System To Caring Teenager: Drop Dead, Freak.

25_russell_brand-pg-horizontalIt’s a sad and pitiful sight when weak-kneed but stubborn bureaucrats and power hoarders come up against resourceful individuals with the courage and conviction to circumvent or ignore their oh, so sacred rules. I’m thinking Rosa Parks on the bus, or the kids at at the lunch counter in Greensboro; George Carlin and the Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television, and any number of similar examples. 

Sometimes it’s defiance merely for the sake of defiance — like the wonderful “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” t-shirt case in Alaska some years back. I appreciate that little stunt — nothing like a little tongue-in-cheek rebellion to put authority in its place. But often, it’s quite substantial — like in the case of Jessica Ahlquist of Rhode Island, who has bravely decided to stand up and cry foul over her school’s unconstitutional prayer poster.

The latest example is J. T. Gaskins, a 17-year old cancer survivor from Michigan, who decided to support the relative of a friend undergoing cancer treatment by growing his hair long to donate to Locks of Love. A pretty ballsy move for a boy of that age. Unfortunately, he attends Madison Academy, a school apparently in the grips of rigor mortis, obsessed with “important” rules like “Hoodies must have no pockets. If a Madison hoodie has a pocket on its front, it must be removed prior to wearing it to school” and where Jean Day is to be considered some sort of institutionalized anarchistic “special” treat, although the student handbook is quick to point out: “The privilege of participation in Jean Day by an individual student, or group of students will be determined by the teacher, or administration.” Uptight, much? 

Oh, and then there’s the rule that’s causing Gaskin’s grief: “Hair must be […] off the collar, off the ears and out of the eyes.” Indeed; get thee behind me, Beatles freak. 

And while the bureaucrats cling to their rule book (“We’re not changing the rules in the middle of the school year,” declared the president of the board) the rest of the world can merely marvel: here’s a boy showing genuine empathy for a fellow human being, and the initiative to do something about it (without hurting anyone else), evidently able to appreciate that there is more to life than simply toeing the line — and “the system” immediately gets busy trying to slap the little rebel back into place. So sad and counterproductive.

Sure, the rule says “no long hair.” So, suck it, hippie boy. But there is more to life than rules, and sometimes rules need to be bent, dismissed or revoked, if they turn out to serve no other purpose but to elevate those who make the rules above those who must abide by the rules and put the latter in their place at the mercy of the former. For that reason alone, I hope Gaskins prevails and not only gets to donate his hair to Locks of Love, but also encourages parents and other students to push back against a school board that seems to be getting completely carried away with their endless rules and regulations, to the detriment of basic compassion,  community values, and common sense.