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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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Opinion

Shifting of a Legacy?

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With Martin Luther King Day approaching, I have thought a lot about the man who, more than anyone else, historically represents the Civil Rights movement and social justice. At the same time, I have noticed something strange. Is it possible that the keepers of King’s legacy is shifting right? I am not talking about the far right but the right of today’s progressive movement and somewhere in the realm of moderate Democrats and Republicans. I’ll explain what I mean.

King introduced himself to the world when he took over leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. His charisma, talent, and message of non-violent protest quickly made him a household name and, depending on your viewpoint, became either the most famous or infamous man in the Civil Rights movement. The left claimed him as their champion as he fought to change the status quo and demanded equal rights. The right feared him and saw him as dangerous when he said things like, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

To the right, especially in the South, King wanted to fight against 400 years of racial superiority. He wanted to change the only way of life they knew. King would feel the brunt of their fear as it was personified in hatred. He, his family, and friends dealt with threats, violence, prison, and even death to stand for what they believed in. Yet King never backed down from what he knew to be right while also never turning away from his belief in non-violence, or as he once said, ““Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

It is said that time heals all wounds, and that seems to be the case with the legacy of King. Moving into the 1970s and 1980s there was racial progress. Race relations were not perfect, just like they are not today, but when comparing life to the 1950s our nation has come a long way. Somewhere along that journey, King went from being a hero on the left to a national hero. By the time I began school in the early 1980s, King was being celebrated by all. I remember listening to his “I Had a Dream Speech” in school when I was a young kid in Virginia. Martin Luther King Day was signed into law in 1983 and done so by a Republican Senate and Ronald Reagan, a champion of the right.

The fact that the right accepted King is not what’s surprising. It’s the idea now that many on the right are seeming to champion his cause. Think about what you see or read in the media. When groups like Black Lives Matter chant their slogan, what is the response from the right? “All lives Matter.” Then somewhere someone will undoubtedly quote the most famous of King’s speeches when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I have thought on this a lot recently and tried to pay attention to what different people are saying. From my very unscientific survey, I have found that people on the right outnumber those on the left when citing King in arguments. Granted, most are cherry-picking his quotes, mostly from the “I have a Dream” speech. Probably few have read King’s “Mountaintop” speech where he called for wealth and power redistribution, yet King’s major message may not resonate as much with some on the left as it once did. Especially with the young and progressive wing.

In the 1960s and with the older and moderates today, the goal of the left was a color-blind integrated society. For them, King’s statement of character over skin color plays perfectly. However, for others on the left today, racial goals include categorizing people into races. It’s not that progressives are wrong but are different from what King wanted. King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the mission statement of “one nation, under God, indivisible, together with the commitment to activate the ‘strength to love’ within the community of humankind.” With organizations like Black Lives Matter, their mission statement says, “to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.” These are minor differences but also important ones.

In some ways I wonder if parts of the modern movement are more influenced by another important but lesser-known Civil Rights leader, Stokely Carmichael. Space is too limited to give his entire background, but Carmichael is worth looking up. He was a veteran of Freedom Summer and the Freedom Rides and took over leadership of SNCC. It was Carmichael who began to push the idea of “Black Power,” which called “for Black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for Black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.” As for King, he did not outwardly criticize “Black Power” and said he understood where Carmichael was coming from, but ultimately opposed it.

I am in no way trying to criticize either side here, right or left. It is simply an observation and historical curiosity. I also see it as incredibly positive how most on the right have embraced Dr. King as a hero. I am grateful that the entire nation can honor what Dr. King did, but, historically speaking, it does seem as if his legacy has gone through a shift from left to center.


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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Oh boy! A cabal

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Wow, a cabal! – I want to join. I worked for the Federalis for 30 years, and if that isn’t a cabal, nothing is. But here: Threats of destruction, secret sources, dead drops, random accusations of conspiracy, strange titles like interim (fill in the blank), dog attacks, now publicly admitted marital infidelities, threatening people who had nothing to do with things. Yep, it sounds like a normal workweek for me. But they have gone over the line now – they pissed Roger off. But be careful Roger, you might be walking down the street and get mauled by friendly bullmastiffs (if there is such a thing). That’s it, throw down the gauntlet, Gentle Knight, the gloves are coming off.

As fun as this may sound, you have to think, “Why can’t the Town ever do anything without lawsuits, accusations of wrongdoings, threats, intrigues, and temper tantrums. We remember such laughs as:

“We have no moral requirement to pay for the police station” (although the Town had the thing built and rapidly moved into it – I mean, it wasn’t like it just sprang up overnight).

The famed “trash-poop bust” at the Bentonville county dump. “Everybody in the County should be fired if not pilloried, ending with “THE Tederick” tantrum: ‘We’ll take our poop elsewhere; that will teach them a lesson’.” This letter penned by THE Tederick is a classic fire and brimstone saga.

The famed Afton Inn – finally being rebuilt without one scratch of Town help (although THE Tederick claimed he was responsible for the deal) even after they wanted to send a letter to the forlorn contractor threatening untold violence if he did not start construction by July. Which money tantrum do you want to have? – The “We aren’t getting our fair share of COVID money” or the “Why doesn’t the County pay for the pipeline” screaming fit.

And more recently the mayor accused his neighbor who reported his loose dogs attacking her and her son of “trying to beat the system” for a lack of proper business permitting.

So you say, “This sounds like a bunch of 10-year-olds battling over who is playing in the sandbox.” THE Tederick gets on the Grand Jury and then eliminates the Mayor with later dropped charges. And then, using his wealth of municipal leadership, he slides into the now vacant seat to begin his “interim” empire. This coup was a classic “THE Tederick” move.

Next, he invents a Town EDA, shuffles people around to temporarily run it while, what – waiting for his anointment as the Head?

You know, with all this intrigue, you would think they could get other things done like getting rid of the eyesores. But instead, with Admin help from inside Town Hall, the Mayor hustles the Planning Commission to fast-track his personal construction project of questionable physical dimensions. Yikes! Somebody leaked a document that would soon or had already been revealed. The “fast track” was not illegal, but it sure looks shady. This is after THE Tederick “right sizes” the staff, much like Cartman for “not obeying his au-thor-a-TY”.

You can have, at the local level, confidential personal information, confidential legal information, and at certain stages, contract-restricted data. But unless the Town has gotten into building stealth bombers (doubtful), there is no SECRET information. I take you back to when Jennifer claimed that all information regarding the EDA was SECRET, which caused people in my office to chuckle.

You give him way too much credit. And please, don’t give him the sobriquet of being a master of disinformation. Roger, you’ve got the whole Counter Intelligence thing wrong. At the level that he was in, there was no “spy vs. spy” activity. Counter-intelligence resembles intelligence, as military music resembles music.

Anyway, I want a cabal T-shirt. Wow, real secret stuff. Let me know where our next midnight meeting will be held.

V/R
Fritz Schwartz 
Warren County, Va.

P.S. Just as I was ready to fire this off, THE Tederick exploded again. However, Chairman Cheryl Cullers interrupted to tell Tederick, “If this is going to be another personal attack, I won’t allow it.” “If it turns to personal attacks, I will ask you to be seated,” Cullers responded, leading Tederick to counter, “You listen to my comments and then determine if they’re personal attacks.” For the second time, Tederick requested and was granted a restarting of the three-minute clock manned by Board Deputy Clerk Emily Ciarrocchi, at which point he restarted his remarks.

“Sir, I’m going to stop you. This is turning into a personal attack. If you feel,” at which point Tederick interrupted to ask, “Is that where you’re going with this? Let me know today if you’re going to stop me.”

“Yes, sir,” the board chair replied, leading Tederick to leave the podium, but not before adding, “You’ll be hearing from someone.”  Wow! A threat. He didn’t say who or what, but it sounds like somebody might sleep with the fishes. Be careful young Matthew; the Cabal is watching you.

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Due diligence and ‘Second Step’ curriculum

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With respect to the recent vote among our School Board to hit pause on the “Second Step” Social and Emotional program after two citizens expressed concerns at the most recent school board meeting:

The idealist in me opines that every parent and community member should, actually, read the “Second Step” program, and make an informed decision as to what they feel is best for their children. I have read it. It is well done. Equally, depending on who presents it and how it is presented (as is the case with many curricula) I can respect the concerns of those wanting to make sure that their children are not subjected to a narrative, as opposed to a hopeful civil dialogue and some good life lessons, as opposed to growing up talking with their fingers, as opposed to their mouths and growing up emotionally and socially inept.

Granted, it is only fair to articulate that parents should be guided to the appropriate resources through the schools themselves: first, maybe even have an open forum with the admin, counsellors and other presenters of the curriculum, and then decide if they are OK/not OK with their child participating. Perhaps the summer months can be used by school board members to educate themselves to curriculum of the upcoming year, and be part of open community discussions with the parents and even children, so that mutual respect can occur, as opposed to narrative-driven dialogue by confused and misguided elected officials.

The realist in me asks the following:

  1. How many School Board Members did not read the curriculum prior to this meeting, in order to make a fair decision for all, and just said to themselves: “Sounds good!  Let’s do it!!”?  In all fairness to whom I did and did not vote for, there is no question in my mind that at least two school board members were well aware of the curriculum, and had their personal thoughts/concerns entering the meeting. Whether these were narrative or information based is on them. I will give respect that I have no doubt that they read it.
  2. How many parents would actually show up for a meeting to hear a presentation on the curriculum, or take the time to read it? (I agree wholeheartedly that parents should pay more attention to school board meetings.)
  3. Since I do not know how well informed the School Board was on “Second Step” before this matter came up, I actually applaud the board for hitting the pause button, so that they could be more informed before their next meeting, and not just blindly vote for what is put in front of them. How nice would it be if we all did this before elections, as opposed to accepting “sample ballots” and punch lines, and just drinking the juice of a chosen narrative?
  4. I think all School Board Members should be personally polled and asked at the next meeting if they have taken the time to educate themselves to the program?

If not, they should recuse themselves from voting for not doing their jobs and, quite frankly, should reconsider if public office is for them. If they have read it, kudos and vote your conscience, not a political narrative.

Please stay well,

Michael Williams
Front Royal, Virginia

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Matt Tederick: Public Nuisance? 

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Tree-slayer Matt Tederick, during his attempted public commentary at the January 4 Board of Supervisor meeting, has expanded his campaign to disrupt the functioning of county business. His personal attacks on county board members are disgraceful and uncalled for.

Moreover, his threat to Supervisor Cullers that “You’ll be hearing from someone” after she disallowed his harangue is seriously out-of-bounds. Has Mr. Tederick become unhinged?

Jeanne Trabulsi
Front Royal, Virginia

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How the rest of the world sees us

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Recently, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit our daughter and her husband’s family in Germany and travel to Greece on business. It was a long time coming due to the challenges of Covid, trying to find an opening in the outbreaks to spend time in both places.

Witnessing the effects of this Covid wave in other countries and the attitude of a clear majority of the people living under the new normal was extremely interesting. At the outset, we were apprehensive as to what freedoms and restrictions would be put in place. It was amazing what we encountered. EU countries are not going to fall into the situation that caught the world off guard the first time with massive shutdowns of business activities. Most surprising was the resilience of the people to adapt quickly to a fast-changing environment.

The flight from the US was uneventful and pleasant. Vaccination cards and passports were in order. Germany did not require a negative Covid test to enter as long as we were up to date with our vaccinations and wore masks during our time in the airport and on the flight. We witnessed no grumbling protests against wearing a mask, including passengers with children on both legs of our trip, and the flights up and back to Greece. Adult behavior, civilized. Maybe the Old World has some lessons for us.

When we arrived our daughter and son-in-law picked us up and took us to his parent’s home where we would stay for most of our visit. While Germany did shut down most traditional Christmas festivities, it did allow shopping and eating at restaurants at most locations, along with the normal tourist attractions.

The requirements to participate in these activities mandated a visit to the local pharmacies to show your vaccination card and a valid ID. If you were not vaccinated, you had to show a negative Covid test within the last 24 hours. The availability of testing locations was not an issue. Mobile quick testing sites are readily available, results within 10 minutes. When either criterion was met, you received an EU bar code document that would be shown when entering stores or other public places. Simple isn’t it. No shouting matches, no signs, no protests or counter-protests. No nonsense.

As we were leaving Germany, updated measures in anticipation of the next virus were being put in place, with stricter rules for unvaccinated individuals to help reduce the need to shut down their economy and reduce the danger to the health of friends and neighbors.

The item that was most notable was the attitude of those we encountered. Most were deeply concerned about everyone in their communities and each other. People worked together to address a common problem with the cooperation of villages, towns, and cities and elected national leaders. Cooperation rather than confrontation.

Whenever we talked about our situation in the US, they were quick to point out, from the outside looking in, that Covid had been made a political issue among manipulative politicians to maintain power, misleading the very communities they were elected to protect and serve. The anti-mandate, anti-vax fringe certainly bears this out. What could I say but agree that the misinformation that has been blasted across our county is for the benefit of a minority, a Pied Piper thing, power addicts.

The general attitude of the people we encountered was one of great respect for our country and what we stood for globally. They are hoping that our democracy will survive the upcoming challenges over the next several years. They are very concerned about the divisions they are observing from partisan reporting.

A number stated that their history has been full of similar challenges that the US has been spared over its 250-year history. Unfortunately, the US has also allowed itself to be driven by outside interference that promotes dangerous misinformation to support partisan positions that create division in our country, a divide and conquer scenario. Several pointed out two examples of outrageous misinformation: the Jan 6th insurrection, and the Senator who said that Covid can be stopped by mouthwash. I had no response.

Now, I imagine there will be some who ask why anyone would support a country that is correctly or incorrectly perceived as socialist. What I find is that most people who take this position do not understand that Germany is a democracy with over 28 political parties. They must have a majority of the parties, a coalition, in order to agree on the direction of the country. For some issues, this may offer an even greater opportunity for representation of the diverse interests of the people than a two-party system. Like our system it works. Each has its plusses and minuses. Both democracies.

There is nothing wrong with being ignorant. The definition of ignorance is simply not knowing about a subject or topic. We all own that from time to time. The danger we now face as a community and country are listening to the misinformation of facts about things deliberately intended to divide us. Arrogant ignorance will be the true danger moving forward in our country’s future. Look Up neighbor and see the danger coming. Don’t listen to rabble-rousers. Heed your own good common sense.

Michael Graham
Front Royal


Note: The author’s reference to “Look Up” is from the latest Netflix movie, “Don’t Look Up.”

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Opinion

A New Year’s Resolution

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This year I want to…

Write something worth reading
Read something worth sharing
Say something worth repeating
Give something worth getting
Choose something worth keeping
Sacrifice something worth giving up
Go somewhere worth seeing
Eat something worth tasting
Hug someone worth holding
Buy something worth treasuring
Cry tears worth shedding
Do something worth watching
Risk something worth protecting
Listen to something worth hearing
Teach something worth learning
Be someone worth knowing.

by Kelsey Harris

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Kelsey departed this life in April 2009, at the age of 16, after a long struggle against a malignant brain tumor.

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