Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Nice to See You Again, Mr. P

Last week, to my great surprise, I ran across an Internet article with a picture of Mr. P. But could this really be the same Mr. P that I knew in high school? It was! The photo was of a gray-haired, 70-some-year-old man with very little in his aging appearance to remind me of the former, 30-year-old, curly-headed, fiery-spirited high school teacher I knew “back when.”

Mr. P taught me American History and U.S. Government, during the Vietnam War era. For two years I sat in his classes; listened to his far-left political arguments; marveled at his passion; relived his adventures while traveling in war-torn Palestine; and for the first time in my young life, became excited about current events and foreign affairs.

I knew, even then, that Mr. P’s political leanings were edgy and counter-culture. I knew that his arguments might not stand up against those of someone, on the other side of the issues, who was equally educated and equally persuasive. But, in a class full of na├»ve and malleable youngsters, he had no competition. His conviction, his charisma, his camaraderie with his students, made us easy targets.

My Mom and Dad must have wondered what had come over me. At dinner time, knowing that Dad would counter with a more conservative point of view, I would toss out one of Mr. P’s hot topics, parroting his leftist position as closely as I could. These dinner-time debates often became tense. I’m not sure I really understood what was motivating me, at the time, and I doubt that my dad did, either. But, in retrospect, I know that I was just pressing my dad for some ammunition against Mr. P’s leftist volleys – although the ammunition was internal ammo, because I never openly countered his views in class.

At the end of my two years under Mr. P’s tutelage, he presented all of us with a test. It was a test supplied by the American Civil Liberties Union, to see how closely aligned a person was with their philosophy. To my own surprise, I scored 90-some percent on that test! How had this happened?!

Mr. P left our school shortly thereafter. There were rumors, though I don’t know if they were true, that his departure wasn’t voluntary.

Once away from Mr. P’s influence, I had a rather speedy and easy trek back to a much more conservative belief system. I don’t think of those two years as a negative experience. No permanent harm was done, and Mr. P’s passion for politics and government woke me up from my previous total apathy about those subjects.

I was a devotee of Mr. P. Despite his political leanings, I admired him for his convictions and his passion. He had a wonderful talent of persuasion, and he was devoted to his students, taking a personal interest in our lives.

When I found the article on the Internet, I couldn't stop smiling. The article was about politics. He was being contrasted with another fellow, on the other side of the political fence. His physical appearance has changed greatly, but he still holds the same convictions. And he is still trying to persuade people that his way – the left way – is the right way.

Yes, it really was nice to see you, again, Mr. P!

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