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: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Name: Tom McLaughlin
Monday, April 04, 2016
I’ve always had trouble with the “turn the other cheek” thing. If someone punched you in the face and you just stood there, you could expect it to happen again and again until you moved away. That’s how it was in my neighborhood. What you did was hit back harder and more often — twice at least — before asking, “Want some more?” If the other guy was tougher you still had to hit back, even when you knew you’d get pounded. Everyone understood that. There was never a shortage of bullies, and that’s the way you dealt with them. Though I’ve met bullies several times since, I haven’t had to hit one for decades. I think it was because they knew, viscerally, that I would. I’m fairly old now, but I still would.
There are always bullies, and boys who fight back. The way adults handle it, however, has changed. Teachers and administrators who have to deal with occasional fights have stopped inquiring about who or what started it — who may have been in the right, and who in the wrong. Instead, the same punishment is meted out to both combatants because the new ethic is: “Fighting is always wrong.” That sometimes it’s right is never considered in what some call our new, feminized culture.
I know men who believe that’s the way is should be, and they may be in the majority now. That’s sad, but what’s even worse? These metrosexual men are running our government. When Vladimir Putin invaded the Crimea, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text.”
Really John? I know you grew up in Massachusetts the same time I did, but maybe it was in a different kind of neighborhood, or maybe you were a cheek-turner. If you’ve never been punched you in the head, you never learned the basic lessons every man should learn. Clearly Putin learned them, and he understands you much better than you understand him. That’s unfortunate for the rest of us Americans you’re representing. You should know the nature of man is the same in the 21st century as it was in the 19th and in every other century, but you don’t.
After Putin took Crimea and then massed troops on the Ukrainian border, President Obama said almost the same thing Kerry did: “Because you're bigger and stronger [you’re] taking a piece of the country — that is not how international law and international norms are observed in the 21st century.” Oh yeah? I have news for you President Obama: That’s the law of the jungle no matter what century it is. You clearly haven’t learned it, and neither has your Secretary of State.
Yes, I know Kerry got three Purple Hearts and a silver star in Vietnam, but the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth were right when they claimed he lied to receive them. I came to know Kerry shortly after that. I worked in his unsuccessful campaign for congress in 1972. He was a guest in my house and in my parents’ house, and I sensed in him what Putin sensed, and what Iranian negotiators sensed: A leader needs an inner core of toughness and Kerry hasn’t got it. It’s not there. Neither his Boston Brahmin accent nor his $400 haircuts, nor his ill-gotten medals can disguise the emptiness of his expensive, tailored suit. I stopped showing up at his campaign headquarters back in September of ’72, and I was happy to watch him lose in November after spending more than any other congressional candidate in the country.
Never have I met President Obama, but I’ve been forced to see him over and over on television — so many times that I feel like I know him. He’s faced tough situations and I’ve observed his reactions. My conclusion? He hasn’t got it either. If I had any doubt, it was gone when he drew a red line in Syria and then let Assad cross it. He dithered and denied, saying he never drew it in the first place. After that, nothing mattered — not the crease in his pants that David Brooks so admired, not the thrill Chris Matthews got up his leg, not the resolve he pretends to possess as he reads from a teleprompter — none of it. Both our allies and our enemies know that, although people in the Obama Administration still talk tough, that’s all there will ever be. They’ve seen the man behind the curtain and he isn’t much.