Sunday, June 6, 2010


For some it is a simple V for Victory. Famous person Winston Churchill helped popularize the V-sign with his first and second fingers during the World War II years, and later that clever man-about-town Richard Nixon would wave it with both hands, even though he was disgraced and humiliated.

Apparently there can be a bit of irony in such a victory.

Others of a later generation would brandish the bi-digit greeting to signal hippie feelings and good vibrations. “Hey, man,” this two-fingered salute would say if it could talk, “turn on, tune in, and drop out. Right on, man.”

To this day, counter-culture absurdists continue to acknowledge each other with the peace sign. It permits instant membership into their little clubs, where they sit around and complain. “Well, at least I’m not going to work for the man, man,” says the goof who is too turned on to get a job. “Hey, man, pass the medicinal herb.”

The only use that our youngest citizens had for this particular gesture was when they were supposed to be posing nicely in a group setting for a family or school picture. At the very moment of the flash, the ne’er-do-well in question would make bunny ears behind the head of the kid in front of them. The photographer would shout, and adults within reach would cuff the culprit on the side of the head.

The photography would commence again, this time without the mockery.

There appears to be a new use of the V-sign, particularly around elementary school campuses, and it is really annoying. At least to me. But then again, so much annoys me it might be hard to determine exactly how annoyed I am. Let me explain:

In classrooms and school auditoriums the peace sign is being used as a tool for quieting an assembled group. Or at least it is being used in an attempt to quiet an assembled group, because I can tell you from personal experience it is not terribly effective. It is supposed to be a quiet way to get the attention of the masses and prepare them for the exciting lesson or lecture or assembly to come.

There are two things very wrong with this theory.

First, when the brown-nosed goody two shoes is flying the salute to her chatty classmates, the clueless one talking to his neighbor or shouting at a friend sitting two groups over has no idea the V is meant for him. He doesn’t even see it happening. He is too busy to notice.

The other dilemma is that on certain occasions the talkative individual is the very one waving the peace sign. “I’m holding up my fingers,” she says, “why are they still talking? Stop talking!” Despite her loud voice and wild gesticulations, the room doesn’t quiet. Certainly she doesn’t.

The irony is palpable. Kind of like Nixon grinning maniacally from the steps of his helicopter. But I digress.

I don’t know when this tradition took hold in modern public education. I know forty years ago we were quiet just because we should be. There was a blurt out every once in a while, and I was known in elementary school for not knowing how to whisper particularly well, but it was a kid or two at a time, not half the class.

And a look from the teacher quickly quelled it.

Now elementary school educators need bells to ring and rain sticks to shake and two fingers to raise to get the attention of their students . . . and loud voices to be heard over the droning of the class when nothing else works. And when things are really going nuts, you can rely on a bunch of oddball students to wave two fingers in the air as if that is going to silence their more rambunctious classmates.

By rambunctious I mean, of course, rude. Impolite. Discourteous. Uncouth. Offensive. And whatever else my thesaurus can throw at them.

They haven’t learned manners, like listening when someone is speaking, so we will wave a peace sign and hope everything works out. Just like it did for the hippies.

Yeah. Good luck with that.

And be careful, boys and girls, that you don’t let that pointer finger wilt, or you’ll be offering a salute of an entirely different order.

No comments:

Post a Comment