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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

See-Oh-Ehn Spiracy.

I'm fond of conspiracy theories as a sort of modern folklore, a sort of objective correlative by sleight of hand. I am, however, skeptical of real-world conspiracy theories, as my last post suggested, because of my experiences on the inside of situations that seemed conspiratorial on the outside.

When two students from my alma mater, Birmingham-Southern College, burned down a bunch of Baptist churches, I obsessively perused the blogosphere to see what conclusions people were drawing about the old school. Several bloggers found it suspicious that students from a Methodist-affiliated school (variously identified as "a Methodist College" and "A Methodist Bible College") only burned down Baptist churches. Some thought they'd uncovered proof of an interdenominational shadow war. I enjoy mentioning this to my fellow Southerners, most of whom are Baptist or Methodist, and all of whom regard it as a good joke. I can see how, given humanity's long history of sectarian strife, people who aren't familiar with the placidity of Protestant interaction around here might cook up such a narrative, but there's more animosity between Bama and Auburn fans than between Baptists and Methodists. Anyway, if you're ever in rural Alabama, pay attention to the churches you see. Chances are, most will be Baptist. I don't think the arsonists were picking and choosing. They shot a cow that same trip, on the pretext of hunting, so it doesn't seem like discretion was part of their thought process.

And then there's this obsolete old horror, posting from his cavern of Catholic kitsch about how the arsonists did what they did because they were Jewish.

They weren't, by the way, Jewish; they were typical Protestant-raised cultural Christians. One might think a barmy Catholoon would be only to happy to wail on them for being the spawn of Luther, but apparently his antiquated hate is too baroque for such linear proceedings.


Closer to home, my Dad is the Clay Shaw of Pinewood Derbies. Pinewood Derbies, for the uninitiated, are races that Cub Scout Packs hold once a year. Every scout makes a car from a standard kit. Block of wood, plastic wheels, pair of axles. Carve the wood, paint it, race it. Most scouts carved it to resemble the silhouette of a passenger car, which is not exactly the most aerodynamic shape. With my last Derby approaching I saw, in an issue of Boy's Life, a Derby design that looked more like a race car. Actually it looked like a doorstop on wheels, but I wheedled my Dad into helping me use this plan. He was uncertain because it was so off-model from customary design, but he went along. He even painted it really nice: black with crackling red flames; he was hoping to win the best-looking car contest, which we didn't.

But we did win the actual race. The judges scratched their heads over the unconventional design, but it didn't go against the letter of the rules; it wasn't a violation to look like the sole race car in a fleet of station wagons. A Pinewood Derby takes a while; there are many, many heats if you've got a big Pack. I think ours was over a hundred boys, but we won heat after heat, and our car took First Place. There was some grumbling about this, since the car had seemingly jumped the track a couple times and blocked other cars; probably just the result of being too light in front.

But it didn't pass the smell test. Because my Dad was the Pack Leader.

And the son of the Assistant Pack Leader won second place.

Imagine what a Truther or a Birther would make of this.

Now, anyone who knows my Dad and his Scouting Assistant knows that these are not people who would risk their good names, nor betray anyone's trust, over a Pinewood Derby. They know what a childrens' game is worth, and they know what a reputation is worth. But I can understand how, from outside appearances, this might look like a small-stakes conspiracy.

If I were an Ayn Rander I might argue that there's a correspondence between the leadership qualities it takes to be a Pack Leader and the Howard Roark qualities it takes to design an unconventional race-winning Pinewoodmobile, but I doubt my Dad would stand for it.

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