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Historical Forgiveness

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historically speaking

I study history because I think we can benefit from learning from mistakes of those before us. Why make mistakes that others have already made? It may seem odd to look at the Middle East, a region that has struggled with freedom and peace. Yet, historically speaking, I believe there is something we can learn from them that might benefit us here.

Since the death of the Prophet Mohammed, the Middle East has split into two warring camps, the Sunni and the Shia. The original conflict was over who should have taken over leadership of the Ummah, or community of the faithful. The next few decades were strife with wars over this issue of succession.

Jump ahead to WWI and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, which led to the formation of several new nations. One such nation was Iraq. At first Iraq was placed under the leadership of King Faisal of the Hashemite Family who led the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans. Faisal governed fairly between the Shia and Sunnis in his realm. However, the Hashemite rule was ousted in 1968 by the Ba’ath Party that included Saddam Hussein. Hussein, a Sunni, turned on the Shia population, treating them as second-class citizens and subjugated them to all manner of hardships, including torture and death. Experts estimate that Hussein may have killed up to half-a-million of his people, mostly Shia and Kurds.

Finally, in 2003, when the United States declared war on Iraq, the Hussein regime was toppled. The U.S. has allowed the once oppressed Shia to take over leadership of the government and the militia. What is now happening is Shia oppression of the Sunni. This oppression, however, is much less than the decades of pain and murder by the Sunni towards the Shia. In some ways, the Sunni possibly deserve to know what it feels like being oppressed. I completely understand the Shia’s treatment towards their past oppressors. However, though perhaps justifiable, what has it done for the nation and the people? Not only is there no peace in Iraq, but the Sunni began to fight back with the creation of the Islamic State.

I have no idea what it feels like to be oppressed, and some may think I have no right to speak on this subject. However, speaking as a historian, it is difficult to find examples of where any type of reprisal or revenge has helped anyone. It is easier said than done, but the best way I can think of to help any situation of historic oppression is some type of forgiveness. If the oppressor can honestly repent and recognize its wrongs and the oppressed can offer historical forgiveness, maybe not only can we see peace in areas like Iraq, but here also.

When I see the Governor of Virginia taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee from the famed Monument Alley, I can‘t help but think just because you can does not mean you should. How does angering the other side, make anything better? Yes, the Confederacy was wrong. Yes, removing a monument is in no way comparable to treatments Black Americans have endured. But what will it accomplish? Will it make race relations better? Can you say you want peace while purposely provoking the other half of the population to anger, even if justified? I try to understand how this will be hard, but if somehow we can find a way to practice historical forgiveness, perhaps we can find a way for all sides to work together in the future.

A friend recently gave what I saw as a good suggestion. For a compromise, why not leave the statue of Lee in place while also erecting a monument of a slave having her child torn way and sold. That would be a powerful monument and could help tell a painful history. If we don’t want to follow the pasts of other nations, compromise and forgiveness may be our only chance for real peace. We need to work towards racial reconciliation, not racial revenge.

Abraham Lincoln, in his Second Inaugural, noted that the four years of the Civil War resulted in the greatest violence in American history, and called on everyone to forgive each other:  “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” If those who actually fought against the Confederates can forgive, why can’t we 150 year later?


Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog or Facebook at @jamesWfinck.

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Opinion

Memorials: A prominent place for honoring

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

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

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

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

Dave & Toni Gosinski
Bentonville, Virginia

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Opinion

Political stereotyping by Republicans called out by Democratic reader

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Howarth
Warren County, Virginia

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Opinion

We cannot afford to leave out truth

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

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

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

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

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

Tenia Smith
Front Royal, Virginia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathleen Mancini
Linden, Virginia

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Opinion

Justice is a must – EDA scandal not to be forgotten

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

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

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

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

Leslie Mathews
Warren County, Virginia

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Opinion

Thoughts on the Confederate statue removal at the Warren County Courthouse

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To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your move, Mr. Carter.

Tom Howarth
Front Royal, Virginia

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