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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Burying Ted

We buried my 90-year-old father-in-law, Ted Kosiavelon, last week at Arlington National Cemetery. That’s what he wanted. He earned the privilege by serving in both the Solomon Islands and in the Philippines during World War II. Like millions of other young men of his generation, he fought for his country against the forces of evil. In Ted’s case, it was against the Japanese whose unprovoked attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbor brought the United States, and Ted, into the struggle.
Ted is squatting in the lower left

A talented swimmer, Ted was selected by the navy for The Naval Training School (Salvage), which after the war became the Diving and Salvage School in Bayonne, New Jersey, made famous in the film “Men of Honor” with Cuba Gooding and Robert De Niro. After his training, he spent most of the war in Manila Bay where the dry dock he worked from was repeatedly attacked by Japanese planes where he was wounded. That’s how I remember Ted: a man of honor. He was a humble man, but very proud of his military service.
Young Ted in the Navy
Fifteen million Americans served their country in World War II which author Studs Terkel called “The Good War.” No war is good, especially one in which 400,000 Americans died along with millions of others around the world, but Terkel called it that because there was almost no moral ambiguity. There was little doubt that Americans were the good guys, while German Nazis and Japanese warlords were evil. Ted and millions of others put their lives on the line and most survived to tell about it. Ted spent the rest of his life serving his family just as steadily and reliably as he served his country. He was a humble hero.

Ted on the left, brother Buddy on the right
Men like Ted and my own father were taken into disciplined training just as they entered manhood five or six years out of knickers. They didn’t have to spend a decade or more “finding themselves” the way so many from my own generation did. The world found them and they clearly understood what they had to do. They had to keep fighting until their enemies surrendered. Theirs was a dangerous and difficult task. Victory was anything but assured, especially in the early years of the war when we were losing almost every battle, but at least they didn’t have doubts about whether their jobs were important, or meaningful, or whether or not they were doing the right thing. As I mentioned above: moral ambiguity wasn’t a problem as they discharged the duty that defined them for the rest of their lives.

Each branch of our military does burials differently at Arlington National Cemetery and I was impressed with the way the Navy handled Ted’s. Although more than a dozen veterans are buried there every day, there was no indication of any complacency in the honor guard. They were thoroughly professional and treated Ted with all the dignity and honor he deserved.

Ted’s body was driven down in a hearse by a Massachusetts funeral home. When we arrived at the grave, eight uniformed sailors and an officer stood waiting to be pallbearers. Within sight, but off at a distance were seven riflemen with another officer ready to perform a 21-gun salute amidst the perfectly ordered rows of white, marble headstones on the gently-rolling hills. At a similar distance in another direction a lone bugler stood ready to play taps. All their performances were flawless.
My wife, Roseann

Just before flying down there, a friend told me that students from Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine would be helping out 20,000 other Americans the following weekend with the “Wreaths Across America” project. This was begun twenty years ago by Merrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine downeast who found himself with a surplus of Christmas wreaths and was moved to place them on the headstones in Arlington.
All those rows of identical white headstones, mark graves of other men and women who fought for the United States of America and I felt their presence as they welcomed another one of their own for eternal rest among them.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Turmoil Twenty-Thirteen

Brace yourself. “Progressives” are trying to consolidate power in our Senate and in the White House. Tea Party Republicans in the House will try to stop them, but it doesn’t look good. Turmoil is around the corner. Looks like 2013 and beyond is going to be a very rough ride.

History shows that leftists, or “progressives” as they like to call themselves in 21st century America, have been far more oppressive than the right ever was. Ironically, they’re blind to it, thinking themselves tolerant and accepting. They’re anything but.

Progressives like to compare the American Revolution to the French, but aside from both being revolutions that defied monarchies, they weren’t similar at all. For example: The American Founding Fathers were tolerant and conservative, passing the Bill of Rights in 1791 that guaranteed freedom of religion. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” is the first line of the First Amendment, and it has prevailed for more than two centuries. It’s being challenged by the Obama Administration’s leftists here in 2012, but is not yet fully adjudicated at this writing. Around the same year - 1791 French leftists were taking over the Catholic Church’s property and its clergy as well. By 1794, they were murdering priests and tens of thousands of others.
When leftists took over Mexico in the 1920s, they set about killing priests there too - as depicted in this year’s film “For Greater Glory.” When they took over Spain in the 1930s, leftists went right at it again, killing thousands, 498 of whom were recently beatified (put on a path to sainthood).
Leftists who took over Russia and eastern Europe murdered tens of thousands of priests and millions of others throughout the 1920s and ‘30s as well. Germany’s National Socialists also arrested and murdered priests in the 1930s and ’40s. St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Scarborough, Maine is named for one priest they killed in Auschwitz.
When leftists take over, anybody who isn’t 100% politically correct better look out, especially if you happen to be a Catholic who takes his/her religion seriously. I’m not talking about “Cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose what they like and leave the rest. I’m referring to orthodox Catholics who will not bend when leftist governments pressure them to violate their beliefs.

Bishops appointed by conservative popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have begun to put pressure on leftist Catholics in the United States. Several are refusing communion to politicians who support abortion or homosexual “marriage.” The USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), the University of Notre Dame, and other Catholic institutions have sued the Obama Administration for their First Amendment rights after being forced to provide abortion-inducing drugs, artificial contraception, and sterilization. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, current president of the USCCB, is telling Catholics to defy Obamacare mandates. How many will? How will the Obama Administration respond to their defiance?

Timothy Dolan
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who was president of the USCCB before Dolan, was quoted saying something a couple of years ago that brought me right to attention when I read it last month: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square,” he said.

I thought, “Wow! Is it going to get that bad that fast? Right here in the USA?” Francis George is a solid, conservative guy who was born in Chicago and has been archbishop there since 1997. He would know many in the Obama Administration very well. Given all that, I have to take what Cardinal Francis George says very seriously indeed.

He’ll be 76 in January and he got his second cancer diagnosis last August. His successor, who he predicts will die in prison, should be taking office fairly soon.

Francis George
Seeming to soften his quote a bit in his November 3rd column - three days before the election - he wrote: “Speaking a few years ago to a group of priests, entirely outside of the current political debate, I was trying to express in overly dramatic fashion what the complete secularization of our society could bring.” He said his words were not “prophetic” and that “What is omitted from the reports [of his original quote] is a final phrase I added about the bishop who follows a possibly martyred bishop: ‘His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.’”

Fair enough, Cardinal George. Yes, France did “pick up the shards of a ruined society” after its revolution. Germany and Spain did too. Mexico and Russia are still in the process. But each country went through holy hell before starting to put it back together. Is that what America is in for too?

Sure looks like it.


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