raped by a neighbor.

    2008: The neighbor is tried and convicted. Ann receives therapy and support from family and friends. She recovers and lives a happy, fulfilled life.

    1958: In the trial, Ann is unable to show that her aggressor used extreme violence. As such, the jury deems that she gave her consent to the act. The neighbor goes free, and Ann goes home shamed by family and friends.


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