28 May 2013

Removing The Ancient Landmark

"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set." ~ Proverbs 22:28

While that particular verse has a very practical application - being honest and not changing property boundaries - it also has a "spiritual" application as well: that of remembrance. With some of the recent discussion about renaming military bases named after Confederate officers, I thought this article was both timely and troubling:

Around the country, war memorials are fallling apart while funds that could be used to repair them are spent on more contemporary and "meaningful" matters.

For example, according to Newsmax, in Greensboro, NC, where the decades-old memorial to soldiers of WWI is crumbling, University of North Carolina-Greensboro professor David Wharton fears the funds needed to repair the structure will be hard to secure. He thinks that because "the war was a long time ago," the memorial isn't "meaningful for most people" anymore. It seems Wharton's concern is well-founded. In Honolulu, Hawaii, officials are thinking about bulldozing a faltering WWI memorial in order to replace it with a beach.
This begs the question: Why aren't these memorials "meaningful for most people"? Could it be because, for "most people", days like Memorial Day and Independence Day have been turned into little more than opportunities for self-indulgence, partying, and vacations? Could part of the blame be assigned to the ruling class elites who, for the most part, depsise our foundings and who use these "days of remembrance" as convenient and annual opportunities for American Exceptionalism bashing and for narcissistic morality plays about previous generations?

This points to a moral failing - not of past generations as some in academia like to focus on  - but to OUR generation; a moral failing to instill in "most people" respect, honor, and admiration for those who have gone before us and sacrificed so that we could enjoy better lives.

In addition to the reasons noted above, could we as a nation, after more than a decade on a "war-footing", be growing weary of all the memorials and honoring of veterans? Fellow blogger Robert Moore sent me an email earlier today alerting me to the fact that our local public schools here in Augusta County, Virginia were in session yesterday to make up for snow days. What kind of message is that sending to students? 

Yesterday I, along with members of my family - children, grandchildren, and sons-in-law - visited the graves of some of our own fathers and grandfathers. There we placed flags, thought in silence, and shared memories of what these men had done and their sacrifices. We do this every year at Memorial Day and, sometimes, Veteran's Day. Sure, we enjoy hot dogs and cookouts as well, but we want those days to mean so much more. Sadly, I think our nation is slowly letting some of these memories slip away. This does not speak well of us.

Note: The photo shown here was taken by historian Robert Moore. This monument sits in Riverview Cemetery (Waynesboro, VA) and overlooks part of the area on which the Battle of Waynesboro occurred in March of 1865. I have ancestors buried in Riverview and spent many happy childhood days exploring that whole area.


Robert Moore said...


A couple of points, if I may...

First, the article about the renaming of American military bases... pure bunk. A "child" was in need of some attention. He got more than he merits, in my opinion. It's obvious he has no grasp of a great deal. This leads into a blog post that I've been meaning to write, but just haven't had the time to do so. I'll not give away the details of that, but, the very thought of renaming anything, or taking down anything... always begs the question... "what next". If bases named for Confederate generals are renamed, shall we next see sharp criticisms of others for whom bases have been named, because of an aspect that is particularly unsavory to someone else? It's nonsense.

The monument maintenance issue is something that goes back further, I'm afraid. I think there have been examples of localities being rather ignorant or unaware of what was necessary on a regular basis. I also know of instances where bad maintenance practices (meaning well, but doing more harm than good) actually created larger issues.

Lastly, this matter of Memorial Day tips the scales, in my opinion... especially when it comes to public schools (and, though they have that "right", I don't look favorably on private schools for doing what they did). You are absolutely right. By sending kids to public schools on Memorial Day, what kind of message is being sent? Frankly, it devalues the day and disrespects the people for whom the day was made. I guess that it won't do that much harm and is ok... to use it as a snow make-up day. They do it once without the appropriate feedback, they'll do it again, and over time... well, we know how this goes. I'm absolutely sick over it. I'm very curious to see what sort of reaction, if any, comes from it from "old Augusta"... my home for more than ten years. At a minimum, I hope the veteran groups pounce and pounce hard.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yes, even my nemesis ☺ Kevin Levin saw through the real intent of the renaming the military bases piece.

I've informed a local news outlet about the local schools. Whether they report on it is yet to be seen. It truly is a sad thing and, like you, I believe it's a matter of priorities. Very troubling in my mind. Thanks for the great comment.

Robert Moore said...

Also, (as you might imagine) the matter of that World War I monument caught my attention... and is in alignment with my theories on remembering the First World War. Though the US wasn't involved in WW1 to the scale and length of time that it was in WW2 (and, maybe, in part because of that...), it has been hugely eclipsed by remembrance of WW2. I think David Wharton's comments are spot on. Not only are we so far removed from the war, it stands in the shadow of a larger, later one. That said, however, at least we got our senses about us, to some degree, and didn't bury the WW2 vets in the folds of time before they disappeared altogether.

I still think we failed in giving our last respects to our last American WW1 vet, Frank Buckles.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yes, I thought that would catch your attention. The one positive thing I see going on is the increased interest in ancestry and heritage - thanks largely to commercial efforts like Ancestry.com, etc. That adds an additional reason to be interested and aware.

Thanks for the comment.

Jubilo said...

Dear Old Dom.,
We no longer have the Victorian rites of mourning and thus anything to do with death is ignored or dealt with quickly as if it never happened.
The continued influx of modern immigrants feel they have no interest/attachment to American Heritage/Tradition- America as a hotel syndrome.
Much of society eschews anything military .
Statues: always problematical but apparently never out of style. What was it the Bible said abut graven images?
Complex issues!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hey David - excellent observations. Most immigrants in prior generations wanted to assimilate due, in part, to our culture of teaching pride in and honoring our Nation's history - it was something one would WANT to be associated with. That is no longer the case thanks, in large measure, to academia's constant incessant focus on our "national sin" as "oppressors" - but oppressors with lots of "benefits." ☺

I know that is not true in all cases, but in many, this is undeniable. I would distinguish monuments and memorials from "graven images." Memorials are biblical:

"Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever." - Joshua 4:7

Thanks for commenting and reading!