Brother! Where art thou?
Ripped up speeches.
I remember that President Cleveland said over 100 years ago, “What good are politicians unless they stand for something?”
But is it too much to expect they play nice in the sandbox?
No need for Saturday Night Live to act out a parody of the speech.
Just run the tape.
Where is the dignity?
Where is their self respect?
For some reason I got to thinking of gym class at Riverside Junior High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I went through 3 years of gym classes run by Mr. Voet.
Mr. Voet had certain ideas about how gym class was supposed to be run.
Mr. Voet knew for certain that we students, 12, 13 and 14 year old boys should have these same ideas.
Show self respect.
Respect started with the self.
We all wore Riverside Junior High School gym uniforms.
White T-shirts and red shorts with matching numbers.
T-shirts tucked in.
White, over the calf, gym socks with red strips around the tops, pulled up over the calf.
(We did look sharp.)
The gym floor had numbers on it along one base line.
We were assigned a number.
Gym class started 10 minutes after the hour when Mr. Voet blew his whistle.
We were expected to be in uniform, T-shirt tucked in, matching number on shirt and shorts, socks up and standing on our number.
Mr. Voet would walk along the line, holding out his pen, cap first, with his record book and check on these things.
If you weren’t on your number you got a sharp word.
If you weren’t in uniform or if something was wrong with your uniform, he stopped, stared at you for a second and recorded a demerit in his record book and moved on.
I mention that numbers on the shirt and shorts had to match because of my little brother, Pete.
He was a year younger than me.
Sometimes our uniforms got mixed up in the laundry and our numbers didn’t match.
My number was 206, Pete’s was 3.
Why do I remember that?
Sometimes we had each others complete uniform.
Sometimes we did it on purpose.
Drove Mr. Voet nuts.
His revenge was that for every 3 demerits or so, he dropped your grade for that marking period.
The way out of this was you could come in early and run laps to get rid of demerits.
10 laps of the boys gym and 1 demerit would be erased.
I ran laps.
I ran a lot of laps.
Oh boy did I run a lot of laps.
Uniform violations was only one way to get a demerit.
I managed to find a lot of a ways to get demerits.
One memorable class, we were running some drill one at time in the gym.
We all had to line up and wait for our turn.
While waiting I looked around and saw that someone had left a Literature Textbook on the bleachers.
I sat down and started reading wherever I opened the book and forgot all about gym class.
The next thing I remember was that the gym was completely still.
I felt something warm nearby.
I put the book down and looked to see Mr. Voet about 3 inches from my nose.
Mr. Voet’s face was so red, I could feel real warmth.
The odd thing was that stillness.
Trying hard, I could pick up an echo off the walls of the gym of something that sounded like, “MR. HOFFMAN! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?”
Boy did I run a lot of laps.
As you ran down along the long side of the gym, there was a sign on the wall at the corner.
You couldn’t miss it as you ran.
I can’t remember for sure, but it said something like “Self Respect Starts with Self.”
For some reason this was on my mind last night as I watched the State of the Union.
I am not sure how it applies to all that went during the 2020 State of the Union address.
Maybe I wanted everyone to show some respect.
Maybe I wanted everyone to show some self respect.
Maybe I wanted to see everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, on the floor of the House Chamber wearing Riverside Junior High School gym uniforms and running laps.
I like that idea.
Lots and lots of laps.
Post Script: Years later I have to say Mr. Voet was right.
Self respect starts with self.
He was a good guy as well even if he never did figure me out.
I was in no way an athlete but Mr. Voet always gave me a fair shake.
After that class period where he caught me reading, he came up to me and said quietly, “Just don’t bring anymore books or homework out to the gym, okay?”
I said, “Coach, I didn’t bring that book. It was already sitting there. I just picked it up and starting reading.”
Mr. Voet stared at me for a bit.