One of the things that you may know about me is that my peers at Thomas Jefferson were silly enough to elect me to office for a couple of years as we wrapped up our awkward adolescent years. Something you probably surmise is that I had the same capacity to be an idiot as any other high school kid. In sorting through some papers today, I came across a two-page typewritten letter I received in the Fall of 1990 (my first year as President) that reminded me of that fact. Because the letter tells the story pretty well by itself, I humbly offer it into evidence, in toto:
Dear Mr. Wilbur,
As I am a supportive and productive member of the class of ’92, I have, in almost all cases, agreed with decisions made by the elected officers of my class. However, after hearing about the recent float idea, I feel compelled to differ with the officers, and to voice my opinion by means of this letter.
If I understand the situation correctly, our original idea for the class’ homecomeing float was “Baby’s First step”. I felt this was an outstanding idea, as it both exemplefied the homecomeing theme, “Classic Firsts”, and gave an appropriate slogan for the class, that being “Step on Lee”. We even came up with a fantastic class cheer, in following with the “Step on Lee” idea. The idea for the float was to have the bottom half of a baby stepping on a Lee Lancers football helmet. Although I thought this might be hard to accomplish, I supported it wholeheartedly. Then, I received news that officers thought that this idea might be too difficult to acheive. They, therefore agreed upon making a pair of baby booties and a baby book. I, once again, supported this idea, and was confident that this goal could easily be accomplished. However, upon attending a “float-making party” over the weekend, I learned that two officers, specifically you, sir, and our treasurer, [NAME WITHHELD BECAUSE IT WASN’T HIS FAULT] decided that the “booties and book” idea was beyond our limitations. I hardly think that the “booties and book” idea is an unacheivable one. I believe you underestimate your class, Mr. Wilbur. Although the fact that my class officers had no faith in the class that elected them upset me somewhat, the float idea replacing the baby one made me absolutely furious.
I understand that the new idea is to make a huge mushroom cloud, with, possible “arms and legs sticking out” , with the slogan, “Nuke Lee”. I hardly think that this idea is an appropriate one. There are many reasons for this belief, number one being that you, and our treasurer were the sole persons responsible for the change in float ideas. In case you havent’ noticed, Mr. Wilbur, we do live in a democratic society. This means simply that people should be able to make their own decisions. You undermined this right when you took it upon yourself to change the float. Once again, you left the class out in the cold. However, it’s not so much the way you went about changing the idea that bothered me so much, than the idea itself. Nuclear war is neither funny nor something that we, as Americans should make fun of. Something as serious as a nuclear war should not be approahced lightly. And to have arms and legs sticking out of it?! Although these were not yoru original intentions, sir, it comes off as though you are making fun of a very serious iwssue. I, as a member of the class of ’92 do not want my class protrayed as an unfeeling, uncaring class, which mocks death. I do not wish to have any association with such a thing. There is also one more issue which must be addressed, that is, there are many Asian-Americans at our school, which, I’m sure do not think that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki wre “Classic Firsts”. That was a devastating event that we should be ashamed of. There also might be some students whose relatives were killed in those two bombings. I’m sure that they do not want to be reminded, and, in a sarcastic way, of the hell that their beloved relatives went throgh. It is this kind of insensitivity which makes me sick to my stomach when hearing about the float. Now, I have voiced my opinions, and I surely hope that you will address my concerns, as I feel many others hold the same views as I. Thank you for your time, and I hope for a reply.
A student who cares
When I came across this letter today, I hearkened back to when I got it. It was met with a general casually-raised eyebrow by all of my peers, and no one else complained about our float plans. Nevertheless, you have to respect the message accomplished via three run-on paragraphs. Twenty years later, through a combination of memory and lessons learned since … allow me to retort.
You hope for a reply? You signed the letter, “a student who cares.” I have vague memories about directing a generic reply toward the school newspaper or spreading a response via word of mouth, but I don’t remember caring vary much whether I reached you. Anonymous criticism is cowardice in my book and, in stark contrast to my choice of Homecoming float theme (which I do kind of regret in retrospect – douchebag though you are, you raised a couple decent points), I don’t regret not finding a way to coddle your sensibilities.
We don’t want to be a class that mocks death? Have you ever heard a sports metaphor? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that whoever sent this letter was not an athlete, because we spoke in terms of “killing” the competition and being warriors. I couldn’t find in my yearbook the themes that the other classes struck for Homecoming that year, but I’m pretty confident that they were equally as violent as was ours.
We live in a democracy? I have a late-breaking piece of news for you: throughout history, decisions have been made by the people that show up. “Getting news” of what is happening, is what happens when you abdicate decision-making rights. People tell you about what got done if you weren’t part of the gang that was getting things done. Those of us that were there to build the float also built a consensus and made “democratic” decisions on the fly. Welcome to politics and society, bitch.
Arms and legs sticking out of the cloud? I don’t remember proposing that, but honestly, the thought makes me giggle. I hope we actually did it. If I’m on the bus to Hell, I might as well drive. That’s the part of me that hasn’t grown up yet.
Were there honestly many others that held the same views as did you? Becuase I didn’t hear from them, and I didn’t hear from anyone that they were offended. That could have something to do with the fact that the mushroom cloud we created was so poorly accomplished that half the people looking at it couldn’t tell what it was supposed to be, despite the banner proclaiming that we rooted for our football team to “nuke Lee.” No one was picking up what we were laying down. It ended up just a gray, soggy mass of Kleenex on wheels. Feel any better?
A final response: You may have been yelling “Sick, sick, sick” at me in that letter. Reading back over it, my response was “[sic], [sic], [sic].” I was very careful to retype the letter exactly as submitted above, inclusive of grammatical and spelling catastrophes. If anything, it looks better than originally sent, because sometimes I type what should have been written instead of what I’m seeing.
Were we really trying to invoke Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Of course not. Would I have baited you with the idea that we were, because you hid behind a typewriter to second guess what you didn’t show up for? Yes, I would have. Showing up is 90% of life, my friend. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood. I dearly wish I knew who had sent this to me – not out of any sense of malice, but to thank them for making one of my first experiences as a class officer truly memorable. Here’s to you, a-nony-mouse superhero. And just to prove it’s bygones and I’m sorry about being insensitive, here’s a picture of Muhammad in a bear costume.
[EPILOGUE: Our senior year, we built a bi-plane that was the single greatest high school float accomplished in the history of high school floats. We did figure it out eventually.]