"The first time it happened, Gerald Rittinger was driving to buy his gravestone. His diabetes was getting worse. Doctors had just diagnosed him with prostate cancer. They gave him six months. Gerald’s wife, Jeanne, was in the passenger seat of their Lincoln that day. Their puppy, Zeke, was supposed to stay in the back seat. But the yellow Labrador kept putting his big paws on the console between them, inching forward. They headed north on Interstate 75 to his family cemetery in Kentucky. After about three hours, Zeke stood up and began barking. ‘Down! Zeke, get down!’ Jeanne scolded, tugging at his collar. Zeke leapt up, nuzzling his wet nose against Gerald’s neck. Licking his face. Laughing, Gerald tried to push away the puppy. But Zeke wouldn’t back off. His barking got louder. The dog became so agitated that Gerald had to pull off the highway. Seconds later, Gerald had a seizure. ‘If he had still been driving," Jeanne said, "all of us would have been killed.’ That was 12 years ago. Gerald had his headstone engraved, planted it in the graveyard, then came home to die. But Zeke wouldn’t let him."
Questions for reflection:
If you were homeless, would you be able to resist the urge, day after day, week after week, month after month, for a drug to numb the pain? If you think you would be able to resist, what makes you so sure? Have you been homeless before? If you think it would be so easy to resist, why do one-third of homeless people suffer from chronic substance abuse?
If you were a drug addict, do you think you would be able to quit? If you think you would be able to quit, what makes you so sure? Have you been a drug addict before? If you think it would be so easy to quit, why do 60 percent of smokers fail when they try to stop?
stick around for the surprise ending
This year, in Advanced Placement American History courses all across the nation, students will learn details about America that make it look bad. This is something that many people in academia or the rest of the world simply call “history.” The Republican National Committee calls the class a “radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”
Which is odd, because it’s possible to love something in spite of its flaws. Any contented marriage of more than a few years proves as much. This is why we still go to our favorite bands’ concerts even though we know they’re going to play five tracks from that turkey of a new album. It’s not revolutionary to suggest that America has more appeal than a grouchy spouse and more staying power than the Rolling Stones, so it should get through this, even if you might love it a smidge less.