Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tommclaughlin@fairpoint.net

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cracks in Barack


Growing up, I learned several things that Barack Obama seems to have missed. Most people I knew were civil, but some were downright mean. I learned that not everybody liked me, even when they found out how nice I was. They were dishonest, selfish, cruel, and ruthless. They didn’t care whom they hurt while getting what they wanted unless they were afraid of getting beaten up or arrested. I learned to avoid dealing with them unless I had to, and then to be prepared for the worst, and never go in without backup. I don’t know how it was where Obama grew up in Honolulu and Indonesia. Maybe he didn’t meet people like that, but that’s unlikely because they’re everywhere, at least everywhere I’ve ever been.

Maybe Obama has led a charmed life. Maybe he was able to enchant everyone he’s ever known the way he’s enchanted American voters. If he becomes president, he will definitely come into contact with some bad people who will challenge him to see what he’s made of, and some of what he’s saying lately worries me. He claimed several times that he’s willing to meet with world leaders who are sworn enemies of the United States - without any preconditions.

He wants to talk to Ahmadinejad. As a radical Shiite, President Ahmadinejad of Iran believes the 12th Imam, or Mahdi, has been living in a well for over a thousand years and will come out to rule the whole world if Iran creates chaos. To accomplish that, he’s defying the US, the UN, and the EU to build nuclear weapons with which to “wipe Israel off the map.” There’s nothing like a nuclear war in the Middle East to create chaos. If that weren’t bad enough, Ahmadenijad is supporting Hezbollah - a terrorist group dedicated to destruction of Israel and the United States. He supports Hamas, another terrorist group dedicated to the destruction of Israel. He trains and supplies weapons to Shiite terrorists who kill American soldiers in Iraq. Obama said he would talk to Ahmadinejad without preconditions. When scores of experienced American diplomats were appalled, Obama tried to backtrack.

How about Chavez? As a radical socialist, Hugo Chavez is nationalizing American oil companies in Venezuela. He threatens to choke off oil to the United States, supports communist guerillas in Colombia and Bolivia who smuggle cocaine into the United States, and conspires with Iran to bring us down. Obama said he will talk to Chavez without preconditions. When scores of experienced American diplomats expressed shock, Obama tried to backtrack again.

Maybe those crowds he speaks to while campaigning in the primaries don’t understand what Ahmadinejad and Chavez are like. Or if they do, maybe they believe Obama will charm them as he’s charmed Democrat voters. Does Obama believe he can work things out with foreign leaders like those guys? Obviously he does. “Yes We Can!” he says. How? Well, he is “The Change.” What change, you might ask? “Change You Can Believe In.” Hey - it’s worked for him with Democrats. Who is to say it won’t work for him with foreign tyrants?

One reason Obama looks good is that so many Americans are embarrassed by President Bush. They think he’s dumb, and when he speaks he tends to reinforce that impression. Obama seems smart because he speaks well and he went to Harvard. That he’s black is a bonus for a lot of Democrats who suffer from “white guilt” and are always looking for ways to prove they’re not racist.

Other are suspicious of Obama because he put down small-town Americans, saying: “They get bitter. They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” He thinks they’re not sophisticated enough to understand economic dynamics as he does and that attitude has cost him votes in West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky. Perhaps those “bitter” voters are wondering if he and his wife got into Ivy League schools through Affirmative Action and have become snooty about ordinary working-class people like them. They or their brothers-in-law have been passed over for jobs as firemen or policemen because of Affirmative Action and they resent it. They’re small contractors who have lost jobs to competitors employing illegal immigrants - and they resent that too. They don’t like it when Obama ridicules them while speaking to rich liberals in Marin County who use illegals as nannies and gardeners. Obama represents a Democrat Party which has played the racial victimhood card and the class envy card for decades. If I can paraphrase Obama’s spiritual mentor, could it be those Democrat chickens are coming home to roost?

Voters are beginning to suspect that Obama is naive and he doesn’t know how to handle bullies like Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Putin or Kim Jong-il. Most voted against him in the last several primaries. Come November, when their choice is between Obama and McCain, it’ll be interesting to see what they do.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Choices


The slogan “pro-choice” has been very helpful for those supporting abortion during the past three decades since Roe v Wade. People who call themselves pro-choice on this most controversial of issues can claim to be personally against abortion, but open to allowing others to have one if they choose. Their “mind my own business” approach is very American and, as such, has wide support. Supporting people’s right to choose, however, may prove a double-edged sword for pro-abortion groups. Recent advances in medical imaging technology are threatening their denial that what is being aborted isn’t human life and that abortion is about a woman’s control of her own body. It’s becoming more and more clear that there’s another body involved and abortion kills it.

How many times has a pregnant woman shown you an ultrasound image of her baby? Just about everyone has seen several by now. How many times did the mother say, “Would you like to see an ultrasound of my fetus?” My guess is never. When a pregnant woman is going to have an abortion, she calls what she’s carrying is a fetus if she talks about it at all. Otherwise, it’s a baby. Every year, the images are less blurry and it’s more and more difficult to deny that the image is that of a tiny human being just like us. Such images make their right to choose abortion vastly more difficult and that’s a big problem for the abortion industry.

On May 15th, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford signed a bill into law which requires abortion clinics to notify a woman seeking an abortion that she has the right to see an ultrasound image of her child one hour before the abortion. According to Lifesitenews.com: “Only [South Carolina] and Oklahoma require the one-hour waiting period after the ultrasound to give women a chance to reflect on the information without feeling pressured to continue with the abortion. In South Carolina an ultrasound is mandatory if the baby's gestational age is estimated to be 14 weeks or older or is unknown, according to state regulations. The ultrasound remains optional before 14 weeks of pregnancy.”

Women who have been brainwashed by radical feminists into believing that what they’re aborting is just a lump of tissue don’t make an informed choice. Activist groups who call themselves “pro-choice” like the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) should favor provisions that inform women of what their choices are, but instead they fight these statutes vehemently. “A woman has already made an agonizing choice before showing up at an abortion clinic and this law would put them through more unnecessary anguish,” they argue. What they don’t take into account, however, is the anguish many women feel for the rest of their lives after abortions. According to a 2004 study of Russian and American women, “65% report symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder they attribute to their abortions.” Suicide rates are many times higher in women who have aborted. One hour of reflection required by South Carolina may save a lifetime of torment.

Women need as much information as possible to really make a choice. According to the May 16th Elliot Institute News:

A survey released by Feminists for Life of America has found that many college students who become pregnant are unaware of resources available to them or don't have access to good resources. FFL president Serrin Foster noted that when pregnant students look for resources, ‘either they can't find them or the resources are inadequate or expensive.’ One pregnant student noted that without resources, ‘it sure doesn't feel like I have much of a choice.’ . . . [S]tudents who become pregnant are often immediately referred for an abortion by campus health center officials and are not given any information about other options or resources. [Other] surveys have found that lack of resources or support, and pressure and coercion from others, are leading factors for abortion.


Coercion indeed. The leading cause of death for pregnant women in America is homicide and several of these murders have gotten wide national attention. For too many pregnant women, the choice isn’t theirs; it’s someone else’s. Too often it’s the man who fathered the child or the under-aged girl’s abuser who is really choosing the abortion, not the mother. If people insist on being pro-choice, they should go all the way and insist that enough information is available for a women to really know what she’s choosing.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Being Catholic


Reactions to Pope Benedict XVI’s recent visit prompted reflections of how it is to be Roman Catholic in America. I was born a Boston-Irish-Catholic-Democrat and that heritage is a big part of me whether I like it or not. And, “like it or not” sums up how I felt about it while growing up - part of me liked my heritage and part of me didn’t. Eleven years of Catholic education shaped me from ages seven to eighteen. I had little choice about going to Catholic schools while my friends attended public schools. My parents insisted on it and I resented it. I was deprived of some things - my high school had no girls for example - but there were compensations. Those nuns, brothers and priests did whatever it took to keep me in line - including many a whack in the head - and that was good for me. I might have gotten into much more trouble if I’d gone to the public schools with my friends. They certainly did.

After graduation from high school, I began my decade as a heathen. For about ten years, I didn’t go to church at all except for weddings and funerals, and doubted nearly everything I’d been taught. It was as if I had to reject it and then take back only what I came to believe for myself. I say nearly everything because I’ve always agreed with the church’s position on social issues, especially abortion, homosexuality and our obligations to the poor. Everything else was pretty much up for grabs. I even allowed myself to entertain doubts about whether there was a God at all. That seemed necessary for me to accept fully that, yes, He really does exist. More than that - He knew me before I was even conceived.

When my children were old enough to ask questions about God, my wife and I decided to bring them to church right in our community. The Lovell United Church of Christ was the only game in town and a lot of good people were members. The two ministers there at the time became good friends. The wider UCC was quite liberal, however, and becoming ever more so while I was moving in the other direction, both spiritually and politically. Gradually, I gravitated back to the Catholic Church and have been attending regularly again for about twenty years in Fryeburg, Bridgton and North Conway. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fryeburg is my home church.

While I was away from the Catholic Church, it had liberalized as well. Boston’s St. John’s Seminary had been co-opted by homosexuals and graduated most of the priests who sexually assaulted all those altar boys, bringing the American Catholic Church its greatest scandal. Bishops and cardinals who oversaw other seminaries similarly corrupted covered up for the predatory homosexual priests they produced. The problem is that most of those bishops and cardinals are still in office. As the scandal was breaking in 2002, the rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC, Monsignor Eugene Clark said from the pulpit: ''In some seminaries in the United States, known homosexual young men have been accepted as candidates against every rule of church wisdom and church requirements. One need say no more of this as a breeding ground for later homosexual practice after ordination, and the manifest danger of man-boy relationships.''

Although many were glad that Pope Benedict addressed the clergy sexual abuse scandal, I was disappointed that he referred to it as a pedophile problem and not a homosexual priest problem, which it clearly is. I was also dismayed to see Cardinal Egan play such a prominent role during the pope’s mass at Yankee Stadium because he’s one of the most notorious enablers mentioned above.

He annoyed me with his speaking voice. Contrasting sharply with Benedict’s humility, Egan was theatrical. He seemed like he was paying less attention to what he said than to how he said it. It was a painful reminder that Rome should have overhauled the American Conference of Catholic Bishops [and cardinals] after the scandal broke and didn’t. Benedict is a reformer, but seems to prefer a quieter and slower reform where many Catholics like me would have preferred an immediate and thorough housecleaning.

As a cardinal himself, Benedict wasn’t shy about enforcing Catholic orthodoxy, so I hesitate to question his courage. He has bravely confronted Islamofascist resurgence and has dressed down administrators of Catholic colleges and universities in the United States who have strayed far from Catholic teaching. As leader of a two-thousand-year-old institution, he doesn’t rush things. I’m impatient, but he obviously is not.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Multicultural History


Every week I’m reminded of my love/hate relationship with the US History textbook used in my class. It blatantly panders to America’s public school teachers who favor politically-correct interpretations of history. That’s what I hate about it - and it’s also what I love about it. The book’s bias is easy for my students to recognize, and I can contrast it to my own conservative bias which I acknowledge very early in the school year. The book does not acknowledge its bias, purporting to be an objective account of events. It’s an easy foil.

I use the text mostly for students to read and answer discussion questions as homework, which we correct in class. In its coverage of the Vietnam War, one two-part question asks: “Why did civil war break out in [neighboring] Cambodia?” and “What were the results of the war?” As I walk around the room checking homework, a student volunteer acts as “assistant teacher” using the teachers’ edition to go over the questions and answers. He or she will read a question, listen to various answers from students, and then read the “correct” answer. As for what caused the Cambodian Civil War, the teachers’ edition gave the answer as: “US/South Vietnamese forces bombed and attacked Cambodia's bases; as Cambodians took sides, civil war erupted.” The clear implication is that America started it.

As for what the results of the war? The “correct” answer was: “Communist Khmer Rouge won; more than a million Cambodians died." They weren’t worked to death or murdered by the communists. They just “died.”

The first time I heard that I was appalled and I asked the student to repeat what the teachers’ edition said. President Nixon was no prize, but he didn’t start the Cambodian Civil War when he ordered US forces into North Vietnamese and Viet Cong sanctuaries there, and he didn’t cause the Khmer Rouge to murder millions of Cambodians either. Communists own that. It’s part of their dismal legacy around the world in the twentieth century, but the three historians who wrote my textbook seem deliberately blind about the evil effects of communism wherever it has been applied. They define it as: “an economic system is which all wealth and property is owned by the community as a whole.” Sounds fine when put in those terms, no?

Contrast the text’s definition with Random House’s (2006) definition: “a system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.” Based on about ninety years of applied communism around the world and tens of millions dead as a result, which definition is most accurate?

Communism’s first application was in Russia after Bolsheviks took control of the revolution and instituted the Soviet Union. The text’s harshest criticism of their depredations is a description of how Americans were shocked “when the Soviet government did away with private property and attacked religion.” Then it covers the first Ukrainian famine saying: “Despite disapproval of the Soviet government, Congress voted $20 million in aid when famine threatened Russia in 1921. American aid may have saved as many as 10 million Russians from starvation.”

The text doesn’t speculate about why the Soviet government would “disapprove” aid to its own starving people. Neither does it mention that Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin engineered a “famine” in Ukraine ten years later to purposefully starve 7 million Ukrainians when they resisted “community ownership” of their farmland.

What about the Soviet Union’s military repression of eastern Europe after World War II? When the text begins its coverage of the Cold War, students are asked: “Why did tensions develop among the Allied Powers?” The “correct” answer is: "The US and Britain distrusted the Soviet Union's communist government; the Soviets, also distrustful, feared invasion." There’s no moral superiority in America’s $12 billion rebuilding of western Europe under the Marshal Plan compared to the Soviet Union’s virtual enslavement of eastern Europe.

Like it or not, that’s the multicultural, morally equivalent theme permeating nearly every textbook used in America’s public schools. No culture may be depicted as superior to any other culture, even when it is.

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