I’ve Found Hell; It Straddles Missouri and Oklahoma

One teenager in a town of less than three thousand says the word, “hell,” into a microphone, is penalized by figures of authority, and her name appears in The Washington Post, ABC News, The Huffington Post, and NBC News.

What I want to know is, did David Smith, the now notorious diploma-withholding principal of Prague High School, actually say the phrase, “You and me have a problem“?

Or was he misquoted by David Nootbaar, the father of full-scholarship-earning valedictorian, potty-mouth, Twilight-reading, hard-working, Kaitlin Nootbaar.

If Mr. Nootbaar was quoting verbatim, we sure as hell do have a problem. And the problem is not free speech being exercised in front of an audience of toddler and grandparent Bible Belt ears.

The problem is when the head of an educational institution makes flagrant errors in grammar.

Principal Smith, it’s “you and I.” You know that, don’t you? You wouldn’t say, “me have a problem,” would you?


Of course, it’s not merely the principal’s alleged poor grammar that’s so offensive. It’s the power trip of calling for a closed door meeting, pointing at a young person, gesturing to an object on his desk (her well-earned diploma), and then proclaiming that it’s being withheld.

The whole scene has a faint odor of sadism to me.

Or maybe after spending all afternoon Sunday contemplating Rep. Todd Akin’s fantasies of, “legitimate rape,” my outrage has become clouded.

What on earth is going on?

Get it together people. If you’re the principal of a school, if your job is to educate, use proper grammar. And while you’re at it, try (just try) modeling a compassionate appreciation for the complexities of the world. If you’re the elected official of any body of any people anywhere, stop making shit up. Rape is rape is rape is rape. It’s all violent. It’s all by force. Stop micromanaging our bodies, we’ve got principals to educate, wires to tap, and oil rich lands to invade.


While skimming both of these news blips, one thing I keep thinking about is the power of words.

Hell, from a valedictorian’s mouth.

Rape, from a member of the United States House of Representatives.

The power of words has come up in various ways in my last three posts. The way words can cut and bruise and twist. The way words can transform apathy into action. The way words can soothe people across the planet during times of extreme violence.

It’s all too vast for a blog post.

Maybe communicating short messages, from one person to another, is a better use of words.

Dear Kaitlin,

4.0 GPA? Way to go! This incident will not be your claim to fame. You can, and will, do great things. Just, like, maybe in your next statement to the press, leave out the emoticon? :-)

More importantly: run.

Run as far and fast as you can from all the small-minded people like Principal Smith. See the world!

But visit your family often, they sound like good folks.



2 thoughts on “I’ve Found Hell; It Straddles Missouri and Oklahoma

  1. Hi Ruth, you left a lovely comment on my colourful sketchbook and I followed the link to your blog here. I love your series of photographs looking down and your very thoughtful words to accompany them! Thanks for sharing them. I’ll be back to enjoy more of them.

    1. Hi Frieda,
      Thank you so much for stopping by. I’ve just stopped at your blog — oh my, it’s a treasure trove! What gorgeous work you do. I can’t wait to do more exploring.

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