“In the first place God made idiots. This was practice.
Then he made school boards.”
Mark Twain, Following the Equator, 1897
My cousin, Bob, would have loved Twain’s quote. He joined the Navy before finishing high school. He was tough, sharp, and my idol. Bob was a boxer, bartender, carpenter and a car dealer with a monstrous tattoo eagle on his chest. I joined the Navy because of him but skipped the eagle display. While in the Navy, Bob was often in the brig for fighting with sailors on board. His mother was in prison for most of her life.
We had numerous cousins but Bob chose me for his best friend. My Mom said to me “He’s an amazing guy most of the time but he can push you to the edge at times. He may drop you as a close friend before you know it.” “Ah, Mom, he wouldn’t do that to me.”
up in school I always felt like I was the dumbest student in the room and it made me angry. I sensed that ire all the way through college, and my low grades showed it. When I decided to go to seminary the Dean looked over my under grad grades and said sadly, “You will have to at least hold it to C’s in every class and if you drop below it, you’re out. Good luck.” The seminary was known as the ‘Harvard of the West.’
I made it to my last 3-hour final in Ethics before graduating the following week with two one-page questions done out of three. I was in the middle of the last question when I looked across to see my classmate had about ten pages and I only had half the answer of the last question. I froze and sat there for an hour realizing I would have to try another profession. My anger escalated. I think I hated the school and me. I waited until the day I thought the professor had graded the papers and lied to him by saying I would be leaving town soon. I did not want my paper shown in class. He picked up the pile of papers and pulled mine out and said, “You nailed the first and second questions but you didn’t finish the last one. I had to give you a C!”
When I got my doctorate in seminary, I could not wait to tell cousin Bob. His response was “So what!” He walked off and devastated me. Mom was right, he dumped me from then on. I never quite got over that. I sensed later he was more hurt than angered over it. Maybe I just hoped he was hurt by it.
Donald Trump came on the scene and captured 40 percent of his backers in the country who were mostly uneducated and/or broke. He didn’t start the hatred but he managed to fuel it. There would be lots of angry Bobs on his side. That’s when I began to realize that cousin Bob, if he were alive, would have voted for Trump in a heartbeat.
It’s like a war zone and Trump’s Surrogates seem to feel good about life by having that attention. Is that all bad that the Bobs may have needed to let off some steam?
Why did behavioral psychologists like B.F. Skinner miss discovering the anger that erupted for decades over education and jobs in the culture? Maybe because Skinner was on the other side of the fence by being a Professor of Psychology at Harvard.
Did anyone in our nation manage to detect the blistering frustration that has continued for so long?
I think Mark Twain might be rolling over in his grave and letting out some steam about idiots who don’t know hurt from hate.