31 August 2018

Bubble Dwellers in Denial

Oh brother. A number of academics have (quite predictably) have poo-poo'd the notion that social media giants are discriminating against conservative viewpoints--just as they deny bias in academia despite overwhelming evidence.

But this is what happens when you live in a bubble. You either become oblivious to reality or you become a liar. I'm not going to waste my time trying to convince these folks of what is so blatantly obvious to those of us who live outside their control freak bubble, but I will offer this:
“We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views,” Brian Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer, wrote in the post, which was obtained by The New York Times. “We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack — often in mobs — anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology.” ~ New York Times
Sound familiar? Maybe being "intolerant of different views" is unrecognizable to those in academia because many of them are immersed in that culture on a daily basis.

Generally and philosophically, I cringe at more big brother regulations and I'm not sure treating these social media giants like public utilities is the answer. But I do think it may be time to look at them as monopolies and apply anti-trust laws to them. Break them up. Competition will give us all more choices that would be healthy - economically and culturally. Who could be against that?

29 August 2018

Civil War Chaplains Museum Gets Some TV Exposure

Featuring my colleague and friend, museum director Kenny Rowlette:

More here.

28 August 2018

Victor Davis Hanson & The Peasant Class

The elite media, the Democratic party hierarchy, the intellectual establishment, the entertainment industry, the Never Trump punditry, and the identity-politics industry have all created a vast echo chamber. Inside it, each seems to vie with the other to adduce the most creative end-game scenarios surrounding the hated Trump. This week we are told that providing money to your own campaign to purchase, via a non-disclosure agreement, the silence of an alleged past paramour is an impeachable offense, while assuming that hiding campaign money sent through firewall intermediaries to hire a foreign spook to disrupt a presidential campaign and to seed an unverified dossier among government grandees leads to nothing.

Outside of their bubble, our elites have no idea of what half the “peasant” class thinks of them, or what it will do if they succeed, or the untold paradoxes and ironies that they will bring upon themselves. ~ Professor Victor Davis Hanson

23 August 2018

Why Old Things Matter

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

Continuing yesterday's  thoughts . . . 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

22 August 2018

Permanence, Preservation & Our Sense of Place

McGann homeplace, Nelson County, Virginia. The structure still stands and is used as a hunting cabin today. It's about 11 miles from my home, as the crow flies.
On the whole, it would appear to be for the best that the great majority of human beings should go on living in the place in which they were born. ~ T.S. Eliot
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. ~ Douglas Southall Freeman 
I was born on land that hosted the Battle of Waynesboro (VA). The 51st Virginia was at that battle and was the unit in which two of my great-great grandfathers served. After the War Between the States, the son of one of those ancestors, Charles "Mr. Charlie" McGann bought 2 lots on that same land and built a home. He died in that home, as did my great grandmother and my grandmother. I spend many weekends and summers in that home and, eventually, came to own it. It still stands today in an area known as the Tree Streets. The hospital on that battlefield in which I was born sits two blocks away. I've never lived more than 10 miles from where I was born. My wife's family history is very similar. In fact, the other Confederate ancestor who served in the 51st Virginia , Morris Coffey, is a great-great grandfather to us both. (I'll pause here for the jokes. ☺)

For the last 31 years I've lived at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Augusta County, Virginia. Morris Coffey is buried in a small family cemetery located about 5 miles S/E (as the crow flies) from my home. That property is still owned by a cousin and a descendant of Morris Coffey. The property borders the Blue Ridge Parkway and was taken from the Coffey's via eminent domain when the Parkway was built. 

The other ancestor who served in the 51st, John McGann, is buried about another 3 miles east of where Grandpa Coffey rests. Grandpa McGann is also buried in a family cemetery and his grave is marked by a simple field stone. That property (around 300 acres in Nelson County) is still owned by some of my cousins and descendants of John McGann. 

With all the talk about "globalization" and massive migrations, I believe something very fundamental is being missed, and it's not a positive thing.

Some time ago, I came across an absolutely wonderful essay which drills down, philosophically and practically, why a "sense of place" is so important to our physical life and, especially, to our spiritual life. Below are a few choice excerpts, and then a link to the article. I encourage readers to take the time to read the whole article. Even if you disagree with the author's conclusions, I think you may still benefit from his perspective . . . 
Today, according to demographers, Americans move on average once every five years. The home is now a temporary stopping place rather than a permanent habitation. . . . The first benefit of permanence is the preservation of the family. Today, our understanding of the family has been winnowed down to a household composed of two parents and their children (under the best of circumstances). But this is a mutilated understanding. The family is larger. It includes ancestors, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces and posterity, as well as parents and their children. Staying permanently in one place allows a wide range of family members to preserve a common life. It allows them to work, worship, and spend leisure time together. Permanence also preserves, through continuity of place and the memories that inhabit a place, the link between ancestors and posterity. In short, permanence helps prevent us from devolving into our current situation, where family members are scattered at great distances across a continent, often know each other only vaguely as acquaintances, consider themselves exempt from all claims of duty to one another, and have forgotten their common history. (Emphasis mine.)

I encourage you to read the essay here

Follow up tomorrow.

21 August 2018

Relic Hunting Post #175 - King George III & My Uncommon Find

I just received the latest issue of North South Trader's Civil War. For those who tire of the incessant "social" aspects of American history being about all you get these days, the award winning NSTCW is a breath of fresh air and I highly recommend "The magazine for collectors and historians." If you love American history and how relics tell our story, you'll LOVE NSTCW.

Several months ago, I had submitted a photo (along with some provenance) of the British box plate piece I'd recovered here in the Shenandoah Valley to NSTCW. So I was quite pleased to see this relic featured as part of the recent issue's piece on "Relics of George III Reign."

I hope to wrap up a video of the live recovery of this piece very soon.

20 August 2018

Relic Hunting Post #174 - Coins, Coins

I've received several new permissions recently from landowners on land from which to relic hunt. Some have been disappointments, others show some great potential. Some remain to be surveyed. On one recent hunt I was able to recover these two iconic American coins. The first is an 1810 Classic Large Cent in rather remarkable condition for a 208 year old dug coin. The second is a 90% silver Washington quarter. The site where these were found was once the home of a Confederate officer here in the Valley after the WBTS.

I know I've teased the new blog/website for quite a while now, but I really am getting close to the launch. I think it will be SO much better than the current blogger platform. This blog will stay active for a while and I hope to transfer some of the older posts to the new site. Stay tuned.

16 August 2018

Aretha Franklin - R.I.P.

Growing up in the 1960's, my home was often filled with the music of the great soul artists of the day: Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Diana Ross and the Supremes and, of course, Aretha Franklin. My father had converted our basement in Waynesboro, Virginia into a "rec room" and ordered and built a "kit stereo." For it's day, it produced amazing sound and the walls of our rec room were lined with the album covers of these legendary artists. He was a huge fan of all the Motown, R&B and soul artists that rose to prominence in the 1960's. Hearing any of them today brings back great memories, including the memories of listening to their hits on AM radio as we'd drive to Myrtle Beach, SC or Jekyll Island, GA in our 1967 Mustang convertible each year for vacation. Those days are gone forever, yet remain burned into my memory. Aretha Franklin will always be a big part of those memories.

The song I most recall of Franklin's is Chain of Fools:

History Teachers Pushing Propaganda?

According to The Federalist:
Shortly after President Trump’s inauguration, a group of public school history teachers in the posh Boston suburb of Newton pledged to reject the “call for objectivity” in the classroom, bully conservative students for their beliefs, and serve as “liberal propagandist[s]” for the cause of social justice.

The Left is abusing American high school education in its struggle—not to do good, but to gain and retain political power. The ongoing trend of growing political intolerance and ideological bigotry among the newest American adults will continue, and nothing good will come of it. In the Soviet Union, I’ve seen what young people could be turned into, what I myself could be turned into. Trust me, America hasn’t seen anything yet.
 More here.

14 August 2018

To Be Lettered & Ignorant

Professor Victor Davis Hanson skewers academia:
It is growing harder and harder to equate elite university branding with proof of knowledge. Barack Obama, another Harvard Law graduate, proved this depressing fact a number of times when he asserted that the Maldives were the Falklands, “corpsmen” was pronounced with a hard p, Austrians spoke a language called Austrian, there were 57 states, and Hawaii was in Asia.

Joe Biden, another law-school graduate, once stated that George W. Bush should have addressed the nation on television the way FDR did after the stock crash: “When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television . . .”  Biden apparently forgot that FDR was not president in 1929 and that TVs weren’t introduced to the public until 1939.

The point is not to cite egregious anecdotes but rather to reflect on why Americans have pretty much lost faith in their degreed elite. On most of the major issues of the last 40 years, what we were told by economists, foreign-policy experts, pundits, and the media has proven wrong — and doubly wrong given the emphases placed on such assertions by the supposedly better-educated professional classes.

In truth, elite education has become a cattle brand. It signifies lots of things other than knowledge: for some, politically correct certification; for others, good test scores and grades that got them in; for a few, later entry into the alumni ranks of high business, law, academia, government, and the media. ~ Victor Davis Hanson
More here.

13 August 2018

Back From the North

I just returned from a trip to Canada and New England where I visited family. Of course, I enjoyed my visit but I'm so glad to be back home in Virginia. While in Canada, I did some relic hunting with my grandsons and made some very interesting finds. Relic hunting/metal detecting is an excellent way to teach history to young folks. These boys love it! More to come on that later. A lot going on right now with writing assignments, next book, videos, etc. For now, I share General Lee's sentiments . . .
"I felt so elated when I again found myself within the Confines of the Ancient Dominion, that I nodded to all the old trees as I passed." ~ Robert E. Lee