There was something about the Mojave Desert for the Lost Generation. Maybe it was the cool sand-crested wind, the emptiness, an unspoken communion with a greater peace. Those disillusioned soldiers of World War I, still shellshocked, went out there to find quiet — to forget, maybe, or to remember in silence only the stars overhead could provide. In 1934, perhaps because of these troubled men, the Veterans of Foreign Wars built a wooden cross and raised it on a quiet parcel of land there. It was both memorial to the soldiers lost and a reminder to those still living of the enormous cost of the war. The veterans gathered at the cross for barbecues and dances, to come together and share their burdens in the cross’s shadow. It stood there for 67 years, rebuilt with steel at one point, becoming a defining monument for veterans everywhere — separate, in a way, from the religious connotations inherent in the cross’s image. Henry and Wanda Sandoz looked after it, on a promise to the previous caretaker on his deathbed. The cross remained, stoic and silent, until 2001 when a church-and-state lawsuit threatened to take it down.
Apparently civility is the kind of thing that needs to be enforced by a court. A few weeks after a settlement banning school administrators in Texas from promoting religious displays, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery issued an order forcing certain school employees to apologize to the plaintiffs in the settled case. The settlement included a term forbidding administrators and employees from “disparaging” the plaintiff’s family, some agnostics who had objected the the promotion of prayer in a San Antonio graduation ceremony. The superintendent of the school district then nearly immediately disparaged the plaintiff’s family in a televised interview, not deigning to wait even a few hours after the settlement was reached. Later, the director of the high school marching band accused the plaintiffs of “lies and false accusations” on Facebook, a statement that could be construed as slander, should the plaintiff be able to prove that she is not a liar.
Judge Biery then issued a “Non-Kumbaya” order, essentially claiming that the defendants in the case need not be perfect friends with the plaintiffs, holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” together and whatnot, but that they must at least be publicly amicable and civil. The order required two signed documents within ten days: one noting that the defendants have apologized for their outbursts, and one noting that the plaintiffs have accepted the apology. In his order, Judge Biery stressed that “silence is golden”, and that some people, such as Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, have paid a price for “talking too much”.
It’s a sad state of affairs when a judge has to step in to force someone to be graceful and reverent by order of the court. Makes it hard to believe that Coach Taylor could train such stand up players in an environment full of sore losers.