Old Statues, Swam Or Swum, School Shooting

Published 9:12 am Thursday, March 15, 2018

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

LEXINGTON, VA ­— This is certainly not what Proverbs had in mind, but my college boy and his spring break buddies pulled off Interstate 81 on Sunday to see the graves of the Confederate Army’s great soldiers, Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Stonewall Jackson.

Back at home, I was delighted.

The young men are mature enough to look upon history without being offended and feeling the urge to tear statues down and erase difficult eras from memory. They can also recognize honor and valor no matter what color uniform the soldier is wearing.

These days, many college campuses — and cities — are aflutter with the fear of Confederate statues. “Silent Sam,” the small Chapel Hill statue honoring UNC boys who left their studies to join the Civil War, is under considerable attack from professors, students and outside agitators who want it removed. They label Lee and Jackson as traitors, not as some of the most remarkable tacticians in military history.

The three young men are contrarians in a couple of ways. They haven’t joined that protest, and they are heading to the snowy north for spring break instead of south to the warm beaches.

They are going to Pittsburgh, Niagara Falls and Toronto and seeing the sights along the way.

I am very interested in their progress because … they took my car.

• • • • •

Finally, it’s time to confess my grammatical errors. Several weeks ago when West Forsyth High swimmer Tucker Burhans won the North Carolina 4-A swim championship, we published a front page story in The Clemmons Courier with the phrase, “He has swam for West for four years …”

The late English professor Winnie Killian at Western Carolina University would have died again had she read that.

I paused and almost backed up to fix that before it was immortalized on newsprint. No, I reasoned, somewhere I had heard that either “has swum” or “has swam” is acceptable these days as the old English rules are bent to accommodate modern usage.

A few days later former Mt. Tabor language teacher called …

She didn’t chide me. She didn’t condemn. She didn’t, as professor Killian did, ask, “Where are you from?” My freshman English professor was upset because I hadn’t properly used “lie” and “lay.” I still use substitute words to circumvent the dilemma of remembering which is proper.

The Mt. Tabor teacher gently suggested I was very wrong. The proper usage is still “has swum” despite all attempts to corrupt the English language.

She is right. I’m too old to have made that mistake.

• • • • •

There has been much controversy about school safety since the terrible shooting in Broward County, Fla., that left 17 students and teachers dead. The more we learn about the shooting, the more obvious it seems that a series of mistakes, bad policy and cowardice contributed to the death count.

A school deputy on the scene stayed outside during the fire storm of bullets instead of confronting the shooter. Other deputies first to arrive also stayed outside. The county sheriff has refused to take any personal responsibility.

There’s a book titled, “Mistakes Were Made — But Not By Me!” That denial of personal responsibility applies here.

The shooter had a long history of threats of violence but was shuffled back and forth between schools without being expelled because of a misguided policy. Students knew the shooter was a menace. Calls of warning to the FBI and other agencies were ignored. There were unheeded opportunities to avoid or lessen the slaughter.

The politically convenient blame now falls once again on the National Rifle Association and the 2nd Amendment.

Mistakes were made, and they were made by officials very close to home.

— Dwight Sparks