by David Sisler

"I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant is faithful 100 percent!" (Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches an Egg, Random House, 1968).

The church where I am a member has a weekly ritual which includes the youngest worshipers in their special part of the service. Each Sunday morning a shoe box, wrapped with the lid separate from the bottom, is passed out to someone who has never, ever, ever, never, never ever had the box. The lucky youngster is told to put something in it that is special to himself or herself, and to remember "nothing dead, nothing alive, nothing that has ever been alive, nothing slimy, corroded, or gross" can be put into the box. The following Sunday that object becomes the center of "the children's sermon."

The pastors who give those weekly instructions to the youngsters know what they mean by the words, "nothing that has ever been alive." The youngsters do, too. They don't want to open the box and find a squashed caterpillar or a dead bird. But on one recent Sunday morning I was paying more attention than I should have as the box was passed out, and I thought, "Following these instructions to the letter would cause a problem. The box would come back empty!"

Consider what has never been alive.

A cute purple bunny which occupied the box on the morning when my imagination ran away from me, may have been covered in cotton fabric, or stuffed with cotton, hence, it had been alive, and therefore, would have been excluded. If it had been covered in one of the new miracle fabrics, or had plastic parts, it would again have been disallowed, because if it came from petroleum, it had once been alive. So any stuffed animals, and the like, would be forbidden.

Frequently children bring Bibles or favorite books. Photographs and postcards are often found in the box, but they are paper, once a living thing. And pencils could not be included – either wood or plastic. No pens. No chalk or charcoal (once living creatures). Maybe crayons are okay, but not if they are in a cardboard box or paper wrapped.

There could be no shoes, wallets, belts, or other leather goods. A cow (or an alligator, or a lizard) gave its life somewhere for that product. Likewise jewelry such as pearls, coral, and, of course, a girl's best friend – diamonds – could not be boxed.

So about the only thing that could be in the box would be a rock (not coal or amber, because they, too, had once been living). But then if the instructions applied to the box itself, and not just the contents, there would be no box.

We now leave Sunday morning children's time, where the youngsters and the pastors knew exactly what the restrictions on the contents of the box meant, my strained interpretation notwithstanding, for the political arena where people say things all the time which they know to be false and/or misleading.

Consider the lies of Al Gore. William J. Bennett, in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial said, "The vice president lies reflexively, promiscuously, even pathologically. He lies on matters large and small, significant and trivial, when he ‘needs' to and when he doesn't, on matters public and private, about his opponents and his family."

He was in Texas, but not with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (he'd been there too many times to remember each exact date). He was lullabied (sounds curiously like alibied) by a song which was written decades after he was born (it was just a joke staffers now say). A weak bladder and too much iced-tea kept him from remembering fund-raising details (an account contradicted by Clinton Administration biggies). He denies "concrete" memories of 30 events he hosted (lay off the iced tea, Mr. Gore). He sponsored bills which surfaced in Congress years before, or years after, he entered, or left, those hallowed halls.

None of the points I raise here are news. To have raised them in the first place was labeled "mean-spirited" by the Gore campaign, so they must certainly be viewed as "meaner-spirited" on each repetition. But as Sen. Bill Bradley asked the vice president during the primary season: "Why should we believe that you will tell the truth as president if you don't tell the truth as a candidate?"

"I'm going to lay it on the line," Al Gore said in an earlier debate season. "The next president of the United States has to be someone who the American people can believe will stay with his convictions."

"They taunted. They teased him. They yelled ‘How Absurd! Old Horton the Elephant thinks he's a bird!'" (Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches an Egg).


Published in The Augusta Chronicle 10/21/2000

Copyright 2000 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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