Monday, June 15, 2009
Drummer Hoff Syndrome
Drummer Hoff fired it off.
Have you read this book? An oldie, published in 1968, but a goodie that has been on my bookshelf for many years. Its illustrator, Ed Emberly, won the Caldecott medal for his vivid artwork. I love books with metered rhyme, and with a building "theme" that children can memorize and chant along with. The book begins with the statement that Drummer Hoff fired it off, and then over the pages, various military characters enter and construct the cannon that Drummer Hoff fires off.
"General Border gave the order, Major Scott brought the shot, Captain Bammer brought the rammer, Sergeant Chowder brought the powder, Corporal Farrell brought the barrel, Private Parriage brought the carriage, but Drummer Hoff fired it off."
It's a fun read, and the pictures are delightful. Reviewers give the book credit for espousing an anti-war theme, or as having a pro-peace agenda. At the end of the book, the cannon is fired, a double page spread in blood red shouts out "KAHBAHBLOOOM", and then the parade of soldiers is gone. The cannon is covered over with flowers and birds, and the name on the cannon is covered over, showing only the smiling sun. It was, after all, written during the Vietnam War, so maybe all of that is true.
Something different strikes me, though.
I was reading it and it hit me that it seems that Drummer Hoff gets blamed. He didn't build the cannon. He didn't bring the powder, or load the shot. He didn't give the order. He simply pulled the string when told to. The rest, as they say, is history. He lives in infamy because he was the last one at the scene.
Reminds me of some kids I know. Some kids all drinking lemonade, but nobody wants to put the pitcher away because "they didn't get it out". Or the kids, who after playing a board game together, don't want to put it away because it "wasn't their idea to play". Or the kids who won't put the rake away because "they didn't use it last". Everybody pointing the "I didn't do it--HE did it!" finger. On and on with the mentality of escaping responsibility that drives me crazy. I have dubbed it the Drummer Hoff Syndrome, but it's really just the Blame Game, going on since the beginning of time.
I mean, couldn't the explosion be just as much General Border's fault? He did, after all, give the order. Or what about Major Scott for even bringing the shot? Sergeant Chowder's contribution is pretty vital--he brought the powder! On and on it goes.
So, how about anyone who drinks the lemonade better consider himself responsible to put the pitcher away! How about all the children who play a board game, work together to put it away! You see that rake? Good, then you know you better go pick it up.
Poor Drummer Hoff, getting stuck with everything. I know just how he feels.