One day, when he was in the third grade, Donald Rumsfeld brought a bomb to school. He put it on the teacher’s desk.
“Is it real?” she asked.
“Maybe,” he replied.
“You mean you brought it to school, and you don’t know whether or not the thing is armed?” she asked.
“It’s really hard to know something like that,” he said. “At least until all the facts are in.”
“Where did you get it?” she demanded, with growing alarm.
“I found it on my way to school. It was just lying there by the side of the road, so I picked it up,” he offered.
“Why would you bring such a dangerous thing to school, Donald?” the teacher asked sternly.
“Well, technically, we don’t really know if it’s dangerous or not, do we? I mean, it might be dangerous, but then again, it might not be. It all depends on a number of factors. For instance, the detonator might be fully operational (at least in theory), and yet not have received sufficient pressure to activate the explosive material inside the detonation chamber. On the other hand, it may be temporarily malfunctioning for a variety of reasons, including faulty assembly at the manufacturing plant or even incidental field damage attributable to mishandling, in which case the devise may be entirely harmless, at least for the foreseeable future. Of course, there is a third possibility we really ought to factor into the equation, which is…”
Just then, as Donald was expounding on the mind-numbing range of variables inherent in the situation, the bomb suddenly exploded, killing the teacher and two students, and causing considerable collateral damage to the rest of classroom. Five students were hospitalized for a period of several weeks, some suffering massive trauma and/or multiple amputations. One boy (who had been passing a note to the girl behind him at the time of the explosion) lost about half the occipital lobe of his cerebral cortex, an injury that caused him considerable hardship for the remainder of his short life.
For the next few months, the students at Drew, Fisk and Gould Elementary School had to be bussed to nearby schools, while the infrastructural damage to their own campus was painstakingly repaired by a construction company conveniently owned by Donald’s father, also a member of the local school board. The cost of the reconstruction was covered by the sale of bonds, most of which were purchased by Donald’s uncle, J.P. Rumsfeld, at an unusually high interest rate of 73%. Finally, by the end of May, the school was reopened and the children returned to class, anxious to resume their education.
On his first day back at school, Donald was accompanied by his mother, who was there to shield him from any unfair criticism he might receive at the hands of disgruntled parents or fellow students. In fact, it was a good thing she was there, as one particularly angry teacher confronted Donald as he attempted to enter the science room.
“What are you still doing here? Haven’t you caused enough trouble this year?” the teacher growled.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Donald’s mother. “Just look around you, Buster… This school was in pretty sad shape before my son started going here. Now, look at it! State-of-the-art classroom facilities, freshly painted hallways, a new concrete pillar holding up a brand new section of roof…”
“That’s not the point!” the teacher replied. “People were injured here, some even killed! Don’t you or your son feel any remorse or even responsibility for that? What kind of heartless people are you, anyway?”
“How in the world can you imagine my son is responsible for what happened?” she retorted with indignation. “Let me remind you of the facts as they then existed on the ground. First, there was a time-bomb of mass destruction ticking away at this school, and no one had the guts to disarm it! If my son Donald hadn’t stepped into the breach and boldly taken it upon himself to safeguard the lives of everyone here, God only knows how much many more casualties might have resulted. Secondly, I don’t think anyone here could have predicted that tampering with an explosive devise would have had this kind of destructive effect. And thirdly, I think we can all agree that the school is better off without Mrs. Pesterwell, rest her soul. She did mistreat the children so…”
“She was a brutal dictator!” whined Donald. “She got what she deserved!”
Although the teachers and parents all signed a petition to have Donald expelled (or at least suspended) from school, when they presented it to the school board, they received the following response:
“Having examined the facts in this case, we have reached the conclusion that Donald Rumsfeld acted with outstanding physical and moral courage (not to mention uncanny foresight) in the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the terrorist assault on Drew, Fisk and Gould Elementary School. As such, we see no valid reason why he should not be allowed to complete the third grade coursework required for his Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from nearby James Buchanan Community College…”
After a predictable spate of grumbling from those who felt justice had not been served in this particular instance, things pretty much settled down to normal.
That is, until on his way to school one day, Donald found a mayonnaise jar full of nitroglycerin….
Mark W. Bradley is a schoolteacher and political satirist in Sacramento, California. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
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