Thursday, May 30, 2013

OP-ED: NO FINER MEMORIAL by John P. Flannery

Uncle Charles Flannery and the author
 I remember as if it were yesterday my Mom crying, a soulful wound torn open upon hearing that my Dad’s brother, Charles, died of internal bleeding because years earlier he’d been shot in World War II. 

President Woodrow Wilson’s promise that World War I was the war to end all wars didn’t prevent World War II.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in WWII, said, “There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs.”

We could therefore erect no finer memorial to our war dead than to rededicate our nation to peace.
Eisenhower, in his farewell address in 1960, told the nation, “We must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.”  It is past time for us to reconsider his advice.

Our wars since World War II have been about property – the differences by and between communism, socialism and capitalism.  Also about ethnicity – over nationality, color, religion and region. 

The nation state now caught in the congressional and executive cross-hairs is Syria.

We insist our wars are honorable because we are fighting for individual freedom but those we would “save” all too often recoil at the definition of “freedom” we seek to impose.

We are hard-pressed to claim the high ground for freedom when the recent observable evidence, since 9-11, is that we distrust our citizens, frisk them, tape them, follow them, kill them with drones, kill innocent women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and imprison innocents in Cuba without any formal charges or evidence.

Now we are ramping up to weigh in to Syria’s civil war, to spend funds we don’t have, perhaps even to add our own men and women to the 80,000 dead and million already displaced.

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham want us to create safe zones for the Syrian rebels, arm the rebels, train them, conduct targeted air strikes, and deploy scud missiles.

Days ago, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations voted 15-3 to arm and train these rebels. 

We are going to arm rebels that may include al Qaeda terrorists.  Radical Sunni preachers recently issued a call to jihad to support the rebels, spurring an influx of rebel fighters. 

Abu Sakkar, rebel leader of the Omar al-Farouq Brigade, should give us further reason to oppose intervention.  Abu cut out the organs of a dead Syrian soldier including his heart and liver, and bit down on one organ in a gruesome snuff video he filmed, while addressing the Syrian soldiers loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying, “I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog.” 

Virginia State Senator Richard Black has called upon the United States to “end its intervention in Syria.”  I agree.  Senator Black cited the cannibalizing of the soldier as one of several good reasons, and published reports that we were training and equipping the rebels.

Is there any hope for peace?

There are peace talks tentatively set for June.  The rebels have, however, interposed a speed bump on the road to peace, demanding, as a precondition, that the Syrian President resign.

A step toward a worthy memorial to our war dead is to work for peace without war-like intervention. 

This would build on what President Barack Obama said last week in a speech at the National Defense University. 

The President proposed that we turn toward peace, given we have and are ending our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, after spending over a trillion dollars on these wars, after losing 7,000 Americans, after damaging many others irreparably. 

The President thought it time that we respect President James Madison’s warning that, “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” 

Acknowledging we still had to confront a “lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates,” the President said, we must now supplement our military efforts and fight “to win a battle of wits, a battle of ideas.”  Eisenhower had similarly recommended “intellect and decent purpose.”

Robert G. Kaiser, a Washington Post editor, wrote that “the modern version of [congressional] culture is hostile to creative problem-solving.”  He said, “In the ‘world’s greatest deliberative body,’ there is little deliberation.”

We have to do better, because if we are not smart enough to make peace, then we may only make war, and thus shall we dishonor the memory of those war dead who served so this nation might be preserved and protected at peace.


Links to stories about removing the Confederate Statue from the Courthouse Grounds:


Samuel C. Means, a Waterford Mill Owner,
leader of the Loudoun Rangers


In the past week, I urged that we remove the Confederate Soldier Statue, bearing a rifle in the direction of approaching visitors to the court in Leesburg, because it is an offending symbol of disunion, lawlessness and slavery.

In 2009, a Deputy Clerk at the Court, Jennifer Grant, reportedly told the Post that she “didn’t like [the statue],” but “there were certain things people didn’t talk about.”

Johnny Chambers, on his way to Court this past Tuesday, told WUSA*9 that, “It’s hard to get justice when you got people that live in this area, that run this country, that believe in this system,”  pointing at the Confederate Soldier statue.

Leesburg court personnel told me, “We all read what you wrote.  We here talk among ourselves and some of us have resented that statue.  … You should know you have support in this building.”

The most virulent opposition to removing the statue claims that the statue’s not about slavery, it’s just history. 

Mr. G. of Loudoun County said, “I hear people say that all the time – the Civil War wasn’t really about slavery … get real, of course it was.”  (Not all persons prefer to be identified publicly; thus the initials.) 

Ms. R said, “I would contend that the Civil War was fought over States Rights to use slavery as their economic engine.”

Mr. S. said these confederate soldiers were “fighting to prop up the plantation owners who both pumped them up on propaganda and forced them through conscription to fight ..” 

Mr. W. said, “there was only one difference between the Confederate Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, and it was the ‘right’ to own other human beings.”

In our Constitution, we expressly state “we the people” seek “to form a more perfect union;” the Confederate Constitution doesn’t say that – as it was born of disunion.

Our Constitution says we seek to “provide for the common defense;” the Confederate Constitution said no such thing; in fact, the Confederates were breaching their obligation to “the common defense” by seceding.

Our preamble provides for the “general welfare,” the Confederate Constitution does not.

As for why the South seceded, Article I, Section 9, Clause 4 of the Confederate States Constitution prohibited any law that denied or impaired “the right of property in negro slaves …”

Article IV, Section 2 of the Confederate States Constitution granted its citizens the right to travel anywhere “with their slaves.”

Article IV, Section 3, Clause 3 authorized slaves in any new confederate territory they acquired, and presumably that included the North if the Confederates could win the war.

So, it was about slavery.

Otherwise, the true history of Loudoun County has been white-washed.

Loudoun Delegate John Janney presided over an extraordinary legislative session in Richmond, convened by the Governor, on April 4, 1861.  Janney argued for union, and the delegates voted for Union, by a margin of almost two to one, 89-45.  

Rabid secession leaders, however, sought to overturn the result.  Intimidated union delegates left Richmond.  The second vote, on April 17, supported secession, 88-55. 

Some called for a vote of the public.  50,000 rebel troops came into Virginia to “help.”  Union voters fled to Maryland.  Other Union voters were barred from voting.  Some who did vote union were thrown into the Potomac.  There were disturbances at the polls at Lovettsville and Lincoln.  There were directions to the troops that they could use bayonets at the polling places.  West Virginia withdrew from Virginia on June 13, 1861, denouncing secession, and standing with the union.  When the remnant that was Virginia counted the ballots, secession “won.” 

Union supporters were then arrested or driven out of Virginia.  Confederate cavalry took teams of horses and wagons from farmers in the German and Quaker settlements.  If they didn’t have either, they were pressed into service as drivers.

Samuel C. Means owned the mill at Waterford.   He refused to take up arms against the United States.  The Confederates took all of his property, and his horses, wagons, hogs, flour, meal, everything.  Means retreated to Maryland but returned leading the Loudoun Rangers drawn from the Quaker and German settlements in Loudoun to fight for the Union.

We have no statue to the Rangers who remained faithful to the Union, only a plaque opposite the Mill in Waterford.

In the last week, we’ve also heard from those mobilized to oppose removal of the statue, many of the same folk who unsuccessfully fought to place confederate flags in Leesburg.  Among the hard worded opposition, there is only one e-mail correspondent that may fairly qualify as a threat -- and we’re forwarding that one to the authorities.

It is right and just to remove this statue.  Speak out if you agree.


Take that confederate soldier statue down that stands in front of the historic Leesburg Court House!

It’s a symbol of disunion and slavery.  If it’s to stand anywhere, let it be in a museum but not at the front of a court of law on public grounds. 

Our forebears could have placed a less offensive symbol in front of the court house in 1908.  But they didn’t.  They intended to make a statement – an unacceptable statement – and it’s high time we rejected that offensive statement.

Years ago, in the 1980s, there were stocks and whipping posts in front of this same court house. 

I made reference at a sentencing in the court house once, how it was “unfortunate” that such dehumanizing and tortuous methods of punishment stood directly in front of a court house when we were considering punishment in a criminal case. 

According to the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1839, a slave “was placed in a sitting position, with his hands made fast above his head, and feet in the stocks, so that he could not move any part of the body.”  This took less effort than whipping.  So, it became preferred as a punishment because, well, it took less physical effort.

No doubt others thought that these instruments of torture should be removed – and they were.

Now we should finish the job – and remove the statue as well.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished “slavery” and “involuntary servitude” and granted Congress the power to enact “appropriate legislation.” By the 1866 Civil Rights Act, black citizens enjoyed “the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for security of person and property as is enjoyed by white citizens.” 

Under the Amendment and the 1866 Act, what were called “badges of slavery” were outlawed. 

Plainly, stocks and a whipping post were “badges of slavery.”  This statue is as well.

Since 1908, this confederate soldier has stood directly in front of the old courthouse, elevated on a pedestal, with his rifle pointed straight at you as you approach the old courthouse.  

A Confederate soldier plainly represents what he fought for, for disunion, so that any state could ignore the constitution and break its constitutional compact with every other state, violate the law of the land, in order to preserve and spread slavery into the territories, to continue the stigma, the badges of slavery, in perpetuity. 

President Andrew Jackson reprimanded Vice President John C. Calhoun at a party in 1830, saying, “Our Union must be preserved.” 

Calhoun feared that, if slavery were abolished, whites would be forced into that working class, at low pay.  Calhoun asserted the right of states to nullify what they didn’t want. 

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln said in Springfield, Illinois that, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”  He said those who favored slavery were of the view, “if any one man, choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object.”  Lincoln said one object of the Scott decision was to deny citizenship to slaves so they had no rights or privileges.

All who approach this statue may rightly recall the unequal treatment before the law suffered by persons of color and how it persists to this day long after the civil war.

Many know about the kidnapping and murder in 1955 of the black youth, Emmett Till, 14, how the trial concluded with acquittals, followed by the admissions of the acquitted defendants, bragging to a magazine, how they had really done the dirty deed. 

Medgar Evers, an NAACP field secretary, was killed in 1963 because he sought to overturn segregation in the South.  When Byron De La Beckwith, of the White Citizens Counsel, was tried, two all-white juries deadlocked.  In 1994, 30 years later, De La Beckwith was tried and convicted.

The NAACP came into existence about the time our Confederate Soldier was installed; the Klu Klux Klan returned re-vitalized about the same time.

Virginia was infamously known for its massive resistance against segregation.  In Loudoun, we had segregated schools, movie theaters, the pool; in fact, when directed to open the pool to black and white alike, the pool was filled with cement.

It’s therefore no metaphorical coincidence that we have this imposing bronze soldier, the symbol of the southern nullification movement that set out to disunite our nation, confronting every citizen who approaches our courts of law.

It is long past the time when we can pretend that a confederate soldier statue is not itself a badge of slavery.

It’s long past the time when we should take it down.