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Today is Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter

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Today is Maundy Thursday. Jesus said, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). This is the “mandatum”… our mandate as Christians to serve others. He washed His apostles feet and went out to a garden to pray. He asked them to watch, but they fell asleep. Jesus was arrested, tried, beaten, spit upon, and humiliated beyond words… our Lord… our Teacher… who taught servant-hood and love.

All during the night, He would be humiliated and tortured, and have placed upon His head a crown… one of thorns. More painful was the abandonment… the men He taught… the twelve… abandoned Him.

People abandon Him daily by living sinful lives. We have the chance now to show our love by following His “mandatum”… to become a servant… to serve… to love… to proclaim Jesus as our Savior.

Does the cock crow for me… or ye? I pray not… (reference verse: Luke 22:34).

Reverend Larry W. Johnson
Front Royal, VA

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The Lost Game: Gridiron Memories of November 22, 1963

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I was playing quarterback in a high school intramural flag-football championship game around 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963.

The game went into overtime as the class time ground into its last minutes. My team needed a score to even the alternating possession OT (we were ahead of our time) and extend things to the following day. Impatient, I lofted one deep and up for grabs – like Brett Favre occasionally does – that some defender out jumped my guy for.

BANG! We lost, no tomorrow.

Little did I know that the bang of defeat that had just gone off in my head was the mere echo of a much louder bang that went off almost simultaneously 1,330 miles to the south-west.

That other bang I had yet to hear was one of another kind of defeat that I will, it seems, carry with me to the grave.

Somewhat dejected I headed back to the locker room to shower before heading to my fifth period English class. Someone ran out of the locker room to meet us and said, “The president’s been shot!” Bullshit, that kind of thing doesn’t happen except in history books, I thought, “That’s not funny,” I said.

Inside the Alexandria, Virginia high school, not eight miles from the White House, things seemed normal as I prepared to shower. No solemn faced coaches, no lock down to protect then Republican House Minority Whip Gerald Ford’s sons. “The president’s been shot” was lost beneath what seemed normal adolescent, locker room banter. I began to return to a 15-year-old’s reality: sport, the thought of the girl’s locker room on the other side of a thick cement wall.

Then the PA system crackled and the locker room went unnaturally silent as the principal’s voice, not a secretary’s, asked for attention. A chill went down my spine, perhaps as a subconscious premonition that things were about to change in previously unimaginable ways flashed along sub-atomic particles throughout my brain. The tone first, then the words “President Kennedy has been shot” gravely confirmed what I had immediately denied as a plausible reality. One kid, a little red around the edges for that suburban Alexandria high school said something to the effect of “good.” Though we were casual friends and recent teammates, I started swinging and we went into a pile on the floor only to be quickly pulled apart by classmates and coaches. I had never wanted to damage someone as irrevocably as I did at that moment and the two of us never spoke again, leaving a silent distance between us that precluded the necessity of re-engaging that primal impulse toward some sort of irreversible destruction.

President Kennedy leaves the White House for the final time.

The emotions were immediate, deep and apparently ran in the family. I didn’t find out until years later that at almost the same moment, following a similar remark, my father, a WWII Army veteran who had lived through Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, was decking a total stranger in a D.C. medical building on I Street where he was waiting for my mother to complete a routine checkup.

Across the Potomac River, we sat quietly in our classrooms: no teaching, no discussion, no emergency mentoring. We sat alone, grappling with our thoughts, as was our teacher. The principal came on again and said the president was dead. The reaction was subdued except for a girl named Jacqueline Kennedy – though I think she spelled her first name differently than the president’s wife. Spelling aside she went off, sobbing, hysteria rising. The teacher took her outside the room to settle her down. Didn’t work, she ended up in the infirmary. I sometimes wonder what happened to Jackie Kennedy, my classmate. How did she ride out that 15-year-old’s identification with the now blood-stained Queen of Camelot?

Forty-odd years later I know that day was the measurable beginning of the direction of the balance of my life. Despite the immediate profundity of a presidential assassination, I couldn’t have recognized that JFK’s violent death would lead directly through a five-year span of political upheaval between my formative 15th and 20th birthdays. This and three other domestic assassinations – of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Francis Kennedy – seemed to earmark the time through a litany of foreign political intrigue, murder and assassination that always seemed to lead in one direction – to the right, toward war, toward implicit corporate profiteering from war, toward social division, toward lies.

That is my perception, my belief – the bad guys won. That is my psychological watershed. Rather than living under the auspice of a state favored by both man and God, I was floating through the most recent episode of civilization in decline, fueled by greed, power, murder and conquest.

It took all of those next five years for me to begin to appreciate what had begun during that that lost football game. By 1969 it was becoming apparent that a hopeful youth-driven world counterculture, as well as the best and the brightest within the world political system reflecting or inspiring the social idealism that characterized that counterculture, the Americans named above, Salvadore Allende, Alexander Dubcek, Patrice Lumumba, Che Guevara and others were beaten.

Around the world we had lost.

We would either be annihilated or assimilated – a foolish, inaccurate footnote to American and World History X – the fiction written by the winners.

I left Alexandria in 1967 for college. I moved from the specter of the federal capital to Richmond, the historical capital of the American Confederacy that had fought the ascendance of that federal system just over a century earlier. In retrospect it seemed an unconsciously profound symbolic move. Though I was through and through a son of the federal government in whose shadow I was raised by two parents it employed, I was soon to become suspicious, some would say paranoid, about its machinations, its intent, its history.

I followed my intellectual instincts for the next five years, studying sociology and psychology – how society and the human mind work. I guess I wanted to know why I had grown so alienated from the culture in which I lived. Was I crazy or did I live in an insane world? I learned things about myself and my society between 1967 and 1973 and most of what I learned took me back to the day my team lost that high school, intramural football game.

In college I learned that three days before John Kennedy’s inauguration, his predecessor, Dwight David Eisenhower, made an astonishing observation in his farewell address to the nation. I had grown up thinking of Eisenhower as a doddering, old, golf-playing general rewarded with the presidency for a job well done holding the Allied war effort together in Europe during World War II. My interest in the fate of his successor led me to a different view of Eisenhower. It began with that farewell address of Jan. 17, 1961.

Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower at Camp David, April 22, 1961, five days after the first crisis of JFK’s presidency, the failed CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion.

On that day Eisenhower, the West Point graduate, career military man, general and president who led his country and its allies, first against Nazi Germany and then through the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, told his nation that the greatest threat it faced as he prepared to leave office was that born of its own military and corporate institutions in a profoundly changing American landscape.

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience,” Eisenhower told the American people of the corporate, political and military landscape that had arisen in the wake of World War II. “The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist,” Eisenhower concluded.

The career soldier turned politician had apparently not thought it a sin to normalize relations with the Soviet Union, then our recent military ally, and reduce the rapidly expanding American military budget. This belief, according to Eisenhower biographers, led to much behind-the-scene infighting with the evolving military and industrial institutions Eisenhower spoke of at the end of his eight-year presidency.

Less than three years after Eisenhower’s dour warning, his successor had his head blown off in the streets of Dallas, Texas, while I played football a half a continent away. That successor, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, had also bucked the American military-corporate apparatus during his presidency, and perhaps fatally, more directly and in more immediate situations than Eisenhower had.

First, just three months in office Kennedy refused to commit to direct American military involvement during the 1961 invasion of Communist Cuba by a CIA-trained militia despite the urgings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and CIA Director Allen Dulles. As a result of the intelligence misinformation and personal coercion he endured during that experience, Kennedy fired Allen Dulles as director of the CIA. He also developed enough distrust of the U.S. military command to avoid the armed, likely nuclear confrontation they suggested over Cuba during the missile crisis less than two years later.

President Kennedy addresses the nation on live television during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the U.S. and Soviet Union came to the verge of nuclear war according to later unclassified Soviet intelligence documents.

Kennedy is even reported to have stated the intention of scattering what was threatening to become a rouge intelligence agency resistant to presidential oversight “into a thousand pieces” following a 1964 re-election that seemed a sure thing.

A great deal of debate still exists over whether Kennedy was planning implementation of another post-1964 election plan that would have flown further in the face of Eisenhower’s originally-named American “Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex”. That much-discussed plan was a lessening of direct American involvement in Vietnam. That involvement in the fall of 1963 was 16,000 “advisors” compared to the half million combat troops that would be sent there after his death. If true, as key Kennedy insiders assert, that plan reflected JFK’s growing belief that the Vietnam conflict was ultimately a civil war that would have to be won or lost by the South Vietnamese themselves – a decade and the bulk of 65,000 American and two million Vietnamese lives later that belief proved correct.

Many years after the fact I heard a European investigative report that quoted Kennedy archives indicating his ambassador to South Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, reporting back to Washington that presidential directives relayed through the embassy in 1963 ordering CIA operatives in country to back off of aggressive covert actions, including assassinations, were simply being ignored in the field. I wondered then if those “rouge” CIA elements had an inkling those directives would soon change despite Kennedy’s overwhelming popularity as the1964 election approached?

No, probably just a coincidence that Kennedy was soon shot down like a rabid dog on a parade route whose path had been realigned that day to go down Elm Street in front of the Texas School Book Depository in a town whose mayor was reportedly the brother of Allen Dulles’s former military liaison officer.

Coincidence too, I expect that a former Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald worked in that School Book Depository. Oswald was the prodigal American son, who had “defected” to the Soviet Union with a perfect command of the Russian language following his assignment to a top-secret American military intelligence base in Japan from which American U-2 spy flights were launched over the Soviet Union. Later, the prodigal son would reconsider that defection – perhaps because the Soviets thought he was an American spy and kept a close check on him. I sometimes wonder at the benevolence of a nation that would welcome back its prodigal son with camera equipment to start a “new” career, rather than a little prison time for his alleged departure with top-secret information that was claimed to have compromised America’s U-2 spy missions. But how could his native land stay mad at the whimsical Oswald, who despite his highly public pro-Castro activities in New Orleans, cultivated associations with a number of right-wing, anti-Castro associates based in both New Orleans and Miami as he “floundered” philosophically in the years between Russia and Dallas?

Above, JFK and Ike at Camp David in the days after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba – likely when the sitting president found out he had been lied to by the CIA about the previous president’s authorizations, or lack thereof, for a CIA-sponsored invasion of Cuba. Photographer Paul Vathis wrote ‘They looked so lonely.’ Below, Vathis’s photo juxtaposed on the wall of the Newseum in D.C. with mob-connected Jack Ruby’s silencing of Lee Harvey Oswald, who died claiming he was set up as a patsy in the JFK assassination. JFK photo sources, credits: Public Domain; White House Photographs; John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston; Robert Knudson; Paul Vathis; Abraham Zapruder; “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” Nigel Turner-produced British TV documentary series; AP; Roger Bianchini at Newseum, Washington D.C.

Pondering these things after launching my own college term paper research on the JFK assassination in 1969, I told my mother, “There are circumstances leading a lot of people to think your old (CIA) bosses were behind it.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised, the way they talked about him,” she surprised me with a frank appraisal of her early 1960s superiors at the top of the American intelligence apparatus.

Now 43 years gone I am the paranoid-tinged, conspiracy freak sitting alone in the dark corners of dark bars, reflecting on the familiarity of low times and low lies glowering at me from the “enduring freedom” of a television screen hovering slightly above my still focused eye.

And 43 years gone from that long lost childhood football game I find myself choking down one final coincidence – that the U.S. president gesturing at me from that screen explaining the necessity of this country’s ongoing military-industrial occupation of Iraq, one of the world’s two primary oil fields, and the ultimate evil of its oil-rich neighbor Iran, is heir to a family legacy the roots of which run deep into Texas oil, American politics and the directorship of the CIA.


Roger Bianchini
Front Royal, Virginia

First published on November 22, 2013 as part of a pull-out section of the Warren County Report on the ongoing significance of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years later.

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Historical Forgiveness

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historically speaking

For me, Heaven will not be Heaven unless there is a history symposium at least once a week. For this week’s symposium they are going to have to set out extra chairs to handle the larger than normal crowds, for I am sure the special guest will be Dr. James I “Bud” Robertson. Dr. Robertson died November 2 at 89-years-old. Simply put, in my humble opinion, Dr. Robertson is the greatest Civil War scholar and teacher ever. Some of his teachings have fallen out of favor today, but I believe what he stood for and taught are as important today as they ever were. I did not plan on discussing the Civil War in this column, but with the passing of this giant in the historical world, I want to dedicate this week to him.

Dr. Robertson will be remembered in history for his academic accomplishments. He was a gifted and accomplished author who wrote more than 18 books. His greatest achievement is the biography of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, making him the leading authority on the general. He was asked by President John F. Kennedy to serve as executive director of the United States Civil War Centennial Commission. Dr. Robertson was in a difficult position of having to celebrate the War in the midst of the growing Civil Rights movement. He was at the forefront of the controversial position of having to bridge the gap between recognizing the positives in southern generals while understanding the controversy surrounding the Confederacy.

For me, and the thousands of students who were fortunate enough to take his classes, he will always be remembered as a gifted storyteller. It was my pleasure to serve as his graduate assistant for two years (2000-2002), where I learned from him every day. Part of my responsibilities was to attend all his classes. He had the ability of making history come alive. On more than one occasion I noticed students teary-eyed as they left the auditorium. Especially when he spoke of Jackson’s death, it was hard to find a dry eye in the room. Think about that, how many teachers can bring that kind of emotion. It was like he lost a friend. Students left inspired when he talked about patriotism and duty, grossed out when he talked about diseases and hospitals, and saddened when he spoke of sacrifice.

As a proud son of the South, he resented the current attitude of tearing down our history. He has been seen as a dying breed of historians that still believed Lee and Jackson deserved honor. As part of this column, I want to share his thoughts on the topic. Our last conversation was on this subject. I had been having internal struggles towards removing statues of southern generals. I do understand why some want them removed. The South did stand for slavery and oppression, but I cannot help also feel that it is wrong on some level. These were flawed men for sure, but having studied under men, like Bud Robertson, taught me there was also good. I want to share a part of his last email to me.

Do not apologize for your feelings. You are morally and historically correct.

One cannot look at the past through the lenses of the present. When war clouds gathered in 1860, the so-called United States was 70 years old—too young to have wisdom or experience. In 1860 the Lee family had been living in Virginia for 225 years. When Lee mentioned his “birthright” and “his country,” he was referring to Virginia. The so-called “political correctness” crowd does not have an understanding of this. Lee opposed slavery and considered secession to be revolution, yet he had a consuming sense of duty to come to his country’s defense.

Had Virginia remained in the Union, Lee would have fought just as hard for the Union as he did for Confederacy. One has only to read the story of Lee’s last five years, when he became the greatest spokesman for reconciliation America has ever had, to see the real greatness of the man.

History is the greatest teacher we will ever have, it is tragic that 75% of the American people cannot pass a basic history qualification exam. Winston Churchill’s words are so relevant: “When the present starts arguing with the past, we are going to lose the future.

My best to the family.

James Robertson”

In honor of Dr. Robertson, I want to make a suggestion. I propose we start a national dialogue of forgiveness. I am afraid that too many who speak on reconciliation are just trying to blame.  Figuring out who is to blame will never solve any of our issues with race or remembrance. Placing blame only fires up our passions, even if you know your side is in the wrong on some issues. Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is learning from our mistakes, remembering them, and changing for the better. With forgiveness, White Southerners can embrace the good parts of their heritage while they stand beside and ask forgiveness from Black Americans. If forgiveness is truly asked for and truly accepted, we can all learn from our past and be able to stand hand-in-hand in partnership towards the future.

We are becoming a divided nation, not quite to the level that caused the Civil War, but yet it is that very War that is causing us to remain divided. Maybe if we can find a way to stop attacking and start forgiving we can save this nation, fix what divides us, maybe fulfill the wish of the Civil War president who gave his life for the cause of unity: “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

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Mr. Manion is correct when it comes to the EDA and history in his Letter to the Editor

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To the Editor:

If what Christopher Manion wrote in his Letter to the Editor regarding the importance of history in reference to the EDA is true, and I’ve no doubt that it is true, then he is spot-on when he writes that history is important.

As a published historian and historical researcher, I can’t over-emphasize the importance of knowing and understanding history when it comes to current events. If one disregards or fails to comprehend the events and the personalities of the past—provided these are seen through the context of the past rather than the context of the present day and time—people today will make the same or worse errors in the present or future, with either the same consequences or worse.

Case in point beyond the EDA debacle: in the 1800s in California, many law makers and those responsible for upholding and enforcing the laws failed to do so in ways designed to protect the citizens. The result was the inception of vigilantes, who took the laws into their own hands and meted out punishments and retribution for crimes both real and perceived. The result was an almost unbearable break-down of law and order which persisted for many years.

Fast-forward to Germany after 1933, when the new government there (under the Nazi party) not only broke laws but encouraged specific members of the German population to purposely violate the laws with no consequences; in fact, the laws were changed to sanction crimes which were understood to be serious crimes in other countries of the world, and also in Germany prior to 1933.

Fast-forward again to San Francisco; the city has just now put into office a district attorney who has not only never prosecuted a single case, but has also publicly proclaimed a laundry list of criminal offenses which will be allowed with no consequences or penalties as his method of reducing the prison populations. I suspect it will be only a matter of a short time before decent, law-abiding Californians either move out of San Francisco or begin to take the law into their own hands, much as they did in the 1800s, with the same results of a lawless and out-of-control society, because they know that the D.A. will not enforce the laws which govern the people as a whole.

Mr. Manion is correct when it comes to the EDA and history: those who don’t understand or forget the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them in the future. And to also quote Prof. Einstein on insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Well done, Mr. Manion. Well done.

Arthur Candenquist
Rappahannock County

21 years late, 21 million dollars short

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21 years late, 21 million dollars short

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Does history matter? I think it does. And when it comes to the EDA, history can matter very much indeed.

Back in 1998, a local Warren County paper carried my letter criticizing new “secrecy provisions” that the county’s Economic Development Authority had recently adopted. “The EDA’s bunker mentality flies in the face of every tenet of open, honest, and responsible government,” I wrote. “It champions the image of wheeling-and-dealing, behind closed doors, using the public purse and authority to pursue unwritten and often private goals rife with unintended consequences. What are they trying to hide?”

A few days later I received a typewritten, unsigned letter: “Why don’t you mind your own business?” it read – period.

Then our driveway and mailbox were vandalized.

The sheriff’s deputy asked, “Do you have any enemies?”

“How much time do you have,” I laughed (I’ve been in politics for a long time).

Stephen Heavener, the EDA director at the time, sent me a four-page handwritten tirade. “I recommend that you educate yourself on the reality of competitive economic development,” he wrote. Well, I had taught graduate-level courses on the subject, but I was always willing to learn.

So I asked more questions.

What was Mr. Heavener’s bottom line? “Secrecy.” Where was the public oversight the taxpayers were demanding? “We welcome scrutiny,” he wrote. (Really? One provision of the EDA’s new policy went so far as to prohibit the disclosure of “any information not required to be disclosed by the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.” Some “scrutiny”!)

Well, he had private meetings with individual supervisors, he told me.

But secrecy limits scrutiny, so I asked Mr. Heavener about the EDA’s understanding of ethics, as articulated perhaps in its employee handbook. “I have no idea about what you mention concerning ‘the ethical dimensions of the development process,’” he wrote. But he did mention ethics when I suggested that the EDA recruit businesses that might find northern Virginia to be too expensive and lacking in Warren County’s amenities. No way. Our EDA Director considered it “unethical” to recruit from a “nearby community.”

He called that “competitive.”

Fast forward twenty-one years. Mr. Heavener had “no idea” about ethics. Did Jennifer McDonald do any better? And if these two were clueless about the subject, where were our elected officials with fiduciary responsibility over the EDA for 21 years? Did they have “private meetings” with EDA’s directors? Did they ever inquire, publicly or privately, about the “ethical dimensions” of the EDA’s “secret” conduct of its business?

The question is timely. Consider the comments of Board of Supervisors Chairman Daniel Murray regarding the public outrage over the scandal that has made Warren County a national laughing-stock. According to a report by a local NBC affiliate, Murray criticized “the disgraceful behavior of the people in Warren County — false accusations, things that they don’t understand.”

“False accusations”? Well, Mr. Chairman, what accusations are true? And if we don’t “understand things,” do you – and your fellow board members – understand them?

Next: if the Board did “understand things,” why didn’t you take appropriate action instead of, yes, “stonewalling” citizens who demanded you do so?

And if the Board didn’t “understand things,” why didn’t you resign?

Chairman Murray and his colleagues can’t have it both ways. They can’t plead ignorance and still insist that they are competent and should stay in office.

Our Supervisors have proven their incompetence beyond a reasonable doubt. Not only that, the entire Board and its senior staff have signaled truly stunning arrogance in demanding that the taxpayers pay their legal bills, raising future taxes even higher.

What to do now? Clearly the secrecy precedent set by Mr. Heavener and continued by McDonald and the EDA board was accepted as policy by the current and former Supervisors. That policy has allowed what one new EDA board member now calls a “catastrophic failure.”

It’s time for a change. The EDA should be closed down. And whatever entity – if any – takes its place, our elected officials must make sure that it isn’t too secret, too complicated, too sophisticated, or too cumbersome to prevent our elected officials from “understanding things.”

And the Board of Supervisors?

The people of Warren County deserve a government they can trust. And today more than ever, we need one.

We don’t trust this one.

Christopher Manion
Warren County, Virginia

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Pending Front Royal Town Council vote on Crooked Run: Do words matter?

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Timing is everything – it is the same with Tuesday night’s (Nov. 12) anticipated Front Royal Town Council vote on the proposed Crooked Run West development proposal.

This battle has been front page news for several months with no clear resolution by the Council. Indeed, every meeting seems to end up in “let’s push it to next meeting”. That pushing appears to have ended with the November 4th council work session majority consensus being achieved that we “are not interested” in providing water to a primarily residential development outside the town limits.

However, despite no legal or procedural necessity that a vote be taken, a consensus to proceed to a vote for the public record was agreed upon.

The comment to many of his council colleagues made by Mayor-elect Gene Tewalt that “you have not considered the Town water policy” on out of town North Corridor central utility extension; “or the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Warren County on utilities and annexation issues that must be addressed”; let alone the water-sewer utility study that Council has sanctioned that will produce a report in January 2020; or the fact the County hasn’t yet approved the rezoning to facilitate the residential development was well taken.

As one citizen recently said to council on these issues, “Why wait for real information when you can vote based on ignorance of any real facts?”

Front Royal’s then Interim Mayor, now Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick appeared to provide the initial impetus for approval of the Crooked Run West request with his “past Town anti-growth” comments and a concurrent effort to dramatically reduce water and sewer Tap Fees to developers. And the interim mayor appeared to have an initial three to four-person portion of council (Meza, Holloway, Gillespie and …) in agreement.

If we are to believe what a four to five-member portion of council said during last week’s working session, Tuesday night’s vote will be “NO”. At last week’s work session, initially Mr. Tederick, based on comments from members of the Council, pushed for the Town Manager to send Crooked Run West developers Tom Mercuro and Ed Murphy a notice that the Council was not interested in pursuing this effort – a direct reversal from his previous pushes for the effort.

Instead, the decision was suddenly reversed to “Let’s put this on the agenda for our next Town Council meeting for a vote.”

It will be interesting to see what takes place in front of the people of Front Royal who have consistently said NO to this build during meetings. Will the Town Council indeed vote per the words they spoke last week? This goes well with the comments made by Mr. Meza.

At a recent Town Council meeting Councilman Meza decried foul at the amount of criticism that the Council was receiving from the people of Front Royal. He is quoted as saying the “lack of trust and the disrespect is not earned.”

Well Mr. Meza, if this vote keeps in line with the Council’s words from last week’s work session then you and the council will have helped build the respect you demand.

Remember trust is earned. Note Mr. Meza, it was your comment at last week’s work session when you stated “do words really matter” in front of the citizens of Front Royal, which were very surprising in lieu of your recent comments on “we are not crooks.”

Well, that is easily answered with a resounding “YES, words do matter!

Note that Mr. Tederick will not have a vote as he is now the Interim Town Manager.

It is indeed interesting that Mr. Tederick will not have a vote on this issue as his knowledge of commercial and residential development appears to be above others on the council. Although his knowledge was somewhat lacking in truly understanding what needed to be done by the Council to move this proposal forward. If you visit the following website, www.1839capital.com/executive-bios, Mr. Tederick’s bio is rather amazing and shows him as President of a firm called 1839 Capital.

I will skip the front part of his bio as it is the same as in the Front Royal official website. Later in the description of Mr. Tederick, it states:

“After military service he owned a multi-office investment advisory firm which he sold after 20 years in operation. Utilizing his governmental, real estate, and investment knowledge, Mr. Tederick developed a thriving business solving complex problems for national residential and commercial construction entitles in several states. In many cases, Mr. Tederick led the entitlement team consisting of attorneys, engineers, and architects in order to accomplish client objectives. Mr. Tederick spearheaded over 35 projects ranging from single parcel to 1,500 acres, mixed use (residential, commercial, industrial, institutional) developments.”

It should also be noted the 1839 Capital (out of Alexandria, VA) did not file for their United States SEC filing until August 9th of 2019 right in the middle of Mr. Tederick’s service as Interim Mayor – somewhat strange timing. You should also note if you look at the complete request in the website (Section 4), the firm’s areas of expertise is in real estate development.

Like I said at the start, it’s all about timing!

Simon Mays
Front Royal, Virginia

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Public Virtue

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historically speaking

The men who gathered in that blistering humid room in Philadelphia in 1787 to create our governing document did not represent a cross section of the American population. Unlike most Americans, they were wealthy lawyers and planters and most were extremely well-educated. Though they may not have all attended universities, they were well read in history and political philosophy. We know the major influences of men like Locke and Montesquieu upon our governing documents, but we know little today of James Harrington.

All of the founders were familiar with Harrington.  His writing was the inspiration for the original South Carolina government and in many ways also on the Constitution. If we want to try to understand the thinking behind the Constitution, and make better historical arguments, it is helpful to know what inspired the men who wrote it.

Writing during the rule of Oliver Cromwell, Harrington described the fictional utopian nation of Oceana. The Commonwealth of Oceana, like all utopian novels, was meant to shed light on the author’s own government and its shortcomings. Harrington criticized Cromwell, thinly veiled as Olphaus Megaletor in the tract, and served time in the Tower for his criticism. Harrington believed that all political power should be shared by men of property and that property should be distributed amongst the middle class, a concept shared later by Thomas Jefferson. Harrington believed that these property holders should vote for senators who serve limited terms so all could take turns in governing. Like most political philosophers of the time, Harrington saw these men as those who had a stake in society and so should hold the power. Power should also be held in a bicameral legislature, with a lesser and greater house making the laws.

The key to freedom for Harrington was that the property holding citizens had an obligation to serve in the militia. Under the Cromwell rule, the army had become a tool for tyranny. Not being property holders themselves, Cromwell’s solders did not have a stake in society and cared little for the rights of the people. They had become professional soldiers, whose only loyalty was to Cromwell.

If the property holding citizens were the militia, he believed, they would not drain the purse. More importantly, they would be the ones who ruled. If they attacked the system, they would only be attacking the system that placed them in power. In other words, a standing army can lead to tyranny, whereas an armed citizenry of stakeholders leads to democracy.

Another author every founder knew was Thomas Gordon who wrote under the name “Cato.” The original Cato was a Roman Senator who stood against Caesar and was a popular pen name for anyone representing republicanism. In his 1722 Cato Letter #65, Gordon wrote, “In attacks upon a free state, every man will fight to defend it, because every man has something to defend in it. He is in love with his condition, his ease, and property, and will venture his life rather than lose them; because with them he loses all the blessings of life. When these blessings are gone, it is madness to think that any man will spill his blood for him who took them away, and is doubtless his enemy, though he may call himself his prince. It is much more natural to wish his destruction, and help to procure it.”

Harrington understood there would always be those who tried to take advantage of the stakeholders, like Cromwell, who wanted to take power. The answer was for stakeholders to practice public virtue, the ability to look beyond themselves for the good of the state. As we see from Cato, virtuous citizens must be willing to lose their lives for the good of the state.

You can see the influence of Harrington and Gordon in the creation of the Bill of Rights. They both saw a standing army as a potential for tyranny, hence, the Second Amendment. I am not trying to make an argument for or against gun control here, only to show the influences on the founders and their points of view.

What can be drawn from understanding men like Harrington is the concept of virtue. There have been so many arguments as to why we are so divided today and why there are so many issues such as random violence. I have heard blame placed on a loss of God, a growth in white supremacy, the NRA, and violent video games. Maybe what we have really lost is public virtue. Maybe what we have lost is the willingness to give our lives for what we believe in and to put public virtue before ourselves. Historically speaking, Oceana may be a fictional nation, but maybe Harrington understood something. If we could ever bring back the notion of public virtue, maybe we could attack the causes of our divide instead of always having to fix the consequences.


Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog or Facebook at @jamesWfinck.

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