I have been blessed in my 37 years to befriend a great many people from many different walks of life. Some have gone by the wayside, as people are wont to do, other have remained steadfast no matter the distances between us. A member of the latter group is one Mrs. Jessica Cudaback.
I met Jessica (when her last name was still Duncan) several years ago while working at a part time job at a craft store in Raleigh, NC; me, the rabidly conservative 30-something; she, the teenage NC State student with a bumper sticker on her car touting Bush’s last day in office. Needless to say, we got along famously.
Time marches on, and people change. Jessica met and fell in love with James, a newly-inducted member of the US Army. While James was training (and then stationed overseas), Jessica transformed from a typical liberal college student to a ferociously patriotic conservative Army wife. She has never lost her spirit of questioning authority, and has also (thankfully) never lost the confidence to speak out when she feels something needs to be said. She, and people like her give me hope for the future of this country.
I sent her a link to a story today about an 8-year old who, as part of a class project, decorated his hat with Army men in a patriotic statement. His government school teacher and the school superintendent refused to allow the child to wear his hat, saying that it ran afoul of the school’s zero-tolerance ban on weapons. This incident set Jessica off, and an upset Jessica is not someone to hold her tongue. Here is what she wrote to that school’s superintendent:
|Subject:||Toy soldiers on 8-year-old’s hat|
|Date:||Thu, 17 Jun 2010 19:40:57 -0400|
|From:||Jessica Cudaback <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
Dear Mr. Kenneth Di Pietro,
I just read an article from the Associated Press regarding the 8 year-old’s patriotic hat, and I must say that I am outraged. My name is Jessica Cudaback and I am a 23 year-old Army Wife. My husband is currently deployed overseas fighting to maintain the freedom that allows this boy to wear such a hat, and the fact that a young, patriotic boy was made to remove the toy soldiers that had guns is an insult to every American soldier, whether deployed or not.
I feel your actions in condoning the ban of plastic Army men with weapons, and forcing a child to remove innocent items from a patriotic display, are a direct and personal insult to anyone that serves, has served, or has family in the service. Though nothing more than a small piece of plastic, those figurines on the boy’s hat, posed with weapons aimed, are highly symbolic of the friends and family that serve and have served overseas to protect your country and life as you know it. I am typically not the type of person to email those that do wrong in some distant state, and this is actually the first time I ever have. However, after reading what you and the staff of the Tiogue School made an 8 year-old boy do, I feel my words are just. I hope you take what I have to say seriously, and remember this story next time you or your staff feel it necessary to take “policy” to the extreme.
There is no doubt in my mind (and I hope yours too) that extremists of any kind can be a threat to our nation’s and our personal security, way of life, and even our lives. I’m sure you can agree that Islamic extremists are to blame for the lives lost in the 9/11 attacks, and other terrorist attacks as well. Christian extremists have been known to form dangerous and deadly cults, such as the one in Waco, TX that was responsible for multiple deaths. Environmental extremists have been responsible for millions of dollars of damage to companies that do not have the most environmentally-friendly practices. But worst of all are the political extremists. Political extremists are responsible for the downfall of entire countries, genocide, and tyranny; most notably Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. “Policy” extremists, such as you and your staff, are merely the enforcers and the backbones of the political extremists you fear.
What I believe you and your staff are practicing is “policy extremism”, as seen throughout George Orwell’s 1984. That is, the practice of enforcing an existing policy so strictly, and so literally, that the original purpose of the policy is lost. I’m sure as superintendent of the Coventry Public Schools, you have read 1984. Do you recall how, in the book, simple rules were enforced so strictly to the point of being oppressive and tyrannical? By supporting the ban on toy soldiers that have weapons, based on your “zero-tolerance” weapons and drug policy, you have helped bring society one step closer to Orwell’s bleak and frightening vision of the future.
Do not forget exactly why your school has a “zero-tolerance” weapons policy in place. It is to keep the school safe for all teachers and students. Now ask yourself; do tiny plastic Army men molded with tiny plastic weapons pose a threat to you, the students, or anyone that happens to glance at them? If you answer yes to that question, I suggest you seek help for irrational fears of tiny, plastic, inanimate objects. If you answer no, as I assume you and any other sane person would, then ask yourself: what good does telling an 8 year-old boy that he cannot put tiny plastic soldiers that are carrying weapons on a patriotic hat? My answer is none–it does no good; it only deprives a young child of what he believes to be a patriotic display and teaches him that our country’s soldiers that do carry real weapons should not be a role model, or even discussed or displayed.
If plastic Army men are so frightening and threatening to our young children, then petition to stop the production or sale of all plastic figurines that are carrying weapons. If plastic Army men that are molded with weapons send a “bad” message to children, then do not let your children watch Toy Story, where they depict plastic Army men (complete with weapons) working together to set up communication to the other toys from within the Christmas tree. If a small, plastic depiction of a weapon is enough of a threat to children (aside from a possible choking hazard, and not including toy guns, etc.) to ban them from being worn on a hat in plain view, then all history lessons that involve any imagery or reference to weapons should be banned as well. Banning such imagery would ban almost all history of all wars, and even the classic Schoolhouse Rock “Shot Heard ’round the World”. Such a ban would also ban discussion of the Second Amendment of the Constitution and what “the right to bear arms” means. Given that you condone the teacher’s and the principal’s “enforcement” of the weapons policy, do you also condone the omission of almost all history lessons and imagery that include weapons?
You were quoted in the article as saying the principal, “wasn’t denying the patriotism,” but you are missing the real problem. In reality, the boy was denied the display of patriotism because, “He wore a plain baseball cap on the day of the visit instead.” The boy was inspired by a neighbor who proudly serves our country by serving in the United States Armed Forces. To deny the display of armed forces, you are denying the United States Armed Forces, thus denying everything they stand for (which just so happens to be everything that our country is based on, and gives you your right to live the lifestyle you have). Denying the depiction of soldiers with weapons is the same as denying a writer of a pen, a diver of scuba gear, an accountant of a calculator, and even a teacher of a classroom.
If you do not feel it necessary to deny a child of a symbolic and patriotic display, then please at least write a letter of apology to the boy and his family. Actions speak louder than words, and as much as you claim the child was not denied a patriotic display, your actions had spoken louder and to the contrary. I would hope you write a letter of apology towards all American troops and their families, but I cannot expect too much out of an elected official.
If you feel the actions of your staff and you are just, then I hope you sleep well at night knowing that you are contributing to the destruction of American society.
The Rifleman’s Creed a.k.a. The Creed of the United States Marine
This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will…
My rifle and myself know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit…
My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my heart against damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will…
Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until victory is America’s and there is no enemy, but peace!
Thank you for your time,
I could not even begin to come close to the passion that my friend has displayed. Her message is one that should be read by all people charged with the responsibility of instructing our children, and one that fills my heart with pride knowing that she is one of the future leaders of our great country.
If you would also like to contact Superintendent Kenneth Di Pietro, he can be e-mailed at DiPietrK@ride.ri.net.
Jessica Cudaback can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter at jcudaback.