29 June 2015

American History & The Left

I have purposely refrained commenting on the recent uproar over the Confederate flag and related events. I felt, and still do, that I should wait until the funerals and memorial services were over before posting any detailed response. Beside, events were happening so fast, I also wanted to take a wait and see approach. I am busy with something else right now, but will be posting something soon. I will give you a hint: the hypocrisy and cowardice coming from " professional" historians and politicians is  incredibly disappointing but, not all that surprising.

26 June 2015

Homeschooler Appointed To Texas Education Board

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has "named a new chairperson to the State Board of Education who has never sent her own children to a public school." 

Donna Bahorich is a Christian homeschooling Mom. This is great news! With the tremendous success of homeschooling, and parents often providing a superior education at a much lower cost, getting some fresh input, ideas and perspective is a positive move. 

Before you object to someone who's never had their own kids in public schools, let's not forget that federal and state legislators regularly pass laws impacting public education while having their own children in private schooling. So, if you object to Abbott's move, you'll need to bring another argument. If you don't have another one, but still object, then check your biases.

18 June 2015

Weep With Them That Weep

Charleston, South Carolina
 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. ~ Romans 12:15

I'm sure readers have, by now, been made aware of the tragedy at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. This type of thing is something that many Christians have thought about in recent years - for a whole host of reasons. While the vast majority of churches welcome strangers from all backgrounds, there is often a nagging (and unwelcome) fear of something like this happening. I've often struggled with the competing emotions of being very glad to see a newcomer in the church and the (more often than not) irrational fear that the person might mean harm.

I cannot fathom the horror and fear of something like this actually happening when a church should be the most peaceful and safest of all locations for families to gather, worship and pray. It is beyond horrible. This church, with trust and acceptance, lovingly opened its arms to a stranger and, in return, he murders 9 of its members. Words do not exist to adequately describe the evil of such an act.

Yet I cannot believe that this reflects the spirit and feelings that the vast majority of South Carolinians have toward African-Americans or any other group. As a matter of fact the state's junior senator, Tim Scott, is an African-American and hails from North Charleston. To make any sweeping and damning generalizations about this event and the people of South Carolina is, in my opinion, irresponsible.

As usual, there are those who will (and already have) use this tragedy to fan flames and to advance their own agenda and political *causes. All I will say about this tragedy is that I hope the guilty person pays the ultimate price for his crime. I believe he deserves the death penalty. I know I should respond like this Christian brother did but, for right now, that's difficult for me. I'm finding more satisfaction in these words:

It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. ~ Luke 17:2
Beyond that, all I can do is think of the victims and their families, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and weep. May our God bring peace and comfort to your hearts during this time.

*I would suggest that if we're looking for a common theme or "cause" in these mass shootings, we look at the fact that a very high percentage of these shooters are on psychiatric drugs, which have been reported to be linked to violent behavior. Whatever other evil motives or hatred these individuals may have in their hearts (and all of them are different), one would think that these drugs (and the companies that manufacture them) would be garnering more attention. 

My Hometown & Gone With the Wind

I spent many a Saturday afternoon at this theater while growing up in Waynesboro, Virginia during the '60's and '70's. The theater is currently being restored. I thought this photograph was really cool.

The Wayne Theater ~ Waynesboro, Virginia 1940

15 June 2015

More Anecdotal Evidence for Delusional Academics & Civil War Bloggers Who Poo-Poo Political Correctness

*Update: Thomas Sowell nails it with the PC nonsense related to this same incident:
Academic administrators have all too often taken the well-worn path of least resistance, by regarding the most trivial, or even silly, claims of victimhood with great seriousness . . .
To accuse people of aggression for not marching in lockstep with political correctness is to set the stage for justifying real aggression against them. [That observation gets to the crux of the PC movement.]
Word games are just one of the ways of silencing politically incorrect ideas, instead of debating them.
In a sense, the political left’s attempts to silence ideas they cannot, or will not, debate are a confession of intellectual bankruptcy. But this is just one of the left’s ever-increasing restrictions on other people’s freedom to live their lives as they see fit, rather than as their betters tell them.
More here.

End of update.

A University considers these phrases "unacceptable":
  • “America is the land of opportunity.”
  • “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”
  • “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough.”
  • “Where are you from or where were you born?”
The PC deniers within academia are either cowards or just plain stupid. I simply don't how one can come to any other conclusion. If you do, please explain.

More here from the College Fix - which is student led and published.

13 June 2015

Relic Hunting Post #129 - Restoration

I posted photos of these recovered relics a while back, but this is after removing the rust and after I put them through a preserving process. I found the pocketknife in a river in the Shenandoah Valley. It was likely dropped by a Confederate soldier, circa 1864. The "pliers" were found in a Yankee Civil War camp near Culpeper and were probably dropped by a farrier. They're nail clips or pullers, I believe. As I mentioned in the original post, the large item is a hand forged mill dam spike. It was also found in the river. It turned out to be a beautiful piece, after being restored.

The slanted cuts on the edges are to keep the spike from backing out of the dam logs. The last image is of an actual mill dam on a Shenandoah Valley river. It was taken in 1899 and the men are using a seine to catch fish. The ladies are on standby to fry the fish or, maybe, to make sure the men don't come out empty handed. ☺

Before . . . 
After . . .
Mill dam on a river in the Shenandoah Valley . . .

The Credibility of Liberty University

Liberty University is often a target of the misinformed. And some historians who don't have an axe to grind will come to Liberty's defense. With this in mind, here's some interesting news about the world's largest Christian university from none other than the Chronicle of Higher Education:

An Online Kingdom Come: How Liberty U. Became an Unexpected Model for the Future of Higher Education

Some excerpts:

“College leaders, grappling with how to position their institutions for the future, might want to take a closer look” [at Liberty.]

[Liberty] “has carved out a distinct online identity in a relatively new market and created an Internet education machine that generates revenues any college would welcome.”

“Any college that defines itself more narrowly, as Liberty has done with its Christian mission, necessarily turns off some prospective students,” 

“But the brand is stronger for it. There are too many places that want to be all things to all people.”

And from Liberty's website:

Liberty’s “nest egg,” the Chronicle reported, “is on par with the endowments at major research universities, such as Baylor and Tulane.” As The Washington Post conveyed, “Flush with cash, Liberty is building a huge, $50 million library (completed in January 2014), replacing old dormitories, and angling to place its Flames football team in a conference eligible for NCAA bowl games.” USA Today reported in 2013 (“Jerry Falwell’s Legacy: A Thriving Liberty University”) that Liberty is unlike most private nonprofit colleges, which “have remained cautious with their budgets amid lingering economic uncertainty.”

The direction Liberty has been heading in is, indeed, turning heads. The Chronicle reached out to experts on education theories, including Michael B. Horn, co-founder and executive director of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, who said Liberty’s success “may be that they are not trying to be like everybody else. Higher education is ignoring it at its own risk.”

Actually, higher education is ignoring quite a bit these days.

12 June 2015

To the Bubble Dwelling PC Deniers

“After almost 25 years in the news business, you know who is the most easily offended and the least tolerant: Liberals and progressive[s] – because many of them don’t really want to hear anyone else’s opinion but their own,” Lemon said. “Here’s a tip, if you only agree with people who hold your same political affiliation or who are of your particular race, gender or ethnicity, you are part of the political correctness run amuck problem. You are actually thwarting progress instead of advancing.” ~ Don Lemon

How true, how true.

11 June 2015

To Be a Virginian - More or Less

The Shenandoah Valley, near Natural Bridge, Virginia ~ © 2015 Richard G. Williams, Jr.
To Be A Virginian either by Birth, Marriage, Adoption, or even on one's Mother's side, is an Introduction to any State in the Union, a Passport to any Foreign Country, and a Benediction from Above.
Most native Virginian's are likely familiar with this creed often seen printed on t-shirts and trinkets in gift shops all over the Old Dominion. It reveals the special bond that many folks feel with what could be called the most historic state in the Union. The familiar slogan acknowledges one can claim "to be a Virginian" in many ways. My personal story, like many in the state, has a deeply rooted heritage and ancestry with Virginia and would identify with the "by birth" portion of that quote.

On my father's side, his own paternal ancestry can be traced all the way back to Roger Williams. His great-grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Williams was a carpetbagger who bought a plantation in Nottoway County and eventually got elected as a state senator; becoming one of the "Big Four" who opposed some of Governor (and former Confederate General) William Mahone's programs. He and his sons became successful lumbermen, as well as tobacco and cotton farmers. On my father's maternal side, his great-grandfather was John W. McGann who served with the 51st Virginia Infantry during the War Between the States. My mother's maternal ancestry can be traced all the way to Jamestown and includes one who gave his life fighting for Virginia and the Confederacy with the 60th Virginia Infantry. His name was John Meredith Crutchfield. Wounded at the Battle of Piedmont, he was taken prisoner and then transferred to Chimborazo hospital in a prisoner exchange. There he succumbed to his wounds and the treatment he received at the notorious yankee prison, Camp Morton. 

Also on my mother's paternal side is a Confederate soldier, Morris (Maurice) Coffey who also served with the 51st Virginia Infantry and was wounded twice. Grandpa Coffey served time in another notorious yankee prison, Point Lookout. Also on my paternal grandmother's side of the family are lateral ancestors who fought for American Independence. Moreover, I married a woman with similar ancestry and with an additional tie that goes even deeper. She is descended from the Monacan Indians.

I could go on, but suffice it to say, my family has deep roots and ties to the Old Dominion. So it is with some curiosity I read the following statement on another blog recently in regards to more recent arrivals in Virginia and their "legitimacy" to be called a "Virginian." This individual stated that persons with no similarly deep-rooted ties are "just as Virginian as those descended from soldiers of the ANV." The claim is similar to the one made by the Virginia creed quoted at the beginning of this post. But are either of these claims really accurate?

Well, yes and no. From a practical and legal standpoint - and even one of affection for Virginia - both characterizations would be correct. However, there's more to being part of a community - even one so widely described as "Virginia" and all that should entail - than just a 911 address and a valid driver's license. Southern historian and scholar, Richard M. Weaver expressed this idea as he reflected on his experience on living in Chicago:
. . . we have a politically defined area, we have local laws and institutions, but that which makes true community, namely association on some non-material level and common attachment to some non-material ends, is lacking.
So, from a cultural perspective and one of "community", I think the assertion about being a Virginian needs further consideration. Let's use an analogy. 

If I moved to Mexico City tomorrow and began whatever process it takes to obtain permanent residency, could I claim that I was just as Mexican as those descended from soldiers who fought with and served under Santa Anna? Or if I moved to Quebec and began the process of becoming a permanent resident there, could I claim that I was just as much a Canadian as someone descended from Samuel de Champlain? Suppose I was able to emigrate to Iraq, could I make similar claims? Pick your country or even your state. If I moved to California, could I claim I was just as much a Californian as those men and women descended from the 49'ers or those descended from late 18th Century Spanish Governor of California, Felipe de Neve? Should I move to London and begin whatever process to become a resident of Britain, could I claim to be just as much an Englishman as those descended from soldiers who fought with Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington and who helped defeat Napolean at Waterloo?

And one more - if I moved to Georgia's Sapelo Island tomorrow, could I claim to be as much a part of Gullah Geechee culture of those whose roots are centuries deep?

I think the answer is quite obvious. The notion is absurd on it's face - unless you're blinded by your political agenda. Those who would attempt to argue yes to these hypotheticals would have to deny the importance (and make no mistake, that's part of the agenda) of heritage, tradition, longevity and family roots in a particular location or what is often referred to as "a sense of place." It's not quite the same as a valid driver's license or 911 address when speaking from a legal standpoint but, in many ways, it is much more important - at least to some people.

As one writer has put it, such denial means one has to "omit fidelity towards a particular place and, as a result, display a lack of gratitude for the sacrifice and service of others before oneself."

That well describes our current age, does it not, "a lack of gratitude for the sacrifice and service of others before oneself"? Narcissism on parade. And yet one more slant of Gordon Wood's "condemning the past for not being more like the present" while also revealing a disdain and contempt for anything older than some pop star's latest twerking exhibition.

I suppose we should not be surprised with this attitude. Our mobile society, along with the constant "globalization" mantra of the elites and corporatists, feeling a sense of fidelity and sense of place with one particular piece of ground is so passe and parochial to many of these ruling class elites. It's just not "cool." They're "citizens of the world", don'tcha know?

But this sense of place is real, despite the naysayers attempt to discredit and impugn it. As Wikipedia notes:
Cultural geographers, anthropologists, sociologists and urban planners study why certain places hold special meaning to particular people or peoples. Places said to have a strong "sense of place" have a strong identity and character that is deeply felt by local inhabitants and by many visitors. Sense of place is a social phenomenon that exists independently of any one individual's perceptions or experiences, yet is dependent on human engagement for its existence. Such a feeling may be derived from the natural environment, but is more often made up of a mix of natural and cultural features in the landscape, and generally includes the people who occupy the place. The sense of place may be strongly enhanced by the place being written about by poets, novelists and historians, or portrayed in art or music, and more recently, through modes of codification aimed at protecting, preserving and enhancing places felt to be of value . . .
And this "special meaning", in regards to a sense of place, is all the more enhanced if one's family has deep roots and ties to the particular place - and if one's ancestral blood and bones are in the ground. Historian Jeffrey Wert expressed this special meaning when writing, "In the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, roots went deep into the rich soil . . . The Valley seeped into bones, touched souls."

And Douglas Southall Freeman, the Virginia historian who knew more about the Army of Northern Virginia than anyone else once wrote: "I think the American people lose a large part of the joy of life because they do not live for generations in the same place." 

Thank God, my family has not lost that "part of the joy of life" - we are Virginians and have been for over 400 years.

06 June 2015

D-Day Inspiration For Men

Image by Art of Manliness
Major Dick Winters, commander of Easy Company (aka the Band of Brothers), was cut from a different cloth than many military officers then or now. Sober and disciplined, quiet and reflective, cool and resolute, in many ways he lived a life apart from his men. Yet the strength and wisdom he gained from his “retreats” from the world enabled him to lead his troops through a D-Day attack on German artillery, an assault of the French town of Carentan, a bayonet charge on a dike in Holland, the cold of Bastogne, and finally to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in the Bavarian Alps. And he did it all as a 20-something, just recently removed from college graduation.
More here from the Art of Manliness.

05 June 2015

Politically Correct Civil War Bloggers: Jerry Seinfield Says You're In Denial

They're are a couple of Civil War bloggers who like to poo-poo the notion of political correctness (most likely because they are so PC themselves), but their denials just make them look silly. I think they're so embedded in the PC culture, they're unaware or, maybe, too much of a coward to speak the truth. Here's what Jerry Seinfield has to say about the subject. His (and others as well) advice? If you have a sense of humor (and, I would add, common sense), you might want to avoid college campuses.

I originally embedded the audio/video, but the "auto play" is annoying, so here's the link for Seinfield's comments.

03 June 2015

Why Old Things Matter

Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. ~ King Solomon

I recently began following and reading posts and articles at Preservation Virginia. It's a natural for me, given my fascination with the history, preservation, archeology and architecture of Virginia. The organization's website states:
We are a private non-profit organization and statewide historic preservation leader founded in 1889 dedicated to perpetuating and revitalizing Virginia's cultural, architectural and historic heritage thereby ensuring that historic places are integral parts of the lives of present and future generations.
Everything I've read thus far indicates the group is doing a commendable job in fulfilling this statement. Which leads me to the topic of this post - a series of articles linked to another preservationist website: The Preservation Leadership Forum Blog.

I was particularly intrigued by a series of articles under the heading, "Why Do Old Places Matter?" These fascinating pieces were all written by Tom Mayes, who is the deputy general counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

I would encourage anyone reading this to read all of the articles in the series. Again, they are quite fascinating. Hayes touches on many topics that are especially dear to Southerners and other Americans who have deep roots in their communities, including the concept of "a sense of place."

For example, in the article titled, "Why Do Old Places Matter? Continuity", the author writes:
Environmental psychologists have explored many aspects of peoples’ attachment to place, including the idea of continuity. Maria Lewicka, in her review of studies on “place attachment,” says “…the majority of authors agree that development of emotional bonds with places is a prerequisite of psychological balance and good adjustment, and that it helps to overcome identity crises and gives people the sense of stability they need in the ever changing world….”  Although studies relating specifically to old places are limited, Lewicka summarizes the studies this way: “Research in environmental aesthetics shows that people generally prefer historical places to modern architecture. Historical sites create a sense of continuity with the past, embody the group traditions, and facilitate place attachment….”
I was immediately drawn to the observation that these sites "create a sense of continuity with the past, [and] embody the group traditions"

It is this "continuity with the past" and "group traditions" that seem to so often be the target of criticism, scorn and ridicule by elites in American society. We hear the unrelenting call by moderns "out with the old and in with the new." Tradition seems to be automatically suspect and sneered at, regardless of the circumstance. Yet the feeling one gets when one walks into an old building, particularly one with known history, is undeniable. It is often almost a spiritual feeling or experience. You know at once you're in a special, unique and important place. And it is important to recognize this phenomenon, as Hayes points out:

Old places help people to create meaningful life stories. This may sound a bit touchy-feely for our American sense of practicality and hard-nosed reality. But the point is that people need this sense of continuity, this capacity to develop coherent life stories, to be psychologically healthy. . . . Put simply, people need the continuity of old places.
I could not agree more. But there's another dimension to this observation that the writer seems to get close to, yet misses. He's talking about tangible places. And, of course, he's right. I could not agree more. However, if this is true about the physical, could it not be argued it is ever more so with the spiritual? I'm speaking of course of our nation's spiritual and religious heritage, which seems to be under attack and threatened more and more with each passing day.

As the greedy developer, motivated by his agenda of making a profit, is often willing to tear down in order to build something newer and, ostensibly, "better", so it seems many in our society, motivated by their own agendas, are willing to do the same with our nation's rich religious heritage, our traditions and our principles.

In other words, if people "need this sense of continuity" in tangible, physical places in order "to be psychologically healthy", don't they also need the same sense of continuity in the spiritual realm?

I would argue yes. If people need the continuity of old places, they need even more the continuity of old principles. There is a connection between the the two--between old places and principles, between old buildings that have stood the test of time and old traditions that have done the same. No one better understood these connections than Eric Sloane who wrote:

The spirits and habits of yesterday become more difficult to apply to modern everyday life . . . if we can only mark time with our scientific progress long enough to let the old morals and spirits catch up, we shall be all the better for it. The heritages of godliness, the love of hard work, frugality, respect for home and all the other spirits of pioneer countrymen, are worth keeping forever. What we do today will soon become once upon a time for the Americans of tomorrow and their heritage is our present day responsibility. ~ Eric Sloane, writing in Once Upon A Time: The Way America Was

Could Slavery Still Exist in the U.S. in 2015?

I just read a post at Civil War Memory in which Kevin Levin seems to be suggesting that if the Civil War had never occurred, slavery would still exist today in the United States (yes, in 2015) due to the hurdles in the U.S. Constitution. (At first, I thought I had to be misunderstanding something, but I guess not.) Levin is apparently convinced of this due to a recent article in which the author, a recognized legal scholar, writes the following:
Had the 15 slave states all remained in the Union, to this day, in 2015, it would be impossible to end slavery by constitutional amendment, since in a 50-state union, it takes just 13 states to block an amendment. [Emphasis mine.]
This assumes, of course, that there would be 13 states that would block an amendment to end slavery (in 2015). And that assumes, of course, slavery would had continued to exist in the most advanced nation in the world. Frankly, I find the notion preposterous. Does anyone really believe that there would be 13 states in 2015 that would block an amendment to end slavery? Regardless, does anyone really believe that slavery would have survived in the U.S. over the last 150 years? Apparently, yes. I think the problem with that view is multifaceted (to say the least), but what I'm really finding difficult to comprehend is how one must view their fellow Americans in order to be able to come to that conclusion.

There's not a nation in the world where slavery (legally) exists today, but we're to believe the U.S. would be the lone one? Really? Suffice it to say I'm unconvinced.