What Is the Sound of One Hand Clapping?

I received an urgent transmission from my children’s school the other day. President Obama was scheduled to address the impressionable young minds of our kids at 12:30 pm on September 28 and my children’s middle school wanted to offer parents “the opportunity to opt their children out of viewing the Presidential speech.”

The school was going to make the Presidential speech available to students, but allow the partisan and/or bigoted parental crowd to shield their probably already-sheltered offspring from anything threatening the pale (as in white, conservative and “good”) worldview that they themselves espouse and do everything in their power to instill in their children.

The image of former President George W. Bush (looking dazed and meek) sitting in a classroom full of kids while the terrorists attacked on 9/11, came to mind. Had that school contacted all their pupils’ parents to make sure it was okay to let Bush into their school for a press op? How would those children and or parents have been treated if they had refused to give their Commander-in-Chief audience?

Do they have a Gitmo for children?

When I first got the notice that children’s middle school was taking precautions regarding President Obama’s speech, I wasn’t surprised. I simply viewed it as another step in the baneful ossification of the Republican electorate. Fox News doesn’t encourage an informed American worldview. Dissenting voices confuse things. Contradictory viewpoints are anathema.

It’s much easier to despise President Obama if you ignore him. It’s much easier say he’s not an American or a Christian if you don’t listen to him speak. It’s much easier to claim he’s a Muslim and a terrorist if you’ve never watched him try to communicate his thoughts.

As long as all you expose yourself or your kids to is the opinions and views expressed by Fox News (or Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck), it’s easy to maintain a conservative worldview because the indoctrination settles over you in layers, day after day, week after week. Eventually the sediment of close-mindedness ossifies and neither you nor your sheltered children have much of a chance of viewing President Obama as anything other than a dangerous interloper who must the enemy.

This kind of rigidity is not conducive to cognitive, much less intellectual development. Intelligence needs to be well-rounded, tested and, if possible, demonstrable. Single, slanted sources (as we now know from the lead up to the Iraq War) are not reliable or trustworthy.

If you don’t like President Obama, that’s your prerogative. I’m not a huge fan myself of late. If you don’t want to watch the address he makes to our children, fine. Ignore it. But don’t demand that your kids go to school or be at school with their eyes half-closed and their minds half open. They should be trusted to decide these things for themselves. We should love them enough to give them a chance.

My kids are too young to have sedimentary worldviews and I don’t want their minds or spirits fossilized before they’ve had a chance to be properly formed—by them—not me.

The problem with the “American conversation” these days is that we are not conversing. Too many people on both sides are simply talking to themselves or talking only amongst themselves.

This is the kind of atmosphere that usually makes it easier to lynch folks. This is the form of tunnel vision that created McCarthyism. This is the stunted thought process Nazi Germany was born of.

Closed minds and hearts may be more American than open minds and hearts these days. But they shouldn’t be. Especially when it comes to our children.

It reminds me of the old Eastern contemplation that asked “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

Right now the sound of one hand clapping is Fox News.

Right now the sound of one hand clapping is either side of any issue only listening to what it has to say.

Fort Worth native E. R. Bills is the author of Texas Obscurities: Stories of the Peculiar, Exceptional & Nefarious and Tell-Tale Texas: Investigations in Infamous History. Read other articles by E.R..