Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The One Where I Say Mark Caserta's Wrong

Mark Caserta is a businessman and resident of Cabell County (WV) who regularly writes opinion pieces in the local Herald-Dispatch. His most recent was published today, and expresses strongly his belief that the removal of government sponsored prayer in public schools has lead to the downfall of our country.

"On June 25, 1962, America was changed forever when our judicial branch of government forbade school children from doing what they had been doing since the founding of our nation: giving thanks to our Lord God.

The needs of a godless few outweighed the needs of many as the future of our children was skewed by the highest court in the land, which ineptly chose to make law rather than to interpret it."

"The needs of a godless few..." That's too simple, Caserta. And it's wrong.

Just ask Ricky.

Ricky was an elementary school classmate of mine. In first and second grade Ricky and I played basketball together, chased girls and traded lunches when our mom's packed us a sandwich we hated. Ricky was a good kid; he was pretty quiet, but still funny. I remember him having a really wicked sense of humor. He was also a Jehovah's Witness.

In a class of thirty kids who weren't.

As a Witness, Ricky was forbidden to say the Pledge of Allegiance, participate in birthday parties or celebrate holidays. So every morning as the rest of us WASPish kids recited a pledge we didn't understand, Ricky sat in his seat with his head down. When parties were scheduled, Ricky sat on a chair in the hallway until the festivities ended. Afterwards--in fact, as quickly as the next recess--the boys in the class would corner Ricky on the playground and beat his ass. Hard.

Because he was different.

My friendship with Ricky shaped my life. I recognized early the power of the majority. I also realized how tough even subtle cultural difference can be on a kid who doesn't fit in with that majority. Ricky wasn't one of the "godless few" that Caserta is talking about. In fact, he and his family were seriously religious. It was members of the god-ful majority, after all, who were handing out the ass kickings on most days of the week.

There's a lot wrong with our society today. Caserta and I agree completely on that. But reciting some verses in the classroom each morning won't cure the complicated, multi-layered problems that has America struggling.

It's just not that simple.


Chris James said...

Great post, as always...

It is too bad that folks on both sides like to find easy answers to tough questions. God knows that I blame everything from global warming to Iraq to ingrown toenails on friends who voted for Nader in'00.

JDB said...

No, no - as I just said over at Elvis's place, it wasn't when they took prayer out of schools, it's when they took bat'leth training out of PE classes when the decline began. :-P

Muze Euterpe said...

Witnesses are a rough bunch, compared to most modern Protestents. I have a cousin who was raised that way.

They do have several points, however. There are no Scriptural dictates to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, etc. If it ain't in there they don't do it.

When I studied with them in Texas they discouraged socializing with non-Witnesses, unless you were ... witnessing. Personally, I don't think you can hide from the world that way and I think there are things you can celebrate (child's birthday for example) that the Great Spirit has no feeling one way or another.

Religion is a tough game.

Stanton said...

Speaking of Jehovah's Witnesses and schools, many people overlook one of the great ironies in history: It was a court case involving JWs that caused the insertion of "under God" into the pledge of allegiance. JWs refused to recite the pledge because it was akin to worshiping the flag and the nation it represented. By inserting "under God" it was supposed to make it more palatable for JWs, but it really didn't as your Ricky story illustrates.

These days it is the "under God" has caused so much consternation on both sides of the religion/state argument. It was originally meant to be more inclusive (which it failed at), but it opened a whole 'nother can of worms by its insertion.

Hoyt said...

I second the "great post."


Hoyt, a Jewish blogger in West Virginia

Jim said...

Amen! Good post.

RedZeppelin said...

"Amen! Good post."

I don't know if that was intentional or not, but that cracked me up.

I'll add to the chorus of "Great post", knowing that it probably is falling on deaf ears regardless.

The Film Geek said...

No deaf ear here, Redzeppelin. Thanks to all of you, I appreciate the comments. A lot. :)

primalscreamx said...

You get the hillbilly Buddhist vote, as far as I'm concerned.
Schools began to decline, by the way, when kids were allowed to attend them.

Jackie Lantern said...

As a kid who got picked on just as much as he picked on, I gotta say kids are fucking brutal. If this kid wasn't getting tormented for that, some other kid would have been getting brutalized for something else.

I don't believe Pledge, prayer, or freaking dodgeball have nothing to do with it. It's a hard world for kids Film Geek. And I'm sad about it.

Excellent post!!

MountainLaurel said...

That's exactly it, FG. It's the freedom to worship how you see fit. Bravo!!