My dad was fond of telling me when I was growing up, "Intelligence and twenty-five cents will buy you a cup of coffee." You youngsters can't imagine this, but yes, back in the day a bottomless cup of coffee at a diner literally cost a quarter. He never told my brother, or sister this phrase. Only me. I think it was his warning to me that I couldn't rest on my laurels of innate ability, which I was prone to do. He was horrifyingly implying I actually had to work at things to get things done. I resisted listening to this for most of my childhood. His timing on this insightful statement was a little too late because he had already spoiled all credibility with me when I got in a fistfight in 2nd grade over the proper pronunciation of the department store “JC Penney.” My dad used to say it "JC PenNAYYY” like you folks say Tar-Jhhhhayyyy. My classmate told me my dad was wrong, and the first schoolyard fight I ever got into was because my dad seemed to think he's a lot funnier than he really is. The frequency of his intelligence comment increased the older I became, as I was acquiring information at an exponential rate. This saying is probably the one that has stuck with me the most because I finally decided to listen to his words and I decided I would develop a strong work ethic as well.
That saying pushed me harder to achieve things when I was ready to quit in so many things. When I look at what I have accomplished in my life, the majority of my victories can be attributed to hard work and very few can justifiably be credited to being smart. The quarter did all the heavy lifting of purchasing a cup of coffee, but hard work and perseverance did all the heavy lifting of performance. Intelligence had no value in my dad's statement. I'm very sad to say he was a bloody fortune teller. Because in today's world, intelligence and twenty-five cents aren't worth jack shit. What can you actually buy for a quarter? Quarters were valuable to me in Chicago. I used them to feed parking meters, but now I'm struggling to remember the last time I purchased something with a quarter. (I just interrupted writing this post to do a google search on things you can buy for a quarter. Maybe I'm getting old, but even I was surprised that quarters can be used in a pornographic manner. But hey, I just learned how many quarters fit in a....you know what, never mind. This is a fucking family blog!)
America today has turned its back on intelligence. It has absolutely no value whatsoever. One of my favorite movies of all time is Idiocracy. When it came out in 2006, I treated it for what it actually was, a forward-looking documentary on what we were about to become. We are in an idiocracy. We are in an age where opinions matter more than facts. We have news articles about flat earthers. We have a climate change denier leading the EPA. We refuse to listen to history that doesn't jive with what our belief structures are. This was put into stark reality on Friday when I was watching a Facebook live discussion about changing the school names here in Tyler, TX.
I remember three years ago when I, a Yankee living in Chicago, moved down to Tyler for work. You would think a company by the name of Chicago Bridge and Iron would have work up in Chicago, but I had to go to Tyler to work for CB&I. The running joke was we weren't in Chicago, we don't build bridges, and we definitely don't use iron. We also definitely don't exist anymore, as we merged with another company and are now McDermott, International. But, that's for another post. Driving through town, I passed by one of the local high schools, Robert E. Lee. I cocked my head, as I am an avid military historian, and my knowledge of the Civil War and Robert E. Lee is fairly extensive. I could not remember any connection with R E Lee and Tyler, TX. So, when I saw that high school, I knew I was firmly planted in the deep South. Tyler was named after John Tyler, a president called "His Accidency" because he only became president upon the death of William Henry Harrison. Harrison served as president for one month before passing. This is the record for the shortest term, a record I really had hoped the guy sitting in office right now would have broken, but again we live in an idiocracy. Moving to a city named after one of the worst presidents of all time should have given me advanced knowledge of what it's like down here, but I do have to admit I was still very surprised to see R E Lee's name on the high school.
Robert E. Lee High School opened in 1958, just four years after Brown v. Board of Education forced integration into US public schools. One last middle finger Tyler gave to the federal government was to name the school after Lee, make the mascot a rebel, and, for a while, fly a huge confederate flag at every game. Quite a few of the local residents (vastly white) stated that changing the name of this high school was erasing history and Lee was against slavery. So, what's the big fucking deal and don't we have bigger problems to address? Well, as it turns out both high schools are being rebuilt, so now is a great time to decide what the name of the new high schools will be. But, thousands of new amateur historians with such a profound grasp of Lee are suddenly claiming changing the name of the high school is erasing history. I admire Robert E. Lee. I wish he would have taken the job of leading the Union army when it was offered to him instead of turning it down because he could not fight against his beloved state of Virginia. But the fact is no matter how noble his character, he is the dominant figurehead for the Confederacy. He fought for slavery. Don't give me a crock of shit that he fought for state's rights. The state right for which the South seceded from the Union was slavery - plain and simple. Because Lee is forever attached to slavery, he is most definitely on the wrong side of history.
It is very clear why Tyler decided to name their high school after Robert E. Lee. It was based on a motive of spite, bigotry, and just sheer orneriness. It was named by a substantially large group of people who still believe to this day the good guys lost the Civil War. It's clear as day why they did it, and it's clear as day why they want to keep the name the same. I wish Tyler was just a unique blip on our country's map, however I have to admit almost the entire country has decided intelligent thoughts and actions are to take a back seat to emotional decisions. It just feels like changing down here is perceived as a bad thing. So, we make fun of, threaten, and try to dissuade any efforts to bring intelligence back to the table.
I have never felt like I mattered less than living here. My congressman is Louie Gohmert. This lying sack of rancid armadillo shit was concerned about the federal government taking over Texas during a military exercise and used the movie The Martian as an argument to prevent sending gay astronauts into space. Yet, he carried this district with 74% of the vote. He is a very good ambassador of the mentality and beliefs here in East Texas. The strongest belief of all is intelligence is not a quality meant to be nurtured and encouraged. That's why he doesn't hold any town hall meetings. He simply isn't smart enough to debate anyone who opposes him. Thankfully for him, there aren't many of those people living here. If there were, this name change issue wouldn't even be up for discussion. My dad is right. Intelligence doesn't mean anything.