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Open Letter to Maine Republican Party

May 12, 2010

May 12, 2010

Dear Mr. Webster and Ms. Lee-McNally:

Your party has absolutely gone too far.

First, it was decrying President Obama as a non-American. Our nation has a history of racism, so it’s easy to see how some Americans could believe such a falsity.

Second, it was the forming of a radical new branch of Washington-marching, angrily-protesting conservatives. That’s fine; let them use their freedom of speech. Let them polarize the party that they so desperately need to unify.

Third, it was filibustering and advocating against any progressive legislation in Congress. Despite its cumbersomeness, such acts are entirely protected by Senate rules and, if the liberals were in their position, they might be doing the same thing.

I can deal with all that. The Republican Party may be concocting more lies and spinning more stories than ever before, but let them dig their own grave.

What I take issue with are the actions of the Maine Republicans, specifically, the Knox County delegation, this past weekend at the Republican State Convention.

Politics goes too far when a respected teacher’s classroom is invaded and sabotaged, and that is exactly what the Knox County Republicans did, and what many of your Maine Republicans are attempting to justify.

I am an unapologetic graduate of Paul Clifford’s eighth grade English class at King Middle School. I participated in the “Four Freedoms” expedition, and I made a poster decrying war quite similar to the one with which the Republicans took issue.

I am not brainwashed, I am not a puppet, I am not anti-American or anti-religious, and I am certainly not stupid. Paul Clifford’s class taught me to think critically, to deductively reason and, if anything, to appreciate America for all the freedoms with which I am ensured on a daily basis.

Clearly, the Knox County Republicans – who took a cherished, pro-Labor poster from Clifford’s room and who now are making slanderous and uninformed claims about Clifford – have a different agenda.

Let me be the first to say that the actions by these particular Republicans are wholly despicable and cast shame on your once-respectable party. The individuals who felt the liberty to remove a personal belonging from a room not theirs and then make ignorant claims about the room’s content should be truly ashamed.

I am glad to see that King Middle School is handling this situation so calmly and transparently – as they do everything. Contrary to Republican claims, no students are brainwashed by anti-American or anti-religious propaganda in Clifford’s class. They are taught to examine their own beliefs and determine whether or not the four freedoms are still ensured in America, all the while participating in unbiased classroom discussion. Some students, such as the one whose poster has received considerable attention, rightfully feel that war infringes upon one’s freedom from fear.

Furthermore, if there is anything that can be acclaimed about King’s learning style is its transparency. Not only do parents conference with teachers at least twice a year, but King holds a unique and nationally-recognized annual “Festival of Learning.” This Festival showcases the work of King students and is open to everyone.

At King, parents work collaboratively with teachers and are often sought out for input. Students are never told what to think, and are never discouraged from pursuing their beliefs. The posters and content of Clifford’s room are highly representative of student work and Clifford’s conviction that all students should be enabled to think critically. Maybe you should meet Mr. Clifford sometime. I can assuredly say that he would quickly dispel any persisting myths about his classroom.

Listen. I know my age renders me susceptible to cries that I’m brainwashed and too young to know better. I get that. However, in an appeal to reasonability, I am anything but brainwashed and too young. I served on the Portland School Committee for a year, I started my school’s debate team to foster critical thinking and conflicting opinions, I consider myself particularly well-read and politically-literate, and I am headed to Harvard University this fall.

You don’t need to take my words seriously, but just know this: the radicals in your party are driving its respectability and decency into the ground. Your party is fully allowed to exercise its freedom of speech as much as it wants. However, when it comes to desecrating a classroom based off false political motivation, your party is crossing the line in a big way.

Therefore, I urge you to strongly and publically condemn the actions of the Knox County Republicans this past weekend. Your failure to do so will show the entire state what the Republican Party truly believes: that free-thinking is bad, that damaging classrooms is permissible, and that lying is acceptable.

Simon Thompson

19 Comments leave one →
  1. May 12, 2010 2:44 pm

    Fantastic letter, Simon! What the Hatriots™ of the Maine GOP did do was to TRASH the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you know, the American document they’ve yet to read or understand.


  2. TxBetts permalink
    May 12, 2010 8:45 pm

    Outstanding letter Simon. I found your post on the Rachel Maddow Blog. Please keep us posted on the reaction to your letter. I wish you every success as you begin the next step in your education at Harvard this fall.

  3. May 12, 2010 9:13 pm

    It certainly is easy to see why this young man is headed to Harvard this fall. Good luck with your studies, Simon. If you keep the maturity and levelheadedness that you displayed here, you will go far in whatever you decide to do.

  4. Terri Bohr permalink
    May 12, 2010 10:02 pm

    Good for you, Simon, as a teacher I was offended by the notion that anyone felt that they had the right to touch anything in that teacher’s room let alone leave an insulting message. I am so happy that you were able to respond to them. I feel that we need to become much more vocal to this ever growing, very loud group of twisted conservatives who are getting far too much attention than they deserve.

  5. Lynn from Maine permalink
    May 12, 2010 10:07 pm

    I’m curious…have any of the Republican candidates for governor weighed in on this issue? It would be a wonderful opportunity for them to distance themselves from the fringe…or perhaps they’d prefer to be identified WITH them. It would be great to see a story on this. I so love to see them back peddling when they are torn between saying what they know to be right and pandering to their “base”. Say might that be the derivation of base instincts. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so terrifying.

  6. May 13, 2010 5:01 am

    Thank you to Kay, TxBetts, Jim, and Terri for the positive feedback- it is so much appreciated!

    Lynn- Only one Republican candidate, to the extent of my knowledge, has apologized for the incident thus far. That candidate is Matt Jacobson.

  7. Patricia Fantin permalink
    May 13, 2010 12:37 pm

    This letter demonstrates the value and extent of all you have learned through the very education system these republicans decry. Shame on them. seems to me the King Middle School is doing it’s job providing an education to help our youth succeed in life’s journey.
    Keep learning and growing, you are the hope of our future. i am sure you will do well at Harvard.

  8. Emma permalink
    May 13, 2010 4:22 pm

    I am an eighth grade student at King Middle School, and I’m currently in the Four Freedoms expedition. This event was a big uproar considering that we’re learning about our rights right at the moment. Although I agree with the fact that what the Republicans did were wrong, I also think that the entire Republican Party should not be at blame. I really appreciate that time was taken out of your day to write this article. And for the record for whoever might be reading this I am not brainwashed!

  9. Mama G permalink
    May 13, 2010 4:23 pm

    I think that everyone should just hold hands and forget about controversy, we all need to love one another and share inner beauty with one and other. Politics are causing an uproar, lets think about the children. Lets defend them from sin. Together we can make children our future, stealing posters and replacing them with useless things will not do anything. My name is Mama G, our future is you and me.

  10. Charlotte permalink
    May 13, 2010 4:24 pm

    I’m currently in 8th grade at King Middle School, and although I agree with the fact that the Republicans that came to our school over the weekend were way out of line when they chose to steal property and call students “brainwashed” etc. I don’t agree with with the way the Republican party is now being depicted due to the mistakes of a few party members. I don’t consider myself a Republican, but I don’t understand why the choices made by some Republicans in Knox country represent the entire party.

    • May 13, 2010 7:36 pm

      Thanks for the positive feedback Patricia, and thanks for the inspirational words Mama G!

      Emma and Charlotte- Thanks for your comments, and thanks for taking the time to read my letter. Allow me to make it clear that I was certainly not saying that the entire Maine GOP was accountable for the actions of a few individuals. However, until the Executive Director and Chair of the Maine GOP condemn, not just “do not condone,” the actions of the individuals (who WERE under their jurisdiction), those two individuals (to whom this letter was addressed) can, and should, be held accountable.

  11. Irl Bolin permalink
    May 13, 2010 8:21 pm

    Simon, this was one great letter! I only hope that some of those Republicans are not only ashamed of themselves, but of the others. You, as a young person, were more articulate and had more clear thinking than any of the rest of those people. You should be very proud of yourself, and I wish you good luck at University this Fall!

  12. Terry Lochhead (Jesse McCain and Jill Santiago's mom in New Hampshire) permalink
    May 14, 2010 10:52 am

    Go, Simon!

  13. Bill Weber permalink
    May 14, 2010 11:01 am


    Thanks Simon, these repugs are all cowards. The GOP knows who was responsible for this unamerican behavior but are too cowed by the lunatics.

  14. May 15, 2010 2:23 am

    Here via Think Progress.

    This was incredible, and I am appalled to hear that something like this could even happen. Then again, my home state is Texas, so I know all about extremists meddling in schools.

    Beautifully expressed. Perhaps these grown men and women could learn a thing or two from you, huh? And yes, the heads of the Maine GOP need to condemn this and distance themselves from these people as fast as they can, not try to justify it by saying, “Well, he is a godless Commie and all….” Bad move, guys.

    Congrats on Harvard and good luck!

  15. May 15, 2010 10:46 am

    Simon, I commend you on a statement that showed more critical thought, coherence, and, in fact, compassion than I’ve heard from any ten statements from the far right regarding this incident. Harvard is gaining an asset in you, and I wish you all the best (I’m even willing to overlook your being a Celtics and Red Sox fan — everyone has a flaw 🙂 ). May I ask if you’ve decided on your undergraduate field of study?

    The Republicans in this case seem to have forgotten that this class has alumni, and a great number of them, such as yourself, are or soon will be of voting age. “Hoisted by their own petard” is, I believe, a most appropriate description in this case.

    • May 15, 2010 3:37 pm

      Thank you for such positive feedback Irl, Terry, Bill, Dominique, and Michael!

      Michael- Haha, glad you can reconcile our differences regarding sports teams. And yes, I will be concentrating in government while also taking an abundance of economics, Chinese, and possibly gender studies classes. That’s the plan at least!

  16. empirecookie permalink
    May 15, 2010 5:11 pm

    Way to go Simon!!!

  17. Marlene permalink
    May 16, 2010 3:29 am

    An excellent letter, Simon, and excellent responses from a couple of the teacher’s current students!

    This is the penultimate act of a party wallowing in ignorance and religious fanaticism, all starting with Ronald Reagan and the courting of the hate-filled and bigoted religious reicht.

    These fanatics want nothing more than a return to the 1700s, when LGBTs were in the closet or insane asylums, a woman place is in the home, barefoot, pregnant and uneducated, and black are back in their place in the rear of the bus and Jim Crow reigns supreme again.

    Religious fanatics despise education, because it threatens their power held by the iron fist of ignorance and superstition. This is why they want all public schools dismantled and only “approved” theocracy shoved down our throats through propaganda such as Lush, Spammity, Drek, ad nauseum.

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