Gaywad who won’t say Pledge a nerd hero

They look cute now, but as soon as those little hands come off their hearts, they go upside Will Phillips's head.

They look cute now, but as soon as those little hands come off their hearts, they go upside Will Phillips's head.

As an adult nerd, I am peculiarly fascinated by Will Phillips, the Arkansas ten year-old who refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance until gay people are allowed to marry. If you haven’t seen the CNN interview he did with John Roberts, quit your job, tell your loved ones to go to hell and watch it now. Will Phillips is a very principled young man, who is possibly the puppet of his enormous father but unquestionably very brave. He is also a big-time nerd. Specifically, he is a nerd subspecies I refer to as the Careful Nerd—an articulate person whose intense awareness of himself has terrified him into a state of eerie calm, as if he were perpetually speaking from the top step of a ladder. The Careful Nerd makes up for his inability to confidently navigate nonverbal social cues by investing in the denotative meaning of language. Hence his vaguely Spock-y demeanor—he’s put his faith in the logical value of what he’s saying to get through the conversation, and organized the rest of his communication around not fucking up. I base all of this one accepted psychological study, by the way, and certainly not on my own personal experience.

I defy you to watch that interview without feeling immediate, protective sympathy toward Will Phillips, unless you are an eleven year-old, in which case you probably want to make him drink out of the toilet. From an elementary school standpoint, Will has chosen a particularly unfortunate issue on which to stake his principles, although defending any systematically oppressed group is probably not going to make you popular. You might think that Phillips would find some comfort in the world of adults, who presumably understand the value of a reasoned defense of principle better than the paste-eaters with whom the law requires him to spend seven hours a day, but young Will is a nerd first and a child second. John Roberts, who probably applied a lot of duct tape to people like Will Phillips when he was himself a child, interviews him as if he were a talking dog. The ultimate insult comes in the last couple minutes, when Roberts feigns ignorance of the meaning of the word “gaywad.” You can see the look of confused betrayal on Phillips’s face; an adult who previously appeared to be on his side—and probably claimed as much before the interview—has suddenly shown himself willing to participate in a small falsehood they both recognize. It’s a small lie, perpetrated for the formal conventions of a television interview—a form that resembles nothing so much as meeting a stranger and making small talk—but one that stings Phillips nonetheless. It’s enough to make a guy want to talk really carefully and hold his head absolutely still so that nothing bad happens.

It’s not a coincidence that Will Phillips considers society’s open discrimination against homosexuals patently unjust. He is not motivated, as most commentators have condescendingly suggested, by the bright-line idealism of a child. He simply knows what it’s like. He lives in a world in which everyone he meets immediately recognizes that there is something different about him, which they invariably dislike and he cannot see in himself, except obliquely. He has chosen to wear, for his CNN interview, a shirt that says “Nerds 2^2 Ever” (it works better in a font that allows superscript; non nerdo-Americans might be reminded that two squared equals four.) Will Phillips has reached that point in every nerd’s life at which one is either cured by surprise basketball ability or being a nerd becomes an identity. Like the man born gay, he can either come out or become a deacon at his church. Will Phillips has chosen to come out as a nerd, and he has done so in a way that expresses the best in all of us.

It only gets better from here, kid. Take kickboxing or something and replace the need to navigate subtle physical and meta-social clues with the capacity for sudden decisive violence, or become funny. The force of history is behind you, and to paraphrase the great nerd Copernicus, you are standing on the shoulders of giants. You know who else was a nerd? Martin Luther King. They shot him in a hotel outside Dallas, but they all died anyway, too, and they didn’t have shit to show for it.

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  1. I don’t like the ad banners on your page now. However, they offer an unexpected level of commentary on top of your blatherings.

    For example, the last couple posts involved the Palin-drone*, so your page was festooned with “Buy this idiotic book by this lady, doncha know!” ads.

    Instead, today’s ads are a confused gobbledygook. 5 ads key off the word “Combat”. 2 actually want to discuss the Pledge of Allegiance and the controversy over “Under God”. 1 is advertising lemon pledge. Why? Is there an unreached demographic on the internet that yearns for a better aerosol duster? And, 1 ad offers a chance to “Discover the Hypnotic Communication Skills the Authorities Want Banned”! I’m clicking on that one, by the way.

    Seriously, though, it demonstrates that we’re on solid ground when the day’s post is about something easily sold (Palin’s book) and not so much on non-material issues. Again, demonstrating that sitting around and discussing important concepts is well and good, but we really should be out there buying shit. It’s the American way.

    *Like a palindrome, Palin seems to make about as much sense backward as forward. I take that back, her discussions are probably more logically sound when replayed in reverse.

  2. “cured by surprise basketball ability”

    That was almost me. A little bit taller, and I swear. I had a good jumpshot.

    Alas…I second the above Mike’s thoughts. Nerd luv.

  3. I was walking by a TV here at the bank right when the kid was explaining that the other kids at school call him “gaywad”, among other things. Jesus Christ, I just about blew coffee out of my nose. Nothing like inappropriate laughter in front of your superiors.

    And yes, fuck that guy for claiming ignorance re: the word gaywad. Underused though it may be, I call shenanigans on that asshole.

  4. If this child was less of a painfully careful spirit, he would have responded to the feigned ignorance of the word “gaywad” by asking if the interviewer knew the meaning of “obtuse manipulative chickenhearted lying sack”.

    As my dear departed dad used to say, “Why are there so few horses, and so many horses’ asses?”

  5. To Tim G: The ads are placed acording to the content on the page. That’s how Google serves adSense. Try not to turn it into a conspiracy.

  6. To TJD: I understand how adsense works. I remarked how Dan’s post pretty much baffled adsense because it contained no saleable content.

    And those “Hypnotic Communication Skills” are pretty aweseome, too. ~~you want fritos~~ What was that? You said you want some fritos? Go for it.

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