Mrs. Corner was my fourth-grade teacher. If you looked up “Fourth Grade Teacher” in the dictionary, you’d most probably be confronted with Mrs. Corner’s picture. She was the very image of a public school teacher in the early 1970’s: Fifty-ish, although she could have been Seventy-ish, with a mountain of silver-white hair that towered above her, and a bosom the size of a house.
Mrs. Corner looked a bit like Mrs. Santa Claus.
Rather emblematically, Mrs. Corner’s would be the first or second Christmas Card we’d get every year (in addition to being my teacher, she was also our neighbor). Like most Christmas Cards in those days, they usually featured the now-trite velveteen flocking, or kitschy portraits of the Christ-child, or garish glitter that would fall on the floor and stick to the carpet.
One year, though, about 1973, we received in the mails a card from Mrs. Corner that was really, well… “hip”, and kinda stylish, in a Mary Tyler Moore sort of way. It was plain white (in stark contrast to all the others we received), with only single words, stacked one on top of another on the front, printed in embossed type, with alternating green and red ink on the one-word lines. Each word was in a different language. The last word on the pile, at the bottom, in English was the word “Peace”. “Fridden, Der Frieden, La Paix, Achumka, Shalom, Heiwa, Salam… Peace“.
Now, let me tell you, as a ten-year-old who was used at that point to watching Walter Cronkite give the Vietnam body count each night, or watch as college kids in thick matted hair robbed banks and set fire to the local ROTC offices, I was very favorably impressed with the word “Peace” in fifteen languages on a Christmas card. That minimalist, cool “Peace” Christmas card left quite an impression: I still remember it, nearly forty years later.
Barack Obama and I grew up at roughly the same time. The zeitgeist, I’m thinking, was fairly interchangeable. As as forth-grader, there was a very palpable sense that the world was coming apart at the seams, what with Kent State, and Arthur Bremmer, and Patty Hearst… and Richard Nixon. Peace was cool . I’m sure young Berry was treated to the same ersatz sophistication, the same Hallmark counterfeit clarion call to our childish better angels.
There was a soundtrack to that time, and era. Mrs. Jewett, the music teacher, colleague and compatriot of Mrs. Corner’s at the Elm Street Elementary School where I was their saintly little student, introduced them all to us: “Day is Done” and “If I Had a Hammer” by Peter, Paul and Mary, “Country Roads” by John Denver, and, of course “It’s a Small World After All”, by whoever the hell wrote that . “It’s a Small World” was a big favorite, because it had that same peace patina to it that reminded us little tykes that there were so many different cultures in oh-so-many distant lands. We even watched a film in Mrs. Jewetts’s class of the Disneyland incarnation of the song, with all of the little multi-cultural dolls twirling jerkily around to the Disney version of the music of their folklands. Of course, it was narrated by Art Linkletter.
As I say, it was all really rather grown-up and sophisticated: The music, the Christmas card, the images.
At least to a fourth-grader. At the Elm Street School. In Mrs. Corner’s class. In 1973.
At that stage in life, you aren’t really confronted with actually having to know anything about the different peoples, and cultures, or their histories, or their binding philosophies. All that really mattered was that we thought about them, however cursorily, before switching on the Gilligan’s Island reruns.
Of course, the schools never felt obliged to inform us about these places, and peoples, much beyond what they wore, or what holidays they celebrated, or what distinctive foods they ate. They just showed us pictures of the veiled ladies in the mysterious middle-east, or the kids sitting primly upon mats on the floor in Japan with their chopsticks. But, that seemed enough. We all felt good about it. And, beyond what they ate, and what they wore, and what holidays were on their calendars, we were pretty well assured they were just like us, enjoying their liberties, and craving peace. They were just like Americans, only different. In fact, they might even be a little better. After all, these other world cultures weren’t inserting themselves in an Indochinese civil war, like we were doing in Vietnam.
Of course, they never told us that, in some of these other nations, human slavery was still practiced because they were still ruled by bitter, ancient tribalism… not a Judeo/Christian constitution. They never told us that the children were starving because the local dictator was stealing all the aid money, and that people would never be able to lift them out of poverty because the philosophy of private property ownership was thoroughly unknown.
They never told us that the Japanese worshiped (as in, “worshiped”) mortal men that lived among them for hundreds and hundreds of years. They never told us that the worth of a single individual is only sovereign in cultures touched by Christianity. In all others, an individual is subservient to the group.
It was only later in life that you discover that the ladies are veiled in the Middle East because they are third-class citizens, and are essentially chattel-slaves of their husbands and they don’t want other men looking at them. Or that in India, wives are thrown alive onto the burning funeral pyres of their deceased husbands. Or Cambodians were eating the brains of their captured political prisoners in an attempt to ward off evil. No, it really isn’t a small world, after all: It is a very wide and dangerous one, a place that wants to devolve into the madness of totalitarian cruelty. And America is really rather unique among them.
But, we weren’t told that. Certainly young Barry wasn’t.
Sadly, the Left stubbornly clings to the childish Disney World-view, as if they never left Mrs. Corner’s fourth-grade class: That we are all basically the same, we all hunger after the same righteousness. All that’s different is the animated wallpaper: the color of people’s skin, the dwellings they build, the food they eat. Clearly, the nostalgia-tinged lacquer that Obama smears over all things Islamic is nothing more than aesthetic, based on his longing to recreate the evening call to prayers he fondly remembers from his innocent childhood in Jakarta. This is the Obama State Department in a nutshell; in fact, it is the leftist State Department in general, going back to the 1930’s, without regard to who’s running the place. It is all very puerile, very immature, and very self-serving and self-delusional.
We on the Right grew up, but the Left never has, and it is stuck in the make-believe world of multi-cultural moral equivalency. Conservatives long ago realized that we were blessed beyond measure to live in a land that treasures each individual– and that this is unique to the Western world. This tradition doesn’t exist elsewhere, no matter how much we might wish it was so.
But, children make wishes all the time.