The Future of Miss Powers - Cover

The Future of Miss Powers

Copyright© 2021 by Lazlo Zalezac

Chapter 3

“That doesn’t make a lot of sense. You are saying that we stole the land from the Indians, but only after we purchased it from the French,” Danny said.

“What are you talking about?”

“I think you called it, the Louisiana Purchase, but I might be mistaken. It was several weeks ago that you covered it in class, so my recollection might be wrong. Isn’t that when we bought a whole bunch of land from the French?”

“What’s that got to do with us stealing land from Native Americans?” Mrs. Elrich asked.

“Well, usually, after buying something, one often has the belief - right or wrong - that one actually owns it,” Danny said.

“We stole the land from the Native Americans,” she said.

“If what you are saying is true, then it might be more accurate to say that the French stole it from the Native Americans, and then we bought it from the French. In which case, all we’re guilty of is trying to enforce our property rights; or, perhaps, receiving stolen property,” Danny said with a smile.

“You’re confusing two different things.”

Danny said, “When I look at the map, I see that the lands that you are now telling us belonged to the Sioux, the Crow, the Pawnee, the Cheyenne, and the Chickasaw, were all part of the Louisiana Purchase. We bought that land in 1803 for the price of fifteen million dollars. One could easily take the view that the Native Americans were squatters on American territory. When you say that we stole the land from the Souix during the Sioux wars of 1876; what was really happening, was that the US government was trying to evict them. After all, America had held title to the land for seventy three years by that time.”

“They were living there,” Mrs. Elrich said.

“Were they paying rent?”

“No. It was their land before the Louisiana Purchase.”

“So they were squatters after we bought the land?”

“No! They were living on their land.”

“Are you saying that the French committed fraud by selling us land they didn’t own?”


“Which is it? Did the Sioux own it, or did the French?”

“That land belonged to the Native Americans!”

“If it belonged to them, and not to the French, then the French committed land fraud and we should sue them to get our money back. We’d have two hundred years of interest on the original fifteen million. That would ease the national debt significantly.”

“You’re taking an overly simplistic view of what happened,” Mrs. Elrich said.

“I have one question.”


“Why didn’t you mention that the Louisiana Purchase was a fraud when we covered it, earlier?”

“It wasn’t a fraud!”

“You just finished telling me that they sold us land that actually belonged to the Sioux,” Danny said. “Unless I’m very mistaken, that’s fraud.”

“It’s not fraud.”

“Do you mean that if I sold you the Brooklyn Bridge, that I wouldn’t be committing fraud?”

“Of course you would be committing fraud. You don’t own the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Danny said, “I don’t want to appear argumentative, but I’m really confused here. I’m calling upon your powers as a respected teacher, to help clarify my understanding, and to eliminate my confusion. I mean, this is really an important point, because Spain, Mexico, and Texas would also be guilty of fraud.”

“What’s Spain, Mexico, and Texas got to do with stealing land from the Native Americans?” Mrs. Elrich asked.

“We purchased land from Spain and Mexico which covered other areas that you now say was owned by Native Americans. Of course, Texas gave itself to us, so that’s kind of different, but the whole Texas thing would make us guilty of receiving stolen goods, if the Texans didn’t actually own their own country.”

“You don’t understand.”

“I know. That’s what I want you to explain to me. How can we be accused of stealing land that we own, because we bought it from someone else who didn’t steal it?”

“You are twisting my words!”

“No. Like Jack Kerouac said, ‘I had nothing to offer anybody, except my own confusion.’ The way I read our textbook, is that it contradicts itself in a big way. As Ayn Rand said, ‘Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.’ I’m asking which part of the book is wrong.”

“I think you are being deliberately obtuse.”

One of the other students raised her hand.

“Do you have a question, Rebecca?”

“I kind of get what he’s saying. Suppose you were to buy the Brooklyn Bridge from Mr. Creepy here. Suppose that when you went to take possession of it, that someone else said they owned it. Now, if everyone says that Mr. Creepy wasn’t committing fraud, and that he actually owned the bridge when he sold it to you; then wouldn’t you have a right to toss everyone else off of the bridge, regardless of their claim to it?”

“That’s not the same thing!”

“How is it different?” Rebecca asked.

Danny looked around the room and then grinned. He leaned over to the girl next to him and said, “As Johnny Depp said, ‘I pretty much try to stay in a constant state of confusion, just because of the expression it leaves on my face.’ I would say that the class is now filled with some interesting expressions.”

“Back off, creep.”

“Matt Dillon said, ‘I’m not the greatest boyfriend, but I’m not a creep. It’s more like I’m ... absent-minded.’ I pattern myself after him. Would you like to be my girlfriend?”

“Ugh! Get away from me. You’re a creep.”

Danny sighed and then said, “I suppose Rupert Everett was right when he said, ‘I don’t think kids should have role models. They’re disastrous.’ On the other hand, maybe I should have selected a better role model than Matt Dillon.”

Mrs. Elrich asked, “Is Danny harassing you, Debbie?”

“He’s quoting people again,” Debbie said.

“Stop quoting people, Danny.”

“I’ll try. As Carolyn Gold Heilbrun said, ‘Quoting, like smoking, is a dirty habit to which I am devoted.’ I’m sure that you can appreciate that it’s tough breaking bad habits.”

“Would you like to visit Principal Bell?”

“No. Actually, I was hoping that we could drop the subject of whether I’m creepy or not. I’d like to find out how we’re guilty of stealing something that we bought. That is a far more interesting topic of discussion.”

“We’ll start with the facts,” she said. “Do you have a problem with that?”

Danny said, “No. I think that’s a great idea. As Mark Twain said, ‘Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.’ So what’s our first fact?”



“Go to Principal Bell’s office.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Rubbing his forehead, Mr. Bell said, “According to the note, you were smarting off to Mrs. Elrich.”

“Actually, I was trying to participate in the class discussion. It seems that my questions were kind of unsettling. I think she took my focused attempt to resolve a puzzling contradiction in history as smarting off,” Danny said.

“What contradiction were you trying to resolve?”

“How someone could be guilty of stealing something he or she already owned?”

“You can’t be guilty of stealing your own property.”

“That was the point I was trying to make,” Danny said.

“I’m sure there’s some misunderstanding, here. What was her position?”

“She said that we stole land from the Native Americans, even though we had already purchased it from the French.”

“We did steal the land from the Native Americans. Everyone knows that,” Mr. Bell said.

“I don’t. We bought the land from France.”

Mr. Bell said, “I suggest that you go to the library and talk to Mrs. Holmsteader.”

“That’s a good idea,” Danny said.

“Well, go.”

“Okay,” Danny said.

Ten minutes later, Mrs. Holmsteader said, “You didn’t, did you?”

“Yes, I did. It was a legitimate question.”

“You know that’s an impossible question to answer. It’s like asking if God is all powerful, can he make a stone so heavy that he can’t lift it?”

“Perhaps, but we’re not talking about God, here.”

“Marcus Aurelius said, ‘Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.’”

Danny said, “Galileo Galilei said, ‘All truths are easy to understand, once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.’ That would suggest that Marcus Aurelius was wrong.”

“In this case, I think Marcus is more correct than Galileo.”

“I don’t see it,” Danny said.

Mrs. Holmsteader picked up a piece of paper and drew on it. She placed the paper down on her desk and asked, “What number is on the piece of paper?”


“Are you sure?”

“Yes. It’s a six,” Danny said.

She spun the piece of paper around 180 degrees and then asked, “Are you still sure it is a six?”

“I get the point,” Danny said looking at what was now a nine. “Sometimes it is a matter of perspective.”

“We did buy the land from France. Was it theirs to sell? By the laws of the time, yes it was. They had planted a flag there and claimed it. England, Spain, and America recognized that claim. At the time, probably every country in the world recognized that claim.

“Unfortunately, the Native Americans were not a party to that agreement. They lived by a different set of laws. Their laws did not recognize property rights. In their vision of the world, people couldn’t own land. The land just was, and all they could do was to live on the land.

“Here we have a difference in perspective. We owned that land according to our laws. Their laws say that we stole it. So was it a six or a nine? It depends.”

“That makes sense.”

“The interesting bit isn’t really whether we stole the land or not. The fact of the matter is that we took custody of the land under our laws, using force. It was the use of force – the manner in which we exercised what we thought were our rights as owners – which is the real problem. That was brutal.”

“No argument there,” Danny said.

The bell rang.

“You should run off to math class,” she said. “We can discuss this in greater depth after your class.”

“What’s left to discuss?”

“Never forget the words of Rene Descartes, ‘If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.’ There is still much to doubt in what we’ve covered.”

“Okay,” Danny said. “Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either.”

“Aesop. Although, Oscar Wilde is probably closer to the mark, ‘The truth is rarely pure and never simple.’

“Good teachers know how to bring out the best in students – Charles Kuralt.”

“Thank you, Mr. Markem,” Mrs. Holmsteader said.

“No. Thank you, Mrs. Holmsteader.”

After Danny had left the room, Mr. Bell walked over to the desk. He looked down at the piece of paper. He turned it. “A six or a nine? That’s an interesting visual aid.”

“It wouldn’t work in a normal classroom,” she said.

“Why not?”

“Neal Stephenson once said, ‘The difference between stupid and intelligent people - and this is true whether or not they are well-educated - is that intelligent people can handle subtlety.’ Danny is intelligent enough to not only understand subtlety, but to embrace it. Most students do not share that trait.”

“I do not believe that. I think that all students are equally capable of learning.”

Mrs. Holmsteader said, “Danny is a genius.”

“I don’t believe in genius. I think it is a prejudiced measure of a man’s ability.”

“Ezra Pound once wrote, ‘Genius ... is the capacity to see ten things, where the ordinary man sees one.’ Danny is such an individual. He sees far more than most. It’s a talent that’s no different than that possessed by an athlete who can run faster or further than an ordinary man.”

“Good athletes are not born, they achieve that status by training.”

“Fair enough. Let me suggest that Danny trains his mind just as hard as the best athlete trains his body. Every day, Danny reads, solves puzzles, and challenges his ability to think. He works as hard at it, as any athlete in the world trains.”


“What do you think of Steve Sharp in terms of being an athlete?”

“He’s good. When he hits a quarterback, the guy isn’t getting up very quickly.”

“Yes. He’s big, he’s strong, and he’s fast. You don’t see many big and strong guys, who are also fast.”

“That’s what makes him so great.”

“How good do you think he would be if all the training he had ever had, was our regular gym classes? You know, the classes I’m talking about. The ones where boys can’t even run one lap or do three pushups. How would he do if that was it for his training?”

“Not very good,” Mr. Bell answered with a frown.

The source of this story is Finestories

To read the complete story you need to be logged in:
Log In or
Register for a Free account (Why register?)

Get No-Registration Temporary Access*

* Allows you 3 stories to read in 24 hours.