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Martin Luther King Jr.’s enduring legacy: ‘Beyond Vietnam’

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Sometimes words remain appropriate, not only for the era in which they are spoken, but for multiple eras, and perhaps for the length of humanity’s struggle to overcome the worst aspects of our collective nature – greed, avarice, hypocrisy and the bondage of others to forward one’s own self interests – in other words, FOREVER.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s words of April 4, 1967 now known as the “Beyond Vietnam” speech are such words. They illustrate the depth of Dr. King’s comprehension that the Civil Rights Movement was a struggle of more than one race in one nation at one point in time.

These words, spoken exactly one year to the day before his assassination, are why some pause each January to remember and celebrate his life; while others are simply reminded of why he was, and continues to be hated by those attracted to power without compassion.

As the past three years when Royal Examiner has published these words on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in this first month of 2020 we might again ask ourselves if our ongoing borderless, worldwide war on terror isn’t at least in part, a legacy of our collective failure to heed Dr. King’s words of April 1967?

And 53 years down the road from this speech as Central American Hispanic refugees fleeing chaos and anarchy in their own nations are increasingly lumped together with international terrorists and drug dealers for partisan political advantage, we must again ask ourselves one final question – how close to the “too late” moment Dr. King described in 1967 are we as a people and a nation today?

– Due to the speech’s length, some introductory comments and other details on the Vietnam era have been edited out – deletions are indicated by (…) and some points have been emphasized with bold highlights.

There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. – Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photos/Public Domain)

Martin Luther King, Jr.
‘Beyond Vietnam’

I come to this great magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization that brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” … The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one

…Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world … Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.

And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history … For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us …

“Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask?

And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live …

Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the Poverty Program.

There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such …

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years, especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, “What about Vietnam?” They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted.

Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent …

Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read “Vietnam.” It can never be saved so long as it destroys the hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that “America will be” are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964. And I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the brotherhood of man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances.

But even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men – for communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

… Finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place, I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of son-ship and brotherhood. Because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned, especially for His suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula … They must see Americans as strange liberators … We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops … Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness … They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of new violence?

… At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved … and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now.

If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I speak as a child of God … I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote: “Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit … and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about … Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God. In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution … It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin … the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.”

The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them, is not just … America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood …

We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. – Martin Luther King Jr.

We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice … It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries … A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional.

Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies … This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind … When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response … I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality … This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is God”

…We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late … Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.”

There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.” We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace … and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight … Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world …

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation comes a moment do decide,
In the strife of truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet ‘tis truth alone is strong
Though her portions be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

 

‘We’re not there yet’ – NAACP honors Dr. King’s memory with a call to continued commitment

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A vaccination decision made

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This ‘vaccinate or not to’ vaccination decision has caused division between families, friends, neighbors, and others. This is a message I sent to two of my dearest friend’s requests as to why I got the vaccination.

My friends,

In no way did I mean that you don’t believe this pandemic is not real.

I also have my beliefs in the Holy Spirit to guide and lead me in my decisions. I have been a rebel for most of my life when it comes to natural health and well-being. I have been able to dodge most of the illnesses that plague us mortals. Eating healthy, exercising, and having a relationship with my creator has blessed me with living a healthy life. To take any shots for anything was always my last resort.

It was not until I turned 60 that my attitude changed. It came during my physical that my trusted doctor laid some harsh facts on me.

He said you have lived a very healthy life, but unfortunately your body is aging. Your systems, as much as you have been taking good care of it, are not running at their max efficiency anymore.

Now you have a choice to make. You can ignore this fact and let nature runs its course, or you can allow me to help you extend its ability to run as efficiently as it can for as long as it can with a good quality of life.

The Flu and Shingles vacs help your immune system to help fight these types of viruses. There will be medicines that I will prescribe that will help your body to heal faster. There will be times that your body will need assistance that will stop the development of other illnesses. He closed by recommending that I continue to follow my health regimen. His job is to let me know what he can recommend for me to do to keep the quality of my life with some assistance at times. He said, of course, it’s my choice which way I want to go.

It was very hard for me to accept this wise counsel, but he was right. I have chosen to follow the doctors’ recommendation. He said to get the Covid vaccine, and I did.

So you can see from this response that I continue to be very guarded on what advice I believe. We are fighting a losing battle as we age and this I cannot deny even though I continue to fight to stay healthy. So I decided that getting the Covid vaccine would give my body the help it needs in fighting this ongoing Covid battle.

We really love you guys. We would not forgive ourselves if we were ever responsible for passing the virus to you.

Michael Graham
Front Royal, Virginia

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Twenty Years Later

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historically speaking

Knowing that the 20th anniversary of 9/11 was fast approaching, I knew I needed to address it. I struggle writing about 9/11 because in many ways it still brings on strong raw emotions and I want to do it justice. For my own history, it is the foremost event and has done more to change this nation during my lifetime than anything else.

While it is a unique event for me, it is not unique historically. I can make many comparisons to other events in our history – JFK’s assassination, Pearl Harbor, the sinking of the Maine, John Brown’s attack at Harper’s Ferry, the attack on Gen. Zachery Taylor at Brownsville, or the first shot fired at Lexington. Historically speaking, each of these events shook the people then as much as 9/11 has shaken me and has affected the population in different ways. As I consider the major life-changing events in our history, it is interesting that most led to war but yet not all united us the way 9/11 did.

We often think that in times of great crisis the nation comes together, yet history has shown in its biggest moments that that is not true. In 1775, colonial militias in Massachusetts gathered on Lexington green with the idea of stopping the British Army from marching to Concord and seize weapons stored there. Their bravery did not last long as the Redcoats pointed their muskets at the colonials and ordered them to abandon the green. Just as the colonists were about to leave a shot was fired from the woods that set off a chain reaction of the British soldiers firing on the militia and starting the American Revolution. We may think this rallied the colonists to the cause of liberty, but in fact only about a 1/3 of the colonists ever really supported the revolution. It would even take Congress another year to agree to issue the Declaration of Independence. What actually happened in many parts of the colonies was civil war between the loyalists and the patriots who used the war as justification to kill each other.

In 1846, President James K. Polk, wanting to pull the Mexicans into a fight, sent Gen. Zachery Taylor to Brownsville, Texas, knowing Mexico did not consider the region south of the Nueces River as part of Texas. Taylor got what he wanted, and the Mexican army attacked, giving him the evidence needed to ask Congress for a declaration of war. The Mexican-American War was probably the most controversial and divisive war before Vietnam, with many in the north believing the war was solely for the purpose of expanding slavery. Henry David Thoreau famously went to jail rather than pay taxes to a government engaged in what he considered an immoral war.

A few years later in 1859, radical abolitionist John Brown and several of his followers attacked the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. His plan was to arm the slaves in the region and begin an all-out war for slaves’ emancipation. His plan completely failed yet his attempt closely resembles the 9/11 attack for the south. A religious radical wanted to start a campaign of violence against the south to hurt the south’s  way of life. When Brown was hanged for his crimes, people in the north celebrated him as a martyr, further angering the south. How could the man who wanted to kill them be hailed as a hero?  Obviously, the Civil War led to America’s greatest division.

In 1898, the USS Maine was attacked while docked in Havana. The American public had been supporting the independence movement of the Cubans against the Spanish and the sinking of the Maine was seen as an attack by Spain. The attack forced President McKinney to ask for a declaration of war. This has been a forgotten but significant war. It was the war that pushed America into an imperial power as it colonized many of the Spanish islands that it just liberated. Though most Americans supported some sort of retaliation for the Maine, the nation became completely divided over a war that gave America colonies.

Then came the 20th Century. Though Americans were not united over every conflict, especially Vietnam, they seemed to come together for the major events. The attack on Pearl Harbor united the nation possibly more than we had ever been before. It was not hard to see the threat from Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan and we needed to come together to defeat an evil threat. Then with the assassination of JFK, we all mourned together. Both Democrats and Republicans, whites and blacks, rich and poor, and north and south shed tears as they watched a young charismatic family man get struck down. Some good came from this. As a nation we came together and passed Kennedy’s bill that became the 1963 Civil Rights Bill. I personally am not sure it would have passed without JFK’s death. We were divided on civil rights, but his death brought us together.

Finally, there was 9/11. As with Pearl Harbor and JFK’s assassination, Americans mourned together as a nation. There will be a lot of discussion on the events of 9/11, as there should be, but what I remember just as much and want to focus on was 9/12. We live in a nation where today some claim the American Flag represents hatred. One leader has claimed she fears people who fly the flag. Yet I still remember twenty years ago when everyone from every walk of life and background flew that flag with pride. There was hardly a home or car without a flag of some sort. At sporting events across the nation, whether it was President Bush throwing out the first pitch at a Yankees game, Mark Messier wearing the FDNY helmet on the ice, or NFL players running out of the tunnel with flags waving, no matter the sport, the crowds chanted “USA-USA-USA.” In 2001, the Women’s National Soccer team represented America at every game the rest of that year, draping themselves with American flags, where now the majority of the team takes a knee when the flag is waved.

9/11 was a tragic day, but it also brought out the best in America. We were as unified as we have ever been as a nation. Personally, I think only Pearl Harbor looms as greater. I still mourn those who died on that day, especially heroes who rushed into the towers, but I also mourn 9/12 just as much. I blame radical Islamists for the death of Americans, but I blame us and our elected leaders for the death of the America that was also born the day after. May we never forget 9/11 and may we ever strive to return to 9/12.


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

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Hometown Faces: So many good memories

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As one who grew up in Front Royal, both John and Suzanne’s interviews brought back so many good memories to this old guy who’s turning 70 next month.

I see that you shot the videos at the home of Prudie Matthews – another good friend from FR days.

John was a great friend of my father, Paul Hockman. He was so right when he talked about how the Town Council and how the Mayor and Council worked so hard for Front Royal. My Dad served for many years on the Council and as Vice-Mayor, and on so many other boards there. Before he passed away, he told me one of the proudest things he ever lived to see was the building of the new school east of town off Rt. 55. He had pushed for the town to purchase that property twenty years before because he knew the property would be needed one day and the price would only go up.

As a child, I remember asking my Dad why he seemed to miss so many dinners at home because he was always at some meeting. He said that he had come to Front Royal with very little and had become successful because the town had been good to him and our family. He said he owed it back to the people of the town to make things always better. He instilled the idea of giving back to me, which I followed serving non-profits and other organizations during my life.

I loved Suzanne’s recollections of Main Street. I have known Suzanne all my life and was a good friend of her late husband, who died much too young. I grew up on Main Street when our family business was there and then moved to Royal Avenue. I spent Saturdays at the Park Theater and often ate at the old Duck Inn. I worked a summer and many college vacations at Joe Silek’s Warren Quality Shop.

Forgive me for rambling, but I remember selling an old gentleman a pair of pajamas there and after the customer left, Mr. Silek asked if I knew I had just sold the p.j.’s to a celebrity. I thought he was crazy, but the customer was Cliff Arquette, the actor who played Charlie Weaver on TV. I really didn’t believe Mr. Silek until Arquette died years later, and they published photos of him without his make-up. Mr. Silek was a wonderful boss and I still use his son as my attorney in FR.

I am surprised that The Examiner has never done a story on the Arquette family in Warren County. His son, also an actor on “The Walton’s”, and his grandchildren, Patricia, Rosanne, etc. all lived at Skymont Camp on Rt. 340. Check out the photo of them at The Melting Pot.

Keep up the good work. I read the Examiner every day. I appreciate your publishing the news releases I send. I am now working part-time only at the state agency. Retired from full-time in February but was asked to stay on for a while. I guess I am a workaholic, as I also just took on a consulting job with TV station here.

Thanks for letting me ramble on. Best Always to you, Roger, and your staff.

Jeb Hockman
Richmond, Virginia

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The Election of 1856 Redo

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historically speaking

Instead of writing an entire new article, I want to recycle one I wrote back in January of 2019 but make some minor changes.  Back then I was writing about the upcoming election and comparing it to the 1856 election. With the major crisis we are seeing right now, you can decide if my earlier post was prophetic.

The 1850s were a decade in turmoil, much like our own.  Though slavery had been a major social issue for some time, the Federal government avoided the subject with compromise efforts and even a gag rule on the subject only recently repealed.  1854, saw the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the earlier compromise of 1820 that had successfully kept the peace by predetermining whether new states would be free or slave states.  With the passage of Kansas-Nebraska, these two new territories could go either way based on the popular vote.  With the decision in the hands of the people, thousands flocked to the new territory of Kansas to guarantee it went in their favor.  The outcome of this contest is known as Bleeding Kansas.  Both pro-slavery elements and anti-slavery elements formed state governments and began violent confrontations over the direction of the state.

As for the politics of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, it was the Democratic President, Franklin Pierce, who signed it into law.  Southern Democrats praised the northern president for his decision, who felt abolitionists were tearing apart the nation and tended to side with the south on questions of slavery.  However, the northern Democrats saw it differently, especially as northern Democrats took a hit in the 1854 midterm elections and northern voters showed their disappointment in Pierce by electing other parties.

Over the next two years leading up to the 1856 election, the national situation did not improve for Pierce.  While part of his party continued to praise him, mostly in the south, other sections were losing faith in his abilities.  When it came time for the election, northern Democrats decided they could no longer support Pierce with his connection to the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  The Democratic Party realized the subject was still too toxic and, in order to win a general election, felt they needed to distance themselves from the event and the man.  Instead, they went with the completely non-controversial candidate James Buchanan.  Fortunately, for Buchanan, he had been Ambassador to England during the controversy and so had absolutely no connection to it.  Unfortunately, in their effort to find a candidate with no bad press, the Democrats found a man who many historians consider our worst president ever.

On paper, Buchannan had all the qualifications. He had served as both congressional representative and senator as well as ambassador and, most importantly, as Secretary of State.  However, few have left the office with a worse reputation. Part of the blame for his failure was the political environment.  With the nation divided as it was, there was little he could do to please the majority of the population, something we know a bit about from recent years.  However, part of the blame is his.  For instance, he only appointed southern Democrats to his cabinet and excluded all the northerners who were seen as loyal to his democratic rival Stephen Douglas.  It is difficult to compromise with the nation when it is impossible to compromise within one’s own party (President Biden is also learning this).  Instead of trying to compromise with the difficult issues of his day, especially slavery, Buchanan simply blamed the abolitionists for all the nation’s problems and refused to accept any fault of his own, such as pushing the Supreme Court to rule against Dred Scott, thus creating the situation where slavery could spread across the nation.

If we are at a point in history where we are so divided as a nation that our only comparison is the Civil War, then what scares me is seeing similarities of political events that played out before the conflict happening today.  If Mr. Trump runs in 2020 (at the time I was not convinced he would), we might be heading for another 1856, that in an effort to replace a very controversial president the Republicans (or in this case the Democrats) might go with another Buchanan.  Someone extremely safe, someone that would put everyone at ease, but someone without the ability to lead.  Buchanan sat and watched the events unfold that led to the Civil War, offering no leadership or doing anything to stop it.

Now as I am writing this in 2021 there is some good news.  If my 2019 article was correct and Trump is Pierce and Biden is Buchanan, then our next president is Lincoln.  We can only hope for our sake that this time history does repeat itself.


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

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An unlikely friendship points a way for us all

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In the midst of such a polarizing time in our nation, I keep coming back to the most unlikely of friendships: that of Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. Polar opposites of the political spectrum, they were each known for their razor-sharp wit, powerful prose, and an unshakable certainty in their own rightness. Their families vacationed together, celebrated one another’s triumphs, and mourned one another’s losses. They even spent many holidays together.

When asked about their friendship, they each admitted that part of it was their mutual appreciation of a good sparring partner, a worthy opponent with whom to debate ideas. But it was based on other things as well. Things such as shared interests, common personal (if not public) values, and a respect for the law.

In an era where the political spectrum is clouded by the smoke of cannon fodder inflicted from each side, we would do well to remember the peculiar bond between these two jurists. Scalia put it this way: “I attack ideas, I don’t attack people – and some very good people have some very bad ideas.”

Hate is the greatest corrupting, destructive influence known to mankind. And at one time or another, all of us are guilty of harboring it. Hate prompted Cain to kill Abel. Hate causes one person to enslave another. If mankind has original sin, it’s hate. It reaches its zenith when we find ourselves incapable of separating the inherent worth of an individual from our perception of the foolishness of their beliefs or behaviors. Further, hating the person provides a convenient excuse to avoid the marketplace of ideas altogether, dismissing ideas based on who holds them rather than debate them on their own merits.

Among their contemporaries, there are no two greater political figures than Ginsburg and Scalia. In some ways, they are practical ‘patron saints’ of their respective ideological camps.

So, to the left, I say, ‘While fighting for your perception of justice and equality, carrying the banner of the Notorious RBG, do not forget that your ideological enemies revere a man who she thought the world of. They, like their beloved Scalia, may have bad ideas worthy of your hatred. But the people themselves are the intellectual offspring of your patron saint’s best friend.’

And to the right, I say, ‘As you fight for your perception of individual liberty and the rule of law, boldly citing the endlessly quotable Saint Antonin’s witticisms, do not lose sight of the fact that it’s his best friend’s acolytes standing in opposition to you. Hate their ideas if you must. But never the holders of those ideas.’

Hate ideas. Not people.

Dr. Matthew B. Pandel
Woodstock, VA

(Dr. Matthew B. Pandel is a behavioral psychologist, theologian, and educator. He resides in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with his wife of 17 years, Carolyn.)

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Opinion

Support of masks and vaccines

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I support the governor’s directive for schools to require masks while indoors for both students and staff as well as wearing masks in any indoor spaces as we experience another surge in local Covid cases. I applaud the school board’s decision to move the mitigation plan to phase 2 to begin the school year.

As a recently retired School Nurse and Lead Nurse for our schools, I can assure you that our nurses, administrators, and staff worked extremely hard last year to provide a safe environment in which children can learn. We spent many evenings and weekends doing contact tracing of any known positive cases and their contacts. Those hours will increase as more cases arise.

We taught proper infection control measures. We beefed up teachers’ confidence in basic first aid and supported their assessment skills with routine student symptoms in order to keep the clinic as clean as possible for the safety of students with chronic conditions.

We educated and reminded all staff and children of proper mask-wearing, showing that the way air and germs get into our lungs is through both our nose and mouth as they are connected in the back of our throat.

I spent every week since Covid closed our schools in March 2020 on Zoom calls with the VDOE’s School Health Services Specialist and the VDH’s School Health Nurse Consultant. During the spring, the calls became less frequent as we were seeing the light at the end of this ordeal. Zoom conferences with the Virginia AAP that included experts in all specialties of children’s care who said it would be a very rare case of a child with any physical condition in which wearing a mask would be detrimental to their health.

I want you to understand that we were well-informed and not making this up as we went along.

There is a vocal minority that has said they do not believe in the disease, do not believe they can be asymptomatic spreaders of the disease and do not believe they will get sick and/or die.

In the meantime, there are many in our community who have listened to the science and done everything we’ve been asked to do to keep our families AND our community safe, even those who refuse to keep US safe.

Sadly, some local businesses no longer require masks in the midst of this surge, so I will protect my unvaccinated daughter by once again staying home. She is excited to be going to public school for the first time this year. We will be watching to see if the vocal group sways the School Board’s well-thought-out mitigation plan, negating all efforts to stop this pandemic in our area. We will immediately pull her out of school if their agenda dictates decisions affecting our community’s children.

Front Royal/Warren County could have been well beyond this now if all had pulled together for the good of our community.

Kathleen Crettier
Warren County

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