I was only a 5th grader when they started the new school on the property adjacent to the old school building. My anticipation was great because I knew the following year when my 6th grade class started we would occupy the new building. New rooms, desks, books and all the other things associated with school ran through my mind all year as I waited. Summer came and my friends and I played often on the school grounds where the new building was being built. We peered through windows and ran inside to look, remaining until we were run out by worker or supervisor.
Fall came and change in the weather signaled that school would soon start. Youthful curiosity had my interest peeked while waiting to go beyond window peeking and actually walk into the doorway of that new building. I still recall the locker lined halls and the location of the class rooms I attended the following three years, The library,, the shop class, history class etc., and yes, the principal’s office all have their own set of memories.
Though few, I remember the times I got into trouble. Mrs. Hughes sent me to the office for talking in class; my shop teacher actually had the gall to spank me with a paddle for a perceived wrong doing, using a paddle which he made in the class room. I didn’t even do what I got spanked for. However, he was after all the person in charge and he didn’t have to be right. I even remember a person in the seventh grade being expelled from school for some rather crude conduct involving exposure in a school assembly.
I have a strong recollection of the plaques hanging on the wall directly in line with the double door entry to the school building.
Often times I would stop and read a particular plaque and wonder in awe at the authority in the clearly stated words of wisdom. I imagine my continued reading and wonderment came from the efforts of a third grade teacher, and elderly baby sitter, and a dedicated mother and father. Each morning this teacher (Mrs. Riddle) had a daily Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America followed by reading a couple of Bible verses and a moment of silence. This was reinforced by a baby sitter who was a major part of my childhood. My mother and father both worked and Aunt Clara, the sitter was a common fixture in the home. She would often have two of my brothers and me sitting on her lap or the easy chair arm as she read verse from the biblical book of proverbs. Mom and Dad also had a habit of not only telling us something was wrong or right but also explain why. They did not often sit and read the Bible aloud to us but they did have each of us boys attend Sunday School and church in the early years of our life. This did not assure that as child or teen or young adult that I would be saintly or do the right thing but it did lay a foundation. Let me digress to the plaque and the pledge.
The pledge: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, One Nation under God, in-divisible, with Liberty and Justice for all. To me this was a solemn moment dedicated to an ideal greater than I understood, This person called God which appeared bigger than anything in this world apparently had charge over it. This leads me to the plaque on the wall, “The Ten Commandments” passed to the world from God. I didn’t even know the meaning of all the words. I could not quote the commandments, yet they had value to me in decisions of my daily life. The words caused me to question the actions of myself and others whom I knew, to question the judgment or character of those who oppose or acted against the basics listed. Further impact was felt with the movie The Ten Commandments staring Charlton Heston as Moses. The movie makers even had the courage to film something that yielded reverence towards God.
After graduating from school in 1965 I was not much different from any of the kids I knew. I had my share of confusion about the world and the choices I met each day. In an effort to find my direction I joined the military with a guarantee that Vietnam would be on the list of assignments. The point of this is not Vietnam, rather the feeling I had when I came home. I had changed but something in the country had changed also. I watched the values and principles change, on college campus conversations were slanted away from God and Country, Grandma and Apple Pie ideals of a romantic like myself. There was a heartfelt change taking place which I was not comfortable with. I remember crying in full dress uniform as we of the 9th Navel Construction Regiment marched in review and saluted the American Flag just preceding deployment to DaNang Vietnam. The tears were not for me, they were for God and Country. The clear contrast of the mood in America was unsettling.
(The earlier and following was written time relevant to the Columbine School shooting tragedy and now it is 2012 and again there is a tragic shooting which will be a political spectacle and cause for many to seek solution. What I wrote originally is relevant and sadly valid today as it was then. I am reminded of it and so have not changed the original text but have added to it slightly.)
Now it is 2000 AD and much has taken place in a few brief years of my life. None have been as alarming as the violence witnessed in the schools. They are becoming killing fields. The killers are seemingly without remorse. We argue about the cause and everyone wants to put the blame on something they can deal with quickly thus ending the problem. Pass a law, remove the gun, control the dress with uniforms, bring in the technology necessary for security, train the teachers and counselors and on and on. Bring in Prayer, “no”, that will force a religious belief on a child and possibly violate the rights of the parent. We must have separation of church and state goes the argument, on and on we muse, Should we not slow the pace of our teaching cycle and understand the child rather than send in the psychologist for prescription drugs; is this not in the realm of possibility? Draw a line of distinction between right and wrong like we did for 200 years, not a chance. It is unfair to the poor innocent person that does wrong and knows not why. After all, action is without responsibility; Morality, is it only a feeling and not a distinction of your character and conduct. Character with out doubt I think.
I have concluded that lawyers and theologians have a common trait, the ability to take that which is profoundly simple and understandable and move it to a point of permanently arguable confusion. A profoundly excellent example is the President of the United States questioning the definition of the word “is”.
Confusion seems to be the protocol of the day. The teachers of my day would be jailed, sued, fired, or all three in this modern era. Reading the Bible in school, forbid that anything we would use for a foundation of morality would be used as a reference in this enlightened age. Pledge of Allegiance, forbid that we would try being Americans in this society of multiculturalism. How could any decent Red, Black, Asian, and such that’s born in this country dare call themselves Americans, Certainly this would go against their ancestry. I am a Caucasian of English, Irish, Scotch, Dutch and German decent (assuming there are no unknown skeletons in the closet). I guess I consider my self an American native because I am to confused to be anything else. Political correctness deems I should be an Euro-American and emphasize the traditions of the ancestry and not believe in the founding principle of those who foraged the birthing of this American Home Land. (Political correctness, an aphorism that is often incorrect in practical application.)
My parent like my shop teacher actually thought that spanking was a method of discipline which was acceptable to help the formation of a young person character, now the ACLU, the Department of Health and Welfare and countless busy bodies across the country with a liberated duty to protect children from natural parents prone to discipline would take firm action. On the other side of the coin, a teacher could, at one time hug a child without fear of a law suit or investigation for sexual deviance. Added in; I was a volunteer in an elementary school at the request of my grandson’s teacher. The need for someone to assist with students falling behind, sitting with them in a one on one situation at the class room hours in the hall was what she wanted. I would give audience to the student in the hall so the rest of the class was not a distraction. I also used my vehicle to help haul children to and from different field trips which required the use of several vehicles rather than a bus, then on occasion riding on the bus when available. One day a little girl ran across the room with joy when she saw me come in the class and I, without thought caught her and picked her up to hug her. As I did so I saw another temp assistant across the room (a woman) giving me a steel eyed glare. I dropped the girl to the floor like a hot potato. This is sadly the environment we live in today, one of distrust and constant concern that our simplest action will offend and bring legal action into our lives. I soon after quit volunteering assistance to the grade school.
I bring one more issue to the table for this conversation! My parents and literally every adult relative I recall had one or several fire arms. Most were accessible at all times. I learned early to respect fire arms and use them for purposes both acceptable and safe. Certainly I learned the life had a value and sanctity great enough to demand respect, You did not intentionally aim at or shoot anyone. Intent to maim or kill was reserved for acts of war, Even an accidental miss us of fire arms was not an acceptable circumstance thus we learned how to use them properly. I own guns today though I never found pleasure in hunting for the kill and I use them for little more than target practice. Of course this was before the advent of the modern fire arm. Now days it appears we have guns which take control of innocent well-meaning people and cause them to do terrible things. The “gun” lying weeks and months on end pleading to be loaded finally gets someone to grasp it in their hand. Once possessed, the victim discards all of the previous years of values, training, and respect for life and seeks to kill or rob or maim their fellow man. Since they are no longer responsible for their actions, what else could they do? Oh that evil fire arm. Odd it is to me that there is not a question concerning whether or not they actually had the fore mentioned years of values, training and respect for life! Maybe the violence of the media, movies, television, publications, and such depicting gore, vulgarity, disrespect, vicious attitude, physical abuse, excessive sexuality without respect and commitment, habitual lying and such shown as normal acceptable behavior carries some influence. Could character actually need solid foundational rights and wrongs to develop?
I wonder in the events of the current times how many people ask a question; what if God hadn’t been forced out of the school. What if tens of thousands of children like myself could have stood in awe under the words of the ten commandments? What if the unique individual value and sanctity of life for each human being had a place and respect with the majority of young people? What if we actually believed that this country the United States if America was “One Nation under God”! We then, the parents and grandparents of the children in this country have to accept responsibility for the things that are wrong. We have the responsibility in the formation of the youth and his character. We can’t leave it up to the village, the teacher, the neighbor, the day care, the school curricula, the federal government and such. An individual with freedom is and individual with responsibility. To abdicate the responsibility to all the others is to give up your freedom!
Now (2012) I fear once again in the midst of tragic circumstance we will go after the gun and the gun owner. The root cause, that which will require long term and sincere change in moral and ethical conduct of our society in general will be overlooked. Prayerful consideration of the moment will only be conducted by the few who believe in moral conviction of your character. The quick fix will be laws which will be broken as the lawless could care less. Those captivated by the deviant direction of society, those with no respect for the value of life and those who want to place blame on an easy target will continue demanding control on the innocent. There is not ever going to be enough laws to govern and protect a society without moral conviction.
You may be one of those people that debunk evil, one that says keep religion out of our school and even one that is calling the attorney at law the first time someone tries to direct your “rare perfect child”. You may think that I have no point at all, just rambling on without purpose. I have to ask, wasn’t it simpler just a few years ago when we had a moral standard that could be shared and respected without fear of legal retribution? What is wrong with the Ten Commandments? They weren’t suggestions!
- 1. You shall have no Gods before me!
- · In our get mine first and do what feels good society this is easily discarded. One only needs think for a moment and ask what he or she has put ahead of God.
- 2. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
- · We may not make our idols, certainly many buy them. Then we enshrine them in our home and dedicate our time and resources towards them.
- 3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
- · We need not look far to see total discard for this. It is prevalent in the media through movies, television programs and novels of our day. Yes, the misuse has been present all of my life; it wasn’t however the prevalent trend as it now appears to be! Now those of us with the values of Christian Morality are the ones deemed perverse and destructive to the freedoms of society.
- 4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy.
- · A few years ago the dollar was not so important that you couldn’t take one day a week off and close your business. Family even found time to be together and know one another; the church attendant was viewed as a solid citizen, not an extreme bigoted homophobe against diversity and expression.
- 5. Honor your father and mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
- · There seems an obvious condition present here. How many have a need to give their parents their due honor? And parents need to be concerned enough about their own conduct that they may be honorable. How can children respect and honor the parent that can’t even stand up for these ten commandments!
- 6. You shall not commit murder.
- · I wonder how many of the parents in the schools like Littleton Colorado would be opposed to this commandment being posted in front of the children in school for the twelve years of required education. Rather this than a death awareness class. What of a society that thinks nothing about infanticide through abortion, Since Roe vs Wade by now nearly sixty million babies in the name of rights! We have killed six times more than Hitler in WWll and we considered him a monster of epic proportion.
- 7. You shall not commit adultery.
- · If we gave honor to this commandment we would demand removal of most of the entertainment we allow on the movie and television and in the heroes we allow our children to look up too. We would have to quit sowing the seed of promiscuity in our entirety of social and entertainment practices.
- 8. You shall not steal.
- · Crime rates across the country would be profoundly affected with the honoring of this simple commandment. We should feel shame in the presence of our piers if were involved in this violation. We should feel shame in our hearts even in solitude. We would if this was a part of our character!
- 9. You shall not five false testimonies against your neighbor.
- · It seems this is acceptably ignored when it is profitable through the court system of our day. Also, when it yields great revenue at the box office or the press and news syndicated broadcasts.
- 10. You shall not covet you neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, or ox or donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
- · Simple and straight forward in statement, this would remove a multitude of attitudinal problems. We would not be nearly so obsessed with another’s belongings or the incessant drive to be better than he or she by measuring our possessions. Nor would we seek laws to take another’s property.
Finding reason these Commandments should be or have been removed from the view of our children in their schools is absolutely beyond me. In all the years of school attendance no teacher or official attempted to get me involved in their religion. Never was I offended and had I been my parents were certainly influential enough in my life to balance out the respective offense or influence. They after all did influence all the other values I captured in becoming an adult.
There is a great tendency in the political climate of the day to have a quick fix law as the solution for our problems. If laws were the solution those on the books would not have been broken. We have a character crisis in America. The responsibility of an individual is avoided in the blame game. The possibility or immoral or evil action by an individual is ignored. Right or wrong, black and white, winner or loser, moral or immoral are terms that our society wants to meld together in some sort of gray area. Until we accept the individual responsibility and consequence of our action we will fail to cope with the problems in our society. There will never be enough laws to protect the immoral, unethical society; neither will the essence of freedom as we have known continue to exist. Freedom can only be enjoyed by a responsible, moral, self-governing society that controls the power of government rather than being controlled by the government. The thought that governing men can be more moral, just and fair than others in society is absurd. Morality can only be defined by a greater power than man. God, the concept of the creator gives us the necessary recognition of the authority of moral leadership. Anything less is watered down by man and filled with the seed of self-destruction. Certainly, I openly pray that we as a people recognize the need to change and embrace the Foundational Principles of the Ten Commandments in the practice of self-governing. This value being born of one individual, passing to the family unit, then being imposed on the local community, then the State Community and thus imposed on the Federal Community by those which have a “Responsible Freedom”. If we reject God, the value and sanctity of life, the principle of moral and ethical foundations being passed to individuals and replace that with a governance of men led by men for the security of government and establishment of a strong state control in our lives then we cease to be a free people. We then have given away the liberty given by God to his creation and become slaves to the desire of men.
Mark A. Edgar