Tag Archives: Civil War

Yes, on renaming Virginia highway!

Good job, Alexandria (Va.) City Council.

The council has yanked the name of an American traitor off a highway that runs from Arlington to Richmond.

It thoroughfare was formerly known as the Jefferson Davis Highway. Its new name will be the Richmond Highway.

Jefferson Davis, of course, was the president of the Confederate States of America. The CSA decided in 1861 to declare war against the United States of America. Confederate artillery gunners then opened fire on the Union garrison at Fort Sumpter, S.C.

Thus, the Civil War began. It would end four years later with roughly 600,000 men dying on battlefields throughout the North and South.

Jefferson Davis’s complicity in launching that war is beyond dispute. He was a traitor to the nation. Do we honor such individuals? Should we honor them? Of course not! Indeed, a school in Richmond will be renamed in honor of Barack H. Obama, after carrying the name of Confederate Army Gen. (and another traitor) J.E.B. Stuart.

As The Hill reported: There has been a massive push to rename markers and landmarks named after members of the Confederacy following the Charleston shooting and the Charlottesville, Va., white supremacy rally last year.

Accordingly, the Arlington City Council has just struck down one more tribute to an infamous historical figure.

Stars & Stripes vs. Stars & Bars

NOCONA, Texas — It caught our eye as we zipped past along U.S. 82.

Someone was flying two flags on a staff on the north side of the highway: the Stars and Stripes and the Stars and Bars.

Then came the discussion between my wife and me. How can someone fly those two flags, proclaiming allegiance to two disparate symbols? she asked.

Good question. I don’t have a clear answer, because I don’t believe the answer is readily available.

Indeed, the flag at the top of the flag pole — Old Glory — represents the United States of America. All 50 of them these days. The national flag symbolizes a unity of spirit, a common purpose, a sense of oneness. It is meant to provide a beacon of hope to those who aspire to live in the land that is a beacon of freedom and individual liberty.

As for the second flag on that pole, to me it represents something quite different. The Stars and Bars symbolizes the Confederate States of America. In 1861, those 13 states withdrew from the United States of America. Then Confederate fighting men launched an artillery barrage against the Union garrison in Charleston, S.C., harbor.

The Civil War was on. It killed roughly 600,000 Americans, making it the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history.

The soldiers and sailors who fought under that Confederate flag fought to preserve human enslavement. They sought to topple the United States of America. They fought against the Union. They wanted to create a separate nation, one that allowed states to determine who is entitled to the full fruits of citizenship and who should be kept as slaves.

I get that Texas was one of those states that sent troops to fight against the United States. I do not know what’s in the heart of the family is displaying those two flags just east of Nocona, a community known as a place that produces world-class cowboy boots.

We just were taken aback — perhaps for the first time in our lives — at the sight of two flags flying from the same staff. We just wondered how one can fly two symbols that stand for diametrically opposite principles.

What happened to Lincoln’s political party?

Two hundred nine years ago, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln welcomed a little boy into their lives. Little Abraham came into the world and went on to become the 16th president of the United States of America.

I thought I would take a brief look on Little Abe’s birthday to ponder the question that has befuddled many of us today: What has become of the Party of Lincoln?

President Lincoln was elected in 1860 and re-elected in 1864. The Civil War darkened his presidency. He vowed to preserve the Union, which split apart when the Confederate States of America went to war with the United States of America.

The Party of Lincoln became known as the party that sought equality for all Americans. It strove for unity. It became the party that fought against the enslavement of black Americans. President Lincoln embodied that righteous cause.

A century after the end of the Civil War, another president — Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas — fought to enact the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. He needed congressional Republicans to counteract the resistance he was getting from his fellow Southern Democrats who opposed both landmark pieces of legislation.

In the 50 years since LBJ’s time, the parties’ roles have reversed. Johnson predicted that the civil rights legislation would cost Democrats the South — and it has. Republicans now are the dominant party south of the Mason-Dixon Line and the GOP — not the Democrats — is now perceived by many to be the party of those opposed to the cause of civil rights.

One of the more stunning examples of that role reversal arguably occurred this past year when the current president, Republican Donald J. Trump, proclaimed that there was blame to go around on “many sides” in the riot that erupted in Charlottesville, Va. White supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen rioted to protest the taking down of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The president’s response was breathtaking when he said there were “many fine people — on both sides” of the dispute. Yes, the president called Klansmen, Nazis and white supremacists “fine people.”

The Republican Party once branded itself as the Party of Lincoln, largely on its history of seeking equality for all Americans and for its intolerance of racial hatred.

Wherever he is, President Lincoln is an  unhappy man.

If only we could bring Honest Abe back from the great beyond to scold his political descendants on the degradation they have heaped on the party that once bore his name.

Can this school board revisit a tough issue?

I haven’t seen every scrap of social media chatter bouncing around Amarillo, Texas during the past couple of days.

What I have seen regarding an Amarillo Independent School District board non-decision has been — shall we say — less than flattering toward most of the board members.

The AISD board voted 4-3 the other night to “change” the name of Robert E.  Lee Elementary School to Lee Elementary School.

I believe Amarillo has just witnessed the unveiling of a profile in timidity, if not outright cowardice.

The school in question sits smack in the middle of a community that serves a significant population of African-Americans. Children attend a school that is named after a man — Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — who led a military effort to defeat the United States in a war that began over whether states could allow the ownership of slaves.

Gen. Lee’s name has been in the news of late. Communities have sought to remove statues commemorating this man who I and others consider to be a traitor to the United States of America. They rioted in Virginia because white supremacists, KKK’men and neo-Nazis protested attempts to remove a Robert E. Lee statue from a public park; the riot killed a young woman and injured scores of others. Moreover, it prompted an intense national discussion about how we commemorate the Confederate States of America.

AISD board members agreed to discuss and consider changing the name of the school. Then they choked. They fumbled. They missed their chance to send a powerful statement that this community would take a proactive step that removes the name of a national enemy from one of its public buildings.

“Lee Elementary” does not do a single thing to promote that notion.

So … here’s a thought. The AISD board represents a constituency that appears to oppose the non-decision the board made on the naming of a public school.

Perhaps the AISD board members can reflect just a bit on the nutty notion they thought would eliminate a community controversy.

This so-called “name change” didn’t do anything of the kind.

There’s not a single thing wrong with acknowledging a mistake, AISD trustees. Nor is there anything wrong with taking measures to repairing it.

AISD chokes when given a chance to make a big statement

I had high hope that Amarillo’s elected school board of trustees would do the right thing when it decided to consider changing the name of one of their elementary schools.

Then a slim majority of the board dashed my hope. Sigh!

The Amarillo Independent School District board voted 4-3 to alter the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School to, um, Lee Elementary School.

There had been considerable community chatter about a school that serves a large African-American student base carrying the name of a Confederate army general who led forces seeking to allow states to retain the enslavement of human beings.

Many of those voices came to the school board meeting Monday night to be heard. They spoke out. A large majority of the voices gathered in a packed AISD administration building meeting room spoke against “Robert E. Lee Elementary School.”

The non-decision by the AISD board is disappointing. It borders on shameful.

Trustee James Allen — the lone African-American on the board — had pitched a perfectly reasonable option: Change the name to Park Hills Elementary School, which would be consistent with AISD’s current building-naming policy of identifying schools with the community they serve.

Did the board follow Allen’s lead? Nope. They wanted to “compromise” by dropping the Confederate traitor, er, general’s first name and middle initial from the building’s name.

As if that would wipe away the connection between a local school and the darkest, bloodiest period in our nation’s history? Please.

The national discussion about these name changes had found its way to Amarillo. I hoped our community’s elected school board would take up the cudgel and declare that it, too, would stand on the right side of history.

Sadly, AISD did nothing of the sort. Its board choked.

I’m out!

This is proactive leadership? Hardly

Amarillo’s public school system governing board had a chance to do something courageous. Instead, in a 4-3 vote, it decided Monday night to take a significantly more timid path.

I’m still shaking my head in amazement.

The Amarillo Independent School District decided to remove “Robert E.” from the name of a school that carries the name of a Confederate States of America army general. Beginning with the 2018-19, the school formerly known as Robert E. Lee Elementary School will be known as Lee Elementary.

There. How does that go down?

AISD had decided to consider changing the name of the school in the wake of serious national discussion about whether Confederate figures should be memorialized at all. It all came to a nasty head this past summer in Charlottesville, Va., when white supremacists, Ku Klux Klansmen and neo-Nazis instigated a tragic riot when officials there wanted to remove a statue of Gen. Lee from a public park.

The debate found its way to Amarillo, where the school district is home to a school named after the same general. That school sits in the middle of a neighborhood comprising a significant African-American population.

Why the question? Well, Gen. Lee led an army against the United States of America during the Civil War. He fought to protect states’ right to allow the enslavement of human beings, who — I need to stipulate — were black Americans.

I favor removing Lee’s name from that public school building altogether. An AISD board majority feels differently.

Here is what Panhandle PBS posted on its Facebook page about AISD’s bizarre “compromise”:

Learn Here: Amarillo ISD’s board has voted 4-3 to drop “Robert E.” from the name to just Lee Elementary. Board members Jim Austin, Scott Flow, Cristy Wilkinson, and Renee McCown voted in favor of the partial name change, which was viewed as a “compromise” idea during the months of discussion. The motion was made by Cristy Wilkinson, and the change will go into effect in the 2018-2019 school year. Scott Flow seconded the motion.

James Allen, John Betancourt, and John Ben Blanchard voted against, wanting a complete name change after the surrounding neighborhood, Park Hills.

The vote came after an hour of public comment during which 25 people spoke on the issue, with only six in favor of keeping the name.

I am puzzled by this non-decision. How in the world does keeping the “Lee” on the building address the concerns of those who believe it somehow honors the name of a man who fought to destroy the United States — for the purpose of keeping human beings in bondage?

Did the slim school board majority conclude that hiding the full name of an enemy of the Union would somehow make it disappear all by itself?

I believe the AISD board of trustees has made a mistake.

Amarillo school may get an ID change

Amarillo public school officials are about to jump with both feet into a national debate over the naming of public buildings after Confederate icons.

At issue is the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School, which sits in the midst of the city’s African-American community.

Amarillo Independent School District trustees are going to discuss on Monday whether to change the name of the school.

My own preference? Change the name.

This entire Confederate name-change discussion erupted in the wake of that riot in Charlottesville, Va., when counter protesters clashed with white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen who gathered to protest the taking down of a statute of Gen. Lee.

The Amarillo NAACP chapter favors changing the name. No surprise there. NAACP chapter president Floyd Anthony says Gen. Lee’s name on a public building that serves a hugely African-American student body — and their parents — is a slap in the face to those residents.

He makes a good point.

Gen. Lee led the Confederate States of America army that fought against the United States of America. They committed an act of treason by seceding from the Union. Why did they secede? They fought to something called “states’ rights,” which was code for allowing states to continuing the enslavement of human beings.

They were black human beings.

The war killed 600,000 people. It was the bloodiest conflict in our nation’s history.

More than 150 years later, the vestiges of that war remain with these public monuments to the men who stood foursquare against the Union.

And spare me the “heritage” argument. The Confederate battle flag has become the very symbol of hate groups such as the KKK. Do we want to honor the Klan? I think not.

To the Amarillo ISD board members, I wish them good luck as they ponder their potentially huge decision.

I hope it’s the correct one.

That did it! Moore equates ‘slavery’ with U.S. ‘greatness’

Roy Moore shouldn’t have said it. But he did. Now it’s out there.

The controversial Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama fielded a question earlier this year about American greatness. Someone asked Moore when he thought this country was truly great. He said:

“I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another … our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

Even though we had slavery? Is this fellow suggesting that slavery was part of the formula for greatness?

Moore does it again

Why in the name of rhetorical clumsiness did he have to add that qualifier?

As I look at his statement, the candidate — who’s also been accused of sexual misconduct with children — could have omitted the slavery reference altogether. He didn’t. He tossed it out there.

From my standpoint, the notion that this nation would allow the level of human bondage and captivity that it did prior to the Civil War is a mark of supreme condemnation. It never — ever! — should be included in a discussion of American “greatness.”

American greatness effectively began when African-Americans were emancipated, freed from the hideous bondage of slavery.

This is yet another reason why Alabama voters should reject this man’s candidacy for an important public office.

Oh, Gen. Kelly, you are beginning to disappoint

John Kelly took command of the White House staff amid great expectations that he’d continue to earn the respect he deserved as a decorated Marine Corps officer — and a Gold Star father.

This week, Gen. Kelly knocked himself down a few pegs in my estimation. For what purpose? To declare that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was an “honorable man” who fought on behalf of his state during the Civil War.

No! No! No! Gen. Kelly, he fought against the United States of America. Gen. Lee wanted to preserve slavery. He wanted to keep human beings in bondage. He wanted to maintain a federal policy that said slaves were three-fifths human.

How can that be honorable? Moreover, Gen. Kelly, how can you suggest with a straight face that a “failure to find compromise” was the reason the nation tore itself in two, killing 600,000 Americans on both sides of the Civil War?

No, sir. Slavery could not be compromised. It was an evil chapter of American history. It needed to be wiped out, eradicated. The Civil War commenced because the Confederacy was unwilling to surrender to demands to end the enslavement of human beings.

Reaction is swift

The Congressional Black Caucus, understandably, has been quick to challenge Kelly’s assertions about the cause of the Civil War. Kelly critics have suggested he needs to re-read some historical accounts of what drove the nation into this horrible, bloody conflict.

I so had hoped Kelly would be the right tonic for the White House operational mixture that boiled and simmered under Reince Priebus’s tenure as chief of staff.

I heard someone say a few weeks ago that Donald J. Trump has the rare skill of making everyone around worse than they were before they joined him. I fear he might be having that kind of impact on Gen. John Kelly.

Sad, eh?

Glad to see Confederate debate arrive

I am delighted to see that Amarillo, Texas — my current city of residence — has entered a serious debate that many other communities have already joined.

How do we remember those who fought for the Confederate States of America? Should we remember them? Should we forsake them?

This is an important discussion that erupted in August as a riot ensued in Charlottesville, Va. White supremacists, Klansmen and neo-Nazis marched to protest a plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park. Counter protesters emerged to challenge the first group. A young woman was killed when she was run over by a car allegedly driven by a young man with white supremacists sympathies.

The debate hasn’t really let up since.

Now it’s arrived in Amarillo. On Monday, the Amarillo public school system is going to discuss whether to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary School. The Robert E. Lee school situation presents an amazing irony, given that the school is located in a historically black neighborhood. Think of that for a moment: That school is named to honor a man who fought to destroy the United States. And for what purpose? To preserve the enslavement of black Americans!

There’s more discussion about the status of a Confederate soldier statue at Ellwood Park.

A pro-Confederate advocate is urging the City Council to “leave history alone.”

I come at this from a different angle. I am a transplant who chose to move to Amarillo in early 1995. My wife and I came here from Beaumont, Texas, where we lived for nearly 11 years prior to moving to the Panhandle. Indeed, we have witnessed our fair share of racial strife since we moved to Texas in 1984 from Oregon, where I was born and where my wife lived for many years.

Do we honor traitors?

I see the Confederacy as an aftertaste of the nation’s bloodiest armed conflict. The Civil War killed more than 600,000 Americans. Why did they fight? The Confederacy came into being as a protest against federal policy that the Confederate States believed interfered with their own right of self-determination.

Let’s not be coy about what those states wanted to preserve: One of their goals was to maintain slavery.

They separated from the United States of America and then went to war. Where I come from, I consider that an act of treason.

Is that the history we want to preserve? Is that what we honor?

I don’t have any particular concern about those who plaster Confederate flags on their bumpers or fly the Stars and Bars from their car radio antennae. That’s their call. Do I question why they do these things? Sure, but I don’t obsess over it.

Putting these symbols, though, on public property — be they parks or public schools — is another matter.

Preserving and honoring history is fine. I’m all for it. The Civil War, though, represents a dark and grim chapter in our nation’s history that should be remembered, studied and discussed. But do we honor that time? That’s why we have historical museums. We’ve got a damn fine historical museum in Canyon, at the West Texas A&M University campus.

So, let’s have this discussion in Amarillo about the Confederacy. Keep it civil and high-minded.