Connect with us

Opinion

Reflections on monuments

Published

on

As a Virginian with pretty deep roots in the state and more than a few Confederate ancestors, I get the emotional attachment to Confederate monuments. Growing up they were a source of pride to me. I was raised to revere that part of my personal heritage and until I went to college, nobody really suggested there was any reason to feel otherwise. The Confederacy, I was taught, was only peripherally concerned with protecting slavery. My ancestors were really only concerned with protecting their “way of life” from outsiders bent on forcing them to go in directions they did not wish to go. So, what was there to be concerned about… that was certainly a noble enough cause, right?

So taken and fascinated was I in that rather idyllic past, I decided to become a History major and make that my life, going on to earn a Master’s and a Ph.D. in the field with the Civil War era and the Southern History as my particular areas of interest. I chose the University of Mississippi for my doctoral work, in part, because it boasted the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. It was as a graduate student at James Madison and later Ole Miss that objective study of the past significantly altered, as higher education will do when one is open to it, my perceptions and understanding of the Confederate past. My past.

What I discovered, upon reading the records of the past and letting those who lived at that time speak to me, was that I had been more than a little naïve taking at face value that defending the “Southern way of life” was only peripherally related to defending slavery. I so wanted that to be the case, but the objective evidence from the period kept intruding and challenging what I “knew” to be true. At the end of the day, and after much difficult reflection, there was no alternative for a true historian (and I like to think of myself as such) but to conclude that secession and the birth of the Confederate States of America, much as I’d always hoped it did not, rested on the protecting and perpetuating slavery and white supremacy.

How I came to that admittedly painful, if undeniable, conclusion is through the words of the leaders themselves, the men who were voted to their positions by the citizens of their states & crafted the secession ordinances explaining to the world the reason for their leaving to hopefully forge a new republic… clearly a slaveholders’ republic it turned out. In South Carolina they made it clear that they had to sever their connections from a people to the north “whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.” How, they asked in their ordinance, could they remain in the Union with people who “have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery.” The people of Georgia were quite clear that they had to leave because, “For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding… States with reference to the subject of African slavery.” Mississippi made it about as blunt as they could have in their ordinance when their leaders said, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery.” Going further, they said that upon the election of a Republican president, “There was no choice left but submission to the mandates of abolition, or dissolution of the Union….”

Going along with the protection of slavery, was the stark openness that protecting white supremacy was also at the heart of the movement to create the Confederate States of America. Texas could not have made it more clear when its ordinance of secession proclaimed:  “We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.” And in March of 1861 the Vice President of the Confederacy explained in a very public speech that was greeted with loud applause at the time and reprinted throughout the Confederacy that Northern attacks on slavery were, “the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.” And he went on to say that Founders like Jefferson were certainly well-meaning, but quite mistaken, when they said that slavery was a problem they hoped would be dispensed with at some future time. The problem was that the Founders, Stephens argued, harbored a flawed assumption of equality of races, which he said was “fundamentally wrong.” Stephens proudly said that: “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Then there was how the Confederacy prosecuted the war. When the United States determined it would permit African Americans to serve in the army, the Richmond government refused to recognize black soldiers as eligible for POW exchange on an equal footing with white prisoners under the official exchange cartel between the two belligerents. During the 1864 Overland Campaign General Grant reached out to Lee to offer a prisoner exchange. Lee’s response was that he was certainly willing for humanitarian reasons, but that he could not exchange black soldiers as per his government’s position on that particular subject. Unfortunately for the prisoners on both sides, Grant also stuck to his government’s position that soldiers would be treated equally regardless of color or there would be no POW exchanges. Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Staton were quite clear about that… all soldiers wearing the US uniform would be treated the same way in the field. When captured, black soldiers were routinely enslaved or forced into labor on Confederate defensive works. Tragically, however, on more than one occasion, most famously at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, black soldiers were gunned down rather than taken as prisoners.

Monuments to the Confederacy, like the one getting so much local attention, are not “historical markers.” They were erected, and have been maintained, to honor and celebrate the Confederate past, not merely document that it happened. And, as I said at the beginning of this letter, I understand the emotional attachment. I grew up with it myself. But the reality is that continuing to protect public monuments to a cause rooted in the protection and perpetuation of racial slavery and whose “cornerstone” was the belief in the natural inferiority of black people is simply not defensible in this day and age.

That’s not “political correctness” or my “interpretation.” It’s simple objective reality from someone with 3 degrees in the subject, a number of scholarly publications in the field, and over 20 years’ experience teaching this time period at the college level… and someone from here with his own Confederate heritage. So I don’t offer this in any way as an indictment of anyone’s feelings or to condemn anyone’s ancestors. I merely wish to lay before people, as I do my own students, the objective historical record in hopes that it has the effect of encouraging people to see the past and make decisions based on the facts rather than emotion.

Dr. Jay Gillispie
Dean: School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Lord Fairfax Community College

Share the News:

Opinion

Political ideology or educational background and common sense for North River School Board seat?

Published

on

Despite other candidates, and their preferred party falsehoods and tactics being pilfered, in apparent desperate attempts for votes to their failing campaigns, I continue to be thankful for the conservative, independent, classy and coherent approach which Angela Robinson continues to apply towards her campaign for School Board for the North River District of Warren County, VA.

Angela is a true educator, with a college degree (in education at that), a mother, wife, former local public school educator, current public school administrator, all while maintaining her strong conservative fiscal, social and common sense approach to education.

Angela, truly, understands the frustrations of Richmond and Washington.  She has the understanding and means (that are, actually, legal and practical) in how to address Supreme Court decisions on public education, as opposed to wasting taxpayer time and money on certain lawsuit failures, further disrupting the free and appropriate public education that all children are entitled to.

Angela trusts our teachers and administrators to do their jobs, while not shying away from asking, NOR ANSWERING, tough questions, and demanding accountability.  She won’t “block” you for asking her a tough question, or for disagreeing with her.  She will graciously seek to understand you, your thoughts and concerns.

Despite her conservative and Christian values, Angela understands the constitution, how it applies to education, and will maintain a common sense approach, to ensure that “all” children in Warren County (to include our most impoverished) will be treated with the same dignity and respect that she would desire for herself.

You will never hear Angela refer to children she has never met as “confused and misguided”.  Angela will, actually, get to know the young people of her district, and our county, as opposed to tossing out ignorant, confused and misguided statements, just to make a political establishment and their cultist juice drinkers happy.

In the end, if being conservative matters to you, Angela Robinson is your best bet.  If having someone with the proper education and credentials to insist on success, and actually possess the credentials to make it happen, Angela Robinson is your best bet.  Finally, if you want someone who will truly look out for the educational, emotional and social needs of your child, as opposed to seemingly trying to gain some form of political power, only to put our county on the road to lawsuits and failure, Angela Robinson is the clear choice for the North River District of Warren County, Virginia School Board.

Brought to you by an Independent Conservative resident, who thinks for himself, applies common sense to the realities of life, and refuses to drink the juice of a local political Cult.

Michael S. Williams
North River District Resident
Lifelong Advocate for Youth
Town of Front Royal, VA

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Opinion

A grateful classroom parent endorses Angie Robinson’s bid for the Warren County School Board

Published

on

When my daughter went into fourth grade, I was recovering from cancer. After five treasured years spent homeschooling, our family needed to change plans. I was extremely nervous about putting my sweet girl into public school with all of the social challenges and my perception of how things would look for her as a dyslexic learner – already disadvantaged in the classroom.

We are forever grateful that her 4th-grade teacher was Angie Robinson. Angie is an extremely gifted teacher. She was able to set my child at ease, understand her learning style, and most importantly, Angie was able to communicate with me, the parent, with understanding, kindness, and respect.

Educating our children right now is a big job. One that is mired in social and health issues, while the actual business of educating seems to take a back seat. As a parent I can say truthfully that I do not care about the noise — I want my children well-loved and well-educated.

Angie Robinson is the kind of educator who can restore trust between families and teachers in our public education system; the kind of communicator who can speak with knowledge about the kind of resources needed in the classroom while leaving the partisan politicking in the parking lot, and the kind of advocate who can see Warren County schools and students thrive.

Angie has the experience to know that what matters to families is that children learn to read, and aspire to great heights in their lives, wherever their educational journey takes them. As a grateful classroom parent and now as a friend, I am proud to endorse Angie Robinson’s bid for the Warren County School Board.

Natalie Erdossy
Warren County

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Opinion

Cultural Appropriation

Published

on

historically speaking

In the current environment of race sensitivity, I think it is necessary to ask certain questions. I think the best way to move forward as a nation is to have a dialoged. With Halloween approaching I am reminded of a situation last year where children were criticized for dressing up as characters not of their race. In a time when we are pushing for equality and inclusiveness, at what point do we cross a line into racism? In the past Disney has been accused of racism by making most of their characters white and in recent years has done their best to create a diverse cast of heroes and princesses. In our efforts to diversify, what happens if a little girl loves a character like Moana and wants to dress as her for Halloween? In some ways this should be celebrated as the type of color blindness we want to teach our children, but in other ways this is being seen as racism and cultural appropriation. Historically speaking this is actually not new. We have seen examples of this over the past decade, but also from a tumultuous decade a long time ago.

In 2011, Touchstone released the movie The Help based on the very popular novel of the same name. The movie and the book were both massive hits; the book spent over 100 weeks on the best seller list. The story is set during the 1960s in the south and both the book and movie were praised for bringing to light the difficult subject of racism and the treatment of black domestic help. Yet it also showed the strength of the three leading women, two black and one white, as they in their own ways fought against this negative treatment. However, jump forward to the present and the same book and movie are now under scrutiny.

A similar thing happened last year when Oprah Winfrey announced the book American Dirt as her book club pick. Winfrey’s book club is possibly the most famous book club in history and her choices are normally celebrated. Winfrey claimed this book captured her attention from the very beginning and it was a story needing to be told. It is about a middle-class Mexican woman and her son fleeing from a drug lord that recently took over their Mexican town. This incredibly violent story details enduring hardships and the struggle many migrants must go through to try to better their lives. However, probably to Winfrey’s surprise, this book also came under attack.

In both cases the books drew criticism because the authors were white, and their detractors said both women wrote about issues they were not familiar with nor could possibly understand. The Help also is accused of having a white savior complex or the idea that it took a white woman to solve the black women’s problems. Even though, in both cases, the authors were actually trying to shine a light on the struggles of minorities, many felt they were trying to profit from others’ hardships. This may seem like a 2021 issue, where we have become very sensitive of cultural appropriation, but in fact this is a very old one.

In 1852, the most important and highest selling novel of the Nineteenth Century was released. Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe told a fictional story of slaves in the south. The principal character, Uncle Tom, was owned by a good Christian family who came on difficult financial times and was forced to sell a couple of their favorite slaves, slaves who they saw almost as family. Tom ended up being passed from one master to the next, some caring, some bad, and eventually one who was evil and beat Tom to death.

The Shelby’s, Tom’s original owners, were also forced to sell the young son of Eliza, who when Eliza found out took him and ran to freedom in the North. It is a harrowing tale of survival.  What Stowe was able to do was put a face to slavery. Many in the north had no connection to slavery or had never met a slave. They only knew what they had heard, that blacks did not have the same feelings as whites. They were not as affected when their young were sold away. Whites used the fact that their slaves seemed to just go back to work and did not seem to mourn those that were lost. Of course, the slaves had no other choice but to go back to work under physical duress. What Stowe did was show the pain and agony slaves endured. She turned more people into abolitionists than anyone else. Even Lincoln when he met her said, “So you’re the little woman that started this Great War!”

The other thing it did was show that slavery hurt whites. The Shelby’s were good people forced to do an evil thing. Throughout the book are constant stories about whites forced to come to terms with this evil institution. In some ways the kind sweet young Eva, who took such good care of Tom, had to die. If not, she would have been corrupted by the institution of slavery.

Even with the success of the novel in some circles the book was condemned. One of the key criticisms was the fact that Stowe had never been in the south or around slaves and so could in no way know what slavery was like. Southerners claimed her depictions were inaccurate and slanderous and the book was banned from most southern states.

Historically speaking, even though Stowe was a white northerner woman, and for today’s standards perpetuated negative racial stereotypes, she possibly did more to bring to light the problems with slavery than any other person. If Lincoln was right, it was this book that brought on the war that brought an end to slavery.

I understand and want to be sensitive to cultural appropriation, but I also fear too much sensitivity is actually pushing us in the wrong direction. I understand the history of black face and as a white man may not understand the pain of cultural appropriation. Yet if a little girl has embraced diversity and her favorite princess is a person of color, is she crossing the line of racism, or should we celebrate her inclusiveness? I am not saying I know the answer to this, but what I fear is from now on we tell children to embrace diversity but when it comes to choosing your favorite characters make sure they are white.


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.

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Opinion

“But she’s a homeschooler!!!” Which is exactly why I am needed on the board!

Published

on

Most people don’t realize that school boards also affect homeschoolers.  It is the school board that sets local policy for homeschoolers.  For reference, look at Loudoun County.  Their school board attempted to change homeschool policy to EXCEED what state law allows.

Homeschooling doesn’t mean no involvement in the public school system—there are yearly requirements to be met.  Every year, homeschoolers must submit their “notice of intent” to the superintendent and at the end of the year submit their “proof of progress” for approval.  If you wish to file for a religious exemption for compulsory attendance, it is the school board that votes to approve or deny this request.  Homeschoolers in Warren County are also allowed to select certain classes to take at the public schools.  Homeschoolers are affected by the school board in many ways, so why shouldn’t we be able to hold a seat on the board?

Warren County, pre-covid, had one of the highest numbers of homeschoolers in the state.  As of the 2020 census, Warren County had roughly 23% of students opting out of their free public education, for schooling options such as homeschooling, private schooling, or co-ops.  (And no, students doing virtual schooling do NOT count in that number—those students are still counted as attending public school.)  With almost a quarter of our local population choosing alternative schooling methods, don’t we deserve representation on the board that governs us?  We still pay taxes into the system, so without a single homeschooler on the board (until I was appointed) I am reminded of the quote,  “No taxation without representation”.

It is a common misconception that you must have a child in the public school system to sit on the school board.  Our school board did NOT have a public schooling parent on the board until this school year when Dr. Pence’s child started kindergarten.  I was appointed to this board because of the skill set I possess.

Melanie Salins
Front Royal, VA

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Opinion

Political Blame

Published

on

historically speaking

As we continue to watch events unfold in Afghanistan and see what many consider a failure to exit properly, it is important to remember that, historically speaking, failure is common. Many of the men that we consider our greatest presidents experienced failures. What sets apart some presidents over others is how they handled the situation. One such complete failure happened in 1961.

In January 1959, Fidel Castro and his communist forces overthrew the government of Cuba. Once in power he nationalized the sugar industry and kicked American companies out of the nation. America, fearing communism, especially so close to our shores, put an embargo on Cuban sugar, trying to crush their economy.

At the same time President Eisenhower began to put into motion a plan to remove the new dictator. Not wanting to get directly involved, the CIA trained ex-Cubans who fled the Cuban Revolution to lead the assault. When President Kennedy took office in 1961 the plan was already set. JFK was told there would be little resistance and that, instead, the Cuban people would rise up and support the invaders to overthrow Castro. Being in office for only three months and believing what he was told, Kennedy did not nix an operation already scheduled; instead, he gave the project a green light.

What became known as the Bay of Pigs invasion was a complete disaster. Castro was ready for the invasion and most of the men were killed or captured on the first day. It turned out the plan was far from secret and the Cuban people were not prepared to fight their new leader. All the invasion did was make Castro look like a hero for stopping the imperialist Americans. It also gave the Kennedy administration a black eye, not the way this young new American leader wanted to be introduced to the world. So how did Kennedy handle the situation?

The day after the invasion, April 20, Kennedy addressed the press. While not completely truthful about American involvement, he made three main points. First, “it is clear that the forces of communism are not to be underestimated.” Second, “It is clear that this nation, in concert with all the free nations of this hemisphere, must take an even closer and more realistic look at the menace of external Communist intervention and domination in Cuba.” And finally, “it is clearer than ever that we face a relentless struggle in every corner of the globe that goes far beyond the clash of armies or even nuclear armaments.”

The more telling admission came the next day in a press conference. The president started the conference by saying that he would not make any more statements about Cuba. Yet one reporter, Sandy Vanocur, challenged Kennedy with “In view of the fact we are taking a propaganda lambasting around the world, why is it not useful, sir, for us to explore with you the real facts behind this, or our motivations?” Kennedy answered the question by saying that, unlike with dictators, in free societies leaders must judge what information is helpful and harmful to the nation. About Cuba he said, “There’s an old saying that victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan. And I wouldn’t be surprised if information is poured into you in regard to all of the recent activities.” He then talked about how it’s the same in the space race. He had read an article where someone said all America does is talk about putting a man in space while the Soviets just do it. Dictators have no obligation to the people or press, he said.

Kennedy finished his answer with, “But I will say to you, Mr. Vanocur, that I have said as much as I feel can be usefully said by me in regard to the events of the past few days. Further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal responsibility because I’m the responsible officer of the Government–and that is quite obvious.” Kennedy could have easily blamed Ike, or the CIA. Maybe he should have. It really was their failed plan and intelligence, but not a word.

Now compare Kennedy’s press conference to President Biden’s. He began by praising the “extraordinary success” of the mission, the same mission most saw as a failure. He did recognize flaws in the mission, starting with the Afghan Government. “The people of Afghanistan watched their own government collapse and their president flee amid the corruption and malfeasance, handing over the country to their enemy, the Taliban,” he said. The President then turned his attention to the man he replaced, “My predecessor, the former President, signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops by May the 1st, just months after I was inaugurated. It included no requirement that the Taliban work out a cooperative governing arrangement with the Afghan government, but it did authorize the release of 5,000 prisoners last year, including some of the Taliban’s top war commanders, among those who just took control of Afghanistan. And by the time I came to office, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country. The previous administration’s agreement said that if we stuck to the May 1st deadline that they had signed on to leave by, the Taliban wouldn’t attack any American forces, but if we stayed, all bets were off.”

I am not saying President Biden is responsible for what seemed like botched exit. Trump may have handled it the same way. What I do see is a difference between the way Kennedy and Biden handled a situation that they inherited. Historically speaking, Kennedy’s approval ratings continued to be strong. We will have to see what happens with Biden moving forward.


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.

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Opinion

A vaccination decision made

Published

on

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

Share the News:
Continue Reading