“Well you may think the world’s black and white / And you’re dirty or you’re clean / You better watch out you don’t slip / Through them spaces in between” — Bruce Springsteen
Spring 1983. A rookie Literature teacher at Ware County High School, I stood mortified as Principal Don Spence seated himself in the rear of the classroom for my final observation.
I was mortified not because I was unprepared, but because I could not imagine how he would react to what we were doing in class. First student scheduled up for the day was analyzing “Sympathy for the Devil,” written by Mick Jagger.
Since day one, I taught a unit on “Music Lyrics as Poetry,” and while it was always popular with the students and me, I wondered if administrators would react negatively.
I stole the idea. I pinched it from an English teacher at Swainsboro High School who taught music as poetry. She came in after I had graduated, but she taught my wife back in the 1970s, and Susan loved her.
The highlight of the class, according to Susan, was how she analyzed Don McLean’s monster hit, “American Pie.” Just listening to Susan describe how exciting and stimulating that was, I decided to incorporate such an arrow in my quiver.
Funny thing about that English teacher whom I never had the honor of studying under, was that in the second half of the 1980s, I taught her son at Swainsboro High School, and you guessed it: he had no choice of what song he analyzed for the class. It was “American Pie” or bust. I encouraged him to work with his mother. You see, if I couldn’t study under her directly, I would at least take the ninja approach.
As expected, he slayed. I never doubted him.
Not so much back in 1983 with Don Spence sitting in my classroom and a painfully nervous, brilliant young lady standing in front of the class of 11th graders with the lyrics to “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones on a sheet of paper rolled up in her hand.
As fate would have it, what transpired during those 40 minutes or so down in that Waycross, Georgia classroom was pure magic. There’s no other way to describe it.
That little lady, who normally threw words around like manhole covers, opened up on that glorious spring morning and held court. She mesmerized us to the point that even Mr. Spence was asking questions.
While I suggested confidently the narrator had to be Satan himself, she insisted that such an assumption was only a guess and could not be supported by the text:
“Just as every cop is a criminal / And all the sinners saints / As heads is tails / Just call me Lucifer / Cause I’m in need of some restraint.”
I’ll never forget her argument since it backed me down in front of 25 other students and my principal. It boiled down to “just call me” is not exactly the same as “I am.”
She felt that perhaps the narrator was not Lucifer, but someone else completely. “Who in the world could that be?” I remember asking.
“It could be everyone,” she answered.
She then proceeded to use the lines in another stanza about the murder of the Kennedy brothers to prop up her argument.
“I shouted out ‘Who killed the Kennedys?’ / When after all it was you and me.”
The narrator admits that while he had a hand in the assassinations, he insists that society is also responsible and should own up to our part in the crimes.
Lightning in a bottle on observation day.
I took a long, circuitous route to get to the subject of this column.
Recently, a very good friend stopped me, and we discussed the column that I had written a few weeks back about Putin and the invasion of Ukraine. He was adamant in his opinion that my opinion was garbage. It’s not the first time we disagreed, and it certainly won’t be the last. I’m honored that he even reads my column, and I have enjoyed mentally jousting with him for 50 years.
He is a dear friend and I love him.
When I originally penned that piece, I felt people would aggressively disagree with my premise. But I continue to wonder if the West is not completely without fault. Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine did not come out of a vacuum. I just have a haunting suspicion the clown circus that is D.C. and the media are not being honest about Putin’s true purpose.
Maybe it’s weapons of mass destruction. That seems to be a common excuse for war criminals. After all, today’s Ukraine is yesterday’s Iraq.
Again, I reiterate, Putin (Bush) is a monster, a devil, if you will, who invaded a sovereign nation and is responsible for the death and suffering of innocent people. May he (they) rot in hell and may we never have sympathy for such devils.
My email is email@example.com. I welcome all comments and/or suggestions. We have many crazy things going on in the world right now. I’m looking for answers like everyone else.
Ronnie Cameron is a 1973 graduate of Swainsboro High School and completed undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Georgia Southern. Cameron has enjoyed a journeyman’s life, including stints in The Army Nuclear Air Defense Command, journalist, high school English teacher and football coach, tanker truck driver specializing in hazardous chemicals, CDL instructor, and part-time columnist for The Crossroads Chronicle. He is presently retired and resides in Kemp.