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BEAST in History:
On the second night of the Republican Convention in St. Paul, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee told the inspiring story of one Martha Cothren, a teacher at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock. “On the first day of school in 2005,” as ol’ Huck told it, Mrs. Cothren “was determined that her students would not take their education or their privilege as Americans for granted.” To prove her point, the Arkansas teacher had all the desks removed from her classroom. Despite the student’s pleas, they remained deskless the entire day. They hadn’t earned them, said Cothren. By three o’clock, concerned parents and the local media were abuzz over the educator gone mad. Finally, with all present and demanding answers, the woman taught them the patriotic lesson they needed to learn. One by one, a long line of proud veterans entered the class, each one carrying a desk. “As they carefully and quietly arranged the desks in neat rows,” recalled Huckabee, “Martha said, ‘You don't have to earn your desks. These guys already did.’” Touching stuff.
What’s more important, however, is to remember not when these brave veterans served as visual teaching aids, but to remember where and when those heroes fought and died for those desks: The Battle of Iwo Jima High.
World War II—America was entrenched in bloody combat throughout Europe and the Pacific. The end was nowhere in sight. The war was dragging on and America was paying the price. Average citizens were giving their best to go without, so our soldiers would have to tools they needed to succeed. America’s children were no exception. As a rationing measure, students went to school without books, binders, backpacks—and yes, desks. Uncle Sam needed every scrap of paper, wood and metal he could get his hands on. Not only did desk production cease nationally, as decreed by law, but existing desks were dismantled and fashioned into guns, tanks and planes. And when that didn’t work, the desks were used whole as both substitute for barbed wire in the trenches and bombs in the air. Though not as effective as conventional tactics, desk warfare played an integral role in Allied strategy. Through D-Day and The Battle of the Bulge, during the invasion of Tripoli and the Battle of the Midway, more desks were lost than at any time in U.S. history.
On February 23, 1946, tragedy struck the Allied war effort: We completely ran out of desks. Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered the sad news to the American people during a somber fireside chat. The war was all but lost. Hearing the news, one heroic naval officer had an idea.
On the evening of February 24th, Private Graham Cracker (you can’t make this stuff up) did something no American should ever forget: he earned us our desks. The fighting over Iwo Jima had been going on for days. Cracker was shot down during a fierce dogfight over choppy seas. By some miracle, he was able to steer his flaming wreckage toward land. He crashed his plane into the gymnasium of Iwo Jima High School. History would never be the same.
After enduring an agonizing couple of minutes of being pelted with dodge balls, Cracker regained his senses and began to fight. And don’t you know, he caught every ball thrown at him. Before long, the entire squadron of Japanese teenagers were on the sidelines, out of the game. Then he shot them all in the head for good measure. But he left one terrified child alive. That boy’s name was Tojo Junior.
“Where are the fucking desks, fascist pig?” he yelled.
“Oh, me so solly, me no speaker Engrish!” Tojo pled.
“That sounded a lot like English to me, you damn Jap bastard!”
Private Cracker worked him over for two days and three nights. America needed those desks, or Europe would be crushed under the Nazi boot. Enraged by the boy’s silence, Cracker ran from the gymnasium into the first classroom he could find. He came back and beat that boy’s head in with a small table he’d found in the room. Several minutes later, he realized it wasn’t a small table after all, but a desk! He knew he’d done his country proud.
Cracker went from room to room, study hall to social studies, math class to music, taking hostages and liberating desks. By the end of the day, he’d collected enough desks to ensure that at the end of the war, at least one American school would have the desks it so desperately needed. And maybe, just maybe, at some point in the distant future, a charmingly insane presidential has-been would be provided with a nauseous, hokey anecdote with which he could pander to racist gun nuts.
That school was Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. That has-been was Mike Huckabee.
God bless America.
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