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Commentary: Is there a better way than targeting the Courthouse lawn Confederate soldier for removal?

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Let me open by apologizing for the length of this piece – but I feel at a pivotal point in our collective socio-political history both locally and nationally, I need to be precise and clear on my perspective of the issues addressed.

After being told about a month ago by one of the organization’s principals that at the time Front Royal Unites had no design on the removal of the statue on the Warren County Courthouse grounds, that has apparently changed.

A petition posted on the FR Unites website cites a change in state law implemented July 1, authorizing localities to remove or relocate Confederate memorials from public properties and calls for the tall monument dedicated, not to any Confederate military or political leader, but to the average citizen-soldier of Warren County, to be removed and relocated off public property.

As Samuel Porter and colleague led this June 20 FR Unites ‘March for Justice’ the statue commemorating the sacrifice of Confederate soldiers from Warren County in the background was not a matter of concern. Things have changed as the organization has refocused its attention, as have others, on the statue’s removal. Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini & 1b from FR Unites website

The Front Royal Unites petition states, “We must support the removal of the Confederate monument at the Warren County Courthouse. Confederate symbols on public land, in effect, endorse a movement founded on white supremacy. If our government continue(s) to pay homage to the Confederacy, people of color can never be sure they will be treated fairly. And we will never solve our community’s problems if an entire group of citizens is alienated or feels targets for discrimination.”

Front Royal Unites Vice President and Director of Communications Samuel Porter authored the petition, adding of its impetus, “We must show other citizens of not only Warren County … and the nation at large that we give no safe harbor to such hatred … I urge you to support this petition because one day in the future they’ll look back to see what we did – the time to act is now, not later. Will you help bring about good and positive change? Let’s do it together. Together we are united. Together we are Front Royal.”

But will those looking back from a future perspective actually see a positive, uniting move toward justice for all in this specific effort in one small Virginia community, or will they see something, while unintended, very different?

I have spoken with a few county residents, white county residents, who can trace their lineage in this county and region back to the Civil War era, about the potential of the Courthouse lawn Confederate Soldier Memorial becoming a target for removal. Pointing to the “average man” nature of the statue, they have generally taken a hardline stance against its removal. They feel a personal connection to the statue unveiled at its current Warren County Courthouse site in 1911 to honor locals who fought in a brutal war that left more Americans dead than any fought with a foreign adversary.

They are not history’s heroes – but can their collective experience of the 1860’s war teach us anything of worth in the 21st Century – perhaps pointing two opposing perspectives toward compromise for a common good? Below, the known names commemorated on the monument’s west side.

From those conversations, while admittedly a limited number, I fear that moving locally against this particular monument may do more to divide this community than unite it. I believe it could lead to an aggressive counter-movement to defend the statue at its site, leading some who have stayed as observers of the “Black Lives Matter” movement and push back to it, to come out in stark opposition over this one symbol.

In fact, on Sunday, July 26, I was made aware of a counter online petition titled “Act Now: Save Warren County’s Civil War Statue” with 736 supporting signatures by the time I visited the website.

As of the same time late afternoon Sunday, the FR Unites petition had 719 signed on in support of removing the statue. I was also pointed to a concurrent remove the statue petition titled “Warren County United to Remove Confederate Statue” sporting 573 signatures.

Okay, it’s sideways and the wrong statue (I think). But the ‘Save Warren County’s Civil War Statue’ website petition has taken on a public opposition role to petitions in favor of moving the statue honoring the service and sacrifice of Warren County’s Civil War soldiers.

So, here we go – but what are we fighting about?

Unlike the vast majority of Confederate statues targeted in the anti-racism, equal justice for all Americans movement, those honored by the Confederate statue at the Warren County Courthouse are not major players in the Civil War. Other than locally they are historically anonymous figures. Even with most, if not all, their names attached what is really known about the average Warren County citizen-soldier of the 1860s?

To this observer’s knowledge, none memorialized on that statue left any historically documented messages in support of the root cause of the Civil War – secession from the Union over a state’s right to maintain slaves as free labor to prop up the Confederate states’ economies.

One is left to wonder how many named and unnamed on that statue left their homes and families voluntarily to go to war, or may have been conscripted into the Confederate military as were a large proportion of that army’s soldiers? Would any have actually been from slave-owning families or grasped the political impetus that set their state against other states militarily in a non-24×7 news cycle era where information, accurately reported or not, was NOT available at the flip of a switch at everyone’s fingertips??

I do sympathize with the impulse to want to remove ANY symbol glorifying the dehumanizing and amoral policy of defining any group, much less an entire race of people, as fundamentally inferior to one’s own in order to justify the use of free, slave labor for self-enrichment. However, I find myself wondering at the wisdom of including this particular statue in this particular community as part of that effort.

Could a community’s sons sacrifices, even on the wrong side of history, become a positive teaching tool for us all?

No, we do NOT want symbols of a “wink, wink” acceptance of continued racism in our nation, states and communities to continue to stand. But as I noted above, those I spoke to with an emotional attachment to the statue, appeared attached to honoring one’s predecessors, one’s ancestors who fought in a war – on the wrong side of history or not. Absent was any expressed emotional attachment to slavery or argument that in the long run slavery’s end as an economic-cultural institution was a bad thing.

Another way?

So, I had a thought – why not approach Front Royal Unites leadership, and other like-minded groups, and supporters of the Warren County Courthouse site of the Confederate Soldier Memorial about a compromise solution – a solution that perhaps has more potential for uniting this community than simply lumping this one statue in with all the others earmarked for removal efforts.

Yes, Front Royal Unites and others aligned with the “Black Lives Matter” and equal-justice movement, keep your sights set on those monuments or boulevards erected or named for those who are documented for their blatant racism, aggressively cruel slaveholding, belief in the preservation of slavery or more recently, efforts to preserve racial segregation in American society into the late 20th Century.

But is a blanket assault on historical markings and personages born into a different era going to teach us any more about who we were, and who we WANT to be as a people moving forward, than is the close-minded stance of those who don’t accept that institutional racism continues to be an issue in American society or worse are perfectly comfortable with institutionalized racism?

If we want to advance and truly unite to the common cause of human equality and balanced economic opportunity for all, don’t we have to be better than our opponents on the other side of our own historical epoch?

Could we as a community unite across racial, philosophical, even political boundaries and leave the statue where it is – BUT use it as a tool of education for the entire community and those who visit us? Yes, the statue at another location as proposed in the Front Royal Unites petition – Prospect Hill Cemetery, the Daughters of the Confederacy, or Warren Rifles Confederate Museum property – could be used as an educational tool. But once moved, how many on the “get the thing out my sight” side would actually remain engaged in such an effort to teach and learn from that statue?

The county’s Confederate soldier gazes north, most directly at the Afton Inn, the shadow of which is visible at the bottom of the FR Town Hall’s Crescent St. wall. Perhaps a citizen compromise on the monument might point the town government toward compromise on its Afton, EDA issues, or propel a November election result that would promote such compromise.

However, if those from BOTH sides of the debate had to explain why they agreed to leave a Confederate statue on the Warren County Courthouse property, that might lead to some serious background research, conversation – and UNITY. But what could that statue, remaining in the center of Historic Downtown Front Royal on public property, teach us all, you might ask.

NOT that “wink, wink” racism is acceptable here!

Rather, perhaps the Confederate Soldier Memorial remaining ON our historic courthouse lawn could serve as a timeless lesson and warning to all Americans. I say “all” because I believe this community will get a LOT MORE national attention if such a compromise is reached than it will if another Confederate statue is removed from a small, southern town’s public property – unless of course, that removal brings violence here from either or both sides of the issue. But I am talking about POSITIVE attention.

What lesson, what warning so timely at this very moment in our collective history could Front Royal and Warren County’s citizens, AND our long-dead Confederate citizen-soldiers, teach this nation, and perhaps the world?

The lesson would be: DON’T get lost in your own worldview to the exclusion of all others. Talk to, listen to those whose perspective is not identical to your own – maybe they are NOT the enemy; maybe there is common ground for meaningful discourse and compromise.

The warning would be: NOT to enlist, NOT to submit to conscription, or if already enlisted, NOT to simply follow orders to implement things that upon closer, objective examination are not in the best interest of your community, your state, your nation, or for that matter, NOT in the best interest of the human race of which we are all a part.

Perhaps an addition to the monument explaining this “Compromise of 2020”, including the names of the principal negotiators and their organizations, could be locally funded by the County and Town and added to the memorial display for future generations to read about and be inspired by.

‘We believe’ – a message worth sharing found in a local yard. This writer also ‘believes’ there is a better way than demanding public site removal of all Civil War markers without acknowledging specific differences in Civil War and historic personage displays.

If not now, when?

When, better than now for us to talk WITH each other, rather than AT each other about our varying social and cultural perspectives? We find ourselves at a point of aggressive partisan political hostility some historians have described as the greatest in this nation since the run-up to the Civil War. It is a time we now see militarily clad, unidentified federal agents deployed to U.S. cities in a partisan political show of extra-legal force, against the will of state and local elected officials from the opposition political party.

It is a show of force targeting this very anti-racism, equal-justice-for-all movement, aimed not only at sporadic vandalism or graffiti writing at federal buildings or statues but at peaceful protesters against racism, murder, and hypocrisy. One peaceful demonstrator in Portland, Oregon was nearly killed when shot in the head with a so-called “non-lethal” projectile. Others have been seized into federal custody with no due process, no explanation, even to local officials and law enforcement.

But back on our courthouse lawn, it is a different response we must worry about. That is the response of our neighbors, our fellow citizens who may trace their family heritage, not to the ownership of slaves, but just to a walk-on roll in a war the average foot soldier may not have completely understood the reason for.

Will some racists, some with neo-fascist sympathies embrace a “save the statue” movement? Surely, but it is NOT them I am urging to the table for discussion. And it is that discussion between differing but well-meaning perspectives that has the potential of, not only truly UNITING us, but also of disarming the opposition of those of a less wholesome perspective on the issue.

Front Royal Unites wants to be a uniting community force. But is it running the risk of creating a new “group of citizens” feeling “targeted” and “alienated” – NOT for being modern-day racists or supporters of slavery, but for simply wanting their predecessors, their ancestors who fought, were wounded or died in America’s Civil War to be remembered for their sacrifice?

A photo of the Confederate soldier statue from a 1956 publication by local historian Laura Virginia Hale, sponsored by the Warren Rifles United Daughters of the Confederacy, acknowledging the developmental history of this community’s four primary Civil War monuments. Those include the pictured Confederate soldier statue now under scrutiny (1911), as well as Soldiers Circle (1882) and Mosby’s Monument (1899) at Prospect Hill Cemetery, and the Battle of Front Royal marker placed at the intersection of Chester St. and N. Royal Ave. (1927).

Yes, those ancestors fought on the wrong side of history. But as stated above, most, if not all, were not slave owners. And little may be known of their thoughts as to why, when called, they chose to fight for their state amongst a confederacy of states against an American Union viewed by many at the time more like Europeans view the European Union today.

So, can we all just step back and take a deep breath? – Look at it as THAT breath George Floyd was not allowed to take. And if not Floyd’s life, maybe that breath can save OUR unity of purpose in moving this community forward as an example for others.

For if those who want to see equal justice and opportunity for all in this nation begin taking on the same sort of uncompromising, hardline stances as those who harbor racist, neo-fascist totalitarian tendencies, then what chance as a nation do we have to survive as the Founding Fathers envisioned? That vision was of an imperfect, but constantly improving nation and people – people capable of learning, evolving, of uniting over false barriers created by those who would divide to suppress, control, and dominate.

United we are stronger!

So, let’s stay united across the broadest spectrum of people in this community that we can. Because outside its active membership and support base, I fear that Front Royal Unites and any other associated group’s move on the Confederate soldier statue’s place on the Warren County Courthouse grounds has the potential to create a level of division in our community that has not thus far been apparent. I said I had the idea of approaching the leadership of Front Royal Unites and others wanting the statue moved and locals opposing that move, about a compromise resolution.
I guess this commentary is that approach.

So what do you think people, is there room for meaningful conversation about this statue, its location, and preservation as a timeless warning and teaching tool for us all? Can we just take that deep breath George Floyd never got to take in Minneapolis, and move forward together rather than at each other’s throats, figuratively or literally?

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Opinion

Shifting of a Legacy?

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historically speaking

With Martin Luther King Day approaching, I have thought a lot about the man who, more than anyone else, historically represents the Civil Rights movement and social justice. At the same time, I have noticed something strange. Is it possible that the keepers of King’s legacy is shifting right? I am not talking about the far right but the right of today’s progressive movement and somewhere in the realm of moderate Democrats and Republicans. I’ll explain what I mean.

King introduced himself to the world when he took over leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. His charisma, talent, and message of non-violent protest quickly made him a household name and, depending on your viewpoint, became either the most famous or infamous man in the Civil Rights movement. The left claimed him as their champion as he fought to change the status quo and demanded equal rights. The right feared him and saw him as dangerous when he said things like, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

To the right, especially in the South, King wanted to fight against 400 years of racial superiority. He wanted to change the only way of life they knew. King would feel the brunt of their fear as it was personified in hatred. He, his family, and friends dealt with threats, violence, prison, and even death to stand for what they believed in. Yet King never backed down from what he knew to be right while also never turning away from his belief in non-violence, or as he once said, ““Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

It is said that time heals all wounds, and that seems to be the case with the legacy of King. Moving into the 1970s and 1980s there was racial progress. Race relations were not perfect, just like they are not today, but when comparing life to the 1950s our nation has come a long way. Somewhere along that journey, King went from being a hero on the left to a national hero. By the time I began school in the early 1980s, King was being celebrated by all. I remember listening to his “I Had a Dream Speech” in school when I was a young kid in Virginia. Martin Luther King Day was signed into law in 1983 and done so by a Republican Senate and Ronald Reagan, a champion of the right.

The fact that the right accepted King is not what’s surprising. It’s the idea now that many on the right are seeming to champion his cause. Think about what you see or read in the media. When groups like Black Lives Matter chant their slogan, what is the response from the right? “All lives Matter.” Then somewhere someone will undoubtedly quote the most famous of King’s speeches when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I have thought on this a lot recently and tried to pay attention to what different people are saying. From my very unscientific survey, I have found that people on the right outnumber those on the left when citing King in arguments. Granted, most are cherry-picking his quotes, mostly from the “I have a Dream” speech. Probably few have read King’s “Mountaintop” speech where he called for wealth and power redistribution, yet King’s major message may not resonate as much with some on the left as it once did. Especially with the young and progressive wing.

In the 1960s and with the older and moderates today, the goal of the left was a color-blind integrated society. For them, King’s statement of character over skin color plays perfectly. However, for others on the left today, racial goals include categorizing people into races. It’s not that progressives are wrong but are different from what King wanted. King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the mission statement of “one nation, under God, indivisible, together with the commitment to activate the ‘strength to love’ within the community of humankind.” With organizations like Black Lives Matter, their mission statement says, “to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.” These are minor differences but also important ones.

In some ways I wonder if parts of the modern movement are more influenced by another important but lesser-known Civil Rights leader, Stokely Carmichael. Space is too limited to give his entire background, but Carmichael is worth looking up. He was a veteran of Freedom Summer and the Freedom Rides and took over leadership of SNCC. It was Carmichael who began to push the idea of “Black Power,” which called “for Black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for Black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.” As for King, he did not outwardly criticize “Black Power” and said he understood where Carmichael was coming from, but ultimately opposed it.

I am in no way trying to criticize either side here, right or left. It is simply an observation and historical curiosity. I also see it as incredibly positive how most on the right have embraced Dr. King as a hero. I am grateful that the entire nation can honor what Dr. King did, but, historically speaking, it does seem as if his legacy has gone through a shift from left to center.


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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Oh boy! A cabal

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Wow, a cabal! – I want to join. I worked for the Federalis for 30 years, and if that isn’t a cabal, nothing is. But here: Threats of destruction, secret sources, dead drops, random accusations of conspiracy, strange titles like interim (fill in the blank), dog attacks, now publicly admitted marital infidelities, threatening people who had nothing to do with things. Yep, it sounds like a normal workweek for me. But they have gone over the line now – they pissed Roger off. But be careful Roger, you might be walking down the street and get mauled by friendly bullmastiffs (if there is such a thing). That’s it, throw down the gauntlet, Gentle Knight, the gloves are coming off.

As fun as this may sound, you have to think, “Why can’t the Town ever do anything without lawsuits, accusations of wrongdoings, threats, intrigues, and temper tantrums. We remember such laughs as:

“We have no moral requirement to pay for the police station” (although the Town had the thing built and rapidly moved into it – I mean, it wasn’t like it just sprang up overnight).

The famed “trash-poop bust” at the Bentonville county dump. “Everybody in the County should be fired if not pilloried, ending with “THE Tederick” tantrum: ‘We’ll take our poop elsewhere; that will teach them a lesson’.” This letter penned by THE Tederick is a classic fire and brimstone saga.

The famed Afton Inn – finally being rebuilt without one scratch of Town help (although THE Tederick claimed he was responsible for the deal) even after they wanted to send a letter to the forlorn contractor threatening untold violence if he did not start construction by July. Which money tantrum do you want to have? – The “We aren’t getting our fair share of COVID money” or the “Why doesn’t the County pay for the pipeline” screaming fit.

And more recently the mayor accused his neighbor who reported his loose dogs attacking her and her son of “trying to beat the system” for a lack of proper business permitting.

So you say, “This sounds like a bunch of 10-year-olds battling over who is playing in the sandbox.” THE Tederick gets on the Grand Jury and then eliminates the Mayor with later dropped charges. And then, using his wealth of municipal leadership, he slides into the now vacant seat to begin his “interim” empire. This coup was a classic “THE Tederick” move.

Next, he invents a Town EDA, shuffles people around to temporarily run it while, what – waiting for his anointment as the Head?

You know, with all this intrigue, you would think they could get other things done like getting rid of the eyesores. But instead, with Admin help from inside Town Hall, the Mayor hustles the Planning Commission to fast-track his personal construction project of questionable physical dimensions. Yikes! Somebody leaked a document that would soon or had already been revealed. The “fast track” was not illegal, but it sure looks shady. This is after THE Tederick “right sizes” the staff, much like Cartman for “not obeying his au-thor-a-TY”.

You can have, at the local level, confidential personal information, confidential legal information, and at certain stages, contract-restricted data. But unless the Town has gotten into building stealth bombers (doubtful), there is no SECRET information. I take you back to when Jennifer claimed that all information regarding the EDA was SECRET, which caused people in my office to chuckle.

You give him way too much credit. And please, don’t give him the sobriquet of being a master of disinformation. Roger, you’ve got the whole Counter Intelligence thing wrong. At the level that he was in, there was no “spy vs. spy” activity. Counter-intelligence resembles intelligence, as military music resembles music.

Anyway, I want a cabal T-shirt. Wow, real secret stuff. Let me know where our next midnight meeting will be held.

V/R
Fritz Schwartz 
Warren County, Va.

P.S. Just as I was ready to fire this off, THE Tederick exploded again. However, Chairman Cheryl Cullers interrupted to tell Tederick, “If this is going to be another personal attack, I won’t allow it.” “If it turns to personal attacks, I will ask you to be seated,” Cullers responded, leading Tederick to counter, “You listen to my comments and then determine if they’re personal attacks.” For the second time, Tederick requested and was granted a restarting of the three-minute clock manned by Board Deputy Clerk Emily Ciarrocchi, at which point he restarted his remarks.

“Sir, I’m going to stop you. This is turning into a personal attack. If you feel,” at which point Tederick interrupted to ask, “Is that where you’re going with this? Let me know today if you’re going to stop me.”

“Yes, sir,” the board chair replied, leading Tederick to leave the podium, but not before adding, “You’ll be hearing from someone.”  Wow! A threat. He didn’t say who or what, but it sounds like somebody might sleep with the fishes. Be careful young Matthew; the Cabal is watching you.

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Due diligence and ‘Second Step’ curriculum

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With respect to the recent vote among our School Board to hit pause on the “Second Step” Social and Emotional program after two citizens expressed concerns at the most recent school board meeting:

The idealist in me opines that every parent and community member should, actually, read the “Second Step” program, and make an informed decision as to what they feel is best for their children. I have read it. It is well done. Equally, depending on who presents it and how it is presented (as is the case with many curricula) I can respect the concerns of those wanting to make sure that their children are not subjected to a narrative, as opposed to a hopeful civil dialogue and some good life lessons, as opposed to growing up talking with their fingers, as opposed to their mouths and growing up emotionally and socially inept.

Granted, it is only fair to articulate that parents should be guided to the appropriate resources through the schools themselves: first, maybe even have an open forum with the admin, counsellors and other presenters of the curriculum, and then decide if they are OK/not OK with their child participating. Perhaps the summer months can be used by school board members to educate themselves to curriculum of the upcoming year, and be part of open community discussions with the parents and even children, so that mutual respect can occur, as opposed to narrative-driven dialogue by confused and misguided elected officials.

The realist in me asks the following:

  1. How many School Board Members did not read the curriculum prior to this meeting, in order to make a fair decision for all, and just said to themselves: “Sounds good!  Let’s do it!!”?  In all fairness to whom I did and did not vote for, there is no question in my mind that at least two school board members were well aware of the curriculum, and had their personal thoughts/concerns entering the meeting. Whether these were narrative or information based is on them. I will give respect that I have no doubt that they read it.
  2. How many parents would actually show up for a meeting to hear a presentation on the curriculum, or take the time to read it? (I agree wholeheartedly that parents should pay more attention to school board meetings.)
  3. Since I do not know how well informed the School Board was on “Second Step” before this matter came up, I actually applaud the board for hitting the pause button, so that they could be more informed before their next meeting, and not just blindly vote for what is put in front of them. How nice would it be if we all did this before elections, as opposed to accepting “sample ballots” and punch lines, and just drinking the juice of a chosen narrative?
  4. I think all School Board Members should be personally polled and asked at the next meeting if they have taken the time to educate themselves to the program?

If not, they should recuse themselves from voting for not doing their jobs and, quite frankly, should reconsider if public office is for them. If they have read it, kudos and vote your conscience, not a political narrative.

Please stay well,

Michael Williams
Front Royal, Virginia

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Matt Tederick: Public Nuisance? 

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Tree-slayer Matt Tederick, during his attempted public commentary at the January 4 Board of Supervisor meeting, has expanded his campaign to disrupt the functioning of county business. His personal attacks on county board members are disgraceful and uncalled for.

Moreover, his threat to Supervisor Cullers that “You’ll be hearing from someone” after she disallowed his harangue is seriously out-of-bounds. Has Mr. Tederick become unhinged?

Jeanne Trabulsi
Front Royal, Virginia

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How the rest of the world sees us

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Recently, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit our daughter and her husband’s family in Germany and travel to Greece on business. It was a long time coming due to the challenges of Covid, trying to find an opening in the outbreaks to spend time in both places.

Witnessing the effects of this Covid wave in other countries and the attitude of a clear majority of the people living under the new normal was extremely interesting. At the outset, we were apprehensive as to what freedoms and restrictions would be put in place. It was amazing what we encountered. EU countries are not going to fall into the situation that caught the world off guard the first time with massive shutdowns of business activities. Most surprising was the resilience of the people to adapt quickly to a fast-changing environment.

The flight from the US was uneventful and pleasant. Vaccination cards and passports were in order. Germany did not require a negative Covid test to enter as long as we were up to date with our vaccinations and wore masks during our time in the airport and on the flight. We witnessed no grumbling protests against wearing a mask, including passengers with children on both legs of our trip, and the flights up and back to Greece. Adult behavior, civilized. Maybe the Old World has some lessons for us.

When we arrived our daughter and son-in-law picked us up and took us to his parent’s home where we would stay for most of our visit. While Germany did shut down most traditional Christmas festivities, it did allow shopping and eating at restaurants at most locations, along with the normal tourist attractions.

The requirements to participate in these activities mandated a visit to the local pharmacies to show your vaccination card and a valid ID. If you were not vaccinated, you had to show a negative Covid test within the last 24 hours. The availability of testing locations was not an issue. Mobile quick testing sites are readily available, results within 10 minutes. When either criterion was met, you received an EU bar code document that would be shown when entering stores or other public places. Simple isn’t it. No shouting matches, no signs, no protests or counter-protests. No nonsense.

As we were leaving Germany, updated measures in anticipation of the next virus were being put in place, with stricter rules for unvaccinated individuals to help reduce the need to shut down their economy and reduce the danger to the health of friends and neighbors.

The item that was most notable was the attitude of those we encountered. Most were deeply concerned about everyone in their communities and each other. People worked together to address a common problem with the cooperation of villages, towns, and cities and elected national leaders. Cooperation rather than confrontation.

Whenever we talked about our situation in the US, they were quick to point out, from the outside looking in, that Covid had been made a political issue among manipulative politicians to maintain power, misleading the very communities they were elected to protect and serve. The anti-mandate, anti-vax fringe certainly bears this out. What could I say but agree that the misinformation that has been blasted across our county is for the benefit of a minority, a Pied Piper thing, power addicts.

The general attitude of the people we encountered was one of great respect for our country and what we stood for globally. They are hoping that our democracy will survive the upcoming challenges over the next several years. They are very concerned about the divisions they are observing from partisan reporting.

A number stated that their history has been full of similar challenges that the US has been spared over its 250-year history. Unfortunately, the US has also allowed itself to be driven by outside interference that promotes dangerous misinformation to support partisan positions that create division in our country, a divide and conquer scenario. Several pointed out two examples of outrageous misinformation: the Jan 6th insurrection, and the Senator who said that Covid can be stopped by mouthwash. I had no response.

Now, I imagine there will be some who ask why anyone would support a country that is correctly or incorrectly perceived as socialist. What I find is that most people who take this position do not understand that Germany is a democracy with over 28 political parties. They must have a majority of the parties, a coalition, in order to agree on the direction of the country. For some issues, this may offer an even greater opportunity for representation of the diverse interests of the people than a two-party system. Like our system it works. Each has its plusses and minuses. Both democracies.

There is nothing wrong with being ignorant. The definition of ignorance is simply not knowing about a subject or topic. We all own that from time to time. The danger we now face as a community and country are listening to the misinformation of facts about things deliberately intended to divide us. Arrogant ignorance will be the true danger moving forward in our country’s future. Look Up neighbor and see the danger coming. Don’t listen to rabble-rousers. Heed your own good common sense.

Michael Graham
Front Royal


Note: The author’s reference to “Look Up” is from the latest Netflix movie, “Don’t Look Up.”

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A New Year’s Resolution

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This year I want to…

Write something worth reading
Read something worth sharing
Say something worth repeating
Give something worth getting
Choose something worth keeping
Sacrifice something worth giving up
Go somewhere worth seeing
Eat something worth tasting
Hug someone worth holding
Buy something worth treasuring
Cry tears worth shedding
Do something worth watching
Risk something worth protecting
Listen to something worth hearing
Teach something worth learning
Be someone worth knowing.

by Kelsey Harris

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Kelsey departed this life in April 2009, at the age of 16, after a long struggle against a malignant brain tumor.

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