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: tomthemick@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Left and Right

You could call it the “Wayne’s World” of politics. Every other Wednesday, I go to the Valley Vision studio in North Conway, New Hampshire and argue politics for an hour with a liberal named Gino. We call the show “Left and Right” but I keep suggesting we call it “Right and Wrong” instead. Gino doesn’t agree. Each episode runs over and over in different time slots for two weeks until we tape another. Only people who subscribe to the local Time Warner Cable franchise can watch it on channel three, and we have no idea how many tune in. I think my mother would, but she has a satellite dish.
Gino and I are both political junkies who keep up on issues of the day. Each of us keeps notes on whatever is happening to bring up on the show, but I have an advantage: I used to be a liberal and I remember how I thought back then when I was young and foolish. Gino, however, was never a conservative. It would be accurate to say that I’m a personification of the adage: “If you’re not a liberal when you’re twenty, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative when you’re forty, you have no brain.”
Churchill's biographers say they can't find the quote, but someone said it.

The left/right dichotomy has strongly influenced my life for decades. When I was teaching in the public schools, my history textbooks were slanted liberal. I provided balance by offering a conservative point of view to contrast the book’s perspective. Lately I’ve been teaching a group of ten home-schooled, high school-age students in Auburn with whom I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to try: using both a liberal text and a conservative text, and assigning them readings on a particular period in history from two perspectives. Each student has “A People’s History of the United States” by the late Howard Zinn - a closet communist. They also have “A Patriot’s History of the United States” by Schweikart and Allen. I’ve got students only once a week for two hours, and we cannot cover too much in one year, but it’s very instructive to compare and contrast the two points of view. Authors of both books claim to be unbiased, but neither Zinn nor Schweikart, nor Allen are of course. Neither am I, but I try to be. No one is really, but we should keep our minds open.
When I started teaching in 1975, I was pretty far to the left. After dropping out of college in 1972, I worked with liberals in John Kerry’s failed congressional campaign in the Massachusetts 5th district that year. I also worked with “community organizer” disciples of Saul Alinsky and Noam Chomsky in Lowell, Massachusetts. After all that I went back to school to become a teacher and began my long metamorphosis from left to right. When I first started publishing columns in 1989, I was still straddling the fence. By about 1993, however, I had become a full-fledged conservative.
Around that time, I began publishing regular weekly columns for local newspapers in which I expressed my opinions without reserve. Many readers on the left assumed I taught my history classes the same way I wrote my columns. At first, they wrote letters to the editor suggesting I was unfit to teach and these were published frequently. Several leftists went further by trying to influence principals, superintendents, school boards, and state teacher licensing agencies to discipline me, silence me, or pull my teaching certification. By the time I retired, I had amassed quite a paper trail documenting their efforts.
For the past three years, I’ve been working on and off writing a book about this, being careful to get it all down as it happened. Last month, I thought, “Okay, I’m done. It’s all down there in black and white.” I printed it off, made some copies, and asked friends to read it with the condition that they be ruthless in their feedback. Well, that feedback is trickling in and I’m thinking maybe I’m not all done. Looks like I need to expand it. Some suggest I add more on what caused me to move from left to right. Others said it reads too much like “just the facts, ma’am” written by a detective or a reporter, and I need to put in more about what it felt like as events unfolded.
Then there’s the business of book publishing. It’s not like publishing columns, except that both are changing rapidly. The more I look into it, the more I realize how much I still have to learn. It looks like I may have been premature when I announced on the “Left and Right” show that my book about moving from left to right was finished. It was hard enough to get down what happened. Now I’m going to have to write about my feelings? That’s not something I’m used to or very good at either, but it appears to be still another thing I have to learn.

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1 Comments:

OpenID bc64a9f8-765e-11e3-8683-000bcdcb2996 said...

Surely Tom, down t' The Sun, could be helpful with publishing tips. Maybe the nice folks at White Birch Books.
Weather they'd be willing to is another matter.
CaptDMO

3/4/15, 10:16 AM  

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