“Morning, Uncle Sam,” I said. “Sure is a beautiful day!”
“Yep,” he agreed. “Hope this good weather holds out so they can hold graduation outside.”
“Is that country of yours graduating?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head. “I sure hope so. But it’s touch and go. All he ever thinks about is sports. If you could dribble a textbook, he might know what one feels like.”
“How’re his grades?” I asked bluntly.
“Well,” he said, “he’s flunking history at the moment. You’d think after Vietnam, he’d have learned something about trying to put down an insurgency in a country where he doesn’t know the language, doesn’t know the culture, and everybody wants him out except the slick ones trying to piggyback into power. But you know how hard headed he is. He won’t listen to anybody. Calls anybody who tries to give him advice a ‘traitor’ or an ‘old fuddy-duddy.’”
“Surely if he just buckles down in that one course…,” I began.
His face flushed. “That’s just it. It’s not just history. He’s flunking science too.”
“Science?” I said. “I always thought he was good at science.”
“He was. It was probably his best field. But all of a sudden he’s insisting on using the Bible as his textbook for biology, anthropology, geology, astronomy, and physics, and he’s falling behind in all those courses.”
“What’s the problem?” I asked.
“Partly it’s that the courses include lots of things the Bible doesn’t cover,” said Uncle Sam. “It doesn’t even mention tectonic plates, for instance, or mitosis, or DNA, or quasars. But it’s also a matter of time frame. All of those sciences talk about processes operating over millions and billions of years, and he claims the whole universe is only a few thousand years old.”
“What are a few zeroes among friends?” I joked. “Nothing!”
He didn’t laugh. “I’m afraid it’s more fundamental than that. His teachers insist that science has to be founded on observation, experimentation, and verification. He argues that it has to be based on scripture and revelation.”
“And his teachers won’t see reason?” I asked.
“So far they’re insisting that their approach is about reason,” he said glumly.
“He’s gotten ‘F’ on almost everything he’s written so far this term, and last term as well.”
“How can that be?” I asked indignantly. “I thought that piece he wrote on Jessica Lynch was great! Lady Rambo—I loved it! I know he got an ‘A’ for that one. And his story on the dangerous rescue mission where we recaptured her! And that touching piece on Pat Tillman’s heroic death at the hands of a vicious foe. And that essay on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And his coverage of the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue. I could go on and on! They’re thrilling, they’re heartwarming….”
“They’re baloney. He made them all up, or staged them,” he said. “Every one of them. Deliberate lies to sell a dirty war.”
“Oh,” I said, dumbfounded. “I didn’t know that.”
“Most people don’t,” he said. “The media played up his original stories, but they buried the follow-up stories when the truth began to come out.”
“So did he get to keep his original grades?”
“No, his teacher said that she was teaching a class on reporting, not on spinning. She got pretty upset about it.”
“Well,” I said, “I sure hope he manages to graduate.”
“At this point, I could care less if he graduates,” said Uncle Sam ruefully. “He’s old enough now, I’d just like to see him learn some manners and a little humility. Ever since he went through that growth spurt and became so much bigger and more powerful than anybody else in his class, he’s acted as if he can say or do whatever he wants.”
“You’re being too hard on him,” I said. “He’s still just a kid.”
“I’ve made enough excuses for him,” said Uncle Sam. “Don’t you start in on it too. He’s my flesh and blood, but he’s over two hundred years old now. He’s old enough to cut out that fightin’ and drinkin’ and cheatin’ and runnin’ all over the world and to start acting like an adult.”
“Good luck,” I said, and meant it.
© Tony Russell, 2005