Thursday, May 27, 2010
Another Nostalgia Trip
Lately, I've been thinking about Ferdinand the Bull. I have no idea exactly when this children's story resurfaced in my thoughts, but it happened sometime this year. I vaguely remembered the story as one that I liked during my childhood, but I couldn't remember the reasons why. When I finally watched The Blindside a few weeks ago, I laughed when Sandra Bullock's character had a copy of this book to read to her son and the hulking teenager she takes into her home. What a perfect book for the character of the gentle giant!
On Saturday, I happened to make it to Powell's City of Books for the first time in awhile. I was disppoinated to learn that I had missed Sebastian Junger's recent booksigning by ONE DAY! I was so looking forward to that and I was free on Friday night to attend. What happened? He is one writer that I've been wanting to meet because of his enviable career (a freelance writer who has traveled to some of the world's hotspots in terms of human conflict). Bummer. I guess I need to mark up my calendar with "Must Attend Events"! In consolation, I did manage to catch his interview on the Charlie Rose Show on Tuesday night. His new book, simply called War, sounds like a good one to read (perhaps alongside Jon Krakauer's book about Pat Tillman). On the show, Junger explains the psyche behind why men bond in war and how that experience actually makes it difficult for some men to readjust back to civilian life. I went through some of that in my transition out of the Navy, as I found that one of things I missed most about the Navy was the camaraderie. To this day, its still difficult for me to work in an office full of catty women who prefer talking about celebrity gossip and shopping. D.C. also spoiled me, because the women I worked with were extremely professional and discussed political ideas.
Anyhow, at Powell's City of Books, I noticed a sales display of The Story of Ferdinand, with paperback copies of this classic (originally published in 1936!) for only $4.99! So, I bought a copy and read it when I got home. I laughed when I finished because I had forgotten most of the story. All I remembered about it was that the bull preferred to sit and smell the flowers than fight. The style of writing is not great and some of the art could be improved upon. But, considering that it was written in the 1930s, it's basically a timeless and universal story. After I put the book down, I thought about why the book had appealed to me as a youth. Like Ferdinand, I didn't enjoy playing with most children at recess. I always had one or two friends that I preferred to spend my time with. I suppose my parents were a little worried about my lack of popularity, but then again, they didn't see how the other children interacted with one another. For me, recess was always terrifying, because that was when the bully would try to enforce his willpower, to the silence of other children. I always preferred when adults were present, somewhere in the background keeping a watchful eye on children at recess.
I think this experience shapes who you are, for entirely good reasons. Because I had to stand up to bullies in elementary school, I became a strong person in the Navy who was able to withstand all manner of peer pressure to do certain things to prove to other sailors that I was one of them. Since I don't care much about what most people think of me, I do stand on my own if needs be. Just like how earlier this year, I refused to go to the strip club with eight of my co-workers, even after being called a "prude." Whatever.
Well, one of my friends on Facebook whom I know personally through our church, often rants on his Facebook wall and mine about his anti-government views. He certainly knows how to beat a dead horse to death! Ad nauseum! I don't think I've met a more tenacious anti-government person in my life. He simply does not waver in his rants. He is consistently libertarian and believes that no government would produce an ideal society. I always ask him to name me just one example of a country without a government that would be the model for the libertarian worldview. Of course, he can't name me one. I can. The one that comes up is Somalia. That country has not had a functioning government in nearly 20 years and even the most ignorant teabagger knows that Somalia isn't exactly a paradise flocking with immigrants. Many would consider it to be a true hell on earth. Life in Iraq isn't as bad as life in Somalia. There is a reason why governments exist throughout history and in practically every country on earth. The absence of government leads to a vacuum in which the most powerful can have their way on the vast majority by sheer fact of their wealth, weapons, and goon squads to do the dirty work necessary.
Probably the biggest reason why I've been pro-government all my life is because I've seen how brutal children can be towards one another in the absence of an adult. That's a reason why I love the novel Lord of the Flies. It presents what would happen to human civilization if there was no powerful entity charged with keeping the peace and enforcing a code of laws on people. My friend might think the absence of government results in a paradise, but I'm of the reasoned opinion that the absence of government actually results in hell.
So, its amazing how much a simple children's book can bring me back to the thoughts of my childhood, where I identified with a bull who preferred to sit under a tree and smell flowers than to fight with the other bulls and go to his slaughter in the bullfighting rings of Madrid. In 1987, my family went on a spring break trip to the Costa Brava in Spain. We had the opportunity to see a bullfight in Barcelona, which we were excited to see...until we realized just how brutal and sickening this popular Spanish sport is. We left after the third bull was slaughtered (I think seven fights were scheduled that day). It was nothing like the Bugs Bunny cartoons I had seen in childhood, where the bull is simply teased until it falls down tired. I had no idea that this was how the Spaniards got their fresh meat. Bullfights are on Sundays, with the carcasses of the bulls ready for market on Monday.
Here's to Ferdinand the Bull! May we all have the courage to sit out the petty fights of other people and be true to our inner calling. Listening to our passions just might save us from the slaughter others want to push us into.