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Samuel Smith, an American

by Mary and Michael Leppert

Before you read this story, please suspend your sense of the unrealistic, as the past and present are being mixed for effect. If you would, just relax your mind for a moment, vividly picturing as you read.

Samuel Smith is 6 feet tall, weighs 195 solid, muscular pounds and is 43 years old. Samuel wears rough clothes and boots, as befits one who works for a living, and he has a strong, calm gaze that has seen faraway things. His thick, brown hair never quite stays combed, but sticks out on its own, especially when he works and perspires. Samuel is quite literate, having read The Federalist Papers and understood them enough to discuss and debate them with his neighbors. The time is 1790, in the United States, nearly 20 years after the Declaration of Independence lit the fire of war between the Colonies and the Mother Country, Britain.

Samuel is a blacksmith and also a carpenter by trades, but he can do some farming and can produce all of the man-made necessities of life for himself, his wife and five children, three boys and two girls, ranging in age from 5 to 17 years old. Samuel and his wife, Sally, have taught all of their children to read, write, work their numbers and think about things, following the lead of the earlier patriots and the natural order of things. Through-out the newly-made United States, parents know what their children need to know and teach it to them or find someone who can. Many prestigious Europeans, upon visiting the new country, have commented on how intellectually nimble and capable the Americans are. Samuel and Sally’s children have memorized large portions of the Bible, as well as a number of passages from the wisdom of the patriots, many of whom are Samuel’s friends and acquaintances. The Sam Smith family have spent many winter nights in their humble home reading aloud to each other or silently to themselves. Samuel takes his sons with him to the smithy shop most mornings so that they can learn the blacksmithing trade alongside him. But they know a great deal more, just as their father, and all of the other boys and men around them do. They can farm, fashion wood, make tools and nails, care for the animals, etc. The Smith girls learn the parallel homemaking skills from their mother. They can take the simplest of raw materials, be it meat and vegetables or yarn and cotton, and make clothes or meals for use now or later. The children are also taught to be modest and polite in their demeanor and deportment. They are the very definition of self-sufficiency and self-responsibility; just as everyone around them is.

One morning, as Samuel and two of his boys are stoking the fire at the smith shop, preparing for another busy day at the forge and anvil, a man appears in the large doorway. He is small of build, with thinning hair, slicked down. He is wearing a velvet suit, spectacles and carries a clipboard upon which he carefully writes every so often. He introduces himself to Samuel as Mr. Phelge, a social worker, and asks if he may speak with Sam for a moment. The Smith politely assents. He senses something bent and unnatural about Phelge, but can’t quite identify what it is, but notices that Phelge has the habit of raising his eyebrows and tilting his head back slightly as he speaks.

The “proper” little man takes a deep breath, puffs out his chest a bit and announces to Samuel that tomorrow, by decree of the government, he, Phelge, will be taking Samuel’s children to a building a few miles from home, where they will spend at least six hours each day, being taught by teachers chosen by a School Board. They will be taught what the Board wants them to learn – whether Samuel approves or not.

The children will be taught to be loyal to the country above all else, rather than to their family. (Maintaining such strong familial ties, as has been the case, is viewed by the Board as being outmoded and dispensable.) They will have their time filled up with games and learning from books, although when Samuel asks Phelge what this book-learning will accomplish in real life, the social worker is at a loss for words and stutters over the few words he can muster, before resuming his announcement. As Phelge continues, Samuel Smith is shocked at what he hears and is becoming increasingly red in the face. He is quickly thinking about the men and boys who recently died fighting the tyranny of King George and now here it is, staring them in the face again -- only this time it is more insidious, because it is being promoted by other Americans!! Samuel’s attention returns to Phelge as he drones on and then lastly, informs Samuel that, since the School Board considers it of vital importance that parents not be allowed to keep their children “in the dark,” all children 10 years of age and older will be taught about sex, with the girls learning how to place prophylactics on bananas! This is too much for Sam Smith. In one deft move he reaches for his rifle, ready in a nearby corner, and training it upon Phelge’s small chest, invites the little man to turn quickly and leave – forgetting he ever knew the way to Smith’s shop. Phelge hurries away, never to return, and Samuel Smith returns to his anvil and forge with his sons. That morning, the first few blows of the hammer fall hard as the stocky patriot seeks to drive out the darkness of Phelge from his life and that of his children. For the time being, Samuel has been victorious, but deep within, he wonders for how long? For how long?

Back to Real Life

Is there a part of you that is a brother or sister to Sam Smith or his wife? There is in us. We are our son’s parents and we surround him with an environment that we think is wholesome and suitable to raise him in. It is an environment we create and we have picked and chosen from a variety of styles and philosophies. Two-hundred years ago this idea would not have needed explanation or a name. Parents like our fictitious Samuel Smith successfully raised their kids without outside influence and no one thought anything of it. It was parenting. What has happened? We all need to ask and answer this question and then take action to ensure that the Phelges of the country are chased off forever – or at least until tomorrow! MJL

Copyright © 2006 Modern Media