(This column is a modified version of one that appeared on April 17, 2013).
I was born in 1961.
Stanislaus County became home for me starting in 1965. I grew up with what you might call "Valley values." What exactly are those? It's open to interpretation but here are some examples.
I wasn't afraid to get my hands dirty during work or play.
I went to church, was exposed to teachings of the Bible and tried to put them into practice.
I was taught to be a good person, which meant I had to be considerate of others and help whenever I can.
Politeness and being friendly were hallmarks we wanted to emulate. We politely offered thanks when served was another and said "no thanks" when we didn't want what was offered.
We played by the rules and expected others to do the same.
We were kind to neighbors and animals and teachers and strangers.
Boys were be polite and hold the door open for women and in doing we were modeling a true man by honoring women.
We listened to our elders. When I spouted my young liberal philosophy that disarmament was the pathway to world peace, a seasoned great uncle of mine who served in WWII set me straight and suggested staying better armed than others was how you ward off an attack and keep the peace.
We weren't taught to be afraid of guns. We were shown how to use them responsibly. We would never on our darkest day want to hurt or kill anyone with one - unless they tried to kill us first.
We didn't have video games to play so used our imagination or we read. We had no internet so we had to wait for things to arrive in the mail, such as the Highlights magazine which my mother subscribed to for us boys. It featured a comic section named Goofus & Gallant, which showed two brothers reacting to the same situation. Goofus was always rude and self-serving and Gallant who was polite and kind and had manners. Gallant always lived by the golden rule, "Treat others the way you want to be treated." Goofus was more apt to pull wings off of flies.
I longed to be like Gallant, even though he was occasionally a sickening sweet goody-two shoes. I know what the creators were trying to convey to us boys, though. The lessons stuck. To this day I will pick up trash thrown down by Goofus. I try not to interrupt people when they are talking. I try to be thankful and gracious when someone does something kind for me. I try to call my mother regularly and visit my grandmother. And I don't torture animals even mildly like Goofus did.
Okay, I realize this is 2014 and as I stare at my 53rd birthday, I realize things have changed in America. Not necessarily for the better.
I was more than a bit shocked to see Goofus and Gallant being ridiculed on an internet website as follows: "While trying to make him seem like a horrible awful idiot, the Highlights magazine always puts Goofus on the ‘bad' side, which honestly isn't all that bad. While Gallant seems like a nice child, any psychologist worth their salt can tell that in a few years someone will find about half a dozen bodies buried in his basement....with bite marks on the carcasses."
I suppose that's cracked.com's way of getting a laugh. I think it's a sign of the times that society enjoys ridiculing goodness. There are no absolutes any more, no lines in the sand to cross. The lines have been blurred. Gallant knew better. In the words of the Aaron Tippin song, "you've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything."
I realize Gallant was white but Gallant wouldn't have crossed the border illegally. You see, he waited his turn in lines. Goofus didn't respect rules and would have. The world is full of Goofuses because now they are running Associated Press which just announced it will not sanction the use of the term "illegal alien." AP's Kathleen Carroll explained that it "is wrong" for reporters to use the word "illegal" to describe a person to "describe only an action." (So following her logic I suppose AP will not be using the words swindler, murderer, rapist, or thief or mass murderer to describe people.) Indeed journalism in America is dead when you've got the likes of Joe Biden publicly praising MSNBC and CNN for helping the White House get out the word about the renewed gun control agenda. Instead of blushing for such biased and slanted "reporting," they probably are grinning with pride instead of hanging their heads in absolute shame.
Gallant treated others, especially girls, with respect. Goofus thought of his own selfish desires. Maybe that's why last year we read about the Santa Clara County sheriff's office arresting three 16-year-old boys on charges that they sexually battered 15-year-old Audrie Pott (who hanged herself eight days after last fall's attack in part because the Goofuses posted photos of the attack online.) The case is disturbingly similar to one that played out in court earlier this year in Steubenville, Ohio, where two football players were convicted of rape for assaulting a drunken girl and posting images of the crime on social media sites.
Gallant tried his best to let no unclean word leave his lips. He used his words to lift others up and reflect good things. Today Goofus is running the recording industry today.
Goofus demanded things given to him while Gallant knew hard work was required for things you want in life. Goofus is now in the White House, giving away cell phones (of all luxuries) to those who demand them because it makes things "fair" against those "evil" rich people.
Gallant would have grown up and been grounded in an ideology based on what he believes to be good, honest and good. Goofus today is the reckless "low information voter." Goofus and hundreds like him stood at a "Rally for Citizenship" D.C. rally with anti Marco Rubio placards in hand while confessing they knew nothing about who Rubio nor of his proposal for a pathway to citizenship. One protestor admitted (in Spanish) that her "social worker" gave her the signs to hold. Protesting is fine; just know what you're protesting. No doubt Goofus led the rather senseless Occupy movement.
It was Goofus - in the form of a young lady - who shot me an email after a column in which I suggested voters are failing to educate themselves. Rather than debate my points, her email, titled, "Please move away," read: "I have said it before and will say it again. You are a horrible column writer. Start a blog for your rants and leave my hometown paper to hometown issues. Sincerely, An annoyed reader." When I offered her space to write a guest column from the left to balance out my conservative views, she failed to produce. I suppose it's easier to take a shot across the bow than devote time to expressing oneself in a critical and intelligent manner.
Which brings me to another point about Goofus. The dude is just plain rude. He was in the carload of anarchists who pulled up next to my car in the store parking lot the other day. They dropped by the store to buy beer on their way to the lake. But they took a moment to stage their own parking lot concert by cranking up the car stereo, standing outside their car to dance as their profanity-laced music shook their car, mine and the ground beneath us.
Cracked.com insults the traditionally held sense of right and wrong when they note that Goofus and Gallant strip creators Garry Cleveland Myers and Anni Matsick wanted "to show people that being a normal kid with slightly bad manners is pure evil while being generically robotic and awkwardly polite is akin to being an angel of the Lord."
They've entirely missed the point. We have a whole society of people who'd rather not play by the rules or want to change the ones that have always worked for an orderly society. They are a reckless lot who in all honesty need to learn a thing or two.
There is a passage of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:1-9) that tells us the way things will be in a day. Some debate whether that era is today or coming, but it's nonetheless frightening to know "There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God -- having a form of godliness but denying its power."
That would be Goofus on steroids.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know at firstname.lastname@example.org.