From the book Sez Who? Sez Me by Mike Royko:
By Mike Royko
February 5, 1976
A friend of mine recently received a frightening letter from a United States senator. He rushed over to show it to me.
"Look at this part," he said.
The paragraph he pointed to said:
"Your taxes are being used to pay for grade school courses that teach our children that cannibalism, wife swapping and the murder of infants and the elderly are acceptable behavior."
"Do you think it's true?" my friend asked.
"I don't know. Have you children been eyeing you strangely?"
"No, but if this is true, we ought to do something about it. I don't want my children behaving this way."
Me neither. A little swearing and a sniff of weed, maybe. But cannibalism is far too hip for my tastes.
The letter looked authentic. It had a U.S. Senate letterhead and was signed by Senator Jesse Helms, the conservative Republican from North Carolina.
And when I read the letter, I was sure it was authentic. Senator Helms was asking for money.
He was asking for contributions so conservatives could defeat liberal politicians who want our children taught that cannibalism is acceptable conduct.
But just to be sure that some nut wasn't using a senator's name (sometimes it is hard to tell), I called his office in Washington.
The lady who answered the phone said: "The senator is on the floor. Can I help you?"
"Sounds to me like you ought to help the senator."
"I meant the floor of the Senate."
"Oh. I'm calling about the letter the senator has sent out."
"What is it about?"
"Cannibalism?" (She sounded surprised.)
"Yes. You know, when people eat each other."
"The senator sent you a letter about THAT?"
"Yes. He says he's against it."
"I'm sure of that. But can you give me any more details?"
"He says our children are being taught that being a cannibal is OK. And to swap wives. And kill old people and little babies. I want to find out more about it, so if my kid becomes a straight-A student I can hide from him."
"Oh, I think I know the letter you mean. But our office didn't handle that. It was prepared by another organization—the National Conservative Political Action Committee."
I called that outfit. A young man came on the phone and said:
"Yes, we sent out the letter."
"Is it true about the cannibalism?"
"Yes. We got that information from a publication called Human Events."
At the library I looked up back copies of Human Events.
It turned out to be a very conservative publication, with Ronald Reagan's TV-anchorman face on most of the covers.
And in one of last year's issues I found the article that had provoked Senator Helms' fund-raising indignation.
It seems that federal funds have been used to develop a course of studies that includes, among other subjects, the ways of the Netsilik Eskimos.
And it appears that the students learned that when things were really tough way up North, the Eskimos sometimes engaged in infanticide, senilicide, and even cannibalism. And they were casual about sex.
But I found nothing in the article to indicate that our children are being taught that they can bump off granny or little brother, or make a snack of the kid next door.
In studying primitive tribes from any part of the world, we could probably find conduct that would shock Senator Helms. And if primitive tribes in other parts of the world looked at some of our habits, they would probably wonder if we are nuts.
If Senator Helms is worried about the things children learns today, he might try twirling his TV knob night after night. On show after show, there is more violence and kinky sex than you'll ever find in any igloo.
And if Senator Helms is alert, he will probably note that these shows are being sponsored by big corporations, the kind that are usually dominated by men of conservative political beliefs.
So I wonder why Senator Helms hasn't sent out letters denouncing these corporations and the men who run them for providing nightly bedtime stories about murder, arson, and rape.
I'm sure that Senator Helms would get a big response. Even the Netsilik Eskimos might send him a few bucks. After all, whatever they did, they never called it entertainment.
With the headhunting Dayaks in the news, and talk of the Anasazi being cannibals, the following letter to the editor is timely. From the LA Times, 3/6/01:
Indians as cannibals
"Primitive" Indian religion
Kinky Indian sex
"They never taught us wife swapping was OK when I was in high school."
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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.
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