With loathing I gaze across my classroom at a rinky-dink parochial school in the heart of the Midwest. It is 8:36, and the children rush in, and back out again to retrieve cards (will explain) and gossip and Red Bull from their lockers in the hall.
At 8:39, I announce to the hangers-on in the hallway: “Class starts in four minutes ago!”
“Megamortar,”—yes, I have many epithets—“Do role call! Do roll call!”
“Very well, class. ANDERSON! ….
And so on until….
I hear the rustling locker of Gabriel Miodusziewski, son of the (im)famous Pascha Miodusziewski, a heavy-weight boxer.
I step into the hall. “You’re late, Gabe.”
Gabe stands before his locker, shuffling his feet through snowdrifts of paper. Then up the hall he comes in his dad’s Megadeth t-shirt down to his knees, jilting between desks, blaming Time, disowning Fortune and slumping into his chair shouting “DICK!”
“Gabe, no morning recess today. And… I get to call you Gaius.”
“What? No fucking way.”
“Lunch recess too, Gaius.”
“I don’t want to be called Gay-us,” he mutters to himself.
Time for History. It is…. 8:42… “Class, get out your cards and turn to card seven, ‘Mohammed and Islam’.”
(As promised earlier: The cards are the students’ texts. In each text, there are thirty-two 6×8″ cards with roughly three paragraphs per card. The cards are held ever-tenuously from chaos by keyrings, which I strung through the holes that I punched three-at-a-time with an antique holepunch.)
I am confronted by a wave of anti-Arabic sentiment, various Problem Children of the class ululating and stabbing their pencils at each other amid spittle from explosion sounds of suicide bombs.
“Thank you, that’s enough.”
I forgot to add that the mascot/sports name of this Midwestern parochial school is… well, let’s just say it rhymes with “loose raiders” (and apropos enough of what they really were). Their mascot is a knight with a lance and a shield with a cross on it (oh my). I don’t think he has a name, although I should ask.
The “Chapter Discussion” is an explanation of why the Islamic God is not capitalized. I scroll down on the history card and find it written, g-o-d with lowercase letters.
Bewildered by this so-called Activity, I write on the chalkboard the name of Allah with a capital A and God beside it with a capital G.
Confused and raised voices ripple across the class. “But Mrs. Kerry said we don’t capitalize the Muslim God because he isn’t a real God!” And so on.
“The Muslim God is capitalized, and his name is Allah. And you CAP-PIT-TAL-IZE it!” breaking the chalk dotting an ‘i’.
“Here, open your Bible,” I say to the closest child. The child opens his desk and with great time and difficulty produces it, and then I snatch it from him and turn to a random page in 2 Kings.
“There. Look at that:”
“Is it capitalized?”
“Nobody believes in Baal anymore, yet you still capitalize his name. You know why?”
“Because he’s a PROPER NOUN. Jack, does Spiderman exist?”
“Is that a fact?” Amid angry apologies for the ontological status of Spiderman.
“Do you capitalize his name?”
“Because it’s a proper noun.”
And then I hear, “Well Spiderman’s as real as God or Allah.”
Maybe I’m just ignorant, but since when do we not capitalizing the Islamic God, Allah? We Christians have no problem capitalizing Baal, or Asherah, or the unutterable tetragrammaton, YHWH, but if it’s the Islamic god you’re after, we’ll we’re all out of caps, foax.