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Revolutions are messy

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historically speaking

There are many sayings about revolutions, but my favorite is simply, “Revolutions are messy.” This seems to sum up the majority of the world’s revolutions, despite who wins or loses. The problem for Americans is that our Revolution was easy compared to most, so we tend to think all revolutions are as easy. If you lined up all the world’s revolutions in order from most radical to least, America would be pretty close to the least radical side. How much did we really change? We replaced the British aristocracy with American aristocracy. The Constitution allowed for representation, but only for white men with property who voted only for the House of Representatives. The British had the same right with the House of Commons.

Now the French and the Russians, they know how to throw a revolution. Whereas our Revolution was really top down, the French and Russian revolutions were bottom up. They turned everything on its head, getting rid of every type of institution imaginable, even religion. The masses took to the streets in what became more mob actions than political movements. It is telling that the symbol of the French Revolution became the guillotine, which was actually invented during the revolt to speed up the process of decapitating the rich and noble. Basically everyone associated with the crown was rounded up and separated from their heads. The royal families in both the French and the Russian revolutions were all assassinated quite violently. There is no such example in the American Revolution.

The other problem with most revolutions is they do not end with just one revolution, but instead spin off counter-revolutions or even more revolutionary movements. The Russians had a revolution in February 1917 which overthrew the Czar but was followed up with a second revolution in October of the same year that brought the Bolsheviks to power. They then fought a bloody civil war between the Whites and the Reds until 1923. As for the French, their first government of the Revolution was the National Assembly, created in 1789 and followed by the Legislative Assembly in 1791. The First Republic took power in 1793 and instituted the Reign of Terror only to be ousted by The Directory in 1795. Finally, Napoleon took over in 1799, bringing some stability. With both the Russians and the French, each regime change brought a great deal of bloodshed.

Finally, revolutions eat their young. They have a tendency to turn on their creators and their ideas. Once a revolution is started, it can easily spin out of control. Revolutions go well as long as the mobs are for you, but what happens when they turn on what you believe? In order to protect a revolution, leaders must either contain it or be prepared for leaders and goals to be attacked. We see this with key leaders of both the French and Russian revolutions. Leon Trotsky was a vital figure in the Russian Revolution and number two behind Lenin. He helped start the October Revolution and led the Red Army to victory over the Whites. Yet when Lenin died, Joseph Stalin took control of the country, forcing Trotsky to flee to Mexico where he is later assassinated. The name and image of Trotsky was erased from Russian history books and memorials. For the French, the great figure was Maximilien Robespierre. Not only did he help start the agitation that led to the Revolution, he also became the leader of the government and key player in the Reign of Terror. However, when the tide shifted, he found his head on the chopping block to which he had sent so many before him.

As we are in the midst of a cultural revolution in America, it seems inevitable that this revolution will get messy. As with the French Revolution, the people only tend to tolerate so much before either the revolution is contained or it turns on its own. I have two examples. A few weeks back, activist Shaun King in support of Black Lives Matter tweeted that all images of a white Jesus and the Virgin Mary should be removed. Initially it made a big splash, but then faded away. I can only speculate that leaders of the movement recognized that he had gone too far. There are many liberal Christians who support this movement who may find the removal of Jesus in any color too radical. Not to mention a large Hispanic community that puts a great value on the Virgin Mary. The movement may have pulled back, but I suspect the Republicans will try to remind everyone come November.

The second example I wrote about in one of my daily Class Notes and received some interesting reaction. Over the 4th of July weekend, I was struck by the oddity of names and monuments of historical slave holders being removed while at the same time the nation celebrated the story of another slaveholder. The cultural phenomenon that is “Hamilton” is a celebration of diversity as the all-white characters are played by people of color. However, just because the play claims Hamilton and his friends were anti-slavery did not make it so. According to Harvard Professor Annette Gordon-Reed, Hamilton at best only bought and sold slaves for his family and at worse owned them himself. Every principle character in the play owned slaves except for John Laurens, who did oppose slavery but used his father’s slaves for his valets during the war.

So as I started this piece, revolutions are messy. I love “Hamilton.” I have enjoyed the play since the first time I saw it live. But is it okay to celebrate and honor his life? Hamilton betrayed his country, fought to establish a slave nation, and participated in the slave trade. How can we justify forgiving the sins of some historical figures, if they sing catchy songs, and yet condemn others for the same sins. Historically speaking, it seems like it has to be one or the other. Will this revolution have to be reined in or will Hamilton become our Robespierre, sacrificed on the altar of the revolution?


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.

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Opinion

Memorials: A prominent place for honoring

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

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

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

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

Dave & Toni Gosinski
Bentonville, Virginia

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Political stereotyping by Republicans called out by Democratic reader

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Howarth
Warren County, Virginia

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We cannot afford to leave out truth

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

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

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

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

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

Tenia Smith
Front Royal, Virginia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathleen Mancini
Linden, Virginia

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Justice is a must – EDA scandal not to be forgotten

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

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

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

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

Leslie Mathews
Warren County, Virginia

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Thoughts on the Confederate statue removal at the Warren County Courthouse

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To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your move, Mr. Carter.

Tom Howarth
Front Royal, Virginia

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