Friday, August 18, 2017

Following Robert E. Lee's Prophecy

Following Robert E. Lee’s Prophecy
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
August 18, 2017

Virginia Nazis. I hate Virginia Nazis!

With appreciation to Dan Ackroyd and the late John Belushi, the reprehensible activities of Saturday August 12 at Emancipation Park were vividly reminiscent of the scene in The Blues Brothers where the pair drove their car through a crowd of marching neo-Nazis sending them flying into a creek to the cheers of the protesting crowd.

With apologies to the memory of Heather Heyer, 32, of Virginia, there was nothing remotely amusing about the horrific events of Saturday August 12 in Charlottesville, VA leading to the death of this innocent American woman. Heyer worked as a paralegal for the Miller Law Group in Charlottesville. May her memory be for a Blessing.

The events of August 12, indelibly seared into the consciousness of the nation, have spawned thoughts heading in different, if not divergent, directions. What led to the breakdown of civilized behavior in Charlottesville? How did President Trump respond? How the media unnecessarily turned Trump’s words into the story. The follow up behavior in Durham, NC and Washington, DC that have opened up centuries old wounds that demand addressing. That the United States is still a nation of law and order.

Amazingly, and according to FOX News, the latest cover photo on Heyer’s Facebook page read, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

Victim and perpetrator could not be more different according to those who knew and know them. Often brought to tears over the suffering of others - including strangers, according to those who worked with Heyer, she would take to social media to express her outrage. Learning about the protest organized  by white supremacists regarding the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue, Heyer, a longtime Charlottesville resident, joined the counter-protest.

On the other hand, there is James Alex Fields, Jr, 20, accused of intentionally slamming his car through the throng, killing Heyer and injuring nearly an additional two dozen counter-protesters. According to former high school teachers, Fields was obsessed with Hitler and the Nazis. “Once you talked to James for a while, you would start to see that sympathy toward Nazism, that idolization of Hitler, that belief in white supremacy,” said Derek Weimer, Fields’ high school history teacher, according to the Associated Press. Two years ago, Fields flunked out of basic training in the United States Army and has even been accused of beating his own mother on more than one occasion.

Held sans bail, Fields faces one count of second degree murder and numerous counts of malicious wounding on what should have been a day of peaceful assemblage and non-violent protesting.

The day’s activity, a “Unite the Right” rally centered around the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee (January 19, 1807 - October 12, 1870), a lifelong Virginian, who graduated second in his class in 1829 from the United States Military Academy at West Point. It was during the Mexican-American War (April 1846 - February 1848) that Lee met and worked with Ulysses S. Grant, the future Commanding General of the Union forces. For three years, 1852-1854, Lee served as Superintendent of West Point. On the eve of the War Between the States, although offered a high ranking commission with the Union Army, Lee remained loyal to his home Commonwealth of Virginia and joined the Confederacy.

The removal of the statue (still standing as of August 18) of Lee brought out roughly 1,000 protesters, with permits to march and assemble, encompassing white supremacists, KKK members, neo-Nazis, and a plethora of garden variety racists. If only they knew their American history. While these imbeciles had every right to march and protest the removal of the Lee statue, they lacked the knowledge of how Lee himself felt about such ostentatious showings.

In fact, based upon his own writings, Lee “was not a fan of statues honoring Civil War generals, fearing they might ‘keep open the sores of war,’” according to CNN.

“It’s often forgotten that Lee himself, after the Civil War, opposed monuments, specifically Confederate war monuments,” said a Lee biographer Jonathan Horn (no relation, as far as I know).

While Fields is currently the only suspect in custody, a wide net is being cast in determining who else participated in the violence that left one dead and nearly two dozen injured.

Outnumbering the white supremacists, et al, was a group of counter-protesters, lacking a permit to march, but doing so peacefully - for the most part. On the other hand, a third group calling themselves the Antifa - a far left, so-called anti-fascist organization using radical, violent, and militant tactics, engaged with the neo-Nazis, et al, leading to the outbreak of a scene befitting downtown Beirut or a European house of parliament.

“The Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly car attack that killed one innocent American. Anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable,” said President Donald Trump. The investigation includes potential charges of domestic terrorism - which should be a no-brainer.

“What we saw when that young man drove the car in a crowd of people - that was domestic terrorism. That was grotesque. I’m glad the Department of Justice answered my call and the calls of many others to investigate that, and I believe to prosecute it as domestic terrorism because nobody has a right to inflict their hateful views through violence and murder on us,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).

“This was an act of evil that will not be tolerated in the United States,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“What happened in Charlottesville was a tragedy. It did not represent that community, and it didn’t represent the United States. Dangerous fringe groups have no place in America, and we condemn them,” said Vice President Mike Pence. “We will not tolerate hatred and violence of groups like white supremacists, the KKK, and neo-Nazis. These extremist groups have no place in the American debate,” Pence added.

Practically overshadowing the heinous actions in Charlottesville has been the focus on the words of President Trump. Not always the most crafty of wordsmiths, Trump’s words were all over the political landscape, although this most certainly is not a political issue, but in fact, a human issue. After all, politics and humanity don’t often mesh.

Misguided as they might have been on the surface, Trump preferred to be the anti-Obama regarding making snap statements, parts or all of which would later need be detracted. And Trump even had one of those such comments when he said, “there were people who were very fine on both sides.” Clearly there was no such animal on the side of the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and KKK, and Trump erred vociferously in saying as much. Especially when such thugs were seen carrying tiki torches. What - no pitchforks?

However, while there is no moral equivalence, Trump was correct when he said “I think there’s blame on both sides.” People showing up to a supposedly peaceful march, protest, or rally clad in armor or military regalia are clearly not there to abide by the First Amendment, but instead looking for a physical confrontation. Both the white supremacists and their ilk as well as the Antifa prepared for battle - and that is simply unacceptable. Unfortunately, caught in the middle were those counter-protesters whose purpose was peaceful objection to the march of the white supremacists, and the even more unfortunate Heather Heyer.

“I wanted to make sure that what I said was correct,” said Trump regarding his initial remarks. “Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are animals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America. In times such as these America has always shown its true character responding to hate with love, division with unity, and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice,” said Trump in a strong, presidential speech on Monday, August 14.

Not to be forgotten, are the two Virginia police officers whose chopper crashed near the Charlottesville rally site as they were monitoring the violent demonstration from above. Killed were Lt. H. Jay Cullen, Jr., 48, leaving a wife and two sons; and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, one day shy of his 41st birthday, leaving a wife and one daughter.

“Deepest condolences to the families and fellow officers of the Virginia State Police who died today. You’re all among the best this nation produces,” tweeted Trump.

However, Trump then swung the verbal pendulum from the presidential to the hyperbolic, when addressing the removal of the statue of General Lee. “This week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” Trump asked hyperbolically, surely knowing the difference between the Founding Fathers who lived within the context of their time versus the Confederate generals and soldiers fighting for a cause that divided a nation.

Regardless of Trump’s words, they would either not be strong enough, or they would be too strong, for those who oppose him - he has, as has been the case since his inauguration, been in a no-win situation with both his opposition as well as the media, who, once again, attempted to inject themselves in the story.

As has oft been the case in increasing fashion since Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovered the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, the so-called mainstream media, in its zeal to become the next Woodward or Bernstein ingratiates itself into a supposed hard news story offering personal commentary where it is professionally unwelcome. If a news reporter wishes to opine, become an editorial writer. This attitude displayed itself following the destruction of a confederate soldier statue in Durham, NC.

Takiya Thompson, 22, a student at North Carolina Central University, scaled a statue of a Confederate soldier via a ladder, wrapped a strap around and felled the monument to the delight and cheers of an approving crowd, ultimately finding herself arrested - and rightfully so.

That members of the media applauded the lawbreaking, vandalism, and desecration demonstrates their inability to objectively perform their duties or reporting the news in as unbiased a fashion as possible. The same is true when covering President Trump - it is not their place to either criticize or capitulate with Trump, or any political figure they may be covering for their news outlet.

But insofar as Thompson goes, her arrest is exactly what needed to happen. The destruction of property, public or private is unacceptable in a society of law and order. There is an appropriate manner in which to express displeasure and disgust with a statue or monument one finds offensive. Petition the state government, get press coverage, and force the issue in the public forum.

“That statue glorifies the conditions that oppressed people live in, and it had to go,” said Thompson of her vigilante actions. From a legal standpoint, Thompson, and any others who are identified by the ample video footage, should be charged, convicted, and made to serve jail time and make financial restitution for their actions - the law is still the law, in spite of a comment made by a member of Durham’s law enforcement community.

“Ground rules need to be set,” said Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews following the destruction of the Durham statue. Ground rules? Hey, sheriff, how about obeying the law! How about informing the miscreants who destroy public property that there are other ways to accomplish the goal of statue removal. Remember, this is not a race issue, this is a law and order issue.

While I absolutely disagree with Thompson’s methods (criminal) and message (the statue cannot oppress anyone), the use of the word glorify is poignant. Since when does the United States glorify the losing side of a war, i.e. the Confederacy? While the Confederate troops were repatriated and granted veteran status, there are many who view them as traitors against the Stars and Stripes and should not be honored. Forgotten? No; but not honored. See below on education.

As of Wednesday, August 16, three additional people, as well as Thompson, face charges “of two felonies relating to inciting and participating in a riot that damaged property,” according to FOX News. The three are Peter Gilbert, 39, Dante Strobino, 35, and Ngoc Loan Tran, 24. All four should receive as stringent a penalty as possible. A message must be sent that wanton and malicious destruction of property is still illegal - whether a Confederate statue, the Lincoln Memorial, or any monument not belonging to the criminal destroying it.

Graffiti, in the form of the words “f*ck law” in red paint were emblazoned onto the Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday. These actions are simply unacceptable in decent, civilized society, unless ours going the way of the Nazis, Taliban, and ISIS - first the statues, then the burning of books, then the destruction of schools and houses of worship, finalized by the slaughter of those with whom we disagree. They can tear down statues, but they can not erase or whitewash the history - a history that must be taught in order to learn from the egregious mistakes of the past, and celebrate the victories that make the United States the greatest country on G-d’s earth - in spite of her occasional failings.

On the other hand, from an emotional standpoint, I understand the salt in the wounds created by such a statue. I would no more want to see an SS/Nazi soldier glorified in stone or bronze in a public square or courthouse grounds than those emotionally affected by the Confederate statue.

There is a right way and a wrong way in handling these matters. Clearly the wrong way has been evidenced for far too long. If only the perpetrators of such acts knew their United States Constitution. Hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, violence and the incitement thereof is not protected. This is true for those who brought down the Confederate soldier in Durham, as well as the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Antifa in Charlottesville.

Charlottesville may take down the statue of Robert E. Lee. Since the uprising in the home of Jefferson’s University of Virginia, Gainesville and Jacksonville, FL, Lexington and Louisville, KY, Nashville, TN, and Baltimore, MD are also taking similar steps to remove Confederate statues. In fact, as per a city council edict, a city council that is 100 percent Democrat, and has been since 1939, Baltimore removed four statues in the dead of night earlier in the week, supported by Republican Governor Larry Hogan. (Baltimore is a master of overnight removals - just ask Colts football fans.) This is not a political issue.

Gather the statues, the monuments, the memorials and relocate them to museums throughout the South. This includes removing the statues of Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis (June 3, 1808 - December 6, 1889) and the 10 other Confederates from the National Statuary Hall Collection in the Capitol Building. Each state of the former Confederacy should enlist its Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy to raise the funds for such museums, thus no government money would be expended and only those wishing to contribute would do so. Far left censorship is not the answer. Violence from anyone is also not the answer.

History is just that - the story of man, and it must be told. Never eviscerate history from the records - the good, the bad, and the ugly must never be swept into the dustbin of anonymity. To suggest otherwise would dub me a hypocrite as a longtime teacher of American history and government.

Ironically, Robert E. Lee even supported the removal of the Confederate flag in the post-war era - even from flying over Washington College in Lexington, VA where he was president from 1865 until his death in 1870. Shortly after his death, the trustees added Lee’s name to the school, which today is Washington and Lee University. Lee did not want divisive symbols following him to the grave, nor was he buried in his uniform. Lee was worried that “keeping those symbols alive, would keep the divisions alive,” wrote Horn in his Lee biography.

Today, 152 years following the Civil War’s bloody conclusion, sadly, Lee’s prophecy continues to ring true. Time to heed and honor the vanquished general’s wishes.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He lived in Virginia for a dozen years.

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