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Another Earth Day

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Anthropocene is a relatively new term coined by scientists to indicate our current geologic era in which humans have imposed grave changes on our world. The term refers to humanity’s drastic impact on the massive, complex, interconnected organism that is our world. This connotation displays mankind in a bad light unless you consider greed, rapacity, and a tendency to foul our own nest as worthy traits.

Humans have a short history on our planet, but the world is certainly marked by our passage. Our trash is found in the depths of the ocean and the highest mountains. Once pristine forests and vast areas filled with wildlife are diminished. We cause deserts to expand and mountain forests to burn.

The most pressing problem is the indiscriminate release of previously sequestered carbon dioxide. We have rapidly released millions of years of locked-up carbon into the atmosphere. The science showing the correlation between rising CO2 concentrations and trapped heat in the atmosphere is too often ignored. Deniers rebuff climate science out of hand while accepting other scientific observations and breakthroughs. They reject the needed investments in prevention and mitigation while ignoring the ongoing costs of climate change. Fossil fuel companies with energy stockpiles place profits above the common good. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law states: Last year, the United States faced 22 extreme weather and climate-related disaster events with losses over $1 billion – a cumulative price tag of nearly $100 billion. These included damaging floods, fires, and wind storms across rural America.

Humans celebrate our cleverness but our inventions often have unintended consequences. Plastics are ubiquitous and used in all manner of applications. Most plastics are single-use, and once discarded may take 500 years to degrade. In nature, animals often get fouled in discarded plastics or die after its ingestion.

In an April 2nd article about the dangers of plastics in the Washington Post, it is noted that “of the 8 billion tons of plastic produced since the 1950s, less than 10% has been recycled”. Discarded into the environment it can break down into smaller pieces known as microplastics. These particles have been found in human blood and have potential to cause numerous health problems.

Our manipulation of the world has repercussions we are only beginning to understand. Heating our atmosphere has caused ice sheets to melt which threatens to flood the ocean with fresh water, rising sea levels and possibly disrupting the Gulf Stream, which in the past caused disastrous weather events and would impact some of the most populous areas of the world.

Most earth processes happen on such a monumental scale that they are difficult to understand until a confluence of events causes phenomena too powerful to be ignored. Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, heatwaves, and droughts are all products of the natural forces around us, but the increased heat caused by greenhouse gases have indisputably made them worse. We now experience what were once termed “100 or 500 year” extreme weather events regularly.

The responsibility belongs to all, but many categorically deny the changes. Some who benefit economically by the damage, and with the resulting profits, attempt to insulate themselves against the dangers. We have been taught to place our allegiance in short-term results and business as usual. Even without a carbon tax to ensure fossil fuels are equitably regulated, alternative energy is approaching a par with traditional energy sources.

The deep time scale of our planet shrugs off our notions of dominance as pathetically out of step with the natural rhythms that perpetuate life. We must educate ourselves and recognize the sustainable capacities of our home planet. We may be able to prevent or mitigate some of the changes, but the damage already inflicted will continue to wreak havoc because it takes years for the ecosystems to rebalance. The earth will prevail, but mankind will suffer dire circumstances.

Steve Foreman
Warren County

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Boondoggled or Railroaded?

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As the beginning phase of the grade separation project of the Rockland Road overpass begins with the relocation of utilities, neighbors in the area are beginning to see just how much of an inconvenience this project is going to be, and some wonder what is the true value.

Yes, there were a number of hearings prior to reaching the current stage of progress, but when dealing with entities such as Norfolk Southern, Vdot, the Port of Virginia, and the Warren County BOS, looking at a gift horse in the mouth. I, like others, have never heard reasonable answers to often-asked questions, just how badly this improvement is needed to improve our quality of life in the Rockland area.

Some of those include.

  • Emergency access during construction- With the fire and rescue station located less than a mile from the railroad crossing, will there be some sort of provision to allow access during construction, or will they have to make the 6-mile detour around Fairground Road to respond?

Keep in mind, there are probably less than 200 residences from the railroad tracks to the intersection with Bennys Beach Road including the residences of Bennys Beach and Windy Hill. From Bennys Beach to Fairground Road only has maybe 4 property owners.

  • Rockland Road from Bennys Beach to Fairground Road- This rural road is far from Vdot standards, with narrow widths, blind hills, sharp turns, no shoulders, and rock outcroppings that challenge normal traffic volume. Now, all 200 residences are forced to use a road that is dangerous as is, with more opportunity for something bad to happen, especially with about 8,000 dump trucks importing fill material to build the ramps to the bridge. It would be a shame, although a real possibility, that this railroad crossing claims serious injury or, worse, a life due to the detour.
  • Rocklands Rural Character slowly diminishes- The railroad tracks have always separated the industrial portion of Warren County to the rural portion. This project, with its 40-foot-wide roadway and bridge, will still get you to the rural part of the county, just quicker and without delay due to a train blocking the tracks. It still ends in a 20’ wide rural unimproved roadway, but at least the major expense of further development is out of the way and opens the door for more development.

So with that, what are the benefits?

Norfolk Southern will no longer hear complaints about blocking the crossing to change out crews or to let other trains pass. My experience is when the port or other businesses with sidings along that section of track block the crossing it is only for short intervals while building the train.  Norfolk Southern also benefits so that if and when they do install a third rail, there will be fewer obstructions in their way.

The Port of Virginia comes out with less complaints from the community, more flexibility in using the mainline tracks in building their trains, and kudos for providing the grant that allows for such a project to be done. There are other communities in the county that don’t have a choice of another route out if the train blocks their crossing (Shenandoah Shores) and probably won’t until some entity grants funding for such.

Warren County and the BOS no longer have to field complaints about blockages and will now have an important and expensive piece of the puzzle needed to increase the development of this area of the county. All that will be left to do is install a bridge over the river to make a loop to Shenandoah Shores (giving them another way out), and the entire area becomes a target for development.

We, as residents, once we tolerate the 18-24 months of construction inconvenience and the project is completed, get the benefits of no-hassle egress to and from 522, a utilitarian highway overpass leading to our rural country setting, and most likely even more through traffic.

A boondoggle is defined as ‘work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.’ Not really having comments, suggestions, or opinions addressed or otherwise coerced is a form of being railroaded.

Have we been railroaded or boondoggled with this project?

17 Year Rockland Resident

David Anderson
Warren County


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VIEWPOINT: Thanksgiving: So Much More

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How many of us observe Thanksgiving Day as a day of turkey, pumpkin pie, and football, with some thought to the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving (1621), but give minimal thought to God’s blessings?  Thanksgiving should be much more.

We know we’re to express thanksgiving often: “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), but we often don’t.  Yes, Thanksgiving Day was created when America was truly Christian, before cultural Marxism’s (wokism) assault.  Even so, Thanksgiving remains a federal holiday in which we can express our gratitude for God’s blessings and others’ favorable actions toward us.

Gratitude – expressed through thanksgiving – is an esteemed virtue within Christendom.  Virtues are God’s standards of moral goodness/moral excellence concerning how we’re to live, as opposed to Satan’s standards of vices and sin.  Gratitude is a subset of “love,” that virtue most identified with God: “He who (doesn’t) loves (doesn’t) know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

America’s Thanksgiving originated from Western Civilization, with its Biblically based Judeo-Christianity moral values.  Ancient Israel included a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God.  “And the LORD spoke to Moses saying…  And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, offer it of your own free will” (Leviticus 22:26, 29); and “(It’s) good to give thanks to the LORD…” (Psalm 92:1).

New Testament examples of thanksgiving follow: “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts … and be thankful”… “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 3:15; 4:2), and “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness … because, although they knew God, they (didn’t) glorify Him as God, nor were thankful …” (Romans 1: 18, 21).  I’ve read, “Thanksgiving is Trinitarian… that God the Father is the object of thanksgiving, God the Son is the person through whom thanksgiving flows, and God the Holy Spirit is the source of thanksgiving.”  When we fail to practice the spirit of Thanksgiving, we become like ingrates and gluttons.

While colonial America observed thanksgivings, President Washington was the first president to designate (1789) the last Thursday in November of that year as a day of “public thanksgiving.”

Other presidents intermittently declared days of thanksgiving until Thanksgiving Day crusader Sarah Hale convinced President Lincoln to declare (1863) an annual national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” for the last Thursday in November, calling on the American people to also, “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience… fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation.”

Most Americans came to accept the first Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving (1621)  – with its symbolism and despite its controversy – as America’s first Thanksgiving, as described in Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation and Plymouth founder Edward Winslow’s short account written in December 1621 and rediscovered in the mid-19th century.

Happy Thanksgiving!  This federal holiday – our national tradition for recognizing gratitude – is our opportunity to thank God forthrightly for His blessings bestowed upon our Constitutional Republic, our families, and ourselves.

Donavan “Mark” Quimby
Shenandoah Christian Alliance

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The Lost Game: Gridiron Memories of November 22, 1963

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(Writer’s note: this was written in 2006. Small edits acknowledging the passage of time since are included toward the end of this updated version.)


I was playing quarterback in a high school intramural flag-football championship game around 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963. The game went into overtime as the class time ground into its last minutes. My team needed a score to even the alternating possession OT (we were ahead of our time) and extend things to the following day. Impatient, I lofted one deep and up for grabs – like Brett Favre occasionally does – that some defender out-jumped my guy for.

BANG! We lost, no tomorrow.

Little did I know that the bang of defeat that had just gone off in my head was the mere echo of a much louder bang that went off almost simultaneously some 1,330 miles to the southwest.

That other bang I had yet to hear was one of another kind of defeat that I will, it seems, carry with me to the grave.

Somewhat dejected I headed back to the locker room to shower before heading to my fifth period English class. Someone ran out of the locker room to meet us and said, “The president’s been shot!” Bullshit, that kind of thing doesn’t happen except in history books, I thought, “That’s not funny,” I said.

Inside the Alexandria, Virginia high school, not eight miles from the White House, things seemed normal as I prepared to shower. No solemn faced coaches, no lock down to protect then Republican House Minority Whip Gerald Ford’s sons. “The president’s been shot” was lost beneath what seemed normal adolescent, locker room banter. I began to return to a 15-year-old’s reality: sport, the thought of the girl’s locker room on the other side of a thick cement wall.

Then the PA system crackled and the locker room went unnaturally silent as the principal’s voice, not a secretary’s, asked for attention. A chill went down my spine, perhaps as a subconscious premonition that things were about to change in previously unimaginable ways flashed along sub-atomic particles throughout my brain. The tone first, then the words “President Kennedy has been shot” gravely confirmed what I had immediately denied as a plausible reality. One kid, a little red around the edges for that suburban Alexandria high school said something to the effect of “good.” Though we were casual friends and recent teammates, I started swinging and we went into a pile on the floor only to be quickly pulled apart by classmates and coaches. I had never wanted to damage someone as irrevocably as I did at that moment and the two of us never spoke again, leaving a silent distance between us that precluded the necessity of re-engaging that primal impulse toward some sort of irreversible destruction.

President Kennedy leaves the White House for the final time. JFK photo sources, credits: Public Domain; White House Photographs; John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston; Robert Knudson; Paul Vathis; Abraham Zapruder; “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” Nigel Turner-produced British TV documentary series; AP; Roger Bianchini at Newseum, Washington D.C.

The emotions were immediate, deep and apparently ran in the family. I didn’t find out until years later that at almost the same moment, following a similar remark, my father, a WW II Army veteran who had lived through Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, was decking a total stranger in a D.C. medical building on I Street where he was waiting for my mother to complete a routine checkup.

Across the Potomac River, we sat quietly in our classrooms: no teaching, no discussion, no emergency mentoring. We sat alone, grappling with our thoughts, as was our teacher. The principal came on again and said the president was dead. The reaction was subdued except for a girl named Jacqueline Kennedy – though I think she spelled her first name differently than the president’s wife. Spelling aside she went off, sobbing, hysteria rising. The teacher took her outside the room to settle her down. Didn’t work, she ended up in the infirmary. I sometimes wonder what happened to Jackie Kennedy, my classmate. How did she ride out that 15-year-old’s identification with the now blood-stained Queen of Camelot?

Forty-odd years later I know that day was the measurable beginning of the direction of the balance of my life. Despite the immediate profundity of a presidential assassination, I couldn’t have recognized that JFK’s violent death would lead directly through a five-year span of political upheaval between my formative 15th and 20th birthdays. This and three other domestic assassinations – of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Francis Kennedy – seemed to earmark the time through a litany of foreign political intrigue, murder and assassination that always seemed to lead in one direction – to the right, toward war, toward implicit corporate profiteering from war, toward social division, toward lies.

That is my perception, my belief – the bad guys won. That is my psychological watershed. Rather than living under the auspice of a state favored by both man and God, I was floating through the most recent episode of civilization in decline, fueled by greed, power, murder and conquest.

It took all of those next five years for me to begin to appreciate what had begun during that that lost football game. By 1969 it was becoming apparent that a hopeful youth-driven world counterculture, as well as the best and the brightest within the world political system reflecting or inspiring the social idealism that characterized that counterculture, the Americans named above, Salvadore Allende, Alexander Dubcek, Patrice Lumumba, Che Guevara and others, were beaten.

Around the world we had lost.

We would either be annihilated or assimilated – a foolish, inaccurate footnote to American and World History X – the fiction written by the winners.

I left Alexandria in 1967 for college. I moved from the specter of the federal capital to Richmond, the historical capital of the American Confederacy that had fought the ascendance of that federal system just over a century earlier. In retrospect it seemed an unconsciously profound symbolic move. Though I was through and through a son of the federal government in whose shadow I was raised by two parents it employed, I was soon to become suspicious, some would say paranoid, about its machinations, its intent, its history.

I followed my intellectual instincts for the next five years, studying sociology and psychology – how society and the human mind work. I guess I wanted to know why I had grown so alienated from the culture in which I lived. Was I crazy or did I live in an insane world? I learned things about myself and my society between 1967 and 1973 and most of what I learned took me back to the day my team lost that high school, intramural football game.

In college I learned that three days before John Kennedy’s inauguration, his predecessor, Dwight David Eisenhower, made an astonishing observation in his farewell address to the nation. I had grown up thinking of Eisenhower as a doddering, old, golf-playing general rewarded with the presidency for a job well done holding the Allied war effort together in Europe during World War II. My interest in the fate of his successor led me to a different view of Eisenhower. It began with that farewell address of Jan. 17, 1961.

Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower at Camp David, April 22, 1961, five days after the first crisis of JFK’s presidency, the failed CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion.

On that day Eisenhower, the West Point graduate, career military man, general and president who led his country and its allies, first against Nazi Germany and then through the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, told his nation that the greatest threat it faced as he prepared to leave office was that born of its own military and corporate institutions in a profoundly changing American landscape.

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience,” Eisenhower told the American people of the corporate, political, and military landscape that had arisen in the wake of World War II. “The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist,” Eisenhower concluded.

The career soldier turned politician had apparently not thought it a sin to normalize relations with the Soviet Union, then our recent military ally, and reduce the rapidly expanding American military budget. This belief, according to Eisenhower biographers, led to much behind-the-scene infighting with the evolving military and industrial institutions Eisenhower spoke of at the end of his eight-year presidency.

Less than three years after Eisenhower’s dour warning, his successor had his head blown off in the streets of Dallas, Texas, while I played football a half a continent away. That successor, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, had also bucked the American military-corporate apparatus during his presidency, and perhaps fatally, more directly and in more immediate situations than Eisenhower had.

First, just three months in office Kennedy refused to commit to direct American military involvement during the 1961 invasion of Communist Cuba by a CIA-trained militia despite the urging of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and CIA Director Allen Dulles. As a result of the intelligence misinformation and personal coercion he endured during that experience, Kennedy fired Allen Dulles as director of the CIA. He also developed enough distrust of the U.S. military command to avoid the armed, likely nuclear confrontation they suggested over Cuba during the missile crisis less than two years later.

President Kennedy addresses the nation on live television during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the U.S. and Soviet Union came to the verge of nuclear war according to later unclassified Soviet intelligence documents. It appears that Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s willingness to negotiate a mutually satisfactory compromise – that the Soviets pull their offensive nuclear missiles out of Cuba, and America would dismantle its offensive nuclear missile bases from the Soviet border in Turkey – averted a potential nuclear holocaust.

Kennedy is even reported to have stated the intention of scattering what was threatening to become a rouge intelligence agency resistant to presidential oversight “into a thousand pieces” following a 1964 re-election that seemed a sure thing.

A great deal of debate still exists over whether Kennedy was planning implementation of another post-1964 election plan that would have flown further in the face of Eisenhower’s originally-named American “Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex”. That much-discussed plan was a lessening of direct American involvement in Vietnam. That involvement in the fall of 1963 was 16,000 “advisors” compared to the half million combat troops that would be sent there after his death. If true, as key Kennedy insiders assert, that plan reflected JFK’s growing belief that the Vietnam conflict was ultimately a civil war that would have to be won or lost by the South Vietnamese themselves – a decade and the bulk of 65,000 American and two million Vietnamese lives later that belief proved correct.

Many years after the fact I heard a European investigative report that quoted Kennedy archives indicating his ambassador to South Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, reporting back to Washington that presidential directives relayed through the embassy in 1963 ordering CIA operatives in country to back off of aggressive covert actions, including assassinations, were simply being ignored in the field. I wondered then if those “rouge” CIA elements had an inkling those directives would soon change despite Kennedy’s overwhelming popularity as the 1964 election approached?

No, probably just a coincidence that Kennedy was soon shot down like a rabid dog on a parade route whose path had been realigned that day to go down Elm Street in front of the Texas School Book Depository in a town whose mayor was reportedly the brother of Allen Dulles’s former military liaison officer.

Coincidence too, I expect that a former Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald worked in that School Book Depository. Oswald was the prodigal American son, who had “defected” to the Soviet Union with a perfect command of the Russian language following his assignment to a top-secret American military intelligence base in Japan from which American U-2 spy flights were launched over the Soviet Union. Later, the prodigal son would reconsider that defection – perhaps because the Soviets thought he was an American spy and kept a close check on him. I sometimes wonder at the benevolence of a nation that would welcome back its prodigal son with camera equipment to start a “new” career, rather than a little prison time for his alleged departure with top-secret information that was claimed to have compromised America’s U-2 spy missions. But how could his native land stay mad at the whimsical Oswald, who despite his highly public pro-Castro activities in New Orleans, cultivated associations with a number of right-wing, anti-Castro associates based in both New Orleans and Miami as he “floundered” philosophically in the years between Russia and Dallas?

Above, JFK and Ike at Camp David in the days after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba – likely when the sitting president found out he had been lied to by the CIA about the previous president’s authorizations, or lack thereof, for a CIA-sponsored invasion of Cuba. Photographer Paul Vathis wrote ‘They looked so lonely.’ Below, Vathis’s photo juxtaposed on the wall of the Newseum in D.C. with mob-connected Jack Ruby’s silencing of Lee Harvey Oswald, who died claiming he was set up as a patsy in the JFK assassination.

Pondering these things after launching my own college term paper research on the JFK assassination in 1969, I told my mother, “There are circumstances leading a lot of people to think your old (CIA) bosses were behind it.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised, the way they talked about him,” the former secretary of one of the deputy directors surprised me with a frank appraisal of her early 1960s superiors at the top of the American intelligence apparatus.

And now 59 years gone from that day in 1963, I remain the paranoid-tinged, conspiracy freak sitting alone in the dark corners of dark bars, reflecting on the familiarity of low times and low lies glowering at me from the “enduring freedom” of a television screen hovering slightly above my still focused eye.

And now I recall, as I did in 2006 when this personal memoir was written 43 years gone from that long-lost childhood football game, I find myself still choking down one final coincidence – that the U.S. president (George W. Bush) gesturing at me from that TV screen, circa 2006, explaining the necessity of this country’s ongoing military-industrial occupation of Iraq, one of the world’s two primary oil fields, and the ultimate evil of its oil-rich neighbor Iran, is heir to a family legacy the roots of which run deep into Texas oil, American politics, and the directorship of the CIA.

Roger Bianchini
Front Royal, Virginia


(Writer’s note: First published on November 22, 2013 as part of a pull-out section of the Warren County Report on the ongoing significance of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years later.)

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VIEWPOINT: Uncommon Valor

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“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Do you want to give your family (especially your kids) an experience they will remember forever? By all means, set aside a few hours to visit the nearby Marine Museum at Quantico, VA… a few miles south of DC, just off I95 or US 1 (less than a 90-minute drive from Front Royal).

This is an ideal way to show the entire family (in a first-hand, up close and personal look) just how much has been done (and is being done) worldwide by a relatively small group of dedicated, patriotic Americans who understand the meaning of loyalty to our country and their comrades and the necessity for the discipline and commitment to make this nation safe for you and I and future generations still to come.

The displays are “life-size and lifelike” and bring the viewer into the moment that is being displayed, making you feel like you are actually there… you need very little imagination to experience the artillery fire and the cannon shells, and you get an intimate view (and sense of sharing) of the hardships that are/were endured in repelling our nation’s enemies and protecting this country that we all love and honor.

Today, there are those who try mightily to disparage our progress as a Christian nation founded on Judeo/Christian values who would likely be unwilling to lift a finger to defend this nation and our values…  but the Marines do not subscribe to that “hogwash.” The Marines’ love of country and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for their families and yours is seen and felt everywhere, from the burning hot beaches in the South Pacific to the freezing winters in Europe, Korea, and some of the far-most reaches of the world.

When you have the privilege to see how much effort, blood, and dedication has been given (and is being given as you read this) for a country that is constantly under attack internally from such a large number of eternally ungrateful liberal leftists, you cannot but feel an even greater sense of gratitude for the efforts and sacrifices made by a few good men and women.

A visit to the Marine Museum is a wonderful destination and outing for any family and will be something talked about for many years to come.

Do yourself a favor and schedule a trip to visit the Marine Museum today for you and your family and friends. Don’t forget to bring your camera (you can bring lunch but there is food aplenty in the cafeteria). As an extra bonus, there is no charge for entry or parking, and the Museum is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

 

Dale Carpenter
Shenandoah Christian Alliance

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Hamas: A History of Violence

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On the morning of Oct 7, the nation of Israel was attacked by rocket fire coming from the Gaza Strip in southern Israel. The missile attacks acted as a screen as thousands of Hamas militants viciously attacked towns and cities in southern Israel, killing more than 1,000 Israelis and kidnapping many others.

The attack was the single bloodiest day in the nation’s history and was carried out by a group known as Hamas, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood that is labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. and Israel but seen as the legitimate government in the Gaza Strip. While there is no place for this type of violence, and Israel has the right to retaliate as aggressively as they feel necessary, I have found that the question my students have asked the most is why Hamas would commit such acts knowing the repercussions? I have found myself telling this story to each of my classes in the past weeks and thought it worth sharing.

The Gaza Strip, in southwestern Israel, borders the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt’s Sani Peninsula. It was originally part of the Ottoman Empire from 1285 to 1917. After WWI and the defeat of the Ottomans, the land was given over to Great Britain as part of the Palestine Mandate.

The British agreed to allow European Jews escaping persecution to settle in Palestine after the war. In the beginning, there were no issues between the Jews and Palestinians, but as more Jews arrived and bought up more land, displacing the Arabs, Palestinians began to resist. This caused the British to cut off immigration.

However, after WWII and the Holocaust, Britain and the United Nations once again opened the doors to Palestine for Jewish settlement. At first, the U.N. tried to divide Palestine into two regions, but in 1948, the Jews declared themselves the Nation of Israel, and their military drove the majority of the Palestinians into refugee camps in the Jordanian-controlled West Bank and the Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip.

In 1967, when Egypt, Syria, and Jordan amassed armies on their borders in preparation to attack, Israel struck first with precise accuracy, taking out the armies of the aggressive nations. Israel then moved into and acquired more land, including the Gaza Strip. Israel controlled the Gaza Strip and its two million inhabitants until 1993, during which the first Intifada occurred, and Palestinians rose in protest of the Israeli control. In 1993, U.S. President Bill Clinton helped broker the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

The Accords established a path to peace as the PLO recognized the State of Israel, and Israel recognized the PLO as the official representatives of the Palestinian people and acknowledged they had a right to self-rule. A month later, Israel pulled its forces out of Gaza and left the PLO in charge.

In 2006, Gaza held elections, and Hamas won. No elections have been held since. In 2007, when Hamas refused to renounce violence against Israel, both Israel and Egypt (who have been fighting the Brotherhood in their own nation for years) set up a blockade of Gaza, cutting off most of their water, food, and electricity. The blockade has caused severe hardships in Gaza and has been criticized by the U.N.

During the Israeli occupation of Gaza, specifically during the Intifada, Hamas came into being. It was founded by Ahmed Yassin, a quadriplegic nationalist scholar. Born in Palestine, Yassin was injured at age 12, leaving him paralyzed. He was educated in Egypt and was introduced to the Muslim Brotherhood. He returned home to Gaza and became a teacher while also establishing an Islamic charity associated with the Brotherhood. In 1985, he was arrested for stockpiling weapons and then, during the Intifada, established Hamas to destroy Israel and establish an Islamic state in Palestine.

1993 was an important year for Hamas as it detonated its first suicide bomb and began its fight against Fatah, the leading organization in the PLO, who had been working towards peace with Israel as part of the Oslo Accords. Hamas denounced the Accords and detonated bombs in Israel to try to disrupt the process. Over the next several years, Hamas continued its campaign of terror while Israel continued to respond, including the 2004 rocket attack that killed Yassin. Yassin’s death did not stop Hamas’ attacks. As new leaders emerged, many live outside of Israel. As said before, Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, and Hamas won the election in 2006 and kicked out Fatah in 2007. Fatah had changed from being the most infamous terrorist organization to one seeking peace.

In the years that followed, Hamas and Israel have continued their hostile relationship. Hamas continued to attack Israel while Israel retaliated. Israel has come under condemnation from some international human rights groups, claiming their retaliations are out of scale. An example was in July of 2014 when Hamas killed three Israeli teenagers. Israel responded with a two-month attack that left 2,100 Palestinians dead. Another example is during a very violent May in 2021 when Israel responded to an attack with missiles that collapsed a 13-story residential building. However, in each case, Israel justified their actions as necessary as organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, not to mention nations like Iran, have pledged its destruction.

It is true that Gaza is a hellish place to live and that the Palestinian situation started when the Jews kicked them out of their homes in 1948. Yet now, 75 years later, the situation is what it is. Israel is there to stay, and that is not going to change. The only solution seems to be a two-state solution, even if that may seem unfair. Even groups like Fatah have agreed that peace is more important than holding out for the right of return.

I know this is easy for me to say in my comfortable home, far away from the situation. Instead, I will end with an Israeli perspective – the best and fairest I have ever read. Sandy Tolan’s “The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East” gives an excellent true story account of the Israel/Palestine situation. Tolan’s principal character, Dalia Eshkenazi, presents what she thinks is the only way forward. Dalia survived the Holocaust as a young child before arriving in Israel and receiving a home of an Arab family that had been forced out. She believes the answer is the three As: Acknowledgement, Apology, and Amends. Jews must acknowledge what they did in 1948 and the pains they caused, but the Arabs must also acknowledge they are not innocent with the many acts of terrorism they have committed. For amends, she said, “It means that we do the best we can under the circumstances towards those we have wronged.” For Dalia, amends could not mean the full right of return, as she said, “the Palestinians have the right of return, but it is not a right that can be fully implemented because the return of millions of Palestinians would effectively mean the end of Israel.”

James Finck, Ph.D., is a professor of history at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. He can be reached at HistoricallySpeaking1776@gmail.com.

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Opinion

Commentary: The Quiet Rresolve of Election Eve – A Remembrance

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This time tomorrow, Virginia voters will be busy electing a new General Assembly in another of the elections we hold every November. Here, we never take a year off.

This evening, before the polls open, take a stroll if you can through your neighborhood. Maybe even drive around your community — roll the window down, weather permitting. Look around. Listen. Feel. Breathe in the cool fall air.

Election eve long ago became perhaps my most special night on each year’s calendar. It was because of the resolute, almost reverential calm that pervaded the darkened streets and neighborhoods.

For the overwhelming balance of my adult life, elections were my business. I lived them as a newsman and political correspondent.

Before the weekends preceding each election, I had studied published polls and campaign finance data and traveled extensively across Virginia. I had made countless phone calls to local party leaders, candidates, campaign professionals, registrars and “real people” I had met in my reporting. Rarely did any election night result surprise me.

Reporters and editors spent Mondays before elections polishing the background and contextual material at the bottom of stories that would be transmitted the next day to publications and broadcasters across Virginia and beyond. That material would remain unchanged but the tops of the stories were revised many times Tuesday night into Wednesday’s wee hours with fresh tallies and trends until, eventually, The Associated Press declared a winner and announced it with a bulletin, the next-highest priority level for wire-service reports behind a flash.

Such was the caffeine- and adrenaline-fueled work within the pressure cooker that was election night in AP’s state control bureaus as vote totals flooded in.

But the night before, when I would invariably leave work late, I’d often take the long way home, sometimes varying my route through different parts of town.

The streets were conspicuously empty and quiet except maybe for falling leaves rustling in the breeze. Bars and eateries, where autumn Monday nights normally meant lively pro football crowds, seemed sparse and subdued. Some households had displayed their support for certain candidates with yard signs that, by then, had largely exhausted any expectation of influencing the undecided.

After all the biting rhetoric and the acidic ads, after all the claims and counterclaims and liberties taken with the truth, after all the debates and breathless campaign reporting, after all the final rallies had ended, now the voters would have their say – the only say that matters.

The anticipation felt palpable: the people’s pent-up will was about to be made manifest in the seminal triumph of representative democracy. It seemed an almost sacred moment, and it always inspired me. It probably will tonight, too.

This evening, let yourself believe in our collective wisdom; that we as voters get it right more often than not. Even if the candidate (or candidates) of your choice fall short, trust that it’s better than unaccountable and unelected power imposing its will upon us.

Trust that your votes are being fairly and faithfully collected and counted by honorable people just like you who are doing their best, because they are.

Another edifying aspect of my years of daily political reporting was Election Day visits to urban, rural and suburban polling places where I met citizens who gave earnestly of their time and worked long, tiring hours at local precincts to ensure that their neighbors’ votes mattered. The same goes for dutiful, skilled career election professionals, regardless of the party in power, who kept the processes clean and transparent.

Government of, by and for the people took root here 247 years ago. Over that time, suffrage was justly expanded to populations once disenfranchised — women and the descendants of enslaved people chief among them. There is still work yet to do. However, there is no guarantee that our constitutional democracy will make it to 250 years, as malignant forces hell-bent on authoritarian rule seek power by any means, up to and including seditious violence.

One generation cannot bequeath the blessings of freedom to the next. It must be earned and defended anew through informed vigilance, intentional electoral participation, and the courage to stand against those who prosper from dividing Americans and turning one against the other.

So tonight, take it all in. Savor the quiet resolve of Americans — Virginians, your neighbors — about to choose their government in our fragile annual exercise of the peaceful delegation of power.

Tomorrow, cast your vote and then watch the machinery of democracy and the rule of law run their righteous course.

Remember and cherish it. We risk its loss sooner than we dare imagine.

 

by Bob Lewis, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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