Sunday, November 09, 2008

On Elections, Teachers, Racism and Rationing

Another ‘historic’ election has passed in the USA. Haven’t they all been ‘historic’? But this one has been especially ‘historic’ as a black person has won the nomination. Actually, he is not black – his mother is white, and his father is black, he therefore has claim to being half-white and half-black. That is not any fault of anyone. And should not be. He is an excellent orator, and deserves the chance to prove that he can change things in the US. Personally, as Joy will attest, I suspect his rhetoric will be just that. Congress, being run by Democrats will undoubtedly stifle most of his ideas. Be that may, let us hope and pray that a new era can begin, and that solutions to America and the world’s ills can be found.
But one particularly galling scene came my way.
This is the story of a black teacher at a school in Cumberland County poking fun at one of her white pupils as the white pupil’s father served in Iraq. It was filmed by Swedish television. The teacher is entitled to her view, but to subject a child who has yet the chance to vote is beyond reproach. She should be teaching them the subjects she has been hired to teach. And she is also so racist. We often hear that only whites can be racists. Check out the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And the ‘Rev’ Jesse Jackson.
Now stop it, I hear you say. But I have experienced racism since I was a child. At the age of 12, I passed an exam to enter the local Grammar School. Having only been learning English as a second language for a few years, this was a major trauma for me. About half of the kids came from an Anglicised part of Wales – Barmouth. Us Welsh kids were retarded according to most English kids who attended the same school. Fights always ensued. But the worst part was that many of the teachers did not speak Welsh at all. So we Welsh kids were at a major disadvantage from the start. Just as an example, our Mathematics teachers, Science teacher, Biology teacher, French teacher, PE teacher and Art teacher couldn’t pronounce an ‘LL’ to save their life. In addition, our Art teacher (Mr. Palmer) was given the task of being our Religious Instruction teacher. He told us he was an atheist. At the time, I had no idea what that meant. He pontificated long about that there was no God, but we Welsh kids couldn’t understand him. We just used to just ignore him. My father, a Welsh Minister, learnt about this teacher, and stormed off to the school to protest. Mr. Palmer was duly assigned another post. He disliked me even more after that. I had the misfortune to meet Mr. Palmer many years later, and (by now I was fluent in English) asked him about his racist views. He told me that all Welsh people are stupid and illiterate. I understand that he was at a school reunion a couple of years back. I missed it, but one of my friends in his welcoming speech said, ‘Sullied be thy name, Mr. Palmer.’ There was a loud cheer.
Mr. Scary Duck reminded me of my time in Primary School. This is the UK’s 7 – 11. Prior to 7, there is Infants, 5 - 7. Picture the scene if you will. WW2 had barely finished. The UK was ‘rebuilding’ the country. Anything that could be moved was converted into vehicles for sale in the US, was. The Austin A40 Devon comes to mind (the UK version was my first car, BTW). And then the Austin Atlantic. The latter was an august failure. A beautiful looking car, especially in Convertible form, but had a straight four engine that had about as much oomph as a mouse in heat. Austin had the venerable 3 litre six pot at their beck and call, but, no they chose a tractor-like four cylinder 2.2 litre. Much like a diesel these days, only less smelly and less noisy. Mr. Clough Williams-Ellis (he of Portmeirion fame, where ‘The Prisoner’ was filmed) had one. The car was screaming for a V8. A time when Chevy’s had a suitable rumbling sound, the Brits had a boring four-pot special.
This post-war period was marked by ‘Rationing’. Anything that contributed to any fun food-wise, was ‘rationed’. I even had my own Ration Book, my name emblazoned on the front. The book had coupons which would be handed over to purveyors of goodies along with cash in return for such wondrous things as oranges, but not apples. As a child of about 8 or so, the majority of those items that were available with a ration coupon were beyond my grasp. I wanted sweets (candy). Most sweets were rationed. Even Chewing Gum. But, one could buy Beech Nut, but not Wrigley’s. The latter required thrice the money AND a coupon.
One day in about 1952, the Government of the day decided to abandon rationing of sweets. Imagine 100 kids descending upon the local shop. We all bought what we could with our meagre savings. A couple of the lads bought chocolate, and ate it all. They then deposited the remains a few hours later after ingesting it, on the school yard. Being smart, I bought a whole Wrigley’s Spearmint Chew tube. When I got home, my mother could smell it about 100 yards away, and I was forced to spit it out, and deposit the rest in the trash. I must admit, I couldn’t argue with the point that it would remove fillings. The latter had been perfectly fitted by an English gentleman called Mr. Chase, who knew that as he didn’t speak Welsh, had the manners to recruit a Welsh speaking nurse. Not that it made much difference when one had a whole load of metal prongs etc. in one’s mouth. But I liked Mr. Chase. He never chastised me if I bled all over his chair. If he did, I never understood, anyway. And he would remove teeth with gas. That is, the gas was applied to the child.
Pseudonymph and others mention the lifestyle their kids have these days. And they bitch that they’re hard done by. See above.
Halcyon days, in my mind.
Here endeth today’s lesson.