bookmark_border“A sad day for America” as mob cheers removal of Confederate statues

For anyone who truly loves art and history, the events that took place this week in Richmond, Virginia have been dismaying and demoralizing. Mayor Levar Stoney used his emergency powers to order the immediate removal of the city’s Confederate statues. Work crews promptly removed a statue of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on Wednesday. Then on Thursday morning, they removed a statue of Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury. There are a total of 11 magnificent statues that the mayor has ordered to be taken down.

Local news station 8News captured a heart-wrenching scene in which a lone individual ran to the Stonewall Jackson statue and stood in front of it, begging the work crews to let it stay. Nearby individuals swarmed around him, and officers led him away. Disgustingly, over the course of the day, thousands of people gathered to chant and cheer as the statue was taken down.

One member of this mob, Mac McLeob, said: “I’m just so proud. Proud that the city of Richmond, which was once the Capital of the Confederacy is now the Capital of Equality and people can be proud to be from this area.”

Another mob member, Jasmine Howell, said that she “literally had chills just watching it.”

Another, Janice Scagnelli, called the removal of the Maury statue “amazing.”

Senator Tim Kaine expressed similar sentiments, tweeting: “I am proud that my hometown is removing these painful symbols. No need to honor those who tried to destroy the USA so they could perpetuate slavery.”

As for the mayor himself, he said at a press conference: “Once we remove the remaining monuments, we can officially say that we were the former capital of the Confederacy.” Earlier in the day, at a city council meeting, he said: “It is time to fully embrace the righteous cause. Time to get rid of racist symbols. Frankly, it’s time to heal.”

Nothing could be further from the truth than these sentiments. I can think of no cause less righteous than the removal of Confederate statues. I can think of nothing less healing and nothing less worthy of pride.

The Confederacy fought against the United States government for the right to form their own country. They were rebels who fought against government overreach and tyranny. This is something that every person should admire and celebrate. Individuals who fought for the Confederacy absolutely deserve to be honored. The anger and hatred that people today demonstrate towards the Confederacy are particularly objectionable because the Confederacy was and is the ultimate underdog. To many people, it is not enough that this small, agricultural country was beaten into submission by the more industrialized and populous United States, its cities burned, its population decimated, and its rights taken away. Apparently, it is also necessary to ban its flag, desecrate the graves of its soldiers, destroy its statues and monuments, and completely obliterate its memory. In today’s United States, displays of admiration for the Union – whether in the form of statues, memorials, flags, or depictions in popular culture – are far more common and accepted in our society than those for the Confederacy. But apparently, when it comes to studying and memorializing the Civil War, even the tiniest amount of diversity cannot be tolerated. This is why those who call for banning the Confederate flag, re-naming things that are named for Confederate leaders, and tearing down Confederate statues, are the true bigots and bullies. Ironically, the Black Lives Matter movement, which claims to be motivated by concerns about diversity and inclusion, is in reality stamping out every last iota of diversity and inclusiveness in America.

In the same press conference at which he announced the removal of the statues, the mayor announced plans for a new school, saying: “This is the sort of monuments moving forward that we want to erect to our children here in the city of Richmond. This is a testament to what we can do when we all work together. Although you all know that we are removing monuments that, I think, exemplify hate, division and oppression, we’re going to build these monuments to opportunity right here. That’s our commitment.”

The mayor also promised to replace the Confederate monuments with “symbols that represent our city.”

These comments completely miss the point. Schools are not a replacement for Confederate statues. Statues are beautiful, amazing, glorious, and magnificent, particularly Confederate statues because of the values of rebelliousness and freedom that they represent. The sight of a statue of a brave leader or warrior from history stirs and inspires the soul. Schools are important, but there is nothing glorious, magnificent, or soul-stirring about them. They are simply a part of a city’s infrastructure. Every city has them. They do nothing to make a city unique or distinctive.

What symbols does the mayor plan to replace the Confederate statues with? No statue, monument, or symbol could be as good, or as fitting for the city of Richmond, as the beautiful Confederate statues that the mayor so cruelly ordered taken down. Being the capital of the Confederacy is part of what makes Richmond unique. The statues on Monument Avenue are essential to the city’s identity, and without them, Richmond is a city that stands for nothing and has no values, no culture, and no heritage. How could anyone think that a city without Confederate statues is better than a city with them?

Andrew Morehead, a spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, called this “a sad day for America.” He also said that his organization is reluctant to publicly protest against the removal of statues because of concerns that the protests could devolve into violence.

If I was asked to comment on this issue, I would not be so restrained. I believe that the removal of any Confederate statue, or any act of violence or vandalism against such a statue, is despicable, and I condemn it in the harshest possible terms. Thanks to the mayor’s order, Richmond has gone from a city filled with beautiful, glorious, and magnificent statues of brave individuals who fought for freedom to… nothing. It is incomprehensible that someone could be happy about this or consider it something to be proud of. Each and every person who cheered as these statues were removed is a bigot and a bully with no soul.

It also says a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement that organizations with dissenting views do not feel physically safe to voice those views publicly.

If Confederate statues do not represent the values of the people of Richmond anymore, then that is a poor reflection on the people of Richmond. It is difficult to think of any positives in this situation, but one tiny positive is that because so many people in Richmond have proven themselves to be intolerant bullies, then the people of Richmond were not worthy of having these magnificent statues. My hope is that the statues can be displayed on private land somewhere where the few people remaining on Earth who still have souls can give them the admiration they deserve.

bookmark_borderGerman soldiers’ graves are part of history and should not be removed

Two members of the House of Representatives have decided to use Memorial Day as an occasion to demand the removal of the graves of three German soldiers from veterans’ cemeteries.

There are two headstones for German soldiers at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas, each of which features a swastika inside a German cross and the phrase, “He died far from his home for the Fuhrer, people, and fatherland.” Another similar headstone is at Fort Douglas Post Cemetery in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) and Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), who lead the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie which read in part:

Allowing these gravestones with symbols and messages of hatred, racism, intolerance, and genocide is especially offensive to all the veterans who risked, and often lost, their lives defending this country and our way of life… a stain on the hallowed ground where so many veterans and their families are laid to rest. Families who visit their loved ones, who are buried in the same cemeteries with the Nazi soldiers whom they fought against, should never have to confront symbols of hatred that are antithetical to our American values… There is no excuse for VA to continue to maintain these headstones.

The gravestones were created before the Veterans Administration assumed responsibility for the two cemeteries, and the VA has left them in place because of a federal law requiring protection of historic resources for the benefit of present and future generations. But Schultz and Carter called the failure to remove them “callous, irresponsible and unacceptable.”

I completely disagree. Unless I am misunderstanding their letter, Schultz and Carter are demanding that headstones for dead soldiers be taken down. That is nothing short of unconscionable.

It is true that the government of Nazi Germany practiced hatred, racism, intolerance, and genocide, as Schultz and Carter point out. But the three soldiers whose graves are in question did not necessarily do any of these things. And even if they did, do Schlutz and Carter believe that any person who is not perfect does not deserve to have a gravestone? I doubt any of the American soldiers buried in these cemeteries was a perfect person; no matter how heroic or honorable, every person has flaws. Not to mention the fact that the U.S. government and way of life are far from perfect as well. Where do Schultz and Carter think the line should be drawn between those who deserve a gravestone and those who do not?

I fail to see the problem with allowing three graves of soldiers from the losing side of a war to exist among thousands of graves of soldiers from the winning side. There is no rule that only graves of soldiers from the winning side of a war should be allowed to exist. There is no right to go through life without ever seeing something that you dislike or disagree with.

To describe the graves of three German soldiers who died far from home as a “stain” on hallowed ground is ridiculous.

Not only is it incorrect for Schultz and Carter to say that there is no excuse for the VA to maintain the gravestones; there are actually two completely valid reasons for the VA to do so. First, as the VA has argued, the gravestones are historical artifacts, and the world would be a worse place without them. Second, removing the gravestones would be incredibly disrespectful to these soldiers who fought bravely for a cause that they believed in. Obviously, their cause is one that the vast majority of people in America and the world today do not believe in. But that does not justify trashing the memory of these soldiers by desecrating their graves.

Ironically, Schultz and Carter are demonstrating hatred and intolerance by calling so vehemently for the removal of these gravestones. To remove the gravestones would truly be callous, irresponsible, and unacceptable.

Every soldier deserves to be remembered, no matter which side he or she fought for.

bookmark_borderNew Virginia laws are the opposite of diversity and inclusion

Last month, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed new laws giving cities and towns the power to remove Confederate monuments and beginning the process of replacing the statue of Robert E. Lee in the U.S. Capitol.

“These laws make Virginia more equitable, just, and inclusive,” he said. “These monuments tell a particular version of history that doesn’t include everyone. In Virginia, that version of history has been given prominence and authority for far too long.”

State Senator Mamie Locke, who sponsored the bill to let cities remove monuments, voiced similar sentiments: “Virginia’s Confederate monuments were erected as symbols of a dangerous Jim Crow era. It is past time we told a more complete story of our history and work to build a Commonwealth that values everyone – no matter who you are.”

Delegate Delores McQuinn, who sponsored the House version of the bill, said, “Today marks an important step towards a more equitable and welcoming Commonwealth. Virginia’s history is difficult and complex, and it is important that we tell the full and true story of our past 400 years. These new laws will make our Commonwealth better.”

And Dr. Janice Underwood, the state’s Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, said “For more than 400 years, we’ve consciously oppressed and celebrated painful parts of Virginia’s past at the expense of those who are haunted by it the most. With these laws we are charting a new path for our Commonwealth – one that begins to tell a more complete story of who we are and honors our diversity as our greatest strength.”

The truth, however, is the exact opposite. The sentiments voiced by these politicians completely ignore the fact that those who admire Confederate leaders are also people, and their views and preferences also matter. Getting rid of Confederate monuments completely disregards the views of those who enjoy these statues and admire the soldiers and leaders whom the statues represent.

There are numerous legitimate reasons to admire Confederate leaders – their bravery, their sense of honor, their military skill, their loyalty to their home states, and the fact that they fought against a powerful federal government, just to name a few. The Confederacy was not merely about slavery, and the statues are not symbols of racism. They are symbols of people from history, who have both positive and negative attributes just like all people do. Lots of people don’t like the Confederacy or its leaders, and that’s fine. They have every right to lobby for the creation of statues of historical figures they do admire. They do not, however, have a right to lobby for the removal of statues they do not like. That is not fair to the people who like these statues and the historical figures they represent.

Unfortunately, the viewpoint that the Confederacy and everyone associated with it was bad, is the popular, politically correct viewpoint today. That does not make it right. To get rid of Confederate statues is to state that the popular, politically correct viewpoint is the only legitimate viewpoint there is. This completely excludes anyone with dissenting views. This is the exact opposite of making Virginia more equitable, just, welcoming, and inclusive. It is the opposite of diversity. It is the opposite of valuing everyone. In short, these laws allowing the removal of Confederate statues do the opposite of what the politicians who sponsored and signed the laws claim. They make Virginia, and America, a worse and less tolerant place.

bookmark_borderNew National Civil War Memorial is exactly what America needs

In Taneytown, Maryland, plans are afoot to possibly build a brand new Civil War memorial. Sculptor and historian Gary Casteel is lobbying to build a timeline of the war  – which he hopes will become America’s first official national Civil War memorial – including 20 sculpted panels, 17 bronze statues, and 32 portraits of various significant people from the war, including Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses Grant, George Meade, and John Wilkes Booth.

It is the inclusion of Booth that has caused some controversy.

Continue reading “New National Civil War Memorial is exactly what America needs”

bookmark_borderRest in peace, Whitey Bulger

On the morning of Tuesday, October 30, 2018, James “Whitey” Bulger’s life came to an abrupt and violent end. The day after being transferred from U.S. Penitentiary Coleman in Florida to U.S. Penitentiary Hazleton in West Virginia, he was murdered by at least two inmates, allegedly including mafia hitman Freddy Geas. The 89 year old Bulger, sitting in his wheelchair, was beaten to death with a padlock wrapped in a sock, leaving him unrecognizable.

Whitey in 1953

Prison officials had given Bulger the option of being placed in protective custody to keep him safe from potential enemies from the organized crime world, but he opted to stay in general population, where conditions were less restrictive.

Bulger’s lawyer, J.W. Carney, said, “I was proud to be appointed by the Federal Court to represent James Bulger. He was sentenced to life in prison, but as a result of decisions by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, that sentence has been changed to the death penalty.”

Whitey in 1984

His other lawyer, Hank Brennan, described how Bulger was looking forward to teaching himself how to walk again after getting out of solitary confinement.

Whitey Bulger and Chris Nilan with the Stanley Cup

Bulger had expressed his wish to be buried next to his love, Catherine Greig, and hoped to live two more years to see her released from prison. Greig stuck with Bulger throughout his life of crime and their years on the lam, receiving a 9-year sentence for helping him evade capture and refusing to testify against him.

Numerous people have expressed indifference, satisfaction, and downright jubilation at Whitey’s death. But I, for one, consider this a sad occasion. Yes, he was one of the most notorious criminals in history and had been convicted of 11 murders and numerous counts of racketeering. But no one deserves the death that Whitey suffered, especially someone too old and frail to be able to defend himself. Whether intentionally or not, someone certainly failed at their job by allowing this to happen.

Whitey was one of a kind, and there will never be another quite like him. Rest in peace.

James Joseph Bulger Jr.

September 3, 1929 – October 30, 2018