Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Justice O'Connor and "Footprints"

Every once and again, I take a moment to comment on the sorts of internet searches are leading people to this site. Often, this takes the form of a compendium of ridiculous, borderline insulting searches (the prevalence of "cammeltoe [sic]," for example, will ever elude explanation).

In monitoring my recently enhanced traffic (and thank you all for paying my little corner of the inteweb any attention at all), I noticed since Justice O'Connor's retirement, a spike in searches on "Justice O'Connor poem," and variations on that theme. Mostly I just ignored it. Finally, this evening, I clicked the search, figuring that I must be coming up rather high on any such search, and sort of perplexed that with all that had been written about her retirement I had a lot of Google "juice." Indeed, for the above search, as of this writing, MOP is the top site returned. Huh?

Next, I followed the second result, a John Spalding post, which revealed the following story:

Washington, D.C., Sept. 4--Visitors and federal employees entering the Supreme Court Building this morning gazed with a mixture of curiosity and disbelief at the massive bronze plaque that now stands inside the Court's main entrance facing the Capitol Building. The sculpture, which measures 18-feet tall by 6-feet wide, is inscribed with the famous inspirational "Footprints" poem loved by millions of Christians around the world.

Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor installed the poem last night, without notice or permission. The sculpture depicts a beach scene in which two sets of footprints trail the coastline, eventually merging into one pair. The poem describes God as a friend in times of need, and the words are written in calligraphy, rather like an inscription on a Hallmark card.

You know the poem, the one that runs something like this:


One night a man had a dream. He dreamed He was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from His life. For each scene He noticed two sets of footprints in the sand. One belonging to Him and the other to the LORD.

When the last scene of His life flashed before Him, He looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of His life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of His life.

This really bothered Him and He questioned the LORD about it. LORD you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.

The LORD replied, my precious, precious child, I Love you and I would never leave you! During your times of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.

Quickly, I fired off an email to a couple of friends over at Bloodless, sort of baffled that anything like this might have happened with neither my notice nor the easily imagined host of lefties rending their garments, gnashing their teeth, immolating themselves on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Then, impatient, I ran another search, this time on "Justice O'Connor footprints." There I found my answer.

John Spalding's parody is to blame.

After I published a parody in which Justice Sandra Day O'Connor erects a three-ton, bronze "Footprints" monument in the lobby of the Supreme Court (inspired by former Alabama Judge Roy Moore's Ten Commandments monument), Carty sent an email asking which version I'd posted, hers or Margaret Fishback Powers'. If I'd posted Carty's version and credited Powers, she said, "then you are now notified that my poem preceeds [sic] Margarets [sic] as well as my copyright." I assured her the article was satirical and that neither version had been used.

Apparently authorship of "Footprints" also presents a rowdy (if fatuous, IMHO) controversy, as though Christians are ever motivated by profit. The very statement uttered aloud reveals the infirmity of its proposition.

Anyway, one more pointless mystery solved.

UPDATE: It also occurs to me that with this post I may become the all time hero of O'Connor hoax search results. Sobeit, no such thing as bad attention and all that. Indeed, quite a few people evidently need to be set straight on the fact that this was all a silly (if effective) joke.


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