'Nothing In Common' (Chapters 1-4) Unedited Poem by Kurt Philip Behm

'Nothing In Common' (Chapters 1-4) Unedited

Chapter 1

Do we no longer share anything of value?

Chapter 2

Do we no longer value anything we share?

Chapter 3: Two Scenarios

Scenario 1 (1956) : A young boy gets in trouble at school for being insolent and talking back to the teacher. The teacher punishes the boy by keeping him after school, making him clean up the classroom, and by writing ‘I must learn to be more polite and respectful' on the blackboard 100 times.

The boy's younger sister goes home at the regular time and tells his mother why he is still at school.

The boy leaves the school at 5: 00 pm and stops in to the corner store for some penny candy. The storekeeper refuses to serve him because he heard about the boy's behavior earlier today. The boy leaves and walks to the beginning of his street. There he is met by Mrs. Wagner who tells him she is very disappointed in what she has heard. He decides to cut through the playground and take the shortcut to his back yard.

As he crosses the basketball court, which backs up to the fence separating his back yard from the park, Mr. Johnson, the custodian, shouts out to him and asks him to stop. 'I can't believe what I heard from the other boys about your behavior at school today, and I'm very disappointed in you. You're better than that and you know it. Don't come back to the playground until you've learned how to act right.'

Finally, he climbs over the chain link fence to his backyard. It is here that his mother sees him for the first time, and he can tell she has been crying. 'How can you shame me like this when we've worked so hard to raise you in the right way? Your grandmother left earlier and even she doesn't want to speak to you, and you know you're her favorite — go straight to your room.'

At last, his father comes home and is appraised of what happened earlier today. He walks into the boy's room and asks him if there's anything he has to say for himself? Wisely, the boy says no. With that, the father 'grounds' the boy, taking away all privileges for an entire month. He also tells the boy he will continue to stay after school, and clean the classroom, until the teacher says he's learned his lesson. The parents then call the teacher at home to apologize for the boy's actions.

The next day, both parents take the boy to school and make him apologize to the teacher in front of the entire class.

This behavior is never repeated by the young boy, and he becomes a model of what respect for authority and right thinking should be.

Scenario 2 (2024) : A young boy gets in trouble at school for being insolent and talking back to the teacher. The teacher tries to discipline the boy, but he just laughs and walks away. The teacher follows the young boy to the entrance of the school, as he continues to laugh at her remonstrations while trying to make fun of her for doing her job.

Without permission, the boy leaves school early.

On the way home he stops at the convenience store and, while the clerk isn't looking, slips 2 candy bars under his coat and sneakily walks out. Two high school kids in a car stop him at the entrance to the playground and say, 'shouldn't you be in school? ' When he tells the two what the teacher did, they both just laugh and say: 'Yeah, she's still the same $#@%^&*$% that she was when we had her 4 years ago.'

The high school kids should have been in school too …

Then the boy enters the gates of the playground near his house. Three other boys, truant from a local parochial school, are hiding behind the equipment building, smoking cigarettes, and listening to their I-Pods. When he tells them what happened at school they say: ‘Yeah, all teachers are pains in the butt. They don't know how to do anything but boss us around. My parents said if they were any good, they'd all get real jobs.'

The boy climbs the fence and enters his back door. Both parents are working, so he takes the candy bars out and starts playing video games as he eats them. His mother gets home first at 5: 30 and then his father at 6: 00. Neither even asks him how school went that day. He knows he can't go back until he tells them, so as they are both catching up on their emails he starts his tale.

Only halfway into his story, his mother says: 'She raised her voice and yelled at you? ' His father then says: 'I'll have her job for that! ' They immediately call the principal of the school demanding the teacher be reprimanded and even threatening legal action if something is not done. After hanging up, they start phoning other parents soliciting support against the teacher and the school.

They demand to speak at the next PTA meeting lambasting the unfortunate teacher for trying to do the right thing. The teacher is put on probation for ‘action causing the boy to leave school' and reprimanded formally by the superintendent. The teacher decides that enough is enough, and this is her last year trying to teach young people not only academics — but manners and respect.

Another Great Educator Is Lost

The boy goes on to become a recurring problem ultimately ending up in juvenile hall.

Where are the common values, and moral structure, that as a country we used to share? Where is the support for doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do? Where are the keepers of the lost moral code that made our country great?

Where you ask? They are lost and absorbed in the division that self-interest has created. GONE — and the greatness that real community and shared values could provide — are gone with them.

Distance is shared

by those striving to be close

Valuing each other

sharing each other's pain

Chapter 4: Time and Distance

What separates the two scenarios in the previous chapter are time and distance. We say them so often, and so often together, but are they really connected? Is the first scenario only separated from the second by time and half a century? Or is it something much more sinister and more difficult to deal with when recognized?

Some things once lost are maybe impossible to re-attain.

Do we no longer share anything of value?

Do we no longer value anything we share?

In our nation, and within the American culture, I may look different than you. My skin may be light while yours is dark. My ancestors may have come from Europe and yours from China. My religion may be Christian while yours is not, but together over the last 200 years we have created the world's greatest economy, defeated the most evil totalitarian dictators, and created an educational system that has produced doctors and architects, artists and engineers, that have changed the very surface and fabric of our world …

And All Mostly For The Better

We did these great things because we did them in concert. We were a nation that was pulling together, having put our differences aside, for a goal we shared and the common good. We all believed in the accepted moral code, and we didn't need to quote the Ten Commandments or the Torah to make it work. It was ingrained deeply inside of us. We didn't need legislation to enforce our behavior. Our actions came from a court of a much higher order.

That All Seems To Be Changing

Now, instead of finding more ways to unify ourselves, we spend our efforts building ever more fences that serve to divide. We have formalized these divisions and given them names. We are divided racially, culturally, intellectually, politically, sexually, and maybe what's most insidious, economically. The America that was the great ‘melting pot' of our differences has turned into a great magnifying glass — enlarging and enhancing what can only serve to keep us apart.

The second generation Italian-American bricklayer, who couldn't sign up for World War 2 fast enough, is replaced in many instances today by someone who feels all service to their country is an inconvenience at best, and wasted time at worst. The great neighborhoods and playgrounds that brought us together when young have been replaced by pockets of isolated self-interest where America, and its freedoms, are just a tool used to achieve a narrow and self-serving agenda.

Much of this we have brought upon ourselves by electing officials more concerned with being politically correct than doing what's right. This has undermined the very bedrock of America itself. We have been ‘lulled to sleep' by the symptomatic curing of these populist falsehoods, while the underlying disease plaguing our great nation is allowed to fester and grow.

The ‘Me Too' or ‘I' generation is becoming the victim of its own false ideology, drowning in an egomaniacal sea of despair. This manifests itself in the social and medical ailments of the last 50 years. From ADHD, obesity, nervous anxiety disorders, and possibly autism, our nation suffers from a stigma of its own making. The growth of professions like Psychiatry and Law are examples of how insular we've become and how intent we are at getting ‘our bigger piece of the pie' at any cost.

‘Shrink' visits, and litigation, seem to be the new badges of honor in a country that has lost its way.

Maybe it's a good thing that wars are not fought conventionally anymore. A high ranking Major General was recently quoted as saying that he didn't think we could fight a war like World War 2 today. He

didn't believe enough men could put their personal agendas aside and agree to fight for a common cause. The meaning of the word common has come to mean something undesirable and to be avoided.

This same country, America, is passing laws to protect those living here illegally, while some of those who proudly served in her defense go hungry, homeless, and destitute. I believe it should be mandatory that to hold public office you must first serve in the military or some form of public service. Then you will have an appreciation for the many who have sacrificed while asking for nothing in return. Many Veteran's Groups come together today, not to be honored as they should, but rather to share their struggles in a world that seems to have lost interest in them and the great sacrifices that they made.

This Was Not Always The Case

Today, America competes internationally with countries like India and China that have much more homogenous cultures and seem much better at pulling together to reach a common end by thinking along the same lines. I travel to these countries, and people there seem to have discovered what we have forgotten. They know that two working in harmony can accomplish more than two working on their own, and that two plus two ‘together' equals more than four.

When People Come Together, The Whole Really Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts

Thinking along the same lines has nothing to do with a loss of personal or intellectual freedom. It has to do with the affirmation that we can accomplish much more together than we can on our own. It also means we are stronger when we come together. This is true both economically, socially, and culturally.

There have been some great quarterbacks, who turned mediocre overnight, when they lost either a great running back or wide receiver. Staring into the eyes of those other 10 men in the huddle is one of the great examples of what can be accomplished when all think with like minds. In that huddle are men of all races, religions, and ethnicities, but they put those differences aside for 60 minutes to accomplish their goal.

As A Country, We Should Do The Same

The play that is called in the huddle is not to benefit just one player, it's to benefit the whole team. They either win or lose together based on the value system or game plan that they all agree upon. It's a simplistic analogy, but it's magic and it works.

A ‘Call To Arms' used to be enough for most men to lay aside personal interests and put their country first. Today, during most times of crises, there are opinion polls, with spin doctors and talking heads, on the various TV cable news shows, telling you what to think or maybe reinforcing what you want to hear based on your personal agenda. You can usually find exactly what you want to hear if you pick the ‘right' channel out of the dozens available. The news doesn't get read anymore, but rather interpreted and spun, and both political parties are guilty of its manipulation.

And We're All The Worse For It

The basic tenets of right and wrong do not change. What they apply to does, but the principles do not. They form the platform that a democratic society is built upon. If we can't de-factionalize and de-polarize ourselves from this mess we've gotten into, how can we take the next steps forward to better ourselves collectively and become more than we currently are?

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