Enter stage left…

And this is my first post (there’s a trend here.) I’m Tom Gehring, and unlike Randy I’ll bet none of you know me from anywhere.

I’m new to the whole “blogging for the public” thing, having had a relatively tightly controlled LiveJournal account for about a decade now. Like the rest of our motley crew, I got my start on soc.history.what-if back in the mid ’90s and have been a history nerd ever since. I’m 28 and hold a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications with a concentration in Print Journalism from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, where I still live with my husband and our three cats. I had the distinct pleasure of graduating in 2005 right as the bottom was starting to fall out of the newspaper business, so I did photography for a few years before ending up at a law firm and then getting laid off a year ago.

After some soul searching, I decided to go back to my original major when I started college in 2000: History. I’m currently finishing up a BA in History from VCU and intend to earn a Master’s in Teaching in order to teach secondary Social Studies. I’m also studying German, which is an interesting experience in and of itself. Given my last name (and the infamy of that same name with a slightly different spelling), most people assume I speak the language, but I was an indifferent student when I took 101 and 102 a decade ago, so I’ve managed to forget pretty much all of it I knew. Eventually, I’m hoping to do an MA in German history, either of the second Reich or Cold War era. Weimar and Nazi Germany don’t interest me, probably for the same reason the American Civil War doesn’t: it’s been done to death.

Most of what I write is probably going to be related to history, geography, education, some mix of the three, and how exasperating it is to be a decade older than most of your classmates as an undergraduate. I’ve had quite a few headdesk moments during the past few weeks, mostly in my 100-level International Relations course. Hearing kids who were in elementary school at the time expound (none too intelligently) on the causes and effects of the 9/11 attacks while you’re sitting in the very classroom you were in when you heard about those same attacks is a bit surreal to say the least.

At any rate, I hope this little group experiment of ours will be a success and we won’t bore you to tears or drive you to drink.


About Tom Gehring

Full time college student finishing a second bachelor's degree in History and a Master's in Teaching. Hope to graduate sometime around 2013 with certifications to teach secondary social studies and journalism.
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4 Responses to Enter stage left…

  1. andrewsshi says:

    I can understand your headdesk moments in IR. Not too long ago, I was talking to one of my colleagues here at [unnamed southern university] who is also a new hire in history. She had told me that when she began her graduate work, it was in IR at [prestigious R1 university]. She had left the program for history; one of the reasons she left the program was that she was appalled at how ignorant the people in the graduate IR program were of the history behind the events that they were discussing.

  2. Tom Gehring says:

    Yesterday in class we were discussing terrorism. Only a relative handful of students seemed to agree with the statement “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” It seemed to be pretty unanimous that these kids (who would have mostly been 8 and 9 when Bush II became president; I was a freshman in college) have swallowed the neoconservative line on terrorism.

    It took one student pointing out the British reaction to our own American revolutionaries, and me pointing out the Irish Republican Army as examples to get the point across that terrorist ≠ Muslim radical.


  3. andrewsshi says:

    I’m going to disagree somewhat with your reply to my comment. I’ve always thought that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” was a bit of puerile sophistry. I wouldn’t necessarily say that today’s kids have bought any sort of neocon line, but rather the circumstances have changed. If a terrorist act is a guy driving a truck full of explosives into a Marine barracks, yeah, terrorism and guerrilla warfare seem to mainly be an issue of labels. But when you start the aughts with 3000 murdered civilians and then see about three straight years of Zarqawi’s brand of Takfir ideology, it’s a lot harder to say, “Well, I guess the bombing of that pet market bombing was an act of resistance against the occupier.”

  4. Andrew: You’re right. It’s not that the definition of freedom fighter has changed, it’s that our understanding of terrorist has changed. Nowadays, a fake car bomb scare, or an even where only a few people get flesh wounds, or something like that doesn’t even seem to register as terrorism anymore. Though, of course, it *is* still somebody else’s freedom fighter, in that these terrorists have supporters too. The difference is we can all see where IRA supporters, Hamas voters, and so on are or were coming from. These groups have and had clearly stated missions that fit at least partially into the world of the nation-state.

    But remember what I told you about international relations. As far as I can tell – and I’m going to piss off any IR readers we get (well, except those with a sense of humor) – it’s basic diplomatic history with a thin veneer of not-very-good theory. Treaty of Westphalia!

    My institution is known among undergraduates as a major party school. The IR graduate students here (granted, they are Masters and not PhD students) party and get drunk far more than most of the undergraduates.

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