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Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald - June 30, 1999

'Uncle Jacob' and the Revolution
Nobody really knows what happened to Jacob Buffington. By 1787, he had fled the country, perhaps returning to England, or maybe hiding out somewhere in Canada.
Jacob, you see, was a Tory, loyal to the British during the American Revolution. Although he isn't a direct ancestor to my family, great-great-great-great-great-great-great-uncle Jacob didn't choose to break with England when the radicals threw tea into Boston Harbor and told King George to butt out.
Like a number of his countrymen, Jacob remained loyal to the British Crown even after the series of events that led up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
Although that date has become an important national holiday, it does perpetuate something of a romanticized view of our Early American ancestors. Not all of those in the Colonies, as our states were then called, felt moved to embrace the seemingly radical call for independence. In fact, even those who signed the Declaration had earlier remained loyal to the king, blaming those under him for the various problems between England and the Colonies. Just a year before, in 1775, the clashes at Concord and Lexington had taken place and provoked outrage against the British. Even in that hostile climate, however, moderate leaders stopped a movement calling for independence and instead, petitioned the king for "relief."
Those same moderates continued to block a declaration of independence by the colonies in May and June 1776, until finally, on July 4, enough of the colonies agreed to sign on the document.
But even then, the support for total independence from England was not without question. The people we now consider as the Fathers of our nation were at the time a small band of radicals who were willing to abandon the economic and political security of having ties with England. To many, like "Uncle Jacob," that must have been a frightening prospect.
But that makes what the Founding Fathers did even more amazing - that they would rebel against the comfortable status quo and plot the course for an independent future. At the time, the prospects for success were dim. The infant nation faced a country four times larger than itself. Had it not been for a series of lucky breaks, those who signed the document on July 4, 1776, may have been tried and hanged as traitors.
I've often wondered if I had lived at that time, would I have thrown my lot with the radicals, or would I have preferred to stay with the security of being a part of the British Empire? I'd like to think that I'd have had the wisdom and foresight to join the Revolution, but in fact, I might have high-tailed it out of the nation with "Uncle Jacob" and other Tories.
Change, especially radical change, is not easy. We all like the comforts of the status quo, even when we may disagree with some of the details.
So when you celebrate the July 4th holiday this weekend, ask yourself which side you would have taken had you lived 224 years ago - would you have had the courage to follow a small band of radicals, or would you have avoided conflict by supporting the status quo?
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Jackson Herald
June 30, 1999

Schools should demand civility
At one time, schools were institutions that demanded respect from students and parents. But no longer is that true. Recent events across the nation and in our own local community show that such respect has eroded to an alarmingly low level.
Now, we don't always agree with how public schools are run, but that doesn't mean we have less respect for them as an institution. Whatever policy problems public education may have, it still deserves civility from its patrons.
Yet such civility is in short supply. Many students no longer talk to teachers or administrators in respectful tones. Some wear outlandish clothing as a sign of contempt for their school environment. Even worse, many parents show an alarming level of contempt for their kids' school officials, defending "little Johnny" and excusing his bad behavior by blaming teachers or others.
Some of the problem has been brought on by school officials themselves. When public education took on the dual role of also being a social welfare agency, it lowered its institutional and community standing.
But the main problem has been the overall decline in social civility throughout our culture, a decline that has now seeped deep into public schools.
It is time, we believe, for public schools to again demand civility from students and parents.
First, every school system should adopt a uniform dress code, or some strict dress code rules. Moreover, those rules should be enforced consistently and across class lines.
Second, every school system should strengthen its code of student conduct. Not only should that cover the use of foul language on campus, but it should also demand that students address teachers and administrators in civil, polite, deferential tones.
Finally, every school system should expect its parent patrons to also communicate in civil tones. School leaders should make every effort to listen to concerns that parents may have and address those which are legitimate. But that doesn't mean school leaders should put up with parents who have lost their cool or who refuse to be reasonable in their discussions.
So rather than lamenting the effect of our cultural tides on their schools, public education leaders should stand like a firm rock on the shore, a place that is solid even when surrounded by cultural storms.
That won't solve all the problems in our schools by any measure, but it would go a long way toward regaining the trust and respect of both students and parents. Moreover, it would begin to instill some civil habits in our children that hopefully they would carry on into other aspects of their lives.
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