A.C. Snow

Snow: There’s a difference in spanking and child abuse

Yes, I was “spanked” as a child.

Actually, I was “switched,” and I don’t know why the media refer to the punishment said to have been inflicted on his 4-year-old child by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson as a “spanking.”

Tell me. What offense can a 4-year-old possibly do to justify a “whupping” that left cuts and bruises on the child’s back, ankles and legs? Labeling such cruelty a “spanking” is ridiculous.

Many of you of my generation felt the keen sting of the switch, without the punishment qualifying as “child abuse.” Switchings were once the primary form of punishment for a misbehaving child.

My parents, especially my mother, took the Fifth Commandment – “Thou shalt honor thy father and mother” – very seriously.

The commandment does not spell out just how parents are to be honored. My parents took care of that omission by passing their own amendments to the Biblical mandate:

•  Thou shall not lie. (Lying to them was especially reprehensible.)

• Thou shalt not “sass” (talk back to) thy parents.

• Thou shalt not pick a fight with thy siblings. (If the siblings were boys, both were punished. “But Mama, he started it!” fell on deaf ears.)

• Thou shalt not steal. (That rule applied to stealing anything, even to sneaking ripe peaches off our few trees. Peaches were meant for canning.)

• Thou shalt not curse, including using such words as “darn” and “dern.” Even “Drat it!” was frowned upon. “Damn” was practically a hanging offense.

My dad used “Plagonit!” to express anger or frustration. When I once mustered the temerity to suggest to him that “Plagonit!” – a modification of “Plague on it!” – was the equivalent of “Damn it!” I was treading on thin ice.

Don’t be surprised if publicity and outrage over the Peterson case spurs a movement to curb, if not eliminate, corporal punishment, especially in public schools.

Corporal punishment is technically legal in the home in all 50 states. Nineteen, including North Carolina, still allow spanking in schools.

At least 44 countries around the world have banned it, according to the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.

A Harris Poll last year found that 81 percent of Americans say spanking is sometimes appropriate. It’s never O.K. for 19 percent.

Just a game

On a recent Sabbath morning as I perused The N&O, I said to my wife, “Tomorrow, I want you to make an appointment for me with Dr. Starkenburg.”

“Why?” she asked, not with alarm since doctor appointments are quite common during these “golden years.”

“Because, I read here that yesterday East Carolina walloped the Tar Heels 70-41, and I don’t feel a thing.”

There was a time when such a catastrophic loss by the Heels would probably have sent me to a psycho ward. But those were the days when I was chasing the sweet bird of youth, long before I realized that college football is just “a game.”

It took over a half-century for me to wake up to that fact. I’m a slow learner.

Humanizing obituaries

I do not read many obituaries, unless I knew the deceased or some of the survivors. But, occasionally, something unusual will catch my eye as I glance over the obit page.

And I find myself impressed by how well the person composing the obit captures the humanity and warmth of the deceased.

For example, the recent obit for Thomas Carlton Blalock of Raleigh, included this little nugget:

“He had football and basketball season tickets for more than 50 years and he seldom agreed with any referee’s call against his Wolfpack.”

A few years ago, another memorable obit concluded with five simple words: “Red pick-up truck for sale.”

Snow: 919-836-5636 or