Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Modern Tales of The Pasquinade

This year I attended my 25-year High School reunion. As a senior in high school, and because it was more interesting than schoolwork, I created an underground newpaper, and called it The Pasquinade (pasquinade: a satire or lampoon, especially one that ridicules a specific person, traditionally written and posted in a public place. For a month I had bugged a few classmates for articles worthy of publication. Only a few responded with actual written material. Once I had enough copy assembled, I spent the better part of a weekend copiously editing, typing and laying out the four page masterpiece.

It was an instant sensation -- the lede was a serious expose' about grade swapping to maintain athletic eligibility. The inside pages were chock full of quotes from friends and teachers (taken out of context for maximum humor), silly inside jokes, and general irreverance. It had a glorious run of exactly one issue. Springtime arrived soon after the release of Volume 1, and this teenaged boy's mind turned from typewriters to tubetops. That, and being self-published meant I was out of money. A few months later school was over and it was off to college and all thoughts of The Pasquinade faded like sundrenched newsprint.

Fast forward to March, 2009, and my friend from childhood and current Facebook friend posts The Pasquinade in his photos. He mentions that since it's been 25 years the statute of limitations was up and the responsible party should come forward. So I did, to a surprising chorus of huzzahs. I really didn't think it would have been remembered all these years later, but apparently the stir it created was indelible. If I'd known the impact it made on the collective psyche of my high school classmates, I might have been tempted to include some of my admittedly unconventional political thoughts, or even to have written a second issue. Alas, that one edition will have to remain exhibit one for my Presidential library.

So in November we had our 25th reunion. I reconnected with many old friends, but was pleasantly surprised to see Ann, the star athlete and one of my few confidants from that era. We reminisced, and spoke of our common experience with a very special teacher who took a personal interest in both of our lives. And then Ann mentioned that she was currently working back at the old high school as a guidance counselor. One of the anecdotes she related was that The Pasquinade was alive and well, and now being used as a teaching tool. REALLY? Are you kidding me??!!!! My underground newspaper had been co-opted! Now, in between lessons of mainstream journalism, was my anti-establishment screed as show-and-tell! While certainly there is some ego stroking knowing The Pasquinade is still being reviewed, the dissident in me is absolutely horrified to know that my underground newspaper has become part of the curriculum.

This is not unprecedented; in fact it is the norm. Ideas of one generation that seem radical on the surface at first exposure, gradually become mainstream. By the time the next generation reaches positions of power, it's not even a second thought. Consider this: in my lifetime, there have been two black and two female Secretaries of State, two female Vice Presidential candidates, 3 female and 2 black Supreme Court justices, and of course our current, foreign-born (JUST KIDDING!!) black President. A generation ago, a woman's place was in the house and a black's was at the back of the bus. And that's just politics. Changes across the board in entertainment, sports, business and journalism have opened doors to those not born male and white, unlike during the generation of my parents. And so this is a natural progression, where the radical becomes mainstream, the avante-garde mundane, and what's left of The Who plays the Superbowl. Or even that the editor of an underground newspaper would someday be a school board member. Still, it does my heart good to know that I have never lost my snark nor my willingness to speak out, even at some personal risk.

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