Thursday, April 15, 2004

Shattered Dreams


I was reading Dear Abby this morning. I don't usually read Dear Abby. No, honestly I don't. Don't give me that look; it's the truth. I don't. But the Press Telegram prints it right next to the comics, which is where all intelligent people begin perusal of the morning's news (and outside of baseball season often end it) so the eyes early in the morning still affected by sleep can sometimes inadvertantly slide over to that column.

To get somewhat closer to the point, this Dear Abby person (Who is not really "Abby" and not especially dear, coming as she does free with each copy of the paper, but is in fact the daughter of another woman who was considered the real Dear Abby but was also not actually dear or Abby herself. Journalism is a lot more complicated than it looks from the outside.) apparently received a letter from a 13 year old girl some days ago complaining that her dreams of becoming president of the United States were being battered and bruised by the condescension of her teachers and the jeers of her little playmates.

Well, the Dear Abby person gave some sort of moronic answer about every American child having the right to grow up and become President and did nothing to discourage her or point out that many young people with an early fascination with politics have amended their lives and instead gone straight and lived useful and moral lives.

Yet another disheartening letter, prompted by the first, was printed today.

Some woman read this child's pathetic plea and wrote in to say that as a child she, too, had had a great ambition which was derided by her acquaintances. She had wanted to be an astronaut. Alas, she says, her eyesight was not good enough and instead she had acquired a Ph.D. in some scientific field and become a teacher in a college. She closes by crying "Who's laughing now?"

The Dear Abby person unaccountably treats this woman's cry of despair, obviously referring to her tormentors' current hilarity at her plight, as some sort of triumphant slogan. Well, the absurdity of the position is patent: How could anyone seriously consider a position as a teacher in an American college adequate recompense for the failure to be an astronaut? No weightlessness. No space suits. No blast-offs with incredible G forces pulling at the skin. No little packages of Tang to be squirted down the throat. Not even a ray gun. Nothing but American college students as far as the eye can see.

It is yet another of the marks that enable one to know when one is living in a dark age that this Dear Abby person is able to hold down a position in which she is expected to give advice to any one at all. In the first case she completely fails to give moral correction to a child who is in such desperate need of it. And in the second gives no consolation whatsoever to a woman whose dream of being an astronaut has been utterly shattered and who now has no hope of ever being anything other than a teacher in a college. (She notes that she has "tenure". In my experience this, although not yet statutory, is considered in the eyes of the law to be an exception to the 13th amendment. Once "tenured", they never leave.)