The Three Best Inventions

I went to the Sounds game tonight with Dr. J, Dr. Lover, the Queen and her consort, and Plimco was my date. I love those women; I really do. Spending time with them is just awesome and terrible at the same time. It’s always a great time and yet you’re always aware that it’s just too short.

Drs. J and Lover are about to head across the continent to take jobs at the foot of mountains. And it seems like it will be much too long before I get to see them again.

We were sitting with a bunch of boys in some kind of boot camp program, who were out, as a reward, watching baseball. They were debating what the best invention ever was and they were arguing between fireworks, cars, and girls. Girls, finally, won.

And then I pulled them aside, explained the patriarchy to them, and told them that any creation myth that framed men as the inventors and women as the invention was inherently oppressive and damaging to women. They nodded in agreement and asked me to explain more about how gender is constructed.

No, just kidding.

I have to throw stuff in there like that every once in a while just to keep Exador and Lee on their toes.

Really, I was sitting there listening to them talk about stuff, rapping Eminem songs, and trying to talk baseball. All of them seemed to me to be roughly Supermousey’s age, which, when I was their age, was just the time when boys were neck-deep in baseball. These kids didn’t even know what “R, H, E” across the top of the scoreboard meant and were convinced, for a while, that the Sounds were winning because they had more hits than the other team, even though the other team had more runs.

They also were talking major league baseball and they got around to talking about the Yankees, which was a team some of them liked, but none of them really knew what a Yankee was–aside from a baseball team. One kid had a vague idea that it had to do with a war, but he thought that the British called us “Yanks” during that World War.

So, they asked the guy they were with, “What’s a Yankee?” and he explained that it was a Northerner, that during the Civil War, the North was the Yankees. And I swear, they started asking him about the Civil War. None of them seemed to have ever heard of it.

There we are, sitting not a hundred yards from Fort Negley, a fort some of their ancestors helped build, and these kids didn’t know we had a Civil War.

I was, and am, dumbfounded.

I mean, I wanted to grab a school board member and kick them.

What is a person without his history?

That’s a birthright–the history of this nation you’re born into. That knowledge is yours. And that we’re not giving it to our youngsters? Shame on us. A kid has a right to know his own history.

I don’t know. It shook me pretty bad. Here are all these boys who are someday soon, very soon, going to be men. And what kinds of men will they be if they don’t somehow acquire this foundational knowledge that will help them understand how the world works and what’s at stake in it?

I mean, we talk a great game as a country about how families need men. But, if we’re not raising men with basic understandings of stuff, like history, like baseball, like what to do with yourself other than get into trouble, then what benefit are they to a family, really?

It makes me suspicious that that’s how the game is rigged, that we fuck over these little boys as hard as we can–we try to keep them ignorant so they don’t know other possibilities and in the “justice” system so that we can monitor them–so that we can then turn around when they get older and complain about what shitty dads they are and what shitty men they make, as if they just magically turned out that way, instead of being shaped to fail from the jump.

I just hope that curiosity leads some of them someplace, to open a book they’ve not been assigned, or to open their ears to some old KRS-1, or Public Enemy, or someone who will say to them “It’s not fair, but it’s on you to learn this shit, because, otherwise, it’s being kept from you.”

Edited to Add: I decided to edit this to add that it appears, upon rereading the comments, that my reference to Fort Negley was not enough to make clear to you why I was especially appalled that this group of kids would not know what the Civil War was.