My Brother is in Afghanistan, Santa Claus is Still Dead, and Two Tutors Save me from Hating Everything: PART TWO, discovering the virtue of doing something when nothing's expected of you.

DISCLAIMER: This post contains uncensored, foul language – something I generally try to avoid on this blog.
...and I may have downed nearly a whole carafe of coffee while I was drafting this.
And please realize that there's a part one to this.

Jake’s dead battery had him stranded in the Humanities parking lot. The door of his VW Bug was ajar, and he stood between it and the car’s body while he waited for a tow truck. Or somebody with jumper cables (whichever came first).

He spotted me storming, propelled by my personal feelings of betrayal and general pissery, down the sidewalk that borders the lot. “Hey, Kathryn,” Jake said.

“Hey, Jake.” I stopped. “Have I asked you about the Constitution yet?”


“Do you remember signing something saying that you’d support and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic?”

“Yeah. I remember all four times I signed it.” (Air Force + public middle school + some other thing + tutoring lab = 4) “What about it?”

SOMEONE REMEMBERS! “Can I quote you?” (I’ve since learned that you don’t initiate an interview with this question, but, ya know… live and learn.)

“Sure. Do you have jumper cables?”

Without acknowledging the inquiry, I plopped down on the concrete, whipping out my pink notebook with Strain Zero and Free Bradley Manning stickers on the front, because, you have to remember, for some people, after hella NOT sleeping for a while, common courtesy dissolves between two and three AM and never comes back.

Jake thinks the Oath is “vague” and “weird”, and surmises that it’s designed for anti-discrimination purposes. Given the McCarthy revelation, the forefathers of this FUCKING document intended the absolute, polar opposite, but at this point, I wanted to drop the facts and go with Jake’s theory. I really did. Because I liked believing in Santa Claus and ignoring the fact that puppies die. I thought this Oath would mean something good, too. But it’s hard to listen to the anti-discrimination lullaby over the thundering collapse of my almost-patriotism – FUCKING MCCARTHY! The truth sets no one free. What the truth does is RUIN CHRISTMAS FOR EVERYONE.

Jake also thinks some senators pose more of a threat to the Constitution than terrorists. “And Sarah Palin,” Jake said.
I paused my furious scribbling. “Sarah Palin?”

“Yeah, sometimes I think she’s anti-Constitution…” Before Jake could expound on this, someone with jumper cables came to the rescue. That’s okay. It’s like the conversation I had with the army recruiter outside the campus bookstore that ended before I could ask him exactly what he meant when he said supporting and defending the Constitution means fighting for my right to purchase a vanilla latte. I take sound bytes. I put them out of context. To amuse myself. Fishy and advantageous? Yes. Even a little morally corrupt? That, too.

Of course, I would be amiss if I didn’t keep in mind others who remember singing the Oath – like Anita. Anita not only remembers signing the Oath, but remembers stopping to think about whether or not she was willing to sign it before she put the pen to paper – I LOVE YOU ANITA. Ultimately, she decided that, since she would be fulfilling this obligation in the setting of the tutoring lab, it would be a matter of, if anything, defending Freedom of Speech. This was something Anita could get behind, although there may be other circumstances where she wouldn’t be willing to sign it.

I loved these beautiful optimists. I really did, and still do. But, at the time, despite the few, remaining embers of desire to find real meaning in this thing, disenchantment was winning. I was ready to go home, throw together a eulogy of sorts (in this vein) for my dead Constitution-blog project, post that sucker the way it was, and get on with my life. But with a whole bucket of NO SLEEP comes a weakened immune system, and I was promptly knocked out for about a week with a wretched cold that left me helpless to do, like, anything save for falling asleep on piles of clean, unfolded laundry, and watch hella Breaking Bad and illegally uploaded Rob Bell shit on YouTube.

That eventually abated enough for me to muster the energy to take the dog for a walk. I was still in the process of accepting the Oath’s, and therefore the almost-blog-project’s, perceived meaninglessness. I lamented my ideas and how they would never be realized in blogposts. Like, I had hoped to write about the Black Panthers being prime examples of what it means to support and defend the Constitution.

This is because the Panthers were responding to a very REAL violation of Constitutional rights in their neighborhood, where cops – who are made to swear their own version of the Oath, mind you – were all kinds of corrupt. Instead of lying down and taking it, the Black Panthers organized, and exercised their Second Amendment rights to police the police. They were a volunteer militia.

That’s when it dawned on me. Right there on the street, as I stood waiting while the dog shat in the bushes, shit started adding up.

Volunteer militia. Keyword: VOLUNTEER.

Everything – all the more preferable explanations I’d gotten – like Jake’s anti-discrimination fairy tale, and Anita, at one point, musing that defending the Constitution is more about protecting the people than protecting the government…

It all coalesced. Santa may be dead, but it gets better than overweight North Pole residents in red suits, because I realized my duty to support and defend the Constitution has ZERO to do with my status as a government employee (employees = hired = money = technically not a volunteer). It has NOTHING to do with the government or any kind of institution or third party, and everything to do with my preexisting status of being an American citizen. The choice of whether or not to participate, of how politically active or aware I will be is a choice I make independently.

Make no mistake, America: your
government is STILL on Team Edward.
And, the way things are, that’s not a radical statement. At all. Even if this were being read by a power-hoarding head of state, I think it’s more than safe to say that I wouldn’t get blacklisted, and my phone wouldn’t get tapped – which would be a profound waste of resources anyway, unless the CIA’s priorities are warped enough to find value in overhearing my fellow, twenty-something burnout friend and I organize Twilight marathons, or coordinating carpools with the Anarchist to the next Anti-Flag show. Until there is any expectation of action from a lowly English major / tutor like me, this reads conjures big, fat zero on the radical-o-meter. If we remember what was said in the previous post, the Oath could “literally apply to [me] never.”

Well, in that regard, to the Man, I lovingly say, FUCK YOU.

If you didn’t WANT or EXPECT it, you shouldn’t have ASKED FOR IT.

This dog walk realization, actually, is more in sync with the original hypothesis: the one I formulated before I went on an Easter Egg Hunt for subjectively novel sound bytes to add to my collection of things to laugh about later, which does little-to-nothing to cultivate comprehensive understanding. Revisiting the notion after the thundering collapse of my almost-patriotism only grounded it, revealed more dimension of meaning for an individual citizen like me to have REAL conversations with people, and knowing my history, and watching Democracy Now!, and actually reading the REAL LIVE Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California for myself, and writing letters and participating in political demonstrations where I discern that’s due, and having conversations with people and knowing my history and conversing with people conversing with people conversing with people. Doing it for real. Asking real questions. Exchanging real ideas. Getting real answers.

Furthermore, if I were to really start a blog that explores what it means to support and defend the Constitution in the context of being an English tutor, it couldn’t be kathrynsupportsanddefends.blogspot.com. Kathryn cannot do this alone. For such a project to really work, and really be awesome, it would have to be more than ONE English tutor observing and analyzing what all this means, and how the Constitution is and is applied around in the country, in education, in other places, whatever.

There you go. That’s what I've got say. Hopefully at least Sophia will appreciate the scattered outbursts of frenetic nonsense.

Ball’s in your park, Citizens of the World. Hit me up with comment love. It’s tax deductible in select states, and I like hearing what y’all have to say.


  1. Kathryn! This is beautiful. And wonderful. And meaningful. In the words of Paul (the Dugan), "THANK you for sharing!"

    I empathise with the weight of the issue for you; the freaking out about other people not caring. For me it comes from a deep down desire to know that my word and life mean something. Frankly, it shows that you BELIEVE your word and life mean something. Well done! The world will hate you now!

    And this is a tricky oath. Who decides whom is an enemy? I mean, half of congress thinks the other half is attacking the constitution, and vice versa. But it is, as you say, full of very Big and noble words. I WANT to be recruited, to be told, "We need YOU!", to be part of something Big and Grand. And the government is us, but not us; necessary, but not, ultimately, what the country is.

    As you know from my recent soul-searchings, the issue of our individual power has been on my mind too. Your posts have given me a lot of new and fabulous ideas. For example, we assume congress has all this power. And it does to a great extent. But the citizens are the ones who have the most power, not because they vote for congress, but because THEY CHOOSE TO FOLLOW THE LAWS. As soon as the citizens decide not to follow the laws, what happens? Congress has to make new laws that the citizens AGREE to follow.

    It sounds like you discovered that we are Citizens. I wish this was a more common discussion!

    Thank you THANK YOU for being you, however stressful it becomes, and for sharing your journey.


    P.S. Anita is the best, isn't she?

    P.P.S. I don't know if this will help the death of Santa Claus, but you should google Krampus.

    P.P.P.S. And if that totally freaks you out, you can go to sleep knowing that our household's Christmas gifts are delivered by the Tooth Fairy. No joke.

  2. God bless you for the empathy. *solidarity*

    CHOOSING TO FOLLOW THE LAWS! I thought of what felt like a lot of things, but that reality hadn't occurred to me.

    P.S. Anita is SO the best!

    P.P.S. As much as I adore sensationalism and irony, I'd be wary to expose the Krampus to my hypothetical, future children.

    P.P.P.S. Not that I took the time to look her (assuming the fairy's a "she") up, but I wouldn't be surprised if older versions of the Tooth Fairy turned out to be foaming-at-the-mouth, pointy-toothed, Whedon-esque creatures. Or maybe just bratty like Tinkerbell.

    P.P.P.P.S I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all Krampuses and scary Tooth Fairies, foreign and domestic.

    1. Have ypu ever read any of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels? You seem to be the type who might understand our family's obsession with them.

    2. I've never read any Terry Pratchett. By gum, I don't even follow him on Twitter! Is Discworld one of those series where it's better to start with the first book and read through in order?

  3. You definitely should start with the first two (as the first one ends on a literal cliff-hanger): THE COLOR OF MAGIC and THE LIGHT FANTASTIC. They are short and give you a good idea of the world you're dealing with.

    Pratchett is a master of social satire and social commentary through a scifi/fantasy lense that maximizes witty use of footnotes. Great moments in European history of the last few hundred years are adapted through this hilarious (and poignant!) lense, including the French Revolution, Hamlet, the Phantom of the Opera, the Civil Rights Movement, the Spanish Inquisition, the creation of moveable type, and communism. . . all in two decades or less!

    There are close to thirty books in the series, and different books focus on different characters (though many of them show up throughout). I'd be happy to point you in choronological arcs of any that tickle your fancy.

    The first two involve RHINCEWIND, a ridiculously incompetent wizard. He would really prefer to be left alone but spends most of his life running away from terrible monsters from the Dungeon Dimensions. His stories tend to deal with the humerousness of the physically improbable existence of Discworld and frequent philosophical distruptions the space-time continum brought about by academic wizards wondering what the huge red button that says DO NOT TOUCH does.

    Our family's favorite is SAM VIMES, the head of the police force of the city of totally-not-London Ankh-Morpork. He's a great character that loves fleshing out the difference between policemen and soldiers, why the law is important, and lines that you can and cannot cross. Dragons are sometimes involved.

    The WYRD SISTERS are three witches up in the boonies of a really tall mountain range and their books are about stories and the power of stories. Their prestige comes from having power but not using it.

    DEATH, the anthropormorphic personification, is perhaps the greatest character and quite loveable once you get to know him. He has a fondness for humans and is always trying to understand what they mean. He is fond of cats. SUSAN, his granddaughter, is a great addition to the family, though the physics is a bit difficult to explain.

    If you want to borrow any, we have all of them. They are also available from your local library. But you don't have to take my word for it!