Thanks Clarence

Clarence Thomas came out of his basement recently to talk to some high school students, and I found this part particularly interesting.

“Sometimes, when I get a little down,” Justice Thomas said wearily, he goes online. “I look up wonderful speeches, like speeches by Douglas MacArthur, to hear him give without a note that speech at West Point — ‘duty, honor, country.’ How can you not hear those words and not feel strongly about what we have?”

He continued: “Or how can you not reminisce about a childhood where you began each day with the Pledge of Allegiance as little kids lined up in the schoolyard and then marched in two by two with a flag and a crucifix in each classroom?”
It's the second part that nags at me a bit, although I don't find it surprising that Thomas admires MacArthur. I can tell Thomas how I don't like to reminisce about that childhood because I lived it, and every day was a reminder of how I was different, of how I stood out from the rest of my peers.

As I've mentioned before, I was raised a Jehovah's Witness, which puts me at odds with both of Thomas's glorious childhood icons. Witnesses don't venerate the cross, and in fact argue that Jesus was not crucified, but was rather hung from a stake. I don't know ancient Greek, haven't read any scholarship on the matter, and frankly couldn't care less what the oldest texts have to say on the matter--it's not relevant to me at this point in my life--but at the time, growing up in a largely Catholic south Louisiana, it was tough to have to explain, over and over to teachers and fellow students, about my beliefs.

The Pledge of Allegiance was even worse, though, because it was said every morning, even through high school, and that made me stand out even more. And for all the romantic notions of how it's grand to be the rebel, to be different, I can only say that that works if that's your personality. Not so much if it's being forced on you from outside. There are fewer ways to make a high school freshman feel more self-conscious than to have a Civics teacher call you out as an example of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, especially if that teacher is a right-wing conservative who spends six weeks teaching about the evils of communism using materials left over from the Eisenhower administration.

So Justice Thomas, that's how I can not reminisce about such a time. It doesn't surprise me that you wouldn't take people who don't share such a nostalgic view of the past into account, but it is sad, considering how much power you hold from your position on the Court.

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