The End of the Line

“The rage of a people born into a country they were sure had no use for them at all.” -- Greil Marcus.

Last year in Franklin County, Ohio, Timothy Bowers went into a bank and robbed it. The teller gave him four twenty dollar bills in an envelope and hit the alarm. Bowers went over to the security guard and handed him the envelope, saying, “Here, be a hero today.” His plan was to get arrested and be sentenced to prison for three years, or until he was eligible for Social Security.

“At my age,” Bowers told the judge, “the jobs available to me are minimum-wage jobs and the jobs I would prefer to have I can’t get because of my age. There is age discrimination in this country, contrary to what a lot of people believe.” Prison would take care of food, bills, health and housing, which he was unable to manage until he received Social Security.

On August 23, 2005, Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya reports that the mothers of children who died after being held hostage in a school in Breslan had locked themselves in the court building. They had trusted Putin they said after the tragedy, had indeed voted for him, and were confident “he would ensure an objective inquiry” into their children’s deaths. “The inquiry,” Politkovskaya continues, “exonerated all the bureaucrats and security agents who planned and carried out the assault that led to the deaths of so many children and adults. The women are now demanding that they themselves be arrested. They consider themselves responsible for the deaths of their own children, because they voted for Putin.”

On May 16 of this year, Edwin L. Eaton, city manager of Long Beach, New York, had had it with all the attention the media had given Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears. “While our society and media outlets appear to be consumed by the activities of the ‘glitterati,’” reads his memo, “we tend to forget that each day Americans are anonymously dying in Iraq, I think it only fair that they be remembered and honored. To achieve that end, we hereby direct that American flags throughout the city be flown at half mast.” The six flags at city buildings remain at half-mast.

Upset leads to anger, as it did in the case of The Dixie Chicks who were reviled and savaged for mentioning that they were not proud that President Bush was, like them, from Texas. In their next album, The Dixie Chicks gave their response. They were not ready to make nice.

However, sometimes anger gets tamped down for what are thought to be larger issues. At Lakewood, I was sports page editor of The High Times. Our faculty advisor had done an excellent job instructing us in the importance of honesty and integrity for the journalist. However, what we wrote did not sit well with some parents and high school administrators who read the paper. The principal came down hard on the faculty advisor. Either we did a different paper or he would lose his job. We liked him. We wanted him to keep his job. We wrote the paper the principal wanted.

It was a small sacrifice. If we had refused, our advisor would have lost his job and there would have been new editors for the paper. As far as I know, it did not affect the lives of those who were my fellow editors. I don’t know, and I don’t know if it was the right decision. Today I’d feel better about myself if we had refused. I use that acquiescence then to measure myself against decisions today.

Perhaps our anger had not reached the rage Marcus describes, in which it is no longer possible not to do what you do, because not only don’t you count, but you might never have. Timothy Bowers, the Russian mothers of the children of Breslan, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Edwin L. Eaton, had reached the end of the line
Read More on The Buck Stops Here
Volume 3, Issue 18, Posted 10:07 PM, 08.27.2007