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Breonna Taylor

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historically speaking

The death of Breonna Taylor is tragic. The argument has been made for many of the recent shootings that if the victims had not broken the law or had not resisted arrest they would not have been shot. That issue is for each to decide. However, Taylor was asleep in her home and had done nothing wrong. Her boyfriend did shoot, but he owned a legal gun, as the Second Amendment allows, and he protected his home from an invasion.

Here is where it gets difficult. As of now, a grand jury has ruled not to indict the police officers involved. As expected, this news was not well received by those wanting justice for Taylor. However, unless wrongdoing is shown in the grand jury, while there would be no justice for Taylor, arresting the officers involved to satisfy the protesters would not be justice either.

History offers a similar example. On March 5, 1770, a crowd grew in front of the customs house in Boston, an early version of an IRS office, protesting what they saw as tyrannical taxation. As a small body of soldiers came to the aid of those inside the office, the growing mob began throwing insults at first, but eventually snowballs at the soldiers. All the while, the crowd taunted the solders with the command to shoot, yelling “fire, fire, fire.” After a few minutes the snowballs started to turn into ice and clubs and one club struck a soldier. As he recovered, and amongst the confusion, the soldier fired at the clubber, causing some of the troops to follow suit. In the end, eleven colonists were shot and eventually five died. The soldiers were arrested for murder.

In the months before the trial, the Sons of Liberty continued to build emotion around the case. Paul Revere carved his famous picture which he entitled “The Boston Massacre.” It showed peaceful Bostonians being attacked by vicious soldiers. The Sons also published pamphlets showing the attack as a coordinated violation of their rights. It was going to be difficult to find a lawyer in Boston to defend the troops; luckily for them they had John Adams.

Adams knew taking the case might hurt his career, but the soldiers needed a defense. He knew It was going to be even more difficult to find an impartial jury. Bostonians had been in a shouting war with their government back in England over things like the Sugar Act, the Currency Act, and most importantly the Stamp Act. In Boston, the colonists felt they were being oppressed and, now that their people were being shot down in the streets, they felt their lives no longer mattered. The people were angry and rightfully so. They wanted revenge.

The trial came down to self-defense and whether the officer in charge was standing in front of his troops, as he insisted, or behind. If in fact he was in front, he would not have given the order to fire without endangering himself. Adams gave proof of Captain Preston’s position, the officer in charge, and made a strong case for self-defense. In his closing arguments, Adams stated, “[I] submit it to you: Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

The law is the law even when we don’t like it. Charges were dismissed for six of the soldiers and the two known to have fired were convicted of manslaughter. Bostonians were in shock: the troops would not be punished. It is easy to understand the anger of the colonists, but from a modern perspective hanging the soldiers would not have been justice.

Back to Breonna Taylor. It is difficult to see no one held accountable for Taylor’s death. However, it is also difficult to punish the police, if they were following the law. The record of the grand jury is currently under review. The police had obtained a no-knock warrant and claimed they announced themselves when they took the door and were fired upon and fired back. I understand the anger. Taylor did nothing wrong and her boyfriend had the right to protect himself and Taylor.

The police are the easiest to direct that anger towards, yet maybe the anger needs to be at the one who signed the warrant, or gave the evidence, or maybe the very idea of a no-knock warrant itself. I understand that human nature wants someone to be accountable. Yet the symbol of justice is a blindfolded woman holding scales. The image is meant to convey the idea that justice is blind and only weighs the evidence without emotion.

There has been no justice for the unnecessary killing of Breonna Taylor. If the review of the grand jury finds errors in the proceeding and the police are convicted, the police need to answer for their crimes.  However, if no legal wrongs are found and the grand jury is overturned to satisfy political pressure or the protesters, then, as with the Boston soldiers in 1770, their punishment would not bring justice, just a compounding of tragedy.


Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog.

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Opinion

Memorials: A prominent place for honoring

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For four decades we served our country, nearly 22 years stationed overseas. In many countries we visited memorials honoring those who fought and died for their home and country. While Germans share remorse for World Wars I and II, for example, they nevertheless honor their fallen soldiers with memorials that are often located prominently near the town center. The memorials, often decorated with wreaths or flowers, serve as a reminder of those who perished, the many lessons of humanity, and the consequences of wars.

The Civil War memorial in front of the Warren County Courthouse likewise serves to honor the fallen and the sacrifices of local families. It allows one to reflect upon the cost of war, the lessons of injustice, and the moral ills that plagued our country during those times. Although people interpret its symbolism differently, most see it for what it is: a memorial.

If one honestly supports democracy, then one should want the people’s voice heard. We believe the Board of Supervisors made the right decision to ask the citizens of Warren County through the ballot instead of taking unilateral action on a very politically and emotionally contentious proposal to remove the memorial.

Instead of the cost and emotional divineness of removing a memorial, maybe the citizens of Warren County could unite to erect a similarly prominent memorial to honor those who suffered under slavery in Virginia?

Dave & Toni Gosinski
Bentonville, Virginia

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Political stereotyping by Republicans called out by Democratic reader

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I met a Republican the other day who said he was left-handed. Employing the logic of the Republican Party, I can reasonably conclude that all Republicans are left-handed: If one is, they all are.

I am a Democrat. I am not a socialist. Joe Biden is a Democrat. He is not a socialist. Bernie Sanders does not belong to the Democratic Party. He says he is a democratic socialist and ran for the Democratic nomination as such. He was soundly defeated by Joe Biden. The Democratic Party chose a moderate to be their standard bearer.

I have even heard Democrats say that they have found Biden to be too conservative for their taste.

But the “left-handed” Republicans have become experts at setting urban against rural, black against white, and now in desperation as the election approaches, they are trying to sell the notion that all Democrats are socialists.

Democrats are no more all socialists than all Republicans are left-handed.

I first met Joe Biden in 1973. I have followed his career with great interest. Joe Biden has the temperament and ability to find the good in people, even those who oppose his views. He is a healer not a divider.

Tom Howarth
Warren County, Virginia

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We cannot afford to leave out truth

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Let me begin by saying I am not a politician, nor am I running for any local office. What I am, is an observer, and on occasion I have commented on issues by writing to the editor. My beliefs as a citizen of a local area, state, and country as it stands right now, is the freedom to speak logical and with reasonable understanding.

Why, I ask myself, does one person or a group of people think it is okay to destroy, cause havoc, and spread hate and discontent, and think this is peace and progress, is beyond me! What happen to the unified citizenry that made this nation so great in the first place?

Too think that bricks or stones, yes even statues make us into a righteous nation is plain ignorance about humanity. What does bring about what will keep us a great nation, a better human being, yes even a great town to live in, is TRUTH!

My simplicity of being an observer, is to find out and follow the truth! Not what someone else tells me, nor what their outlook of their perceptions on issues or matters are! This is what is so great about this country, I can pursue finding out for myself what is factual and true.

With local and state and nationwide voting this year, we cannot afford to leave out truth, nor be one-sided in our humanity. But if we seek truth above all, too let our hearts and minds seek what is knowing to be right that serves for the people, of the people and by the people? I believe we will be blessed by God, our Creator.

Tenia Smith
Front Royal, Virginia

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There is a more appropriate place to honor the statue soldiers than in front of the Warren County Courthouse

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I have to say that I am proud of Front Royal and all its citizens that are having a peaceful, respectful, and substantive conversation about moving the Civil War statue from in front of the Warren County Courthouse. I have heard both sides of the argument and considered them both.

If you take away all the emotion that comes with the history on both sides of the issue, for me the logic comes down to this:

If the soldiers that are named on the statue had won the war, Front Royal would not be in the United States of America. It would be part of a southern Confederacy.

The Warren County Courthouse is a living, working symbol of the American rule of law. The statue out front is not. Therefore, I believe there is an inconsistency to its location.

I understand wanting to honor ancestors of this area that fought and died, but I believe there is a more appropriate place to do that than in front of the Warren County Courthouse.

Voting YES on Ballot Initiative #3 would honor those ancestors in a respectful place to do that.

Kathleen Mancini
Linden, Virginia

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Justice is a must – EDA scandal not to be forgotten

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Warren County has experienced and been violated through a $21M embezzlement that appears to have extended roots beyond the EDA.  Our community has witnessed several arrests in relation to this crime and saw charges dropped, a sheriff’s loss of life, the resignations of a County Attorney, EDA Chair and other EDA Board members and a County Finance Director, the rotation and changes in our Judicial System, the retirement of a school superintendent, our new Board of Supervisors wisely releasing a long-time County Administrator, with an Assistant County Administrator and a Fire Chief’s announcements of retirement following, the county taking fiscal responsibility of the EDA without providing insight on the loss incurred.

All the while, the Town of Front Royal gathered and reported their loss along with the filing of a lawsuit.  Yes, I agree, Warren County can do better than this!  I commend and thank the new Board of Supervisors who have the courage to stand and make decisions for the betterment of our entire community – that is truly service above self!  Your diligent work in learning and perseverance is not going unnoticed!

The reprimands made to the new Board for their decision in declining a renewal contract for the County Administrator, makes me question what is known, or what one may be involved in?  In my opinion, the comment using military lingo to describe our past administrator was an insult to the men and women of our US Armed Forces.  It takes very strong and courageous people to wear the boots of the “Best of the Best”, as they willingly and tirelessly put their lives on the line – with some having given their all to protect the Freedoms of this Nation.  During this administrator’s tenure, he served on several Boards/Committees in the county, taxes were consistently raised year after year, an increased budget of $6.1M was submitted during this pandemic crisis, an empty and still empty warehouse building on Baugh Drive was purchased for $5M owned by the EDA, with a resolution that the county would pay; one signature being that of this administrator, costing the citizens $26K a month over the past few years and still going, the county has over $90M in bonds and has extended them through 2040, lawsuits were filed against the county, school property has been used as collateral for renovations on buildings and for the construction of the new Fire Department, as well as another building being used as collateral for the purchase of 2 new fire trucks.

Warren County has the potential to rise above and thrive – now and for generations to come.  This scandal needs to be fully exposed, corrected, and accountability being put on the shoulders of those responsible, regardless of their level of power!  Do not forget – Justice is a must and is – what’s right!

Leslie Mathews
Warren County, Virginia

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Thoughts on the Confederate statue removal at the Warren County Courthouse

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To the Editor:

On August 4, Tony Carter, a member of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, offered a motion that would put the question of whether the Confederate statue on the Courthouse lawn should be relocated to a referendum on November 3.

One opponent of the relocation said, “it’s in the bag.”

It seems obvious that they did not want any public comment on his motion, but word got out, and several people came at the last minute expressing their frustration that they had no time to prepare their remarks on a matter of some sensitivity.

Nonetheless, it seems poor sport to argue that allowing the people to decide the issue is wrong.

Were the public schools in Warren County desegregated in the 1950s by a popular vote? No, they were not. It was the State Supreme Court that protected minority children. In 1965, did the citizens of Alabama, by popular referendum, allow black people to vote?

Confederate statues and flags tell the country that the South had school integration and black voting forced on them. They never accepted black advancement.

Lynching used to be discussed as something that happened in “the bad of days.” In 2020, we saw the lynching of George Floyd on our television screens. His killing and that of others have caused people around the country, Virginia, and the world to take a hard look at their racist past and rid themselves of the stain. Will there be such introspection in Warren County?

If others think relocation of the statue is ill-advised, will they come forward to offer other changes as evidence that they hear the cry of black citizens?

Your move, Mr. Carter.

Tom Howarth
Front Royal, Virginia

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