One question I like to ask my students is who are the greatest American presidents? After I gather the list of usual suspects, I then ask what makes these presidents great. What I tend to find is that the greatest usually get us through some sort of crisis.
My next question is are they really the best presidents or were they fortunate enough to have a situation to fix. How do we know how Millard Fillmore and Chester Arthur would have handled a crisis? Maybe they would have done better. Perhaps James Monroe or Calvin Coolidge were the best presidents because under their leadership we did not have a crisis. John Adams stopped us from going to war with France. Most don’t think of him as great, even though I do. We only think of presidents who won wars, not stopped them. My point always is that we remember people for things that happened, not for things that did not.
I was thinking of this example this morning as I wanted to write a piece about police. I racked my brain as I took my morning walk for historical incidents involving police. The problem was I could only come up with one positive example. The rest were times when cops behaved badly. There has been plenty out there to read and hear about police abuses, yet I know those are rare compared to the thousands of interactions happening every day. My realization was that, when police do their jobs correctly, we do not hear about it. There will be thousands of arrests across the nation today that we will not hear about. Who knows how many crimes or episodes will not happen today because of the police. Yet we never remember things that do not happen.
There are very few jobs like police work. Their job is to protect us, but often times when they do their job we get upset. We say we support the police but then curse them when we see their lights in our rear view, even when we know we are speeding. We want them to do their job, but towards others. Police are like teachers. Jobs we claim we respect for their service, yet grossly underpay and often trash for not being good at their job. Children have no respect for police or teachers anymore because they hear their parents and society at large criticize them, especially when either calls parents about discipline issues their precious children never could have committed.
Police work is not like most jobs because, though police are part of our lives, we only tend to spend real time with them on our worst days. Days when we have violated the law or had a crime committed against us. Either way, not a good day. They have to deal with us at our worst–when we are mad, agitated, angry, or often times scared. Most handle us in our crisis with patience and caring. Most of our crises will pass, while police officers move on to the next one, day after day. They will see things most of us will never have to see and do things most of us will never have to do, and then they will do and see it again and again.
Ultimately, their jobs are not like ours because, more than most, every day at their day could be their last. Their job is to rush into danger when everything is telling the rest of us to run away. They never know when what seems like a basic traffic stop is actually a life-threatening situation with a person who can cause them harm. Every day they put on a badge saying, “I will put myself in danger to protect you.” Like soldiers they do not do this for money. There are many reasons why cops become cops, but they all sacrifice time and family and security to stand on the front line.
Police are part of America, as much a part as any profession. Police forces are older than the nation itself. The oldest that we know of started in Boston in 1635 and the first death in the line of duty occurred in 1786. According to the National Law Enforcement Memorial, 1909 marks an important year. It was the last year that there were fewer than 100 deaths. 1930 led the way with 312 officers killed.
I am not trying to take anything away from Black Lives Matter. Historically speaking, policing has a checkered past. Cops like Bull Conner in Montgomery, Alabama, used every aspect of his position to terrorize the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Protests during the time were filled with examples of cops beating American Citizens for exercising their rights. Yet, at the same time let’s not forget that today as the police are being vilified that police officers of every race are working tirelessly to reach out to their communities to find solutions.
We cannot allow officers to kill a restrained man. I know it’s a time to help and support our Black brothers and sisters. Yet, in the process let’s not forget those brave men and women who continue to serve faithfully. Let’s not compound one tragedy with another by forgetting the positives police have done. Before we decide to defund police forces, let’s remember the one historically significant day that instantly comes to my mind. I still remember the day in 2001 when 72 officers ran into a burning building to save the lives of others only to lose their own. One side does not have to be evil for the other side to be right. Black lives do matter, but that does not mean all police are villains. Let’s all take a moment to remember who protects our lives from unseen and unspoken evils every day that we will probably never hear about because they did their job right.
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.
Response to Mr. Bianchini’s Oct 22 letter and the Courthouse Statue
I certainly believe there has been racial inequality in our history but am aware of no such instances in Warren County in the 15 years I have been a resident and would object to any claim that our community does not offer equality to all its citizens. While an insignificant number may hold biased beliefs it is in no way representative of the majority. No person has been the property of another for over 150 years so can we let that rest? Plus, I’m not ignorant that discrimination continues to occur but sincerely believe that it’s on the fringes of our society rather than being pervasive as some assert. And yes, Mr. Bianchini I listen. The recounting of Ms. Freeman’s life experience at FRU’s ‘teach-in’ is from over a half-century ago and such situations have for the most part been remedied. I am sad that she was mistreated but that is in the past and cannot accept that it’s representative of our society today.
Too many choose to ignore the social justice strides made in the past half-century where Virginia citizens (majority white) elected a black Governor in the 80s when the Commonwealth was still a red state. In 2008 and 2012 a mostly white America elected a black president. Let’s also acknowledge the educational preferences and minority contract set-asides and programs that have been instituted as well that promoted equality.
While there may be some institutional bias in law enforcement we cannot overlook that they deal with black criminals everyday disproportionate to their representation in the population and thus it is rational for police to exercise greater caution when interacting with males of color. However, there is no justification for excessive use of force against any citizen and various efforts are occurring to address that specific issue.
Had Mr. Bianchini paid full attention to my testimony at the Oct 20 BOS meeting he would have heard my proposal for a compromise of possibly adding a plaque clarifying that the courthouse civil war monument is not to be interpreted as supporting past slavery or oppression and clarifying its focused intent. I could certainly support the idea of another statue as well that he mentioned which could acknowledge the contributions of slaves in Warren County’s history and would offer to donate the first $1,000 towards such a marker and challenge Mr. Porter and Ms. Cascada to match it were such an idea to move forward.
So, maybe Mr. Bianchini and I aren’t as far apart as, he may think, at least on this issue, and I appreciate his statement that he does not see me as having racist beliefs. So, how about everyone keeps their powder dry and await the results of the referendum. It might also be valuable to recognize that making frequent assertions that our community or even some of its citizens are racists will not contribute to an environment where mutual understanding, compromise, and healing is possible.
A Perhaps Futile Search for a Middle Ground on the Confederate Soldier Statue
(Royal Examiner reporter/editor Roger Bianchini’s response to Gary Kushner’s Oct. 22 Letter to the Editor)
Having butted heads philosophically in print with both Mr. Kushner and the current leadership of Front Royal Unites over the issues of institutional racism in modern American society (Kushner) and the advisability of compromise on the Confederate Statue issue to avoid the very backlash we are now witnessing (Porter/FR Unites), let me attempt to draw a middle ground on this conflict of perspectives.
While I sincerely believe Mr. Kushner does not consciously harbor racist intentions, I think I might be safe from a threat of civil action in describing him as somewhat racially insensitive to the plight of citizens of color in modern American society as a consequence of the lingering aftermath of slavery and racism in our culture.
I also feel that Mr. Kushner may be correct in his description of the current FR Unites leadership’s intransigence on the Confederate soldier statue’s location issue. As I have written in a past opinion piece, I felt and still feel that a compromise allowing the statue to remain, but adding some sign that the statue remains at the courthouse with other war memorials as a result of two opposing perspectives reaching agreement in 2020 on a mutually satisfactory outcome. As I wrote in the story on the Oct. 20 meeting, I believe the suggestion expressed at the meeting by Richard Hoover that a statue commemorating the sacrifice of Warren County people of color who were held as slaves be erected on the courthouse grounds is the best compromise idea out there.
Let me add one personal observation on a related subject. Several FR Unites speakers expressed disappointment at the absence of county officials at their previous Sunday “Teach In” as I understood it to be, revolving around the statue removal issue. I observed some of the speakers in the online live stream of the event. An LFCC professor described slavery as the root issue of the Civil War underlying the “state’s rights” issue – which was essentially the right to keep slaves as free labor to bolster the Southern state’s economies; as well as the racism expressed openly by Confederate political leadership in justifying secession and racially based slavery. Okay, most rational, educated people understand these things.
Another speaker and county citizen of color eloquently described her experience of racism in this community during the era of desegregation of our public schools, and consequently after in her adult life and work experience. Again, this isn’t news to people who are paying attention – are you listening, Mr. Kushner?
But I ask, and from what I saw there was no one present at the event who asked this question – how much do these known historical experiences of about 160 years and 50 years ago directly address the issues at hand concerning the fate of the Confederate soldier’s statue on the Warren County Courthouse lawn in 2020?
Wouldn’t an advisable strategy for anyone concerned with advocating equal treatment under the law and an end to protections of institutional racism, particularly in the conduct of law enforcement in the treatment of suspects nationally, be NOT to give those not so concerned with these issues or even perhaps harboring lingering racist tendencies themselves, an issue upon which to aggressively push back against your organization and its root issue of equal treatment under the law?
If there was a statue of openly racist Confederates like its President Jefferson Davis or Vice-President Alexander Stephens on the courthouse lawn, I would vigorously support their removal. But as has been noted by supporters of the Confederate soldier’s statue remaining where it is, most, if not all, of those 600 or so names on that monument were not from slave holding families. To my knowledge there are no known writings of any of those men justifying slavery and promoting the racism at its root. None of us will ever know what was in their hearts and minds when they went to war, or when they returned from it, if they did.
So, why draw a hardline in the courthouse grass on removal of a monument to the sacrifice in going to war, even if on the wrong side of history, of those 600 county sons?
Wouldn’t the cause of equal justice under the law be better served by focusing our energy and the energy of our municipal governments on a positive act, rather than a negative one? That act would be raising public funds to see a memorial to the human sacrifice of those who lived in Warren County as slaves be erected in a place of honor on the courthouse lawn, not far from the Confederate soldier memorial.
Now THAT would indicate that Warren County is exhibiting progress and cultural growth and a desire for equal treatment under the law for ALL its citizens in the 21st century. But that is only likely to happen after people with opposing perspectives begin, not only to talk, but to LISTEN to each other with a willingness to at least consider the other’s perspective.
Is it too late for that to happen here in Front Royal and Warren County? – Ms. Cascada, Mr. Porter, Mr. Kushner are you LISTENING?
Gary Kushner asks ‘Who is Racist’ in Confederate statue debate
Courthouse Statue, Oct. 20 BOS meeting discussion
On Front Royal Unites (FRU) Facebook page, Laura Lee Cascada posted on Oct. 16 that the Examiner had published my Letter to the Editor that was a ‘racist rant’ and referred to a Facebook comment I had recently made.
First, I would caution Ms. Cascada about calling me a racist or I’ll have her radical left behind in a civil action for slander for calling me a racist, which is not true.
Second, the comment that she referenced was in response to a heated argument I was engaged in with a Facebook user who I thought was black who I felt was trashing America and its slavery history. The idea I attempted to relay in that comment was that slavery had a silver lining for the descendants of slaves in that being subsequently born free in America provided them with the liberty and opportunities of all American citizens as opposed to possibly being born in a third world African country with its political strife, violence, famine, challenging economies and lower standard of living. The comment I made was, “You should be thankful your ancestors were slaves because they paved the way for your freedom. Otherwise you’d be living in a grass/mud hut in some shit-hole country”.
While I freely acknowledge that my choice of words was over the top in the frustration of a heated argument, but I continue to defend the validity of the concept. No one is clamoring to move from America to Africa with all its political and economic troubles and that statement is not evidence of racial bias on my part, it simply states facts. I hold no views that any race of people is superior to another or that any group of people should be discriminated against for any reason.
At the October 20, Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting in the Public Comments segment where the issue of the courthouse statue was the topic of interest, Ms. Cascada testified in support of removing the statue and made an underhanded attempt to embarrass me and to delegitimize my pro-statue testimony by reading the Facebook comment referenced above. However, feeling confident in the concept I previously explained I was not embarrassed at all. In a meeting break thereafter I approached Ms. Cascada and attempted to engage in dialogue to see if we could improve our mutual understanding, which was witnessed by the Examiner Reporter, Roger Bianchini.
Mr. Porter, President of Front Royal Unites, advised her not to talk with me and they both left without further interaction. I was not surprised in it seems that neither FRU nor Ms. Cascada has any sincere interest in exchanging ideas like mature adults and they present the impression that you either agree with and accept their perspectives or you’re wrong and biased. I believe that persons with weak ideas commonly refuse to engage in rational discussion because their arguments are difficult to defend with logic and the truth.
Mr. Porter recently posted a comment (that may have subsequently been deleted) on Facebook insinuating that a person who had assisted in the creation of FRU was separated from that group because they had been ultimately recognized as being ‘white’. If that, in my opinion, isn’t considered a racist view than I’m a ‘monkey’s uncle’. That from the leader from an organization that claims to be all about equality and unification of the community.
Mr. Paul Gabbert also testified in support of the statue at the Board meeting and that FRU was only successful at dividing the community rather than being a group with positive results. Thus maybe Mr. Porter should consider renaming his group Front Royal Divides, it would be more accurate.
Supreme Court Nominations
As if 2020 has not been bad enough, with just a few weeks before the presidential election, the beloved Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. Not only did we lose a judicial icon, but her death caused a vacancy on the high court that is turning into one of the biggest fights of the Trump administration.
Back in 2016 when a justice passed, Republicans argued that a president in his last year should not nominate a new judge but should wait for the voice of the people in the form of the new president to make the next pick. At the same time the Democrats in 2016 insisted it was not only the president’s right but his duty to make the next selection. The differences this time are, first, both parties flipped their stances, somehow realizing they were wrong in 2016, and, second, this time Republicans have the numbers in the Senate to make the confirmation. The constitutionality of Trump’s decision to put forth a judge has been questioned. Historically and legally speaking, however, Trump does have the right and it has been done before.
There is no legal issue with Trump nominating a new judge; it is perfectly acceptable under the Constitution. The Democrats would have done so in 2016 if they controlled the Senate. The question is not a legal one but an ethical or fairness one. Is it right for Republicans to nominate a judge now when they blocked Obama’s pick in 2016? This question cannot be decided in court but, rather, in each person’s conscience. If it helps, we have seen a last-second appointment before and by a well-respected Founding Father.
I have written about the Election of 1800 so many times that most of my readers know the details by heart. Suffice it to say, it is my favorite election and it was one of the most heated and contentious elections ever. John Adams, equal only to Washington in importance when it comes to our freedom, lost his bid for a second term to his nemesis, Thomas Jefferson. Adams did not take it well. In sports parlance, he took his ball and went home by not even sticking around for Jefferson’s inaugural. However, before he left, he decided to leave Jefferson a small parting gift. This is important for the modern issues as well: after an election, the losing president is still the president until the next inaugural. In other words, even if Trump loses in November, he can still perform all his presidential duties up until January 20.
What Adams did in 1801 after he lost was not only install a new Chief Justice, John Marshal, but he also created a new level of federal judge positions so he could fill them with Federalists. By packing all the federal judgeships with his party, he took away Jefferson’s ability to nominate judges on any level for the near future. What was most amazing is that Adams made 42 nominations and the Senate confirmed them as a batch just two days before Adams left office.
All but three of the “Midnight Judges” took their places on the bench, but because of the lateness of the appointments, three never received their commissions. The commissions were basically left on the desk of the new Secretary of State, James Madison with a yellow sticky note saying “Please give these out.” Madison, upset by the new appointments, conferred with Jefferson who agreed not to distribute the remaining commissions. However, one of the judges, William Marbury, upset by Madison’s refusal, sued him for his papers. This became one of the most important court cases in history, Marbury v. Madison, but that is a story for another article.
Jefferson did not take Adam’s actions well. He blocked the courts from taking up any cases until 1803 out of spite. I am not sure it is helpful or not to see our Founders acting as petty as our current political leaders. Yet what we can learn is that in some ways politicians have not changed. Two days before he left office, Adams got 42 new judges pushed through. Jefferson then refused to allow the court to hear Marbury’s case for more than a year and did succeed in getting the last three blocked from the bench. What Adams did was perfectly legal; the only question for Adams, like Trump, is whether it was ethical. Both seem to think it is.
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. For daily history posts Follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog or on Facebook.
Don’t just ask about us
The Examiner’s decision to scrutinize the cost of police presence at Front Royal Unites’ recent racial justice events begs the question: Why now, and why not for any other rallies or parades? And, more importantly, why aren’t we talking instead about the costs white supremacy has inflicted upon our Black friends and neighbors?
One of those costs is life itself. Law enforcement, in theory, was designed in large part to protect our first amendment rights, including both life and peaceful assembly. George Floyd’s birthday observance this week was held in remembrance of a man whose first amendment right to life was stolen from him because of the color of his skin by law enforcement—the very institution we all agree has a duty to protect that right.
And what about the costs to Black citizens, like former NAACP President Suetta Freeman, who was locked out of school during Massive Resistance in 1958 and who spent her entire career in auditing and finance commuting to Northern Virginia because she was unable to secure equal and fair employment here in our town? Let’s consider the costs to Black families like hers, and to our community for silently accepting the exodus of diversity and talent that has come with our institutional inequities.
Citizens should expect that some police funding will be allotted protect our first amendment right to peaceful assembly, just as they, and apparently the Examiner, are willing to accept the thousands of dollars accrued by police staffing at various celebrations and rallies for other causes, like the Back the Blue rally on September 1, without question. At least these figures might have been researched to provide more balanced reporting.
No one is asking for police to shut down a lane of traffic to celebrate Little Joe’s sixth birthday—but for a much-needed reflection on our history of oppression. It seems that much of Front Royal is uncomfortable when public resources are used to uplift voices other than those in their own echo chambers. Good, let’s be uncomfortable. Let’s talk about our white fragility, and let’s do better.
Laura Lee Cascada
Front Royal, Virginia
Front Royal Unites (FRU) birthday celebration for George Floyd
I conducted a one-man counter-demonstration to that event on the bridge on October 14, 2020, and have received criticism for it. I rained on their 34 participant parade, so to speak because someone needed to. They had signs presenting Mr. Floyd as a father, an athlete, a friend, and other titles, and my sign said, “celebrate good people not criminals” and “all lives matter”. Their idea represented bad judgment, in my opinion, in that while Mr. Floyd’s killing was tragic, Front Royal Unites (FRU), BLM and many Dems have been making him out to be a celebrity and upstanding citizen. The truth is he was just a victim with a controversial past and was under arrest for allegedly passing counterfeit money at the time of his death. Everyone has the right to demonstrate anything, but it has consequences.
Substantial law enforcement resources were wasted because they had to be prepared for the worst-case scenario where outside agitators might show up, as has happened elsewhere, and we all know how that could have turned out. Fear was injected in our community that there could be traffic disruptions and mayhem that we’ve seen in other places throughout the country. As for one citizen commenting on running over people, demonstrators have no right to impede the lawful travel of the general public. Demonstrators in the street have caused damage and threatened drivers so running them over is a logical and warranted reaction if it came to that. The concept of ‘do stupid things, win stupid prizes’ applies I think.
Months ago, after Mr. Floyd was killed, there was virtually universal support for police reform. FRU was created and sponsored a march in support of that concept, but they couldn’t just leave it at that, and Mr. Porter hijacked the situation to claim white supremacy and racism that is not a significant element in our fine community, and that’s how I became involved initially.
I attended the first march, but advertised that I felt Mr. Porter’s allegations were exaggerated, and even addressed it in a Royal Examiner ‘Letter to the Editor’, but it didn’t end there. Mr. Porter told others his group was not interested in the courthouse statue memorializing locals who had fallen in the Civil War but then proceeded to support an effort to have the statue removed, which many saw as a lack of integrity. That issue has been placed on the upcoming ballot and will eventually be resolved but has caused unneeded divisiveness in our community, in contradiction with his group’s name.
Then Mr. Porter came up with the idea that by running for Mayor he might gain a greater platform to press his agenda on the Town. However, he did not take the opportunity to qualify in a conventional manner so is having to run a write-in campaign because he couldn’t meet the application deadline. Mr. Porter seems to be an educated and capable young man with good advertised intention, and I appreciate his prior service to the country, but his youth and relative inexperience suggest he’s just not ready for prime-time yet, in my opinion. In September, he endorsed the McCool candidacy, but now that has understandably been abandoned.
The FRU group is seen as a BLM supporter, a Marxist group, whose mission is to transform America into a socialist society which is one of the central themes in our upcoming national election, even though socialism has proved to be a failed system and occurs at the expense of individual freedom which is the central tenant of our country. I couldn’t be more opposed to socialism, and that contributes to why I have spoken against and used my resources to oppose FRU and its leadership.
While I encourage Mr. Porter and others to work to improve our community, it seems their efforts to-date have done more to divide than unify. I hope that he and other FRU supporters will evaluate their strategy to see if better results can be achieved. I’ll continue to observe the happenings in our Town and County and contribute where I can to keep this one of the best places to live, in our beautiful state, in the best country on the planet.