The Gas-Mask

By John Larson

On my way to school yesterday, I saw that they had decided to demolish the old laundromat near my station. They had one of those demolition machines with the scissor beak attached to the industrial arm. I saw the guy in the sealed control booth had this gas-mask on. And that immediately concerned me because here I was just walking past without any protection, sucking in whatever he was kicking up. However, I later reasoned that he probably had the mask on because he was in that environment constantly, day after day, year after year, and that by just briefly walking by I was in no real danger.

At school, we process boys and girls, round off their sharp edges, make them into people. We take in awkward pieces of humanity and turn out thinking members of society. To accomplish this we encourage, we love, we praise. We also coax, we threaten, we punish.

What happens to those of us who are trapped in this stone tumbler day after day, year after year? Where do all these joys crystallize? How far have all these malignant fibers woven into our subconscious? Who of us knows how to protect ourselves? When have we breathed enough to make any protection useless?

John Larson teaches English at Isesaki High School and is the man who pulls it all together as President of Gunma JALT. As a student, he wrote as a columnist for his high school and college campus newspapers. His love of language inspires him to help students take ownership of language, engaging them in a dynamic literacy study based on self expression.

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