My Sovereign Self

A Child‘s Saga

rottenWhen I was a little kid in elementary school, we kids had a rotten principle, Mr. Wiener. Had I been as fluent with words as I presently am, I would have dubbed him Mr. Weenie.

Mr. Weenie had a pet project: collecting funds for veterans. He pursued his project by trying to induce the kiddies to donate money. I don’t know how much money he got from all of us. After all, it was a middle class neighborhood and we were just kids. But the idea of children donating their pennies to a noble cause seemed to be just the right expression of altruism to make everyone look good and feel happy. Something for Bristol Palin to write about.

nopeI decided I was not going to donate. In the first place, I didn’t want to give away my money. Frankly, I didn’t care about veterans. In fact, I scarcely even knew what they were other than something patriotic, in other words, something I have to pretend to respect. Anyway, the fact that it was my money seemed to mean something.

I will never forget the assembly in which the weenie addressed the student body with what he probably thought was a fine motivational speech. What this speech really accomplished was to show just how deeply he loathed meanmanus kids. He pictured each of us with money in our pockets contemplating various places we might spend it. He vocalized words like “movies” and “candy” with a voice that dripped contempt. He made it clear that he thought spending our money on such unworthy things, things that might probably give us pleasure, disgusting. The loathing he expressed for children’s diversions was easily transferred to loathing for us kids, ourselves. I knew he hated us. He hated us but he wanted something from us.

I discussed the thing with my father who said this man was probably working on his political future. In other words, our donations would make him look more virtuous in the eyes of future political constituencies. So I’m supposed to sacrifice my pleasure to make a man who hated me look like a good person? I’m to make the sacrifice and he’s to get the credit for it?


There was a lot of pressure. I think the teacher made sure everyone knew who donated and who didn’t, an attempt to use peer pressure, in other words, using us against ourselves. The other kids didn’t seem to care much who made a donation. And, yet, many years later, I read my mother’s account of the incident, made to a social worker at the nuthouse I had lived in for two years of my teenage life. According to my mother, kids waited for me outside of class and beat me up for refusing to donate. I have no idea where she picked up this idea. The only cross words I even heard came from the principle and teachers. I can’t ask her where she got that from because she is dead. Maybe she felt I deserved to be beaten up. She certainly revealed some animosity I had never known existed.


2 thoughts on “My Sovereign Self

  1. One must wonder what he actually did with the money. I remember schools collecting donations for the March of Dimes, cards with slots for dimes to be filled up and turned in, with pictures of kids in iron lungs and leg braces. I think that stopped after the Polio Vaccine was developed. I don’t remember much pressure, and I think most of us took them home and let our parents decide what to do.


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