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May 13, 1982 - Image 6

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1982-05-13

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Opinion

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Page 6
The Michigan Daily
Vol. XCII, No. 7S
Ninety Years of Editorial Freedom
Edited and managed by student;
at the University of Michigan
U.S. retreat
T HE UNITED STATES, once the leader of
the global battle for environmental quality,
has signalled retreat.
The United Nations opened the second con-
ference on the global environment in Kenya
Monday amid growing pessimism that the
world is heading toward an environmental
disaster "as irreversible as any nuclear
holocaust," the executive director of the con-
ference said.
In contrast, the U.S. delegation was quick to
brush aside such fears and said protective en-
vironmental measures should be worked
through market forces.
Unfortunately, market forces have not and
will not provide the necessary steps to protect
our environment. How did the world end up
with toxic wastes in its water systems and
sulfuric acid in its air? Did they just appear
or are corporations, governments and,
ultimately, the people of this world respon-
sible?
Anne Gorsuch, head of the Environmental
Protection Agency, told the conference that
nations must use cost-benefit analysis before
they impose new regulations. Recent policy in
the United States under Gorsuch, however,
considers only the costs to industry of such
rules, while ignoring the benefits to the general
population.
In spite of a worldwide economic malaise, the
United States and the rest of the world cannot
afford to go back to the policy that allows toxic
wastes to spew into our air and waterways.
Eventually, people will have to pay the price of
neglect - either in terms of money or human
suffering.
"LET US KNOW IF YOU HEAR ABOUT ANY
CASES OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTIO
RONMENAE' poAL
r POLLUTIO TO
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Thursday, May 13, 1982

The Michigan Daily

Sinclair
THE
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A school with prayer,

By Frank Browning
"Jesus wept."
I never knew exactly why Jesus
was weeping. My guess is that
neither did many others in our
sixth grade class in rural
Wallingford, Ky. Nonetheless,
"Jesus wept" was the hottest line
in the Bible, and those were the
days when the Bible reigned
supreme in public school.
IN OUR SCHOOL, of course, it
wasn't just prayer. First came
the Pledge of Allegiance (which
in the '50s had the words "under
God" temporarily inserted),
followed by the Lord's Prayer
and then, in the sixth grade, mor-
ning Bible verses.
Bible versus were a kind of
country catechism. We were, af-
ter all, in the Bible Belt and our
teacher was certain it would help
innoculate us from the threat of
Godless communism as well as
reinforce discipline while she was"
taking roll.
Most of the kids, of course.
went to Sunday school, and a fair
number attended Wednesday
night prayer meetings as well.
They already had memorized the
best known verses. It was the rest
of us, the slackers and myself,
the one son of an agnostic, who
scrambled when the bell rang to
memorize some pithy line from
Proverbs. Naturally, there was a
race to see who could get away
with the shortest verse of all.
Thus, "Jesus wept."
IN ITSELF, there was nothing
very heavy about rattling out the
sing-song lines of the
Lord's Prayer, complemented
with Biblital one-liners, as we
headed into those endless glowing

profiles in The Weekly Reader of
the ex-Nazi rocket specialist,
Werner Von Braun. As one fellow
Southerner recalled, prayer time
was really the best time for
cutups, note passing and shoot-
ing spitballs. So long as we
merely accepted the routine, it
went by rote.
The trouble came instead when
we arrived at some particular
notion that tended to challenge
the Biblical rote.
Like in my seventh grade
science class when our teacher,
Mrs. Rawlins, said Genesis didn't
talk about evolution and she
wasn't going to teach about it.
Skip the chapter and go on ahead.
OR ONCE IN class when Hope,
the preacher's daughter, put her
hand up and said that Frankie
must be bad because he said God
didn't make all the apple trees in
his daddy's orchard.
"No," I remember answering.
God wasn't around when we
made the trees. All we used was a
grafting knife and black wax
sealer. I don't think Hope's
preacher father came to buy ap-
ples anymore. And forever after I
was taken to be a little bit weird.
In retrospect, my occasional
insolent retorts to the Bible
thumpers seem trivial, and while
they never won me any friends, I
never felt grievously wounded by
it all.
BUT WHEN I went to college,
my roommate David told me
other stories. He hadn't been
much on the Bible either, being
Jewish, and so he hadn't taken
part in the prayer rituals. After
all, teacher said, prayer was
voluntary.
Nothing happened to him for

the first week of his refusal.
Then on the second week, as he
was leaving the grounds after
school, three other boys ran up
behind him and threw him into
the bushes. "Jew boy! Jew boy!"
they taunted, pulling his pants
down, spitting on him and
stealing his baseball cap.
DAVID NEVER reported the
other kids. He wasn't a tattletale.
Instead he learned not to walk
home alone. But he remembers
the incident vividly to this day.
Not just that the kids were bul-
lies, but that there is a price to
pay for being different even in
such matters as "voluntary"
memorized prayers.
David doesn't think he was
grieviously wounded by that and
similar episodes in grade school
and high school - anymore than
I think that I was being
questioned about God's presence
in our apple orchard. It may even
be that his classmates really
werent genuinely anti-Semitic in
their attacks, that they were
merely striking out at some kid
who dared to be a nonconformist
in a recitation they had learned by
rote.
There, alas, lies the deeper
problem. Had my classmates, or
his, actively chosen their
Christian bigotry, they could
have been confronted. The
danger occurs when such bigotry
does slip in, unconsciously, by
rote, a phrase at a time, until it
becomes second nature from a
place that no one knows, popping
up to attack Godless apple or-
chards and Jew boys' caps.
Jesus wept.
Browning wrote this story
for the'Paific News Service.

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