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Continental Congress calls upon the Black Regiment

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The debating was over, and the Declaration of Independence had been approved by the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia on a hot July day. Questions abounded still and anxiety as to the future was on the minds of men who had now affixed their signatures to a piece of paper destined to be the greatest and most historic document in the history of the world.

At the bottom of the original Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress had ordered that when printed and ready for distribution on July 4th the documents would be sent to parish clergy and ministers. The importance of this is that the instructions did not direct this circulation to town clerks or newspapers, but to preachers of the Gospel, men known as the “Black Regiment” thus named for the black robes they wore.

The pulpit had already played and would play a more important role in American freedom. The black-robed ministers would encourage activism and many would personally join in the fighting and serve as soldiers and chaplains. As many as one hundred would leave the pulpit of the church for the “pulpit of the camp and battlefield.”

The Declaration when it arrived in the hands of the clergy was “required to read the same to their respective congregation, as soon as divine service ended, in the afternoon, on the first Lord’s Day after they have received it.”

Church members would find it hard to have services without their ministers now gone to war and with attendance dropping off for lack of clergy personnel on the home front. However, the war and home front would be the same… every place where the British chose to camp and sought to destroy George Washington’s “rag tag” army in the north and Nathanael Greene’s in the South.

Tempers flared in all corners of the land and debates were held between Loyalists and patriot members of congregations. In Loudoun County, Virginia, at Ketoctin Baptist Church, a debate between Tory John Osborn and Preacher John Marks was arranged. Heated tempers caused the debate to be called off and John Marks joined General Washington’s Army as a Chaplain. John Osborn would not give up his support of the King’s cause and in defiance would name a new son Tarleton after one of General Cornwallis’ most cruel officers, Colonel Banastre Tarleton. Tarleton is portrayed in Mel Gibson’s movie The Patriot as merciless and inhumane.

The Rev. Jonathan Boucher, Anglican Priest, would carry not just his sermon into the pulpit but also a loaded pistol. His congregation was split and the danger of personal attacks was ever present.

The Rev. Peter Muhlenberg of Woodstock, Virginia, preached regularly for the cause of freedom for the American colonists. He had a surprise for his congregation on the day of his final service in his Woodstock church to drive home his point that the American Revolution must succeed. Following the final hymn, he threw off his black robe as he recited Ecclesiastes 3:1 to reveal his uniform of a militia colonel. He then recruited men of his congregation to join the fight for independence and they became known as the “German Regiment.” He had been licensed as an Anglican priest and ministered to the German settlers of the Shenandoah Valley. He served with honor as a Revolutionary War officer and rose to the rank of major general. There is a statue of this black robed priest in the yard of the old courthouse in Woodstock honoring the Rev. Major General John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, Priest, Patriot, Soldier and Hero.

The majority of Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Puritans, Methodists, and most of the denominations in the Colonies excepting the Quakers would join in preaching the insurrection. Anglican priests were split because of their vows of allegiance to the King but still many would heed the call of Independence. The torch of Independence was lit early with Anglican George Whitefield’s arrival in the Colonies in 1740. He was known as the greatest preacher in the Colonies. He preached salvation through Jesus Christ and gave warning to the people about the oppression of the King in his revivals and launched the “Great Awakening.” He traveled from New England to Georgia setting attendance records and started “field preaching” which Anglican John Wesley also used. The difference in the political points of view of Whitefield and Wesley were commonly known. Wesley taught “obedience” to the Crown and Whitefield spoke of “man’s right of freedom” from oppression, including the slaves.

We cannot avoid, ignore, or abandon our responsibilities in striving to preserve the heritage secured by our Founders. Laity and the clergy must be vigilant and ever ready to fight for our Republic to ensure it is not weakened by interlopers and left for scavengers who come to suckle from the breast of Liberty bought with the blood of patriots. We must speak out against the mocking of our form of government and the eschewing of our Constitution to satisfy alien purposes while abandoning individual freedoms we treasurer. Our Founders knew and voiced the reality that moral values of Christianity are the “bedrock” foundation of our Republic and it will crumble without them.

I invite all true Americans from the mountains to the plains, from sea to shining sea, from Alaska to the Keys, and from Virginia to Hawaii to light the fires of that “old time religion” and preserve the freedoms won on the frozen tundra of Valley Forge, in the icy Delaware River, on the dusty field at Guilford Courthouse, in the snake filled swamps of South Carolina, and finally, on the sandy beaches at Yorktown.

Arise if you heart is filled with concern for the future of our Country.

Larry Wilson Johnson
Front Royal, Virginia

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Statue removal: At whose expense?

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I have read the petitions for and against the removal and relocation of the memorial on the Warren County courthouse lawn. I attended the August 4, 2020, meeting of the Board of Supervisors and heard arguments from both sides. But what I have not heard is how much will it cost to remove and relocate, and who is going to pay for it?

The memorial has been in place since 1911, one hundred and nine years; it is paid for and requires little maintenance. At a time when we need to find new ways to educate our children because of COVID-19, we do not need to waste time and money on this type of nonsense.

Relocating the memorial will only create another argument and cause more division in our community. LEAVE IT ALONE!

Will Lewis
Front Royal, Virginia

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District 29: Thank you, to everyone who came out yesterday and cast their votes

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Friends,

Thank you, to everyone who came out yesterday and cast their votes for me.  I am truly humbled and appreciate the great turnout for me or my opponent Mr. Traczyk.

For those who supported my campaign and trusted me with your vote, thank you!  For those who supported my opponent, I will work tirelessly to earn your vote in the general election and look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail.

I would like to thank all of my volunteers for the time they gave to our campaign. I appreciate them all for the many calls they made, every door they knocked, and finally for their willingness to spend more than 8 hours in the hot sun spreading our message to the voters.

Our success yesterday is entirely yours.

From the bottom of mine and Katy’s heart, we are deeply humbled by our friends who rearranged busy schedules to come out yesterday, especially on a Saturday. To the party faithful who voted and endorsed my campaign for the house of Delegates, I will be a conservative fighter in Richmond.

I like to thank the Legislative District Committee for running a smooth Firehouse Primary. The time you gave and efforts you put into are unmatched and it showed.

Now, the focus is on my Democratic opponent and defeating liberals on the ballot this November.

Thank you,

Bill Wiley

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Divergent Black Voices

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historically speaking

Today I read a post about an article from Fortune magazine that lists 19 Black economists to know and celebrate. I think it is great that we celebrate the contributions of Black Americans, but when Walter Williams is left off of any list of important economists, especially Black economists, I have to question the motives of those who made the list. Williams is the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University and is one of the most important economists over the past thirty years. Why was he left off the Fortune list? Historically speaking, it is a disagreement that goes back about 150 years.

Being a Black American, Williams has faced racism. After high school, he was drafted into the Army where he was court-marshaled for fighting back against the racial practices he experienced. After the Army, he finished his schooling, including earning his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from UCLA in economics.

Williams taught at Temple University and Stanford before finally settling in Northern Virginia to teach at George Mason. More than any other professor, Williams put Mason on the academic map. He has authored dozens if not hundreds of books and articles. He became known for his syndicated column, Minority View. He has never shied away from racial issues; his most recognized books are entitled The State against Blacks and America: A Minority Viewpoint.

Williams has received many prestigious awards in economics and is considered a leading voice in his field. So why was Williams excluded from a list of prominent Black economists by Fortune? That is easy: he is conservative. I completely support the concept behind Black Lives Matter, yet, as with so many organic movements, I fear BLM may be hijacked by divisive politics. I also start to question the motives of a movement when only liberal Black Americans are celebrated. Historically speaking, conservatives have suffered the same racist attitudes as all Black Americans and at times even more. Many Black conservatives not only struggle with hostile racism but resentment from their own community for not being Black enough. If you want evidence of this, you need look no further than the fact that Fortune magazine does not consider Walter Williams important enough to mention in their pages.

This divide is as old as Jim Crow. If you go back to around the beginning of the 20th Century, the two most influential Black Americans were W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. Washington, born a slave in Virginia, put himself through the Hampton Institute, one of the first black schools set up after the war. He eventually rose to become the head of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Washington, having to fundraise to keep his Institute alive, tried to work with the white population. Tuskegee was a trade school and Washington taught that, through hard work, Blacks could raise themselves up out of their circumstances and eventually be accepted by whites. In Washington’s most famous speech he said, “No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized.” He believed if Blacks proved themselves, they would be treated as equals. Washington was celebrated by the white population, but was often attacked by members of his own race.

Du Bois was born free in the North and excelled in education, being the first Black man to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard. Du Bois, who was extremely critical of Washington, believed Blacks should receive the same education as whites and did not want to wait for acceptance from whites. He wanted Blacks to push for civil rights and formed the NAACP to organize that cause. In The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois wrote of Washington, “From birth till death enslaved; in word, in deed, unmanned! Hereditary bondsmen! Know ye not. Who would be free themselves must strike the blow?”

Jump forward several years and these two trains of thought were being still debated during the Civil Rights crusades of the 1950s and 1960s. This time the principle figures were Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.  While King took the Washington role of preaching non-violence and integration with whites to work for civil rights, Malcolm X channeled D Bois with his teaching of Black Power. Mr. X once said of King, “The white man pays Reverend Martin Luther King, subsidizes Reverend Martin Luther King, so that Reverend Martin Luther King can continue to teach the Negroes to be defenseless.” All four men wanted to achieve the same destination; they just took different paths to arrive while being critical of the other.

The same is true with Dr. Williams and conservative Black voices today. They want the same ends as the Black Lives Matter movement; they have experienced the same racism. However, as the movement is becoming a political movement as much as a racial one, important voices like Dr. Williams are being silenced by the same voices calling for people of color to be heard.


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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Gun laws – Front Royal August 3 Town Council Work Session

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The Democrat controlled Virginia legislature passed a law enabling jurisdictions, beginning, July 1, 2020, to control the carrying of firearms in public places or approved public events. Previously any non-felon citizen could carry a visible firearm or a concealed firearm (with a permit) in any public place except schools and courthouses. At the August 3, 2020 Front Royal Council work session they considered a citizen offered resolution that declared the Town would not exercise any authority granted under the new law. It would leave things as they have been. No problem existed thus no solution was warranted.

I watched the Royal Examiner video of that meeting and was appalled. I encourage all to view this beginning at minute 16. First, the Town Attorney rambled about the new law and offered inaccurate counsel on the issue. He failed to acknowledge that firearms were indeed legal to carry presently in government buildings, when specifically questioned by a Councilman even when the Town’s Chief of Police mentioned that citizens were not restricted from bringing firearms into the County Board meeting room. The Town attorney suggested that the public probably deduced that carrying firearms into Town Hall wasn’t allowed because it was across from the courthouse. The Town Attorney impugned the character of town employees by commenting that some might not be trusted to carry firearms during work hours.

I wonder if he will be required to specifically identify the untrustworthy employees he referenced? I wonder if the Interim Manager will chastise the Town Attorney at the next Council meeting like he inappropriately did to Mayoral candidate Mike McCool recently?

The Town Attorney suggested that employees who collected taxes and fees would be more at risk from potentially angry citizens if they were not limited in the future from bringing firearms into Town Hall. The fact that in the Town’s history I’m not aware of such an event ever occurring was conveniently overlooked. The Town Attorney pointed out that currently law enforcement was only present at Council meetings and not at other public body meetings. I believe the Town Attorney’s comments demonstrate a clear bias against citizens carrying firearms in public and that his performance on this issue was far below what should be expected from a supposed, objective legal expert. This is not the first time I have witnessed questionable judgement from the Town’s attorney and maybe the Town would be better served by obtaining fresh views.

Listening to the comments from Council I was shocked at how uninformed some were regarding firearm issues when just several months ago they passed a resolution declaring Front Royal to be supportive of the Second Amendment. Not a single Council person offered that the new State law was possibly in conflict with the US and Virginia Constitution that I recall. Several Councilmen failed to engage in any constructive comments about the topic at all! Instead, the resolution was kicked down the road for further discussion. Do not let it be said that this Council is not expert in can kicking!

This should have been an easy issue for the Council. It should have been passed unanimously with limited discussion. That Councilman Holloway, a Mayoral candidate, did not champion this resolution is either an indication of a shortcoming with political savvy or has a hidden belief that citizens cannot be trusted to be responsible with firearms in public. In either case, it would give me something to consider when voting in November if I was a Town resident.

The right to protect yourself, your family and your property is a human right, not to be managed by any government. The US and Virginia Constitution clearly affirm that it ‘Shall Not Be Infringed’. Hopefully Town residents will be giving their Councilman a piece of their minds about their support on this resolution and it will be unanimously passed at the earliest Council meeting possible and by Warren County’s Board as well.

Gary Kushner
Bentonville, Virginia

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The courthouse soldier’s statue and our history – not as simple as some portray it

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I think Mr. Bianchini’s recent article on the Confederate statue/memorial was well written, even if I didn’t agree with everything in the article. I think I can speak for not just myself, but many others in Warren County, in saying leave our statue and history alone! I am so sick of this “cancel culture” and the current push by some to seemingly try to erase a vast majority of American history. As we have seen in recent months, it was never just about Confederate soldiers, they were just easy targets. But how much does the average American actually know about the Civil War?

There are many facts that either aren’t taught anymore, or have been swept under the rug on purpose. First, the right of secession was a very important topic in the US for the 70 years prior to the Civil War, so much so that New York, Rhode Island and Virginia would not ratify the US Constitution unless the right of secession was included. In fact, several New England states tried at least 4 separate times to secede from the US: 1804, 1814, 1844 and 1848, over everything from the Louisiana Purchase, the War of 1812, to the Mexican War. Soldiers at West Point were even taught in their textbooks up to 1860 that secession was legal.

Also, why is it never discussed that states in the upper south, like Virginia, voted in early 1861 to remain in the Union, and only voted for secession when Lincoln called for 75,000 soldiers to march through the South and put down the “rebellion”? It was even stated in the Virginia Constitution that no army could march through the state without permission from the state, which is why many men joined the southern armies. They took this as an invasion.

The Confederate soldier on the WC Courthouse lawn since 1911. Why did ‘he’, representing this county’s foot soldiers, fight? They aren’t here to answer – but can we be trusted to answer for them, so as to justify their collective image and names removal from our public property? One reader says the answer may not be as simple as some would have us believe. Royal Examiner File Photo/Roger Bianchini

Why is it never discussed anymore that 75% of white men living in the South in 1861 didn’t own any slaves? How ironic is it that the top 2 Union generals in the war, General’s Grant and Sherman, both owned slaves before and during the war, yet there are no records of General Lee or Jackson ever buying a slave! General Lee inherited slaves from his father-in-law in the late 1850s, and they were freed as instructed in the will 5 years later in 1862, right in the middle of the war! Stonewall Jackson’s wife also inherited several slaves who were later freed as well. The vast majority of Union soldiers stated they were fighting to preserve the Union, and not to solely end slavery. General Grant said if he thought the war was fought only to end slavery then he would have taken his sword to the other side.

Statues and memorials, like the one here in Front Royal, weren’t erected for decades after the war for one major reason, money. The South was in ruins after the war, and it took many years to raise the money to construct them. The statue at the courthouse is a memorial to the men from Warren County who fought and died in this terrible war, and not just a Confederate monument.

History is never as simple as black or white. We also as a society cannot look at, and judge people from the 18th and 19th centuries while looking through our 21st century lenses. It is also easy to attack people who have been dead for 100 years and can’t speak for themselves. Are we a perfect nation with a perfect history? No. But we sure have it a lot better than most others.

Billy Robinson
Front Royal, Virginia

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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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