Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 23 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/3/10

The Kvetcher in the Rye

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   4 comments
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Greg Palast
Become a Fan
  (67 fans)
In the sixth grade, the Boys' Vice-Principal threatened to suspend me from school unless I stopped carrying around The Catcher in the RyeI think because it had the word "f*ck" in it. Since the Boys' Vice-Principal hadn't read the book - and I don't think he'd ever read any book - he couldn't tell me why.

But Mrs. Gordon was cool. She let me keep the book at my desk and read it at recess as long as I kept a brown wrapper over the cover.

I think J.D. Salinger would have liked Mrs. Gordon. She wanted to save me from the world's vice-principals, the guys who wanted to train you in obedience to idiots and introduce you the adult world of fear and punishment. Mrs. Gordon wanted to protect the need of a child to run free.

That's, of course, how the word fuckgot into Salinger's book. For the 5% of you who haven't read it, the main character of the book, Holden Caulfield, tries to erase the f-word off the wall of a New York City school. He doesn't want little kids like his sister Phoebe to see it, that somehow it would trigger an irreversible loss of her childhood innocence:

I thought Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they'd wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them--all cockeyed, naturally--what it meant, and how they'd all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days.Which is where the title came from. Salinger's Caulfield, pushed to the edge of his own youth and directed to prepare himself for the job market, could see for himself only one career: as a catcher in the rye. He imagined a bunch of kids playing away happily in a rye field, but a field on a cliff's-edge. Every time a child, lost in their game, would drift toward the edge, Caulfield's job would be to catch them before they fell.

Any other job would just turn you into a "phony," that is, an adult. Alladults were phonies, even the nice ones, who took jobs they hated, taught textbooks and catechisms they didn't believe and lived lives of self-inflicted disappointments, while pretending it was all OK. Then with phony grins, they'd demand that you join their painful parade of delusion and decay.

Nearly half a century after I covered up Salinger's book in a carefully folded brown wrapper, I thought I'd read it to my twins. They were now eleven, in the 6th grade.

But I couldn't. In his 1956 book, Salinger had railed against a post-war world of boys in school blazers trying to get to "first base" with their steady dates. America itself was an adolescent, and despite the police beatings of marchers in Alabama, despite the "drop, tuck and don't look at the flash!" drills we did weekly in Mrs. Gordon's class to prepare for the Russian nuclear attack, America was still weirdly, optimistically child-like.

We knew then that the world could only get better: we would go to the moon and eventually, vacation there. JFK announced the Alliance for Progress and poverty would end in Appalachia; and Paul McCartney wanted to hold our hand. Every nasty meanie, like the police in Selma, was met by a legion of victorious innocents led by Martin Luther King. So we all held hands in a circle while Pete Seeger strummed "We shall overcome." Everyone would get a scholarship; and we really, truly believed we would overcome.

Even the social critics - Allen Ginsberg, Lenny Bruce, Jack Kerouac - were just big, mischievous kids.

Yes, there were a bunch of old phonies like Joe McCarthy and the Boys' Vice-Principal, but their days were numbered.

Then we fell over the cliff.

A bullet through the skull replaced Kennedy with Nixon. We shall overcomewas replaced with the vicious "Southern Strategy;" the Cold War exploded in hot jungles; then came the idiot wasteland of the regimes of Ford and Carter and Reagan and Clinton and Bushes, a degenerative march as the machine of America rusted and died.

And here we are today, begging for spare parts from China and my daughter glued to YouTube videos of Lady Ga-Ga's crotch, and my son slicing off a cop's head in Grand Theft Auto and a President, telegenic and painfully hollow, playing the lost and ineffectual shepherd over an electorate divided between the terrified and the greedy. In place of prophets, we are offered a caravan of kvetching clowns piling out of the Volkswagen on MSNBC.

There's no way to wipe the fuckoff this smeared planet. I'm supposed to try. I'm an investigative reporter, meaning I have a professional commitment to the childish belief that if I shout loud enough, I can warn people away from the cliff's edge.

Well, it's better than a real job, but no less "phony," no less of a petty illusion.

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Must Read 2   Well Said 2   Valuable 2  
Rate It | View Ratings

Greg Palast Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Greg Palast’s investigative reports appear in Rolling Stone, the Guardian and on BBC Television. His latest film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, on how Donald Trump stole the 2016 election, is available on Amazon. Palast is Patron of the (more...)
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

UAW Files Charges Against Romney for Auto Bail-Out Profiteering

Placebo Ballots: Stealing California From Bernie Using an Old GOP Vote-Snatching Trick

Aaron Swartz Died For Piers Morgan's Sins

TrumpCare dies, XL flies -- and the secret winner is...

The Confidential Memo at the Heart of the Global Financial Crisis

GREECE'D: We Voted 'No' to slavery, but 'Yes' to our chains

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend