Those Stupid Registration Cards

Reprinted from Chumps on Parade (March 1998)

I never knew how many interesting things you get when you turn 18. Shortly after I reached this milestone I got to register to vote, received a “gift” from Gillette (a free razor and shaving cream, how the heck did they know it was my birthday? just another example of big corporations keeping tabs on us), multiple credit card offers, and a special message from the government. What was in the special message? An SSS notice, of course.

An SSS notice? What the heck is that? I opened it after the exciting packaging, “young men, important information about your future” triggered my curiosity; I wondered what branch of the armed forces they wanted me to join now. Unfortunately, it was just a disguised note reminding me to register in case they ever need to draft people. But to be honest, it was more like a threat. After requesting a bunch of information that they must already have (like my birth date, how else would they know I just turned 18?) you flip the card over to see a bunch of warnings about how you are required to register. “Failure to register is a crime”, “Register NOW for your future”, “Failure to register is punishable by a $250,000 fine and 5 years in prison”, “If you don’t register you will be denied federal assistance (financial aid, social security)”, and many other threats.

While I am not to hip to the idea of America ever having to draft people to fight some dumb war. I have always felt that when you need to draft people, it should be a sign that you aren’t fighting for anything worthwhile otherwise people would join on their own. I decided that the government was pretty serious in their threats. After all they (probably) played a part in killing Kennedy, beat Rodney King, fed nuclear cereal to US citizens, and a host of other things, so the consequences would probably be much worse than the threats they wrote on the envelope. Like I was expecting to get social security anyway. So I mailed the card in, which incidentally required a stamp. The least they could do is pay for the stamp if they ever expect me to die for them.

I’ll say it right now, if the draft is ever put into effect, I’m going to be a draft dodger. Bill Clinton, you were right about one thing! Spending some time in a jail sounds much better than dying within a few months in a war. I am sure I would die, I am a wimp. I would be of no help to them. I can barely lift 50 pounds, my main form of exercise is in-line skating, and I refuse to have anything to do with guns (the country would be much safer if there weren’t guns on the streets). They think that would help them win a war? I don’t think so. The sign-up officer would probably be so pissed at me that he would yell at me, “you fucking piece of shit, can’t you do anything right?” and escort me to wherever the military takes their wimps. It would be like gym class all over, in which I was frequently told what a piece of shit I was.

I don’t think the government should be mailing these cards out, they should focus on PEACE. How about requiring people to fill out cards to be drafted into helping to feed disaster victims in their area should the need arise? I would be all for that. But all their card did was remind me my life is probably a quarter of the way over, or should they get into a serious war, an indefinite stay in prison.

Wasting Our Money

Reprinted from Chumps on Parade (March 1998)

Since the Cold War ended, there has been a misconception that government spending on the military has decreased. The truth is, funding is still at Cold War levels and is going up starting this year. In 1998 265 billion dollars is to be spent on the military. Over the next six years the amount of money we spend on defense will be a total of 1.65 trillion dollars.

All of this money is being used to improve a military that is already the strongest and largest in the world. Most of our military mite was assembled under the fear of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Now the Soviet Union is gone, as is the Warsaw pact. There are no other countries in the world that are as powerful as the Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact countries were, or the United States. The only real job for our military is little peacekeeping missions throughout the world, which can be done without any sort of new weapons. You don’t need a nuclear arsenal or the newest fighter jet to keep the peace in Bosnia or Somalia.

Yet despite the fact there are no serious threats our country is still spending money on all sorts of new technologies all designed to kill people. We are already spending money to develop plans for fighter jets to replace the “next generation” fighters in 2030. We haven’t even started to use the “next generation” fighters, and won’t until 2015, but we are already thinking of replacing them? It doesn’t make any sense. Even crazier is the idea that we need to be prepared to fight two wars at once in different halves of the world, with each country being nearly as strong as the United States. The fact is there aren’t even two combined countries that could equal the power of the United States military.

This may seem fine to most people; we need to protect our country. I can see spending money on defense, but preparing for multiple wars when there aren’t any real threats is just stupid. It’s nice that the government is supposedly looking out for our needs by defending the country, but there are a number of other things they could spend the money on. With even a small portion of the defense budget we could get people off the streets and educate them with the skills they need for a decent job. I am pretty sure that no unemployed people care if we can fight a war in Iraq and Korea at the same time, they have bigger problems to worry about, as does the government.

To put this all in perspective, the federal government only gives 43 billion dollars in aid to states for education. It seems we would rather prepare for a war than prepare for an increasingly global economy where other countries will hold an advantage over us. What are we going to do, bomb them?

In A Prison?

Reprinted from Chumps on Parade (March 1998)

As my high school years draw to a close it is time to look for a job. I put this task off long enough. Now is the time to face the reality of needing to get a job. So today I went to an interview at a local department store. I was given this lengthy survey where I had to respond to a bunch of different questions. Things like, “the world would be better if everyone told the truth – true or false”, “you think less of people who always lie – true or false”, and others like that. I was going along OK until I got to a question that said, “we need more police to control the crime rate – true or false.” I answered “false” and moved on, even though answering “true” probably would have been better for getting the job.

I made it through the interview without any other difficulties, I think I did pretty well. On the way home I was thinking about things I could have done better and that question about police kept working it’s way into my head. It got me thinking about my own views on the police, something I had never really thought about before.

Like most people, the last thing I want to see when I am driving is a cop. Even the sight of a cop a few cars ahead or behind me makes me immediately slow down, even if I am going the speed limit. Which is weird, since I am doing nothing wrong. The same thing happens if I am walking. I avoid the police like the bubonic plague. I might as well admit it; I am scared of the police.

The police are basically a standing army, supposedly put there to protect the needs of the people. They have guns, nightsticks, bulletproof vests, and armored cars. The police force is armed with enough firepower to annihilate several countries’ armies. They certainly don’t look friendly. I can remember when I was a little kid; the two things I was most scared of were clowns and cops. Cops used to walk around handing out baseball cards to kids who would come up and ask them for cards. I never got the cards because I was always too intimidated by their guns and handcuffs.

Now that I am older I realize that there is a lot more for me to fear than just their weapons. I fear the fact that cops have a habit of stopping people merely because they are a teenager. It isn’t uncommon for police to pull you over and make up a stupid reason to search your car. It is their only way of keeping tabs on the population they are supposed to be protecting. I also am scared that the people that are supposed to be protecting all people have a habit of suspecting minorities first in crimes. Racial bias extends to the courts where minorities are given longer sentences than whites for the same crime. I fear the notion that the upper class somehow deserves better treatment than those of average to below average income do. But mostly, I fear an institution that occasionally abuses the people they are supposed to be protecting. That should NEVER happen. There is no excuse for it.

Politicians in Washington are always discussing crime and how it could be solved with more police. One of Bill Clinton’s “claims to fame” is that he added 100,000 cops to America’s police force since he became president in 1992. On CNN I heard a member of the house of representatives say that he would like to see a cop on every street corner. Do you know what I thought of when I heard that? A prison. There is no way in hell we need that many cops. Armed officers would be watching over and controlling the people, not protecting them. I feel that we are leaning towards that right now, but that would be insane.

I think something is seriously wrong with the police system in the United States. Something needs to be done to end the problems within the police department. It is time to stop letting cops off the hook for beating people, time to end racial biases, and discriminating against everyone except the white upper class. Until they do something about these problems I will continue to fear them. Most importantly, I hope they don’t add any more police. I’m a person, not a prisoner. I have done nothing wrong, but I still fear police. There is something very wrong with that situation.

The GRPS Bond Issue

Reprinted from Chumps on Parade (March 1998)

The biggest news of the past month was the failure of the school bond issue. It was voted down by around 16,000 votes to 10,000 votes. While it isn’t that much of a surprise, students should still be mad that it failed to pass.

A person has to be stupid in order to say that our schools didn’t need the 396 million dollars the bond would have given us. Take a look at the schools around Grand Rapids. Forrest Hills, East Grand Rapids, Grandville, Caledonia, and many others are at least twice as nice as the Grand Rapids district. Many of our schools are falling apart, due to the lack of new books and equipment, or at some schools, literally falling apart. People who can afford it run to the suburbs once their kids are old enough to go to school. Where does it leave the children of parents who can’t afford to move? Screwed. They are forced to go to schools that are inferior.

Why did the bond issue get voted down? The main reason is the fact that the majority of people who voted were elderly. They figure at that their children have already graduated and that they don’t want to have to more taxes. Mary Milanowski and her “group” of people opposed to the bond issue also played an important role in getting the issue defeated. She got people to vote “no” because she was on the school board in the past. When she said that the schools didn’t need the money, people believed her. Never mind the fact that when she was on the school board she voted no on almost everything, what a help she was. I wonder if she is ignorant or just plain dumb? I’m guessing it is the latter.

Another popular argument was “we should have never let the schools deteriorate into this state.” Well, I don’t think anyone besides YOU, the people who consistently voted no, had anything to do with that. There have been many millages in the past that you must have voted no on. So blame it on yourself, it’s your fault. None of the people working for the GRPS, on the school board (except Mary Milanowski), or the students wanted the schools to fall apart. As for those old people that voted no. If you took the time to go INTO a school you would notice that they basically the same as when your children graduated, or in some cases, when YOU graduated. Nobody can say there isn’t something wrong with that situation.

If people in the 18-25 age group actually voted, it would probably have made a big difference. Those people would know that the schools need help, and would probably have voted “yes”. So next time, get out and vote. Also, not enough adults who have children in school voted. Whether it was due to laziness or some other reason, they really screwed their children by not taking the minute required to vote. Thanks so much.

Social Cliques

Reprinted from Chumps on Parade (February 1998)

In the society that we live in today there are many different kinds of cliques. Each has their “claim to fame” but a common factor that is present in most of them is that they love to claim their independence from everybody else…in other words they want to be individuals. Don’t get me wrong though I think that everyone needs to be individual. If we weren’t the world would just be one big blob of sameness. But I really think that the word individuality is misused.

The main problem that I have with these certain “cliques” of people is that they try so hard to be “anti-society” and to be individuals that they fit our society’s stereotype of them absolutely perfectly, which they obviously don’t realize. Now I am really a hypocrite for writing this because from time to time I am sure that people have thought the exact same thing about me. This is just an outsiders view on the subject.

Let’s talk about the Hippies/Flower children, and the Goth population of society. The Hippies have their everlasting and ever present search for oneness with themselves. This constant self exploration and self expression is merely a way to draw attention to themselves as a minority. I mean they talk a certain way, act a certain way, dress a certain way all to be what? Free from the normal life of society? Free from the normal stereotypes that are associated with teenagers? Well they have really accomplished what they have set out to do haven’t they? They really are not any different from you and me. They still fall under the same prejudices that teenagers are faced with. They are still discriminated against. They are no different.

Then there is the Goth people who just try to…well they just try to scare the shit out of people by painting their faces white, putting rings underneath their eyes while acting very submissively. What does that scream out to me? It screams out “HEY LOOK AT ME I AM GOTH AND I NEED MORE ATTENTION THEN A 5-YEAR-OLD KID!” What respect does this really give them? None and they know it, at least not from their peers and adult figures.

Society is such a touchy thing today that we will never fit into it or be able to get away from it. Maybe my biggest problem that I have with these groups of people is that they simply try too hard. they pledge and preach self-righteousness so much that they come off to the majority of people as just a dumb teenager. And that is the whole problem that they are trying to overcome by forming these cliques! People think about society, they end up forming groups of people who are almost identical to them. They are laughed at. They laugh back at the people that are laughing at them and try harder to break away from them. They end up not changing at all and don’t realize it until someone or something slams it in their face. It is a vicious circle that will never be resolved.

Don’t Tell Me What To Say

Reprinted from Chumps on Parade (February 1998)

Recently a rule was drafted at a Milwaukee, WI high school that could have a tremendous amount of influence on school policy throughout the United States. Shorewood High School officials decided that the language of students was making the school look bad and disrupted the process of educating students. The rule is reprinted here:

??”6. It is expected that students will use appropriate language. A student will not use such highly offensive words such as fuck, motherfucker, bitch, ho, asshole, and cock sucker. This is not an inclusive list. Penalty-1st time=OSS1 (out of school suspension), 2nd and successive times police referral for disorderly conduct. A staff member will penalize other inappropriate language at his/her discretion.”??

Many of you probably don’t see this having any effect on schools outside of Milwaukee or Wisconsin but it could. The reason why is the recent push by conservative politicians to improve schools and institute “values” (Christian ideas on how we should act) in school. Several politicians across the United States have mentioned they would like to see this added in as many schools as possible. Michigan seems like an ideal place for a rule such as this. Michigan is already debating a law would require students to take an ethics/values class to improve morals. Our governor has stated his support for this proposed class, as well teaching the Bible. Looking at the conservative make up of our area, a rule regulating these words would likely have a lot of support. A recent survey suggested that 85% of American adults support the Milwaukee high school’s decision. In West Michigan the percentage of adults supporting a rule likely be much higher.

To comment on this whole mess, I would have to say that students should be allowed to swear as much as they want. It is an issue of freedom of speech, and if those are the words they want to use, let them-they can deal with the consequences. However, I do believe there are times when it is inappropriate. A student should never swear at a teacher or on an assignment, that is more of an issue of respect than freedom of speech. But if the kid wants to say, “fuck you” to someone he or she doesn’t like, let him or her. A school has no place to regulate the communication between students.

Look, I Think

Reprinted from Chumps on Parade (February 1998)

I’ll admit it, I’m not your favorite guy on the planet. But come on, can you make such a blatant, and stupid accusation? In the past few weeks, I have come across a great number of people that seem to disregard what I, and others like me have to say, on the basis of “it’s not right”. What does that mean? “It’s not right?” What the fuck is that? To me what it says, is your so scared to hear something different, you just blow it off, run away, and hide from THINKING. Hey, let’s not waste our time doing such a strenuous activity.

Yeah, our brains. What more are they good for then letting us pop open that bottle of vodka or getting that bong to our face. Hey, this is the last call for regrets, anyone who wants in on INTELLIGENCE, please speak up now. Nobody? Okay, the bar’s closed, and so are your minds. Let’s face it, in the past 50 years, there hasn’t been much more than scandal in this country. There has been good, now you can logon to your favorite Yahoo chocolate drink web page (and even see a commercial with their neato Frito page on it), and that didn’t happen 5 years ago, let alone 50. So technology has come a ways, (of course there are 2 faces to that monster, as with everything).

But if you think about it there’s not much more than a rise in stupid, pointless, and the scariest part of all, ACCEPTED hate out there. It seems there has been a big rash (trendy? oh god.. don’t tell me this is “trendy”) of a bunch of white trash skinhead racist sexist homophobes. Basically saying “see, we’re white, male, and straight! How much closer to GOD can you get!?” Well you certainly aren’t *my* god, and if you have any decency at all, then sometime in the rest of your narrow-minded, pitiful life, you’ll find a way to regress these sins. (Wait, sins? that wasn’t the term I wanted, uh, maybe misconceptions? well yeah, to put it lightly anyway) and realize that, well let’s start from the top.


So yeah, if you are some big buff white guy, with no hair, and a shirt saying, “Aryan American” I guess you could re-arrange my face and I probably wouldn’t have much to say about it. Rearrange my mind? Not in the least. If you fuckers go out beating up a bunch of people because they’re black, oriental, Mexican, anything other than your “I’m so clean” palette, you think that’s going to get you anywhere? There’s a very primitive, natural instinct that is in every animate, living thing, from lizards to humans, and it’s if you fuck with someone for a) no reason, and b) too often, it’ll come back to bite you in the ass (karma? I think mom & pop were right for once eh?).

This point is described well in a movie I recently rented; it was the Jurassic Park sequel, Lost World. This team of “scientists” comes in to capture a bunch of dinosaurs for financial gain. There is one species that are really small and basically harmless alone. Well, one comes up to a guy with a big electric tazer, and the guy says “look, its like he isn’t even scared of me” (like that’s just *such* a surprise. 65 billion years ago? god, must of been near-heaven), the scientist type-guy says “he has no reason to be, humans have never harmed them.” So the fuck face bonehead decides to apply the red-hot tazer to it for no reason.


Later in the movie, 30 of them gnaw this guy to death. Probably a slow and painful death. Anyway, moving to the point. If you haven’t been doing your homework (apparently black flag did, as they wrote a song about it) The white Caucasian is becoming a *minority*. So keep beating the fuck out of other people because of their color, and in 20-30 years, when you are on the ground bleeding after about 10 black guys kick your ass, don’t expect sympathy from as much as the hill of ants 5 feet from your immobile face. Being paralyzed is very FRUSTRATING.

Our Right To Write

Reprinted from Chumps on Parade (November 1997)

Underground newspapers are a perfectly legal way for students to express themselves, no matter what administrators might try to tell them. They serve the purpose of giving the students a voice where they can speak on any topic without the fear of being censored by a school official or giving out their identity. The First Amendment, or the right to freedom of speech, is the principal that protects student publications.

A supreme court case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, stated that students do not lose the right to freedom of expression under the first amendment when they enter school. This decision has been applied to various cases regarding the distribution of literature at schools, upholding the rights of the students to distribute their literature. The only way schools can control the distribution is the time and place where it can be distributed, but they cannot ban it completely or censor content. The students must be allowed to distribute their literature at school.

Some principals will cite the clause in the Tinker decision, which states that literature can be barred from school if it’s distribution martially and substantially interferes with school activities. According to Sullivan v. Houston Independent School District, minor disruptions must be tolerated in order to accommodate the rights of students to express their views. The court stated that it is “their misconduct in the manner in which they distributed the paper, not the idea of a newspaper that should be stopped.” The American Civil Liberties Union also agrees that some disruptions in distributing the literature does not justify banning the literature. The school can make a rule that regulates the time, place, and manner of distribution. However, a rule that regulated the distribution so that the majority of students couldn’t get access to the newspaper would be unconstitutional.

Despite the fact that the school cannot censor a student newspaper, the newspaper is still required to follow the rules of any other newspaper. Rules regarding libel, copyright infringement, and invasion of privacy still apply. As with any publication, it is up to the student editors to decide what is appropriate and inappropriate.

Some people will ask why students don’t use the school newspaper to express their views, and there is a simple answer to that question. Newspapers paid for by the school or created using school supplies can be censored, to some extent. However, the school cannot censor publications made by the students with their own funds and supplies, since they are independently produced. It is much easier for a student to write a “controversial” article or an article criticizing the school if they don’t have to worry about their article being censored.

Underground newspapers are an important part of students’ First Amendment rights. It has been established in several different court cases over the past 28 years that students have the right to publish newspapers and distribute them at school. Students cannot be stopped because they present an unpopular viewpoint or criticism of the school; they are protected by the First Amendment.

Hey Faggot!!

Reprinted from Chumps on Parade (November 1997)

I don’t know how many times I have walked down the halls and heard students saying something negative about homosexuals. Maybe I am missing something, but when did it become all right to insult someone based on their sexuality? It’s as bad as insulting people based on race or gender, which is considered socially unacceptable, yet the same people who complain about that do nothing about the problems with people who use homosexuality as an insult.

A perfect example of this is when a student asks another student, “What do you think of my new backpack?” To which the student ever so eloquently replies, “It’s gay.” Using a phrase such as “It’s black” to express your dislike of the backpack would have you labeled a bigot right away. Yet you can call it gay and nobody has a problem with it. Something is wrong with that situation. Just today I over heard some kid tell his friend, “My mom is gay, she made me pay for my own Tommy socks.” Using phrases like that makes you sound like an idiot, is it really that much harder to say, “my mom is dumb”?

A couple of days ago as I sat in the cafeteria I heard some kids arguing rather loudly about how one of the people in their social clique was “gay” because he wouldn’t share his pizza with them. While their word choice bothered me, I decided to mind my own business and stay out of their conversation. After carrying on their conversation for another minute, one of the students decided to come over to me and asked, “Doesn’t that kid look gay?”, pointing to his friend. So I decided to respond with, “Are you homophobic?” Once again he showed off his intelligence by replying, “Fuck you! Maybe you are his boyfriend.” While it is impossible to judge the school based on one student’s actions, I still couldn’t help but think to myself, “So this is tolerant City High?”

It amazes me how the students at City can be that intolerant, despite the fact that City is supposed to be a school for the gifted. Gifted people shouldn’t see homosexuality as such an evil that it’s only purpose is to provide a way to insult another student. When I applied to City I heard all about how tolerant the student body is, how it doesn’t have the discrimination problems based on race or sexuality that other schools do. How can anyone say this when people continue to talk about homosexuality this way? Do they even think about the fact that there are homosexual students at City? How do you think they feel when they hear people talk like this?

The students of City High should take it upon themselves to stop using homosexuality as a basis to insult people or show your disapproval of something. It doesn’t take that much effort to stop doing this or to tell your friends that it bothers you when they do it. The problem can be fixed easily and will go a long ways towards making City the tolerant school that everyone thinks it is.

City’s Horrible Image

Reprinted from Chumps on Parade (November 1997)

When Mr. Slade addressed all of the classes at the beginning of the year, a big issue was City High’s image. He felt that City High’s image had been tarnished. Some problems he pointed out were students sitting in the halls, wearing hats, and listening to a walkman in the hall. All of these activities supposedly make City look bad, so he made everyone be confined to Cafeteria C during their free hours, where they could sit on the floor or listen to their headsets without being seen. Reluctantly students obeyed his wishes and the whole image thing was forgotten.

At least that is what everyone thought. On the 11th of Nov., Mr. Slade announced that students need to do a better job picking up their messes in the cafeteria because, “once again, this reflects poorly on the school’s image.” This came as no surprise to most several students, most of the people around me predicted that Mr. Slade would say that a dirty cafeteria reflected poorly on our image before he even mentioned it.

However, this article isn’t about Mr. Slade or our dirty cafeteria, which incidentally, is a problem that should be handled by the janitorial staff. This article is about City’s image. City has always been a school with a very good image. Most people know in Grand Rapids know that City is a school for the “gifted”, a school where the students are hard working and motivated.

City is still seen in a positive light by people in Grand Rapids. Every time I tell someone I go to City they are impressed. To them City brings up images of hard working, responsible students. I have never had a person say anything negative about City High. It seems that if sitting on the floors, listening to headsets, or any of these other activities were truly hurting City’s image I would have heard about it by now, as these activities have been going on for years. Not once have I had a person tell me, “City students are lazy, they all sit on the floor or listen to Walkmans at school.”

Maybe some students do sit on the floor and listen to walkmans, but does it really matter? Back when the students had blue mohawks or dressed like bums nobody tried to make them change. Their appearence certainly didn’t do anything positive for the school’s image. Until our test scores start slipping we shouldn’t be concerned with our image. As long as we maintain our position as the “best” students from an academic standpoint, we should be allowed special privileges. Even if that just means being able to listen to a walkman or sit in the halls with our friends.