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:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wanting My Scalp

Of all the groups who came after me as a teacher, it was Indians who hit hardest in terms of sheer numbers. It all started with a column I’d written ten years ago on what was called the “casino referendum” in Maine. Some of the tribes here wanted to build a casino and, unlike tribes in other states, they needed Maine state government to approve it. My column didn’t expressly involve my teaching or schools, but one of the local newspapers in which it appeared ran a little blurb at the bottom mentioned that I was a teacher.

Political ads urging Mainers to vote against it used arguments about gambling attracting the seedier elements to our state like prostitution and other criminal activity, and that casinos didn’t fit with Maine’s image of a bucolic, outdoor vacationland and might therefore threaten tourism, which was our number one industry. I went at it from a different angle in my column, reflecting on why Indians were able to open a gambling facility that would be illegal for anyone else. I questioned whether white guilt about Europeans “stealing their land” was a factor and made the argument that various Indian tribes had been stealing each other’s land for millennia before Europeans arrived. What really set them off most, however, was when I pointed out that Indians were fully as savage to one another as Europeans ever were to them after Columbus arrived. That I used the word “savage” in the context of Indian history really put them on the warpath leading to little Fryeburg, Maine.
The first indication of their attack was hundreds of emails in my inbox one morning from all over the country - including Alaska and Hawaii. I didn’t have time to read more than a dozen - all of them vitriolic - before I had to leave for school. Picking up the Conway Daily Sun on the way, I noticed some were published in there too as letters to the editor, again from all over the country. Halfway through my morning classes, I looked up to see the superintendent outside my classroom door. That was unusual as his office was a mile down the street and I was usually summoned there if he needed to see me. I said, “Excuse me, class,” and stepped into the hallway.
“You’ve stirred things up again,” he said with a sly smile.

“Indians? I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “I’ve gotten lots of angry emails from just about everywhere.” Later he told me they totaled over a hundred and that the school board also got some.
This superintendent was not easily rattled and I’d grown to like him. I had no idea at the time what his politics were, but he seemed more amused than disturbed by the protests. He had read the casino column and he knew by both its content and by the tone of the protesting emails that there wasn’t much substance to the attacks. He was also an attorney and had explained to several previous complainants about various issues that my status as a teacher didn’t abrogate my First Amendment rights to freedom of speech or of the press.
Still later that morning, my building principal told he’d gotten a call from an Attorney consulting with the Maine Department of Education Certification in Augusta who had also been swamped with approximately fifty emails, many accusing me of racism. She had questioned the principal about me and he told her I was an excellent teacher who didn’t use his classroom as a forum for my personal political beliefs. “She’s going to be contacting you herself,” he said, which she did a day or two later. She sent me an email instructing me to send her a copy of my column. After a few days I emailed back back describing where she could find the column online. Then she called me inquiring about several things, including whether I’d instructed students with the material in the column. I told her we hadn’t discussed the casino referendum in class. She seemed to be looking for a reason to put the Indians off and avoid becoming involved in the kerfuffle. After a while I asked for a copy of whatever report she was making to the then Maine Commissioner of Education and she said that unless she heard anything untoward from my superintendent, the matter would be closed.
Indians continued to contact me, however, some challenging me to debate on a radio talk show somewhere in upper New York State. I agreed to appear but they never followed up with specific arrangements. Other Indians called me a “wasichu” and I had to look that up. It’s a Sioux word meaning “one who takes the fat.” It’s a derogatory term for white people and can also mean “evil spirit.” There was one telephoned death threat which I reported to the Maine State Police.  After about ten days, however, they all seemed to have forgotten me. Their coordinated attack had been fierce but short-lived, the only result being I was entered into Indian annals as one of those palefaces who have spoken or written critically of them over the centuries.

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Anonymous Peter said...

I'm not going to waste time arguing Tom Mclaughlin's "Might makes Right, shut up and get over it" stance towards Native Americans, but rather point out the amazing amount of hypocrisy involved in writing whiny columns, week after week, about what a victim he is, and how he is getting picked on - "The Indians are attacking!", or "Lots of people say I was a bad teacher, Waaahh!" - while at the same time constantly making mean-spirited attacks in his columns. How about his picking on those that fight for women's rights by calling them "Fat Feminists"? Tom seems to miss the attention he got from a previous column about "savage" Indians, writing that "they seem to have forgotten me". I guess he figured if he got them riled up with that reference last time, then stooping to the old "scalping" bit would surely do the job this time. But why pick old scabs? What reason could Mr. McLaughlin have for writing this column other to purposely offend and anger Native Americans once again? As an elementary school teacher I recognize the student who desperately craves attention, but knows no other way to get it then to lash out in inappropriate ways. Sad how this never seems to leave some people.

8/15/13, 6:13 PM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

This column is a part of one chapter in the book I'm writing. It's about attempts by leftists preaching tolerance to dismiss me from the profession for my conservative views.

Funny. They sounded much like you, Peter.

8/15/13, 6:30 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Preaching "tolerance"?!? What will they be preaching next....Love? Empathy? How awful.

Golly, you are going to stretch out your poor-little-picked-on-innocent-victim routine into a whole book! So other conservatives can commiserate on how awful it is to be dismissed for intolerant views?

Maybe you can organize little book groups and sob on each others shoulders while you read and whine about how unfair things are for intolerant gay bashers, Indian taunters and sexists nowadays.

You've got the making for a great SNL skit...

8/15/13, 10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would urge all readers to sit back and laugh. Don't take any of this non sense seriously. After all, this is a guy whose view of history in America is consistent with a grade school text book.
Gotta love the picture of the first amendment you pasted though. Especially when you consider the influence of the Iroquois nation on the constitution. The irony......

8/16/13, 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Peter McClelland said...

Tom - I wonder if any of your critics have ever said that you have a right to your opinion?

8/19/13, 10:13 PM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

Very few, Peter.

8/20/13, 8:40 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

With, by your calculation, nearly a million words published of your opinions, I doubt you’ve been dissuaded any to express them.

8/20/13, 12:03 PM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

That is correct, Steve.

People like yourself are reminders of why it's so important to keep going.

8/20/13, 2:12 PM  
Anonymous buttercup said...

Tom absolutely has the right to his own opinion. The thing is, once it goes into the newspaper (or the free marketplace) that opinion is on public display. That means that we can choose to read it, comment upon it, and even express our opinions about his opinions in public.

In other words, you puts it out there, you takes your lumps. It's called personal responsibility, something conservatives advocate for others all the time, yet never seem to take themselves.

8/22/13, 4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Tom, my wife gave me a book of the history of the country of our origin, the Domminican Republic. I was stunned to read how savage, yes savage, the native indians were. They were the Awarak and Carib stock. In one instance, theCraibs would invade an enemy's village, kill all the men, enslave all the women and chldren. They then would fatten up the young boys, sacrifice hem to their gods, then proceed to cannabilize them. And I always thought they loved their fellow man. How da' ya like them bananas! Jose Garcia.

8/28/13, 8:12 PM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

There are many instances like that Jose. Aztec "priests" ate the hearts of POWs from other tribes. One missionary with Cortes counted 100,000 skulls of their victims lined up around just one of the temples that expedition encountered.

Tribes which had been victims of Aztec savagery allied themselves to Cortes against Aztecs. Without those allies it's doubtful he would have been successful against Montezuma.

Many tribes were not animal-loving, tree-hugging, vegetable-eating pacifists communing with the Great Spirit, but pointing that out is dangerous. Indians today have a carefully-constructed image they want to protect and denying history is essential in their effort.

I've taken lots of lumps for publishing my views and I still absorb them. My book will only document some. This column is part of one chapter.

8/29/13, 8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with practically everything you write, but three cheers for your superintendent! That is the kind of boss I aspire to be.

9/4/13, 12:48 PM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

He was a good boss.

9/4/13, 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, was it see to see your ass get handed too you in the Daily Sun by that Native-American gentleman!!

And to think, that is just the kind of abuse you were fishing for! Masochists are a bizarre bunch....

9/4/13, 9:45 PM  

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