River Views

The June primary election is behind us. Ravens and blue jays perform stealth attacks on the cherry trees. Summer is here. Schools are out and reunion season begins this weekend when the Ukiah High School Class of 1972 celebrates its 40th. Friday and Saturday gatherings will be held at the Barra and Parducci Wineries, which seems par for the course in Mendocino County, the land of more and more vineyards and fewer and fewer apple and pear orchards. The only consolation being that these are long established wineries in the Ukiah Valley. The Class of ’72 graduated more than 400 students. With a little luck this columnist was one of them. Most notable among that Class of 1972 graduates today would be Rick Warren, the evangelical minister who gave the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration, a quadrennial January ceremony.

Rick Warren is a complicated fellow. Unlike some evangelical Baptist preachers, Warren has publicly acknowledged the need to combat global warming, but he remains opposed to a woman’s right to abortion as well as in opposition to equal rights for lesbians and gays. The latter was evidenced in an October 2008 statement to his Saddleback Church congregation endorsing California’s Proposition 8, which declares that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this state.

Rick Warren may well have had the same US History and Civics teacher as I, but we arrived at different interpretations of the 14th Amendment, which, in part, says that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.”

In my experience at Ukiah High the most stimulating teacher was a man named Norm Williamson. I faithfully attended both his “Singing Poets” and “Bible as Literature” courses, which showed me that beautiful, inspiring verse can be found both in rock ‘n’ roll and Biblical text. At the same time I learned that parts of both, rock and the Bible, are just so much rubbish. (See Leviticus or any song by “The Archies.”)

Surprising as it might sound to some of the staff at Ukiah High in 1972, I went on to teach junior high and high school students. Most of that took place in the small Shasta County town of Cottonwood, where I taught Civics to the students who went through West Cottonwood School. Two of those students from the 1980s have chosen to be in the public eye. Brian Boyd is featured regularly on the National Geographic Channel’s Wild Justice program. California’s Department of Fish and Game named him Officer of the Year for 2012. It should come as no surprise that Brian played multiple sports in school, but he was the only teenaged boy I ever saw who regularly picked up other people’s trash in the hallways without being asked.

One of Brian Boyd’s classmates was Andy Pugno, a studious young man who achieved high marks in all his classes. Today Andy has grabbed the limelight as one of the lead attorneys defending Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure alluded to earlier. That measure passed with approximately 52% of the vote, but has since been ruled unconstitutional by state courts and again this year in federal court. Defenders of Proposition 8, like Andy Pugno, are vowing to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Brian Boyd has also become a leader in the Cottonwood Community Church. Part of that church’s “Philosophy of Ministry,” their basic purpose, is to follow the teaching set down in words within Matthew 22:39, to love your neighbor as yourself.

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