Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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June 25, 2007
"cool authority"

I've wondered since forever about the author name and title of a particular short story that I read as a kid. I remembered it as one of the most accurate capturings of the subjective experience of childhood and adolescence that I ever read.

Today, through the wonders of the internet, by plugging into a search engine various combinations of words and phrases that I believed I remembered from the text --
[probably something like "boy + germs + 'take over' + body + ants + still + birdcage + dead + 'short story'"]
-- I was able to identify the story.

The story's title is "Fever Dream" and it was (unsurprisingly) written by Ray Bradbury.

So today, I was able to read the story again, for the first time since childhood.

Was the story as good as I remembered?


Generally better:

"Doctor," whispered Charles, lying flat and colorless. "My hand, it doesn't belong to me any more. This morning it changed into something else. I want you to change it back, Doctor, Doctor!"

The doctor showed his teeth and patted his hand. "It looks fine to me, son. You just had a little fever dream."

"But it changed, Doctor, oh, Doctor," cried Charles, pitifully holding up his pale wild hand. "It did!"

The doctor winked. "I'll give you a pink pill for that." He popped a tablet onto Charles' tongue. "Swallow!"

For the time being, at least, the story can be found here, via a coursepacket from a school system in Virginia, USA.

The most easily findable online analyses (here and here) of the story toss out a few possible interpretations of what it is "about."

However, when as a youngster I read the story, it was about one message, which resonated with sufficient depth that I never forgot it. The message was about the nature of the world that adults seemed to live in.

Bradbury, so it seemed to me, somehow perfectly captured the arrogance of the Doctor, with his "cool authority," and of the entire adult world --

and of that world's


patronizing, pretend concern for the well-being of kids;

smug dismissiveness of the validity of kids' perspectives ("It's the fever. He imagines things," says the Doctor);

dangerous clulessness about reality --

-- and, as a result of all the foregoing, adults' almost delighted, short-sighted complicity in the creation of "evil" (as Bradbury calls it) that is inevitably destined to boomerang back on adults but that they are too oblivious to see coming.

[yes, i think i noticed back then that grownups held no monopoly on stupidity -- i had plenty of it myself,

[the whole "adults are space aliens!" adolescent paranoia turned out, itself, to be completely unoriginal and non-unique, and thereby dubious]

[("or is its dubiousness exactly what They want me to think?!?")]

and still do --

though it often seemed like the dumbest kids were the ones uncritically channeling what they heard from their parents or teachers, without thinking it through for themselves]

Too harsh a judgment of adults?

A little later on in the day, I came across a brand new piece of writing that invited me to reaffirm that all of my harsh adolescent assessments of adults remain true.

That new piece of writing is here.

Though a guy who happens to be 87 years old published a simultaneous dissent from today's newly published example of adult stupidity, to show that at least some grownups have some faith in the intelligence of kids:

Most students, however, do not shed their brains at the schoolhouse gate, and most students know dumb advocacy when they see it.

The notion that the message on this banner would actually persuade either the average student or even the dumbest one to change his or her behavior is most implausible.

That the Court believes such a silly message can be proscribed as advocacy underscores the novelty of its position, and suggests that the principle it articulates has no stopping point.

[the avg. age of the majority of 5 here = (52 + 71 + 70 + 59 + 57)/ 5 = 61.8, so yes, it's not just a matter here of "younger = less stupid"]