THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN’
There’s an old song that has words that made sense back then, as so many of them do: “If your breath to you is worth saving, then you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone…for the times they are a-changing.”
The change in the times is being felt deeper and deeper in this culture, and illustrated by a recent incident that happened on Veteran’s Day last week. The Traver Elementary School, located in town of Linn was having a special appreciation event where many students and parents were gathered to hear the patriotic comments of a former Air Force Officer, long since retired. The band played and the colonel spoke, and then the floor was opened for questions. A young lady, known for her work with disabled children (she is the sole delivery person for one disabled child brought to the school by her, every day), asked if she could ask a question. The colonel said she could.
Here was her question: “In your opinion, do you believe President-elect Trump can handle the military even though I think he may be assassinated, anyway?” That was the question, and the asking of it created first a small series of local social explosions; the choir director immediately cut off the question and answer session, and said that the question was inappropriate and then Traver School director moved to sit down right next to the questioner in an act of direct physical intervention. The session was over, but not the incident. The woman left the school and went home. The police were called in by the school. The police went to the woman’s home to inform her that her presence on school grounds would no longer to be tolerated. She was banned from the grounds and buildings of Traver school for asking the question.
Her church was called; the Presbyterian Church located by the fire station over there by Luis’s Restaurant. Her pastor listened to the ‘voices’ about their opinion of the woman’s question and the pastor promptly fired the woman from her job as a Sunday School teacher. With that trauma, and the trauma of the police presence at her front door, the woman now lives in terror of strangers, or the police, coming to her door to either arrest her, do violence to her or her pets.
What happened that Friday at Traver Elementary School which brought about such a heated and hard-bitten response? In again reading the question that the woman asked of the Air Force Colonel, is the substance of it sufficient to have generated such punitive actions? Has the public become totally immune to the messages it receives twenty-four hours a day that are much more descriptive, threatening and even down right disgusting, then asking a question, that certainly has some thread of culpability on the part of the questioner, and treating it as if it is a psychologically harming statement made to the sheltered ears of a student body? A student body of children escorted by their parents, with teachers and educational managers on hand? Have the times already changed, following this most contentious and controversial election of everyone’s lifetime, to such an extent that all verbal and written expression, bar that of the candidate who won that election, is to be taken for the intrinsic truth, even when no search for that meaning is ever conducted?
Are the Town of Linn, Traver School, the Presbyterian Church and even the police authorities going to follow a template laid down and repeated in many cultures of the distant and recent past where the right to ask a question is limited to what might be in the question, with a resulting punishment for asking it without prior approval draconian? No matter who is elected president in the United States the rights of all citizens, according to the constitution, are to be upheld. Where is the line to be drawn? Was it the word “assassination” that kicked off this seeming over-reaction, or was it something deeper and darker. If we silence those we do not agree with, then eventually we silence ourselves.