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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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Voting Rights

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historically speaking

Going to bed on election night it looked as if President Trump might win the election. But as the mail-in votes started being counted the next day, Trump’s lead slipped away in many important swing states. With mail-in voting and early voting occurring because of COVID-19, there have been many discussions about voting rights. Some say voting is a right and measures need to be made to guarantee everyone has the right to vote, whereas others say more measures are needed to protect the integrity of the vote. Both sides have made strong arguments and each person needs to weigh out these arguments personally. While I am in no way saying we should restrict voting, historically speaking, voting was never intended to be a right.

As always, let’s start with the Constitution. Surprisingly to most, the founding document is practically silent about voting. There are only two sections that address voting and they both do so sparsely. Article I, Sec. II states, “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.” The first part is simple enough, but the second section is more confusing. It says the people of each state would choose their Representatives every two years. However, it does not say how or who they mean by the “people.” That’s what the second lines address. Basically, it means whoever is allowed to vote in state elections can vote in the federal election. In other words, voting is a state issue and voting can differ state by state.

The second clause in the Constitution, Article II, Sec. I, that deals with electing the president states, “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” Again, voting is left to the individual states. States were allowed to put as many or as few restrictions as they chose on voters. States could restrict voters based on age, race, sex, property, or variety of other reasons. We often think of the Constitution’s quietness on voting as allowing restrictions, which it usually did, but it also allowed some western states the freedom to grant women suffrage years before the 19th Amendment did so nationally.

Eventually the Constitution changed through the amendment process and some of the most significant edits dealt with voting. The 14th Amendment defined everyone born in the U.S. as citizens and declared no state may “abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens.” Yet it did not state what those privileges were.  Future court cases did spell out these rights and voting was not one of them. The 15th Amendment states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Under this Amendment, states could still deny the vote to anyone as long as it was not for those specific reasons. It also does not say that states must guarantee everyone the right to vote, but only not deny for those specific reasons.

The last Amendments dealing with voting are similar to the 15th. The 19th makes it illegal to deny women the vote, the 24th makes it illegal to deny the vote for not paying a poll tax, and finally the 26th makes it illegal to deny the vote to anyone over the age of 18. All these cases are about restrictions; there is nothing about guaranteeing all Americans the right to vote. In fact, in 2013 the Supreme Court upheld in Shelby County v. Holder that voting was actually not a right.

When the Founders wrote the Constitution, the lack of voting as a right was not an oversight. The Founders were elitists, but they also believed only those who had a stake in society should be given the vote. In their minds, stakeholders were the only ones who had enough on the line to take voting seriously. If applying what the Founders believed to today, then only those who put in the effort of learning the issues and weighing out the options should vote, not those who simply vote for popularity or for who gives the best speech or makes the best promises. The mail system worked fine in 1789, but they chose to have voters show up to the polls. You had to put in some effort to vote.

This does not mean that today we need to follow suit or that I think we should restrict voting. It does just mean that over the next four years, as debates rage about voting rights, if you reference the Founders or the Constitution, you should do so wisely. A lot has changed since the Constitution was written; we now vote for our Senators. But, historically speaking, there is nothing in our Constitution, including the Amendments, that state voting is a right or that the Government must make sure all people’s voices are heard.


Dr. James Finck is a Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. To receive daily historical posts, follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog or on Facebook.

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This Thanksgiving, let’s embrace a resilient new tradition

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For a holiday grounded in tradition, this Thanksgiving is going to feel unsettling: face masks, socially distanced gatherings around an outdoor fire pit, and even Zoom calls with relatives from afar. In the midst of such a shakeup, perhaps the most grounding step we can take is to reflect on our old traditions and whether they truly serve us, our families, and our communities — especially when it comes to the focal point of the holiday for millions of American households: the bird on the table.

The origins of the turkey at the center of our holiday meal are actually murkier than the widely embraced narrative of the “First Thanksgiving” celebrated between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe, which was, in reality, an unremarkable occasion that may not even have featured turkey at all. And, of course, the account completely sidesteps the grim history of raids, murders, and other crimes committed against Native Americans by European colonists. Nonetheless, the turkey took on a starring role in early American literature — particularly the 1827 novel Northwood by Sarah Josepha Hale, who campaigned for Thanksgiving to become a national holiday to bring the U.S. together and stave off the inevitable Civil War. Unfortunately, though, the turkey and its holiday could not thwart the South’s unrelenting quest to preserve slavery by going to battle with the Union.

Despite the raging war, or perhaps aided by it, warming tales of Native Americans and new generations of European Americans all holding hands and giving thanks have persisted in our textbooks and our culture to this day when we now collectively eat a whopping 46 million turkeys. But gone are the days of turkeys raised on family farms, or even the less palatable forced marches of wild turkeys to slaughter. These birds’ modern place — inside the industrial animal agriculture industry — is now not only the turkey’s tragedy. The production of our Thanksgiving meals is actively harming us, and especially the most marginalized among us, all while masquerading as a badge of national unity and gratitude.

Let’s start by peeling back the fancy “American Humane Certified” and similar labels on brands like Butterball that were designed to win consumers’ trust while obfuscating the injustice, environmental devastation, and cruelty behind their products. For the harrowing reality behind the packaging, we can give thanks to the vertical integration of poultry farming over the past half-century by a handful of these massive corporations, forcing former family farmers into below-poverty wages and mountains of debt. Meanwhile, inside poultry slaughterhouses, workers — the majority of whom are immigrants and people of color — are also low-paid, often needing to rely on food stamps to get by, and, as recently revealed by Oxfam, many even resort to wearing diapers because of being denied bathroom breaks.

Then, as the pandemic gripped the nation earlier this year, fast-paced, dangerous slaughterhouses quickly became hotspots of infection. Forced to continue working by Executive Order despite rising cases, slaughterhouse employees were often denied adequate PPE and the ability to practice social distancing. According to the Food and Environment Reporting Network, there have now been over 42,000 coronavirus cases and 200 deaths in meatpacking workers. One plant inspector called the slaughterhouse a “ticking time bomb.”

This recent crisis is just the tip of the iceberg of the dismal and oppressive history of factory farms and slaughterhouses. An article in Environmental Health Perspectives explains the mechanism behind a unique form of environmental racism: “Swine CAFOs [concentrated animal feeding operations] are disproportionately located in black and brown communities and regions of poverty.” These factories host massive open-air lagoons of pig manure, which are then sprayed onto crops as fertilizer. Surrounding communities report high rates of respiratory irritation, depression, and fatigue and lower quality of life. As for turkey farming specifically, says Jeanne Melchior, acting president of environmental nonprofit Protect Our Woods, “The smell of the turkey houses is terrible. … You can see mounds of manure stacked in the fields. They try to spread it or haul it off, but when it rains, it just runs into the rivers.”

And as more than 41 million Americans (again, heavily concentrated in Black and brown communities) struggle with hunger, animal agriculture consumes enormous water and land resources. Over 500 gallons of water are needed to produce a single pound of turkey, and for beef, this number skyrockets to 1,800 gallons (whereas kidney beans require just a tenth of the latter figure). Collectively, about 27 percent of our global water footprint can be attributed to this industry, which takes up just as great of a proportion of the world’s ice-free land. In the absence of meat, dairy, and egg production, we could free up an area of land as large as the U.S., China, E.U, and Australia combined — while still feeding everyone.

With what, though? When we begin eschewing this harmful menu default, we can start embracing new traditions that foster resilient, healthy, and sustainable communities. Harking back to that old Thanksgiving mythology that largely omits America’s rich, complex, and often tragic indigenous history, many Native American chefs are addressing the lack of cultural representation in standard American holiday cuisine by “decolonizing” their dishes, which, according to Nephi Craig, founder of the Native American Culinary Association, means “to examine what you’ve been taught around food or nutrition and to take a deep look to see if the standard American dietary pyramid reflects you as an individual.” He further elucidates that this “could be a plant-based meal … It comes down to responsibly sourcing your food based on your views on decolonization and food security.”

All Americans can join Nephi in asking ourselves that question: What does our Thanksgiving meal truly mean to us? Already, millions of people are discovering that we can actually live our values of inclusivity, diversity, and justice through a healthy and hearty feast. Last year, nearly a third of Americans were contemplating enjoying a meatless Thanksgiving dinner. And as the holidays creep up, a new ASPCA survey has just found that over 70 percent of people who heard about the dangers behind factory farming during the pandemic have begun moving away from these products.

This holiday, we’ve already been forced to press pause on what we’ve always done. Let’s use this opportunity to start a new Thanksgiving default, one of resilience, one that helps everyone thrive, and one that centers plants on our plates. With endless possibilities like BBQ roasted cabbage with tempeh, butternut pumpkin with lemon tahini, North African spiced carrot and parsnip salad, and even vegan pumpkin pie ice cream, this new tradition will be something everyone (and our taste buds) can be thankful for.

Laura Lee Cascada
Front Royal, Virginia

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Thank you for volunteering

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During this COVID-19 crisis, our entire community faces many challenges. This difficult period revealed more than ever the indispensable role of volunteers. We realize that without their dedication and generosity, the consequences of this pandemic would have been much worse.

We’re privileged to have an abundance of community heroes in our region that are willing to pitch in when needed.

To all our local volunteers, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Royal Examiner.

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Opinion

Historic Election?

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“In this historic election.” How many times have you heard this over the past two weeks? In truth, there are some historic elements. This election had the greatest number of votes cast in history. Is that historic or population growth? It’s also a higher voter percentage than we have seen in some time, but nowhere close to the highest. A woman on the winning ticket is most definitely historic, so much in fact that I am stumped on how to make a comparison. This past week most of the attention seems to be on Trump’s refusal to admit defeat. But that is not historic either. Many have called this the most important election in our lives, whereas, in fact, it is just the most recent.

First, let’s tackle the voter turnout. At 67% voting at last count, the 2020 election is impressive for modern elections. The last time we cleared 60% was 1968. Historically, however, between 1840 and 1904 voting was always over 70% with the elections of 1856 and 1860 going over 80% and the highest election percentage of all time was 1876 with 81.8%. The elections of 1860, 1876 and 2020 have some similarities; they had either controversial figures or voting irregularities.

The increase in voting percentage is also impressive in 2020. Four years ago, 59% of the population voted, an 8% growth in 2020, one of the highest of all time. Much of this has been attributed to hatred of Trump more than fondness of Biden. Yet, when we look historically, there is not a clear pattern of controversial presidents being the reason for large differences between votes. There was a 10% jump between 1872 and 1876. Though 1876 is one of the most controversial elections, the controversy was the outcome, not the candidates. There was also a 10% jump between 1948 and 1952. Again, nothing controversial; in fact, Eisenhower was popular with both sides in 1952. Finally, the greatest difference between elections was 1836 and 1840 with a 22% increase of voter turnout. In this case it was the economic Panic of 1837 had hurt the incumbent Martin Van Buren, not anything controversial.

As for Trump’s attitude towards conceding, while annoying for the Democrats, this also is not new. Historically speaking, we do not even have to go back very far, only to 2000. Anyone old enough to have gone through this election probably remembers too well the annoyingness of new vocabulary words like “hanging chads.” The Election of 2000 saw two new candidates but with familiar names, Vice President Al Gore versus George Bush. As with 2020, it was a close election on election night and whoever won Florida would win the game.  As election night came to a close and it looked as if Bush had won Florida, Gore made the concession call to Bush. However, by the next day Democrats had come out with claims of voter fraud and voter suppression in Florida, and Gore called Bush back to recant his concession. Democrats demanded a recount, which was done, but after the recount did not change the outcome, Gore demanded a recount by hand instead of by machines. The issue was that on some punch cards, the wrong names were accidently hit or were not punched properly. The recount took weeks, this time to the annoyance of Republicans. In the end, it took the Supreme Court to force the recount to end and declare Bush the winner.

Another example is the election of 1876. The election that tells us the importance of one vote. It looked as if Democrat Samuel Tilden would win the election. He had more popular votes and only needed one of the four remaining states to win, as with Biden in 2020. However, there were voting irregularities in those four remaining states. For instance, South Carolina had 101% voter turnout. Of the four states, three were southern, Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana. Why is it always Florida? Why that is important is that the Democratic Party dominated southern states so it was expected Democrats would win all three, let alone just the one needed to win. To solve the issue, Congress was forced to get involved and create a 15-man board to determine the winner. There were five congressmen, five senators, and five judges. Seven of these were Democrats and seven were Republicans with one independent. Perfectly fair, until the one independent judge resigned his position and a new judge had to be appointed. The only judges left on the court were Republicans, resulting in Republican Rutherford Hayes winning the presidency by one vote. Democrats claimed foul play but eventually agreed to the ruling when the Republicans promised to end Reconstruction in the South.

It is always good to see democracy in action and that so many took part of the election process. This was an important election in that all elections are important, However, historically speaking, neither the percentages voting nor the squabbling after the fact are anything new.

With the election past us now, I hope everyone can put politics aside for a day and enjoy your Thanksgiving. I for one am grateful I live in a country where we can have this fight about elections. Not all nations get to do this.

Dr. James Finck is a Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. To receive daily historical posts, follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog or on Facebook.


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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A one-man and his merry band’s show of destruction and decimation

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Our Interim Town Manager (ITM) Matt Tederick is a very tricky individual. He is also a great manipulator. He also knows and unfortunately used the action of firing people to create fear and loyalty. He believes giving away plaques will create a picture of employer/employee love and togetherness. He also shows a keen ability to cover his tracks when necessary.

Case in point – now remember, he is the Town Manager who has total control of what goes on within the Town, not a single major item ever gets by him, he has the last and almighty say over everything, even the Town Council – questioned about the environmental carnage along Happy Creek he stated no tree over a four-inch diameter was cut down on the banks of Happy Creek between South and Prospect Streets. As complaints started coming in about these trees being cut down, he goes into self-preservation mode and turns the situation around to make himself look clueless.

At Mondays November 9th Town Council meeting, Mr. Tederick calls a Town employee whose department is responsible for the work up to the table or should I say, witness stand, and proceeds to say to the Town employee, “There haven’t been any trees over a four-inch diameter cut down, isn’t that right? The Town employee, perhaps with a pre-meeting briefing by the ITM says, “No, except the larger ones that were (on the shelf or level ground above the creek’s bank). The ITM looks like he is clueless about these larger trees that were cut down.

But isn’t the ITM the one that worked with the consultant on the drawings for the deeply flawed permit applications and all that went into this environmental and wildlife catastrophe?

Now for the truth. As I walked through the war zone, I measured stumps of cut trees anywhere from eight to thirteen inches on the bank and on the shelf. So, it is not difficult to see through this little self-preservation show by the ITM. Our Town Council, which was pointed to by the ITM as approving every move toward this bank side clear-cutting that “isn’t clear-cutting” says or does nothing about any of this. If it was the ITM’s idea that we approved, we do not care what you, the citizens think or say about it.

So, thank you, Mr. Interim Town Manager and Town Council for showing us your true feelings about the environment, the ecosystem, the birds and animals that depend on the trees you have cut down and the creek bank you have steamrolled, because that is what this council and its puppet master wanted, no matter what we citizens thought. Your “cut down all native vegetation and throw some rocks down in its place” attitude speaks worlds about all of you and your carelessness towards the environment we all share, and which some town citizens live adjacent to who were given little if any heads up on your plans to decimate their natural buffer to heavily traveled Commerce Avenue.

Paul Gabbert
Front Royal

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A little tribute to Happy Creek, Front Royal VA

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Unplanned, as we took our morning walk to Happy Creek, musician Richard Lockhart was singing on a picnic table with his guitar.  He agreed to shoot a little music video with the creek!  Just thought it would be fun.

I am not a political person. However, I recently became aware of some problems currently happening to our creek.  I don’t know all the details and don’t claim to be an expert.  But, I do feel moved to share how very important and special the creek is to many people.

Every day I walk to the creek. I see lots of action or sometimes zero action.  People of all ages come to the creek to enjoy time to play, relax, draw, exercise, and sing!  This summer my son learned how to catch trout from a neighbor at the creek.  I cooked up the trout and had a glorious meal from the trout my child caught from Happy Creek.  We also had a blast floating in the water with friends and looking in the water with goggles to see what we could see.

Often I see a group of senior citizens gathering at the shelters to play cards during the day and couples holding hands at sunset during an evening stroll.  People come to the creek for family portrait shoots or kids splash and play to cool down in the creek on a hot day.

What does the creek mean to you?  Have you enjoyed swimming or catching fish in the creek?  Did you go to the creek to hang out with your grandparents or just skip rocks?  I sure hope that we keep the creek safe and healthy for many more years to come.

Jen Avery
Front Royal

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