I graduated from high school in 1969, so I caught only the tail-end of the 1960s. At the time, almost everybody had a cause of one kind of another. ‘For or against the war’ was probably the biggest one. But there were the civil rights movement, spiritual seeking through drugs, the environment, and lots of others. One of my causes then was the struggle against the high school social structure. I didn’t like the way that school administrators and much of the faculty allowed—even encouraged—the athletes to run the social scene. I’ve never been the rebellious sort—I never rebelled for the hell of it, ever—but one of the good things about the Sixties was that they made you feel more free to speak up about things that you found oppressive, even when you were in the minority. In my senior year, I started getting into arguments with athletes in class about their dominance of the hallways. Over the course of the year, I became increasingly hot about it.
One afternoon the school held a pep rally for the football team that everybody had to attend. The rally was held in the school gym, and everybody was sitting in the bleachers. The football coach, Mr. Thrasher, gave a pep talk about the big game happening that evening. During his talk he called the team down to the gym floor. We were all supposed to stand up for them, but I refused. I could no longer give them that kind of respect. I thought it ludicrous. I didn’t do this to bring attention to myself. I didn’t think anyone could see me. I was surrounded by people who were standing. I intended it as a private protest. At the end of Thrasher’s speech, the school band started up the fight song and the football players returned to the bleachers. While the band was playing and the students were clapping and singing the fight song, one of the football players came running and dodging up the bleacher seats, grabbed me by the shirt, and pulled me to my feet. He was red in the face and screaming about my disrespect. I dug in my heels and screamed back at him. I don’t remember what I said. I know it was hostile. The altercation was somewhat concealed from the rest of the student body by the loud music and the bodies standing all around us. Eventually he let go of me, pushed me backwards, and went back to where he’d been sitting. I was livid, of course. I kept thinking, “What gall! What gall! What kind of person is it who can say ‘You have to stand up for me!‘?”
Recently I received an email from an old high school friend. She told me that the guy was recently elected to a seat in the United States House of Representatives.