Lessons from France
As I am sitting on my balcony of a boat traveling down the Mosel River in Germany, passing picturesque villages founded before Christopher Columbus was even born, I am in awe of this place with its castles and massive churches. While I am having a dream vacation, I am also thinking upon what the history of this region can teach. As you know, I believe history is here for us to learn from, and while I was spending a few days in Paris, eating some amazing food, I realized how part of France’s history may be mirroring our own right now.
When we were making plans for Paris, I was excited to spend some time looking around the city and visiting the historic sites. As I made a list of the things I wanted to see, there were the normal attractions, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Grand Entrance. As an American historian, I was interested in the history of the two World Wars, but I am also interested in the French Revolution. When you teach early American history, you end up teaching a great deal of European history, and the French Revolution played a part in shaping that history. Knowing this, there were a few sites I wanted to see like the Palace at Versailles and the Bastille. Yet to my surprise, the Bastille no longer stands. It turns out it was destroyed by the new revolutionary government because of what it stood for, and it was not the only structure to suffer damage from a new regime.
If I ranked world revolutions in terms of radicalness, the French Revolution makes the top of the list. The American Revolution, which is on the other end of the spectrum, was a top-down revolution that replaced British nobility with an elected American nobility. The French Revolution was a bottom-up revolution that turned every aspect of French society, culture, and politics on its ear. The revolution began from an economic downturn after financing the American Revolution. In 1789 the people, who were struggling to feed their families as well as lacking basic human rights, rose in protest as the Estes General became the National Assembly and the people stormed the Bastille, releasing the political prisoners within. Later the King and Queen were put on trial and their heads were removed from their bodies as were the vast majority of the noble class of France. Eventually, the Bastille suffered the same fate as the noble class as it was destroyed because of its symbolism of the monarchy.
Unfortunately, the Bastille was not the end of the destruction. In 1793, the same year Queen Maria Antoinette lost her head, the people got caught up in a frenzy and moved on the most sacred site in Paris, the Cathedral of Notre Dame. On the front of the Cathedral were 28 statues of Jewish kings from the Bible and beyond. Yet the masses in their righteous indignation and ignorance assumed the Kings were French kings and tore them down and cut off their heads as they had done with the real royalty. I am not arguing that the people did not have the right to be upset. The French people had been under absolute control for too long and had the right to hate everything associated with the monarchy, yet what did this act accomplish? The monarchy was just as dead with or without the destruction. Even though the monuments were gone, it did not stop the French people from falling into chaos with the “Reign of Terror.” What happened instead was the destruction of a sacred structure and the elimination of an important piece of history which is celebrated today in France with Bastille Day. The actual object is not around to experience and learn from.
Now consider the experience at the next stop on my trip. When we left Paris and boarded ships, the first town we visited was Trier, an ancient Roman city and the oldest city in what is today Germany. In 1818 Karl Marx was born in Trier. With his publication of the Communists Manifesto, he changed economic and political theory forever, especially after the Russian Communists Revolution. Understand that Germany has no love lost for communism. The German Fascists and the Communist Russians killed each other by the hundreds of thousands in WWII. After the War, the Communists kept East Germany under their authoritarian control for decades. Yet it is impossible to deny Marx’s importance to history, for good or bad. On the 200th anniversary of his birth, Trier decided to hold a celebration. When the Chinese government heard about the celebration, they wanted to present the town with a giant statue of Marx. Accepting the statue became quite controversial, especially one so large. Yet Trier recognized that history was important. They did make the Chinese scale back the monument and did not place it where the Chinese wanted, but they still put it up.
America is going through its own crisis of history. We may not have stormed the Bastille, but we are going through a revolutionary attitude just the same. In our anger about our past, are we going to continue to act in haste and tear down statues? Is removing the statue of Andrew Jackson from Jackson Square in New Orleans going to change the historical fact that Jackson, a slaveholder, won a battle against the British and saved the city from capture? Is our world better by removing President Wilson’s name from Princeton, a school where he was president because he was racist in a time when racism was unfortunately acceptable?
We have a choice to make in our country. Do we remove names and statues of our past that some have found offensive, or do we accept our history, warts and all, embrace it as historical truth, and learn from it? After all, only fifteen years after the French stormed the Bastille, Napoleon crowned himself emperor and authoritarianism was the law once again. Historically speaking, maybe instead of destroying the Bastille, they should have learned from it.
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.
Library accountability is an unavoidable reality
The recent spotlight on the contents of juvenile books in the Samuels Public Library (SPL), including those containing pornography, has brought out a spate of letters to the editor, social media posts, and many speakers at the June 6 Warren County Board of Supervisors (BOS)meeting.
According to information that is on the SPL website, the BOS funded the library building, and the BOS provided 82% of the 2022 budget. To put it bluntly, there would be no SPL without the financial support of Warren County taxpayers. So, we may ask: Is SPL independent?
Clearly, it is not, despite being a private non-profit corporation with its own governing Board of Trustees and employees, as it receives most of its funding from the Warren County taxpayer.
Is SPL accountable to the taxpayer that pays its bills? Until last night’s BOS meeting, that may have been an open question. However, the rapidity with which this controversy bypassed the SPL Board of Trustees and ascended straight to the BOS indicates a universal understanding that it must be, even if it doesn’t seem to perceive it that way.
Despite utter reliance on public dollars, SPL’s governance has no taxpayer involvement. The real legal name of Samuels Public Library is actually Samuels Library, Inc. (SLI), and SPL is known as a dba: “doing business as.” SLI is a private corporation doing business as a public library. Furthermore, like private corporations everywhere, its trustees elect their own successors and hire their own director. There is no taxpayer involvement. Dwell on that. New members of SLI’s Board of Trustees are elected by … the existing members of its Board of Trustees.
Private corporations are, of course, entitled to manage their own affairs, generally speaking. But when the private corporation has an explicit charter to perform a public service, resides in a building paid for with public money, and it extends its hand to the BOS for a million dollars of public money every year, the insulating effect of this arrangement needs to be closely examined.
This presents a further problem when SLI’s Board of Trustees is an insular group with largely the same outlook and hires a simpatico Director. The representation that should accompany the taxation is largely obscured when taxpayer money is annually granted to the private non-profit SLI, wherein it operates the library “independently” without the need to be responsive to taxpayer input.
A once-per-year take-it-or-leave-it proposition from SLI for either shuttering the entire library or keeping it operating is grossly inadequate. The BOS needs finer-grained tools to be able to represent their taxpayer voters in matters concerning the library operation.
Fortunately, the present controversy has come before us just as the BOS happens to be in decision-making mode about SLI’s current budget proposal. SLI would be wise to consider a change of strategy. Rather than fostering a frenzied public outcry with hyperbole about book banning, censorship, religious fanaticism, and spreading fear of a library closure, SLI may consider adopting a stance commensurate with their open hand.
If SLI genuinely values all library patrons, it can make a good-faith effort to take the initiative and propose potential solutions. They can be working right now to help the BOS find a path to funding the library without violating a substantial number of constituents’ wishes not to acquire pornography aimed toward children. In the meantime, the BOS has to make a decision, and we can all hope they have the wherewithal to avoid SLI’s all-or-nothing trap and find a solution that keeps the library fully funded.
Sheriff Mark Butler’s pledge fulfilled: Warren County Sheriff’s Office earns accreditation
As your Sheriff, I am thrilled to announce that on June 1st, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office received official accreditation, becoming a recognized Virginia Law Enforcement Agency. This achievement is the fruit of relentless efforts since my election as Sheriff in 2019. Our hard work, dedication, and commitment to professionalism have brought us to this proud milestone.
I recall stepping into the role in 2019 and encountering the formidable challenge of an office that needed significant changes. From outdated policies, operational records, perplexing budget structure, and antiquated equipment, we faced obstacles that demanded immediate attention.
Undeterred by these challenges, we embarked on a mission to regain our community’s trust, modernize our methods, deepen community policing and engagement, and tackle drug issues plaguing Warren County. Our ultimate goal? To regain VLEPSC accreditation.
In 2020, we started with a thorough evaluation of our office to identify our strengths and weaknesses. We then embarked on an overhaul of our policies and procedures, aligning them with the stringent professional standards the Commonwealth of Virginia set forth. These revamped procedures formed the blueprint for hiring, training, promoting, budgeting, and operating.
Upon achieving these milestones, we rolled up our sleeves to modernize our record management and accountability software, followed by rigorous training for our workforce. Even as we stumbled upon challenges, we saw them as opportunities for growth and improvement, completing this substantial revision process within two years.
On February 6th, 2023, we willingly submitted to a professional audit by the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). Their feedback reassured us that our steadfast efforts were not in vain, as few law enforcement agencies could regain accreditation in such a short span of time.
Our rigorous audit encompassed all aspects of the Sheriff’s Office – operations, administration, personnel, training, budgeting, and more. The result? High praise from the VLEPSC Assessors. On June 1st, 2023, we proudly became the 103rd VLEPSC-accredited law enforcement agency in the Commonwealth out of 340 total agencies.
Simultaneously, we also pursued the Certified Crime Prevention Community (CCPC) Program, a prestigious designation that further enhances our service to the county. Bypassing the initial peer review process by DCJS, we demonstrated our commitment to effective community policing, joining a select group of twelve agencies across Virginia with this certification. We eagerly await our panel hearing later this month.
These accomplishments demonstrate not only our competence but also our commitment to doing things right. It’s one thing to claim to be doing the right thing, but it’s entirely another to have a governing body validate this claim. This accreditation rejuvenates the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, reaffirming our commitment to uphold safety, security, professionalism, and transparency. It assures our community that we prioritize doing the right thing, even in challenging situations.
Our dedication to these principles has yielded remarkable results – an 810% increase in drug confiscations, a 70% rise in DUI/DUID arrests, a 60% increase in drug and weapons arrests, a 100% boost in community collaboration, and a 38% faster response time to calls.
We have also been mindful of our fiscal responsibility, saving our taxpayers a significant amount by securing grants that have reduced our operating costs over the past three years, easing the financial burden on our community.
My role as Sheriff is not to ensure nothing bad ever happens – that would be unrealistic. Instead, I am elected to ensure that they are handled professionally when events occur. The Department of Criminal Justice Services has verified that the Warren County Sheriff’s Office does just that, and we will continue striving to live up to that standard.
Warren County Sheriff
Choosing common-sense over partisanship: Why Timmy French deserves your vote
A vote for Timmy French is a vote for common sense politics and a vote for the hard-working people of the Shenandoah Valley.
In a country increasingly dominated by polarizing politics and candidates pandering to the extreme fringes, Timmy is running to represent reasonable people like you and me. I will tell you what Timmy is not: he is not a career politician; he is not a lawyer; and he is not a zealot. He is the father of three upstanding young men, owns and operates a small business, and is driven to represent the similarly dedicated, conservative citizens of our beautiful region.
Timmy is the youngest of 9 children (all of whom still live in the Valley) and runs a dairy and cattle operation with two of his brothers. His business experience and common-sense decision-making are the fundamental reasons I support Timmy’s campaign. He is determined to find solutions, not to create partisan discord that never produces meaningful results.
In a short three months, Timmy’s campaign has gathered tremendous support across a broad swath of District 1, including donations from more than 300 individuals and businesses. This is a genuine grassroots campaign that represents a diverse cross-section of our community. No other candidate has earned more individual donations or support from so many varied backgrounds, including teachers, police officers, farmers, small business owners, firefighters, government employees, and retirees. In fact, several other campaigns only have donations from a handful of family members or, even more deceptively, have loaned their campaign large sums of their own money. No gimmicks here. Timmy French’s common sense, community-driven campaign speaks for itself.
As the June 20 primary approaches, please consider which candidate will best represent you in Richmond: a deeply partisan career politician or a common-sense farmer driven to produce results over politics. As a father of three, a small business owner, and a U.S. Navy veteran, I take the right to vote very seriously and ask that you join me in casting your ballot for Timmy French.
Countering views on LGBT-themed books in Samuels Public Library
I recently came across Richard Hoover’s response to Paul Miller’s Letter to the Editor regarding book selection at Samuels Public Library. Mr. Hoover expressed concerns about the inclusion of LGBT-themed books, and I would like to offer a different perspective on this issue.
It is important to recognize that public libraries, including Samuels Public Library, have the autonomy to decide which materials to include or exclude. The responsibility for making these decisions lies with the library staff, directors, and boards, who determine what is appropriate for their community. Local libraries have a duty to curate their collections based on the needs and interests of all of their patrons.
Mr. Hoover mentioned the concerns of Warren County taxpayers who believe that children should not be exposed to LGBTQ materials. He expressed worries about such materials encouraging homosexuality. However, it is crucial to understand that sexual orientation and gender identification is a natural aspects of human diversity, and access to information about different identities does not promote or encourage any specific orientation. Public libraries serve a wide community and work to provide a large range of materials that meet the needs and interests of everyone. I would suggest that most of our neighbors value inclusivity and recognize that access to diverse perspectives fosters tolerance, acceptance, understanding, and empathy.
Regarding Mr. Hoover’s reference to the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our country was founded, it is essential to remember the value placed on the separation of church and state in the United States. While religious beliefs should be respected, public institutions like libraries should remain neutral and cater to the diverse beliefs and values within the community. Additionally, interpretations of religious texts can vary, and not all individuals share the same perspective on matters related to sexuality and identity.
Public libraries strive to balance the diverse needs and interests of their community members while upholding the principles of intellectual freedom and inclusivity. By engaging in open dialogue and respectful discussions, we can foster a harmonious society that respects the rights and perspectives of all individuals.
I appreciate Mr. Hoover for expressing his concerns, and I hope this response offers him a different perspective on the matter.
Remembering and mourning our foreign partners on Memorial Day
Beginning with the Revolutionary War, almost 1.4 million Americans have died in our nation’s wars, including about 667,000 killed in combat. We remember, honor, and mourn those gallant souls every year on Memorial Day – May 29 this year. Those Americans who have served in or near war zones carry their memories throughout the year. It should not be just a once-a-year observance for everyone else.
The country’s more recent conflicts, starting with Vietnam, have seen a blurring of the battle lines, where American service personnel have teamed up with local forces to fight a common enemy. For those who have worked hand-in-hand with local forces – South Vietnamese, Iraqis, or Afghans – it is hard to forget those local troops who died for the common cause. Although our Memorial Day is for a commemoration of our war dead, I think it would also be appropriate to honor those foreign partners on this special day.
For most of my tour in Vietnam, I lived and worked beside South Vietnamese soldiers (ARVNs), mostly Roman Catholics or members of the Cao Dai Church. As human beings, they had the same hopes and aspirations as most Americans. I trusted them with my life, and I believe most of them felt the same. I can’t think of America’s fallen without thinking of them. Almost 300,000 ARVNs died in the war, and we left many more of them to a horrible fate. They deserve remembrance and respect. I know that many Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan feel the same about their foreign partners. When you form trusting bonds in wartime, it is hard to break them.
Although our bonds with the people of Ukraine are at a different level, where we are mostly non-combat partners providing moral support and weaponry from the sidelines, I have that same feeling about those valiant humans. The Ukrainians are fighting and dying in a war that serves the vital national interests of the United States and NATO, as well as our allies on the other side of the planet. Ukraine is the proverbial point of the spear that protects freedom and democracy from the despotic regimes in Russia, China, and Iran.
If we allow Russia to prevail, it will give great encouragement to the autocrats, quite possibly leading to a spread of hostilities to Taiwan and any number of Asian, African, and South American nations in the sights of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.
Although I rarely find issues upon which I totally agree with U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Ukraine is one such issue – an exceedingly important one. The senator realizes that it is essential to America’s strategic interests that Ukraine prevail in Putin’s genocidal war. I agree with his view that the U.S. needs to increase and expedite the supply of war materiel to Ukraine. Sen. Risch has observed that “the Ukrainians are fighting today for what our founding fathers fought for in 1776.”
Incidentally, that observation was made when the senator recently recalled his meeting in Ukraine with a former Green Beret from Boise, Nick Maimer, who had been volunteering to train Ukrainian civilians on how to defend their country. Maimer was reported to have been killed by Russian artillery fire earlier this month. God rest his soul. He joins thousands of Ukrainians who have died in the fight.
Ukraine has reportedly suffered 124,500-131,000 total casualties, including 15,500-17,500 killed in action and 109,000-113,500 wounded. Because their fight is largely our fight, it would be most appropriate to remember and mourn them, along with our war dead and our foreign partners who died in supporting American troops. On Memorial Day, I’ll be remembering my 58,220 brothers and sisters who died serving their country in Vietnam. I’ll also be thinking of Lieutenants Dinh and Tanh, Captain Thanh and interpreter Tom, who were with us all the way until we abandoned them to their ugly fate in 1975.
By Jim Jones
Jim Jones served as Idaho attorney general for eight years (1983-1991) and as a justice of the Idaho Supreme Court for 12 years (2005-2017). He also served in the Vietnam War. His weekly columns are collected at JJCommonTater.com.
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Does removing LGBTQ books from libraries undermine First Amendment Rights?
I write in response to letters by Mr. Richard Hoover (May 27th) and Mr. Paul Miller (May 18th) concerning the proposal to remove LGBTQ-themed books from Samuels Public Library. Mr. Hoover contends that removing such material aligns with the principle of free speech and the values of our community. I humbly beg to differ. I feel it is essential to shedding light on the significance of literature in building empathetic societies and the importance of upholding the inclusive ethos our public libraries are meant to embody.
To begin with, Mr. Hoover’s assertion that the First Amendment has no bearing on local libraries is fundamentally mistaken. Public libraries, while administered by local officials, are still public institutions meant to facilitate the free exchange of ideas. The First Amendment is not a mere technicality prohibiting Congress from stifling the press or individuals; it is a principle that symbolizes our commitment to intellectual freedom, open discourse, and diversity of thought.
As for Mr. Hoover’s argument about the community’s wish to exclude certain materials, we must remember that, as Mr. Miller pointed out, a community is composed of diverse individuals with varied beliefs, cultures, and experiences. Yes, it’s true that some community members may disapprove of LGBTQ themes, but it’s equally true that there are many who understand, support, and even belong to the LGBTQ community. They are taxpayers, too, and have an equal right to see their experiences reflected in the library’s collection.
To suggest that exposure to LGBTQ themes might “encourage” children in a particular direction also oversimplifies human sexuality and identity. Education about diverse identities and experiences doesn’t “turn” children; it equips them with knowledge, understanding, and empathy. Fear of the unknown breeds prejudice; understanding and familiarity breed acceptance.
As for Mr. Hoover’s puzzling speculation that Mr. Miller might next advocate for a “Drag Queen Story Hour,” I have carefully read Mr. Miller’s letter (twice), and he never suggests anything of the kind. Having said that, it is crucial to remember that such events aim to foster acceptance and understanding and are typically voluntary. In the event that such a program was introduced at any library in our area, those who felt uncomfortable with the premise would be under no obligation to participate.
In conclusion, the aim of any public library is to represent and cater to the diversity of the community it serves. It is neither a battleground for ideological domination nor a platform for promoting a singular worldview. We cannot presume to shield children from understanding the diversity inherent in human existence; instead, we must equip them with the intellectual tools to navigate this diversity with empathy, understanding, and respect.
L. K. Henderson