Friday, September 23, 2011
FREE BANANA MAN!
Okay, so maybe this subject is not quite the stuff of the stars. Or maybe it’s proof that we’re already living in that Orwellian future we feared and fought so furiously in the Sixties. The fight went out of us long ago, and it takes something stupid like this incident to remind us of how much we’ve lost.
It all started with a banana. Well, not precisely a banana, but a kid in a banana costume. The “costume” consisted of a bright yellow cape with a banana top. High school sophomore Bryan Thompson from a community close to my central Virginia home, thought it would be funny to don the "banana" and run out onto the football field at half-time. The crowd at the home game at Bryan’s school, Colonial Forge High, thought it was funny, too, and since there was no one else on the field at the time—no band performing, no plays being called—one would have thought this a harmless prank.
Apparently CFHS administrators thought differently. At the time, Bryan was briefly detained by a Stafford County sheriff’s deputy, but was not charged and was released to his mother’s custody at the field. The next day, however, CFHS Principal Karen Spillman suspended Bryan for ten days, with a recommendation that he be suspended for the rest of the school year. The charges: Disobedience of an administrator. Disrespectful behavior toward an administrator. Disruption of an activity. Refusal to follow directions of an administrator. Key word here appears to be “administrator”.
Witnesses say no one appeared to chase Bryan off the field and that when apprehended he was calm. He was laughing, however. Guess that constitutes “disrespect”. Also lack of judgment, but then Bryan suffers from high-functioning autism, which has gotten him in some mild trouble before in school, once for having a cell phone in class, once for creating a website that encouraged students to post “silly” pictures of themselves for the entertainment of their peers. Some have suggested his previous “crimes” have made him a three-time loser.
If the reaction to Bryan’s prank seems overdone, consider the school administration’s Draconian response to his schoolmates’ support. Yellow tee-shirts were confiscated from some students who were allegedly whipping them around as “rally flags”. Pep rallies have been banned. Parking passes have been suspended because someone scrawled “free banana man” on his car.
Two police cruisers were called to the school in advance of a feared student protest that never materialized. Bananas have been banned from the school. (Yes, you read that right. Apparently some radical wrote “Free banana man” on the fruit and passed it around.) Students have been commanded to remove yellow tee-shirts that not only refer to Bryan, or banana man, but also to free speech in general. The ACLU is now involved on the side of the students.
All of this could have been avoided if the school administrators had simply called Bryan and his mom into the school office on Monday morning and asked him not to do anything so silly again. Mom would have promised it would not have happened again. Bryan would have apologized and maybe given up the banana costume and within a week, life at Colonial Forge would have been back to normal. No. Instead it has become a Big Freakin’ Deal and one more example of how our lives have been circumscribed and http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifour freedom of expression curtailed.
Cooler heads may prevail and save Bryan a year’s suspension. I hope so. There is little doubt he will serve out his sentence of ten days (a sentence his mother is appealing). After all, he has DISRESPECTED AN ADMINISTRATOR! The weight of mindless bureaucracy is overwhelming in this age of administration, and even YouTube is powerless to lift it. Unless we all stand up as one, we will each be crushed beneath it in turn.
Check out the video of Banana Man's run and the latest news of Bryan's appeal at http:\\fredericksburg.com.