An Elementary Act of War

When I was in the fifth grade, I declared war. Not against my archnemesis Cory Howard, not against my curmudgeon teacher or even that lunch lady who always seemed to short me the cherry in the fruit cocktail each Tuesday. Nope, that would be mere child’s play.

I’m talking about the time I declared war against the nation of Iraq. This was back in early January 1991. Back when Iraq was still Iraq — corpses littered the streets, ethnic cleansing was catching on and funny sounding tribes were killing people in the name of a God who commands murder as a sin. You know, the Iraq we all know and love.

I want to be perfectly clear here about which war I’m talking about. This isn’t what’s going on over there right now. I don’t know what that’s all about, and my guess is nobody does anymore. I’m talking about the first war in Iraq — all 14 glorious minutes of it.

Ironically enough, not only was it the first Iraq war, it was the first Bush, too. Herbert Walker, remember him? What about Stormin’ Norman Schwhatshisname? I’m sure you remember a guy named Saddam Hussein, who was nominated for an Oscar when he reprised his villainous role during the second war in Iraq. (Sadly, he lost to George Clooney. I blame the Hollywood elite.)

The first Iraq war took place after Hussein, Black Manta, Captain Cold and other Legion of Doom members invaded Kuwait for oil, but before Bush the Boy Wonder invaded Iraq looking for weapons of mass distraction .

I was 10 years old at the time and riding the fence between a D and a F in conduct. My teacher, Mrs. Dickerson, used a demerit system for our grade in conduct, and I figured I was closing in on darn near 25. Anything over 25 in a grading period and my father would tan my hide. Naturally, I began rationing my demerits like food.

Dickerson proved to be a worthy adversary for me that year. An unbreakable woman of incredible girth, she carried herself like a grizzly bear and was twice as mean, presumably with a similar appetite. Leading up to fifth grade, my journey through elementary school served to be an unrelenting death march as I faced what seemed like a murderers’ row of terrible (and demerit-incensed) teachers, each worse than the next. I think it was all part of a well-crafted plan by Principal Donaldson to curb my rascal tendencies, and he saved the best — Dickerson — for last.

Now in the days before America’s aerial bombardment campaign to drive Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, Dickerson veered from classroom protocol and allowed students to bring in their earphone radios. Each hour, one student could listen to the radio during a lesson plan on behalf of the class. If news of the war broke, that student was to inform the class so everyone could pull out their radios. Then Dickerson could turn on the classroom’s radio. Remember, this was in the days before the Internet.

I bet you can guess what happened when it was my turn. I had hoped and prayed the war would break out on my turn, but with my one hour of listening to the radio about to expire, I knew I only had one option left.

“Oh my gosh!” I cried, “We just attacked Iraq!”

You would have thought I was trumpeting the rapture as the class quickly devolved into simple beasts, digging into their desks for their radios feverishly. A fight between a boy with a radio and another without one began. And I distinctly recall the sound of screaming, which was a little extreme if you ask me.

Dickerson waddled to the class radio and soon became wise of my ruse before turning her sights on me. Trapped in the corner, Dickerson waded through the sea of children that my chaos created as she licked her chops at the thoughts of my punishment.

One trip to the principal’s office, five more demerits and a few swats on the behind from my father later, I was starting to second-guess my actions. But all these years later, I still don’t regret declaring war against Iraq. I suppose that means I’d make a terrible politician. Or maybe even a great one.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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