Friday, October 1, 1999

Dear Copyright Doctor

Another satisfied reader writes:

Dear Copyright Doctor --

You know what's wrong with you poor people? You're poor!

I mean, what do you think? That you don't deserve it? You're exactly where Jesus flang you! You reap what you sow, and you must have sewn nothing but [deleted]! Why should anybody care about any of you!?

Since I know you're an artsy freak, I wrote an artsy freak poem to explain it to you:

You're a loser and it ain't no accident--

All your karma has come, and it has went.

You had free will

but ignored the drill,

so don't cry for me to give you a cent!

signed Billy "Biff" Pill (an assumed name).

Thanks Biff! I really love to hear from my readers, and I can't get enough of your poetry! .

Your letter also touches on a subject that is near and dear to my heart -- to what extent am I responsible for all the stuff people pile on me? Did I really bring it on myself? If so, should I flog myself, or should I seek help? If so, who would I know that's good with a whip?

That brings to mind Mike Riley, Superintendent of Bellevue Public Schools. Not the whip part, the piling on part. As has been widely reported, Mr. Riley is an educator with a vision, and his vision has entailed doubling the book load on middle and high- schoolers in Bellevue. Come to think of it, that does call to mind whips too, doesn't it?

So my question is, did the middle-school kids have it coming?

That is not a rhetorical question! If it isn't the kids fault that they have received this fate, why would the Bellevue Schools have passed rules depriving those same students the means they have of coping? I'm referring, of course, to the banning of extra large backpacks at several middle schools.

Let me see if I can understand this in terms of the Billy "Biff" theory that seems to be operating here. The school administrators see the students coming in with giant backpacks. They even know why the students are using the big backpacks: the immediate reason is that they have more books. The administrators know that the students are just dealing with the situation.

But, in spite of knowing that, the administrators conclude that the students are doing something wrong! They define what that wrong is by passing rules against the use of extra large backpacks!

So the blame for carrying too many books around ends up heaped on the students. Why? Because the additional books prove they had evil thoughts when they were six? Because anyone unfortunate enough to grow up in a district where a Mike Riley is superintendent must be working off bad karma from their last life?

Absolutely. Biff says so. That's how Biff's theory works.

You may not even have a complaint. You may be, for example, homeless but happy, just pleased as a pet pig in a butcher shop to sleep on public dirt and get rained on every night. You may have never even asked Biff for that cent he was talking about.

But say the government passes a law that says that, whereas it is bad for your health to sleep on public dirt and get rained on every night, and besides it's public dirt and we don't want to see you sleeping on it, and besides we don't want you breathing our air anyway, therefore you're going to get a ticket every time you get caught, and eventually go to jail when you can't pay the tickets.

Biff's theory says that the mere fact that your means of coping has been ruled criminal proves that you had it coming.

People need to believe that sort of thing. Otherwise they couldn't possibly justify holding the homeless responsible for the natural consequences of their homelessness. They couldn't justify sending them to jail, just for doing what it takes to get by.

And you can see just how hard it is to stop people thinking that way, when

they apply the same kinds of arguments to innocent children.

Thanks for the illustration, Bellevue! And I hope you kids out there have all learned your lesson!