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

Monday, April 20, 2015

Culture Change

Mary Bauer Smith
There were no kindergartens in the suburban town of Tewksbury, Massachusetts where I grew up. We went right into first grade when we were six. We rode a bus that picked up kids each morning and dropped them off in the afternoon. Usually there was a mother looking out the window as her child skipped from the bus to the house. I still remember those children and where they lived. One, Mary Bauer Smith, asked to be my “friend” on Facebook recently.
St. William's School

So, I “messaged” her: “Are you the Mary Bauer who lived on Whipple Road and went to St. William’s School?” Our parish opened St. William’s School when we were in second grade and our parents sent us both there.
“Yes,” she wrote back. “I wanted to tell you something. When we were at St. William's one Lent, one of the teachers asked what each of us were doing for Lent. You said that after school your family had crackers and peanut butter for a snack and that you were giving it up for Lent. You were so sweet and probably a little embarrassed to admit that. It moved me very much. Today, as I assembled my Ritz cracker/peanut butter snack I thought again of your Lenten fast, as I have many times over the years.”
“Hmm,” I thought, and remembered eating that snack after school, but not “giving it up,” so to speak, although she clearly did. We exchanged messages for half an hour, and attached to one of hers was a group shot of our third grade class. “I’m in white, long-sleeved shirt,” she wrote. “Where are you?”
“I’m in the cub scout uniform in the back,” I replied. I could remember the faces of all thirty-eight kids in that picture and the names of thirty-three. I was eight years old again — transported right back to that time and place of fifty-six years ago. I recalled the drawing of an ice skater taped to the wall and envying the talent of Gerard Connelly the boy with a bow tie and big ears standing second from the right. Then I felt a connection to the students I’m teaching now.
My homeschool students

Every Tuesday morning for the past twenty-five weeks I’ve been teaching a group of ten home-schooled, high-school-aged boys and girls. Eight are Catholic and two Baptist. Working with them transports me back also because they remind me of the students in the picture. I taught about thirty-five hundred public school kids over thirty-six years but the home school kids I’m teaching now are different. Or, perhaps I should say the thirty-five hundred others I taught are the different ones. They’re different because our culture is different from what it was fifty years ago, and they’re immersed in it while my home-schooled kids are not. I can’t say they’re unaffected, but they’re relatively untarnished by what our culture has become. They still have something we all used to have but is almost lost now — not entirely yet, but if present trends continue it will be.
What is that something? Hard to describe. A sense of inner good perhaps? Confidence that we’re good because God created us that way? It’s also a confidence that there is a general “Good,” which we can all share if we acknowledge it. There was little doubt in our minds back then that Good was a real force, and it would ultimately prevail. Our country was good, and it fought evil. Nearly all our fathers were WWII veterans who watched “World At War” and “Victory At Sea,” on Saturdays — those half-hour, black-and-white episodes depicting real battles between good and evil. Even the old atheist and Chicago lefty Studs Terkel knew that when he wrote: “The Good War.”
“Oh my god!” was the most ubiquitous exclamation for students in public school during my career. But “god” didn’t mean “Supreme Being” to them. They didn’t use the word as the kids in the picture did, as my homeschoolers do, as I do. Our God wasn’t in their thoughts when they invoked His name — not consciously. When my homeschoolers say, “God,” it’s with reverence, and confidence that He exists. Teachers in public school are afraid to say the word today. Students are allowed unless they really mean God the Creator. Invoking Him is actively discouraged unless it’s in the Pledge of Allegiance, and that’s periodically challenged.
Christmas is gone. History texts don’t measure time using BC as in “Before Christ.” That’s out too. Now it’s BCE for “Before Common Era,” but no one can explain what “Common Era” means. Dictionary.com says it means “Christian Era” but you’re not supposed to say that. Christianity is actively discouraged. They never say AD for the Latin “Anno Domini” anymore either because it means “Year of our Lord.” Can’t have that. It’s CE for “Common Era” which nobody understands.
Got it? And so it goes.

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Sami Gay said...

Your persecution complex is just so pathetic.

4/21/15, 8:21 AM  
OpenID bc64a9f8-765e-11e3-8683-000bcdcb2996 said...

Hmmm. How was it that BC-AD came to be as an "official" reference point?
In my youth I had problems with that, probably beginning in grade school where I "discovered" those Asia/Africa/"Russia"/Arctic classroom roll down world maps, behind the well worn US/Europe ones.
I too recently found an old grade school Class photo compilation sheet, from 5th "picture day".
*sheesh*, We NEVER looked (or behaved) as angelically as we appeared in those photos.
Your name/face recognition ratio is better than mine.

4/21/15, 8:51 AM  
Anonymous Texas Transplant said...

Nostalgic? Yes, but how true. Our language is being rendered bland and meaningless in the name of political correctness. BC = before Christ was born. AD = the years after He died.
Simple. Even in these days, we need a frame of reference. We can't say Christian, but may say Muslim...

Common Era? Really?!!!!!

4/21/15, 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Frustrated Christian said...

Texas Transplant showing his/her ignorance. Anno Domini means "In the year of our lord." It has to. If it was "before Christ" and "After his death," when would he have lived?

"We can't say Christian, but may say Muslim..."

Adorable. Christians have it *so* hard in our country. It's not like you essentially must be Christian to get elected to public office.

4/21/15, 1:05 PM  
Anonymous Texas Transplant said...

Frustrated Christian is correct...I was so steamed up that of course, I should have said that AD = the years He lived on earth before His death. I am glad so many people read and comment on Tom's columns. I feel he is many times a voice in the wilderness...

I will keep my thoughts to myself in the future.

4/23/15, 6:01 PM  
Anonymous ERIC said...

Claiming that "Christmas is gone" is about as moronic and out of touch with reality as one can get. Christmas is more prevalent and in your face than ever before. Yes, even in the public school in which I work signs of Christmas are everywhere in the month of December.

But why do Christians feel the need to shove their religion done other peoples throats anyway. What's it to them who does or doesn't celebrate the holidays that they do? Why should being good and doing the right thing have anything to do with believing in a god or not? Such wacky intolerance for people that are different. John Lennon had it perfectly....imagine how much more peaceful the world would be with no religions, but people following their individual beliefs about doing what is right simply because it is right. Hopefully humankind will continue to evolve to this point.

4/24/15, 11:48 AM  
Anonymous Rhonda said...

I don't know a single Christian who tries to "shove their religion done other peoples throats". (Misspelling and lack of apostrophe yours) Why does Christ, who represents Love and Truth and the Greatest Sacrifice, offend you? Or for that matter, anyone? I'm not Jewish, but nothing about the Jewish religion offends me. I'm not Sikh and nothing about their religion offends me. What is it that you hate about Jesus Christ?

4/26/15, 5:22 AM  
Anonymous Yoda said...

America has a military today that has recently lost two wars, a military that has no respect for constitutional democracy, for human rights, for freedom of speech, a military steeped in hokey religion, bloated paychecks and easy life.

Is what I just wrote true? Actually the answer is unclear, somewhat true, totally true some of the time, but sadly a legitimate way of examining how America has fallen so low and the role the military has played. What is “genuinely American” is to realize that the military is our kids, our families, our people but that it is also a tyrannical and corrupt entity where our children and our families are ground into the dirt by thieves and criminals who hide behind manufactured conflicts and use our children and our families as hammers to enslave the world.

Is that part true? You bet it is.

Glorification of war is a disease in America. War has impoverished America, war has stripped America of her government, her people of their rights and freedoms and, moreover, of their critical thinking capability as well. War has destroyed America as surely as Americans have destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Palestine and Ukraine. Oh, you didn’t know we took those nations down as well, perhaps this is part of the problem.

Tom Brokaw coined the term Greatest Generation. To him and to so many of us, born during the war or soon thereafter, the Marines at Guadalcanal, the 101st Airborne at Bastogne, those who died on Omaha Beach or Tarawa or bombing Germany with the 8th Air Force typified everything good about America.

We were right about the people, just wrong about the war. It took many of us over half a century to realize that even “the good war,” coined so because of endless hand wringing over the holocaust, had blinded so many of us to the realities of the Second World War, the criminal underbelly of geopolitics.

Germany and Japan weren’t the enemies we thought. Efforts to dehumanize the enemy, something that had a huge backlash in the US during the first war, the US being a nation almost 40% German in origin, were mindless and destructive to the human soul. But we don’t have to talk about that now.

4/27/15, 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Yoda said...

It was my generation that came home and hid, tried to live in an insane nation and hoped to die quietly, perhaps not in prison or by our own hand. When Saigon fell, whatever anti-war movement some of us involved ourselves in died away. Activists were rare individuals while the real emotional rewards were in glorification of imaginary heroism, phony war and fantasy scenarios.

War is about human suffering. It may well be, when and if history ever gets past where it is now, a systematic certification of collective delusion, that we can gauge our acts by the toll of suffering those acts cause.

We can assign numbers, to plowing down a house or uprooting an olive tree or raping a child. If the collective acts our society seems to be designed for are to rack up the highest number possible on a suffering scale, what then does this say about who we are?

Weren’t religions supposed to, we are at least told from time to time, weigh in on such issues? They certainly haven’t in America in a very long time.

We have a generation that was taught that kicking down a door and throwing a hand grenade into a room full of sleeping children is perfectly acceptable behavior because they are not christians. Did we raise monsters or have so many veterans, now well over 100,000 killed themselves because the anti-depressants and mood altering drugs the military fed them year after year simply weren’t enough to let any but the pure American Sniper psychopath live with having caused so much horror.

Today we see it with police, the exact same thing, a closed society based entirely on psychopathic behavior, armed, above the law, an occupation force seeking the adrenaline rush that comes from kicking someone to death or shooting down a fleeing “suspect,” generally a panicked individual facing jail for parking fines or back child support, perhaps even unpaid student loans.

Our police are the enforcers of our slave labor society the same as our military is the enforcers for a global monstrosity.

4/27/15, 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Eric said...

Rhonda, you are putting words in my mouth. I never said Jesus offends me or that i hate him. I have absolutely nothing against the man.

You don't know any christians that try and force their believings onto others? I guess you haven't met the ones that show up at my door step in attempts to convert me. But I was really talking about people like Tom, who seems offended that others are not celebrating Christmas enough. What's up with that? Believe what you want to believe, and if others are acting good and kind, who cares what they believe in? Islam, Scientology, Christianity, it's all the same to me. Other peoples stories that they choose to believe in.

4/28/15, 9:17 AM  

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