Tag Archives: Robert E. Lee

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.

AISD might join important national debate

Amarillo isn’t known as a community to get involved deeply in intense national debates.

So it is with some surprise that I have learned that the Amarillo Independent School District is considering whether to change the name of an elementary school named after a Confederate army general.

Robert E. Lee Elementary School is now in the AISD crosshairs, joining other such public structures that have been targeted in the wake of recent controversy surrounding the a sad and tragic chapter in our nation’s history.

Lee School sits in the middle of a largely African-American neighborhood. We all know, of course, who Robert E. Lee was. For those who don’t, I’ll just explain briefly: He was the commander of Confederate army forces that fought on the losing side of the American Civil War. Oh, and why did the Confederates fight against the United States of America? They wanted to break up the Union.

Those who fought for the Confederacy fought against the United States. By my way of looking at it, the Confederates were traitors. Do we honor them, therefore, by putting their names on public buildings?

So, AISD trustees next week are going to visit with legal counsel to discuss a possible name change. The decision to consider such a thing has met with approval from local NAACP leaders.

AISD building-naming policy follows that new schools are named after the neighborhood they serve. AISD does make some exceptions, such as naming a school in a largely black neighborhood after a man who fought to preserve slavery.

This issue came to a full boil in the wake of the Charlottesville, Va., riot involving white supremacists, Klansmen and neo-Nazis who fought against counter protesters. It’s simmered down somewhat, but a serious national conversation has continued.

It has arrived in Amarillo, Texas.

AISD board president James Austin said he hasn’t yet made up his mind on whether to support a name change. That’s fine. Take your time, Mr. President.

I happen to think a name change is in order. But that’s just me.

ESPN spooked beyond all reason

The executives who run ESPN have been bitten by the bug that gives human beings a case of the heebie-jeebies.

The bite came from that riot that erupted two weekends ago in Charlottesville, Va. Neo-Nazis, Klansmen and assorted white supremacists gathered to march against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park; counter protesters showed up, too, and a clash commenced. A young woman was run down by someone who allegedly has white supremacist sympathies.

How did ESPN react to all of this? It pulled a sportscaster who was scheduled to call a college football game this weekend between the University of Virginia and William & Mary College. Oh, yes, UVa is located in Charlottesville. The sportscaster’s name: Robert Lee.

Good grief, ESPN! Get a grip here.

I consider this to be a serious overreaction. Yes, the issue at hand also is serious. ESPN wants to remove any potential for controversy or conflict. So, it yanked a young man with the name Robert Lee off its broadcast? ESPN issued a statement: “We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name. In that moment it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play by play for a football game has become an issue.”

Please.

I have an option for ESPN to ponder: Refer to him on-air as Bob Lee, or Bobby Lee, or Robby Lee. I suppose I also should mention that Lee is of Asian descent.

I believe ESPN has gotten spooked beyond what is reasonable.

Sen. Corker: POTUS lacks ‘competence’ to lead

Bob Corker has just delivered a seriously sharp rebuke to Donald John Trump Sr.

Why is it important that such a rebuke comes from Corker?

He’s a Republican U.S. senator; he hails from Tennessee, one of the states that seceded from the Union in 1861; he is ostensibly allied with the president on most public policy issues.

The backdrop for Corker’s rebuke gives his statement plenty of gravitas.

The president weighed in on that terrible Charlottesville tragedy over the weekend. He has, in effect, taken up with the white supremacists who provoked the riot that killed a young woman who was among the counter protesters who battled with hate groups that were protesting the taking down of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The nation is being swallowed up by the controversy that has ensued. Democrats, understandably, have been outraged by Trump’s remarks. Many Republicans have spoken out against racial or religious intolerance. Few of them in Congress have singled out the president and ascribed specific blame to him for inflaming the nation’s emotions in the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy.

Corker, though, has laid it out there.

“The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to be successful,” Corker said in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Welcome aboard, Sen. Corker. Many millions of Americans have been saying those very things — and a lot more — about the president. Many of us even said so while he was campaigning for the presidency. A few folks predicted he would govern like a maniac.

Count me as one who now believes that Trump is worse than I feared he would be. I was hoping he might be able to grow into the job of president.

Corker did use the phrase “not yet been able” when discussing Trump’s performance. The word “yet” suggests Corker believes — or hopes — the president will figure it out. I have little faith of that occurring.

Still, Sen. Corker’s rebuke is strong. It also is important.

This is how we remember traitors?

I want to discuss briefly a subject that makes me a bit uncomfortable: Confederate memorials and statues.

It’s been in the news of late. Communities across the land are pondering whether to remove statues commemorating leaders of the movement that ignited the Civil War, tearing the nation in half, killing roughly 600,000 Americans on both sides of that terrible struggle.

And for what purpose? The Confederate states wanted to continue to enslave human beings.

It’s news these days, of course, because of what transpired this weekend in Charlottesville (which has become a form of shorthand for “racism,” “bigotry” and “intolerance”).

I join others who are asking: What other country “honors” those who betray their nation, secede from it and then start the bloodiest war in that nation’s history? Slavery is undoubtedly this nation’s most visible scar. We cannot hide it, push it aside, ignore it. It’s part of our past.

In that context, Confederate descendants say that individuals such as Robert E. Lee, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Jefferson Davis and a whole host of others also are part of our nation’s history. Oh, sure they are. Do we honor them? Do we revere their memory or their legacy? I think not.

My wife and I visited Germany this past September. We stayed with friends in Nuremberg, which has a special place in world history: It was the city where Nazi leaders were put on trial for their crimes against humanity.

One of our friends, a journalist and a highly educated man, told us that Germany has come to grips with Nazis’ role in plunging the world into the bloodiest conflict in its history. There’s a place called the Documentation Center in Nuremberg. It tells the story of the Holocaust and the unthinkable misery that the Nazis brought to Europe and sought to inflict on the rest of the world.

“We don’t hide from it,” our friend said. “We are ashamed of that time.”

But the Germans damn sure don’t honor anyone associated with that period of their nation’s otherwise glorious past. One doesn’t see statues of Hitler, Goebbels, Goering or Himmler in public places.

Perhaps we ought to ponder whether these Confederate “heroes” deserve the same level of scorn.