Understanding the purpose of Confederate memorials

Courthouse Statue - Loudon County Courthouse, VA
Courthouse Statue, Loudon County Courthouse, Leesburg, Virginia

Understanding the purpose of Confederate memorials

The statues were erected as a means of healing the nation’s wounds

By Richard H. Black — Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Richard H. Black, a member of the Senate of Virginia, is a former U.S. Marine pilot and Vietnam War veteran. He is a member of the Virginia War Memorial Commission.

ANALYSIS/OPINION: The Virginia General Assembly wisely enacted Va. Code Section 15.2-1812 to protect war memorials from destruction for political reasons. It provides: “If such [war memorials] are erected, it shall be unlawful to disturb or interfere with any monuments or memorials so erected.”

Localities erected monuments to those who fought in the War Between the States several decades after the war, while millions of those veterans were still living. The Confederate soldier monument, at the Old Courthouse in Leesburg, was erected in 1908, roughly 43 years after the war ended. Most Confederate veterans would have been in their 60s by then, and many had befriended old adversaries.

In Northern Virginia, John Mosby, the famed “Gray Ghost,” had bedeviled the Union armies with hit-and-run cavalry tactics that earned him a prominent place in Civil War history. After the war, he befriended his old nemesis, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Their friendship began in 1866, when Grant issued him a handwritten safe-conduct pass. Later, Mosby became President Grant’s Republican campaign manager for Virginia, and he was fondly remembered in Grant’s memoirs. In such ways did our nation gradually bind the terrible wounds of our most tragic war.

Millions of good people, North and South, endured great suffering. In Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, he set forth his postwar goals: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan; to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.”

When the Courthouse Statue was erected, it was “to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.” The statue is a quiet, reflective image of the men who fought that war. One can imagine those who attended when it was erected in 1908. No doubt they included veterans, widows, and those for whom the statue was a solemn memorial to long-lost friends; to fathers, husbands or brothers. It was not a political statement any more than the Vietnam War Memorial is a political statement about that war.

The Virginia Code protects war memorials because they record our history. The purpose of the law prohibiting the removal of war memorials is to avoid the type of conflict that occurred in Charlottesville.

Troublemakers rip down historically significant statues for political reasons. The Islamic State employed cultural destruction as a weapon of terror in Iraq and Syria; we mustn’t follow suit in Virginia.

The chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors proposed a change to the Virginia Code making it easier to tear down war memorials. Attempts to remove Loudoun County’s Confederate Statue would harm our image and divide our community. The board should be calming racial tensions – not inflaming them.

As senator for the 13th District, I represent the Manassas National Battlefield and Balls Bluff Battlefield Regional Park. Visitors quietly walk those hallowed grounds with a sense of reverence that honors fallen heroes of both sides; political leaders should approach them with that same respect.

On the 106th anniversary of the birth of Jefferson Davis, the Arlington Cemetery Confederate Monument was unveiled before a large crowd of Northerners and Southerners on June 4, 1914. President Woodrow Wilson addressed a large crowd of Union and Confederate veterans, who placed wreaths on the graves of their former foes, symbolizing reconciliation between North and South – the memorial’s central theme.

Those who paid the price in blood formed bonds of brotherhood for the benefit of America. We do them a disservice when we reverse those magnanimous acts of love and mercy.

I have no doubt that statue removal would eventually invite removal of headstones from Confederate gravesites; there is always some new tool to perpetuate division and hatred.
We should have the wisdom to respect our history and draw lessons from it.

I oppose weakening the Virginia statute protecting war memorials. If bills attacking war monuments are introduced in the Senate, I will vote against them.

Thank you, Senator Black. I wish more politicians shared your wisdom and plain common sense.

The British Policeman (1959)

The British Policeman (1959) – Public Information Film produced for the Colonial Office

Source: Facebook – British & Commonwealth Forces added a new video: The British Policeman (1959).

The good ol’ days!

This portrait of a British Policeman was commissioned by the Colonial Office to promote Britain’s Police Service to the colonies and Commonwealth states.

Released in 1959, this film upholds one of the Central Office of Information’s (COI) founding principles and the reason for its commitment to producing Public Information Films. In December 1945 the incumbent Prime Minister Clement Attlee stated it was important “a true and adequate picture of British institutions and the British way of life should be presented overseas” through such films.

Following a ‘typical’ day in the life of Police Constable Jack Edwards, the film shows his ‘typical’ duties over an eight-hour shift. The film portrayal of PC Edwards as a guardian of law and order in 1950s Britain, understandably looks dated, when compared to today’s modern Police Service.

This film made available courtesy the UK National Archives.

The North American High Tory Tradition – American Anglican Press

Source: The North American High Tory Tradition, American Anglican Press

The American Anglican Press has published what looks to be a very interesting book, entitled The North American High Tory Tradition, by Ron Dart: Professor of Political Science, Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford, British Columbia (Canada). I may have to obtain a copy of this book! Unfortunately, the AAP’s review is short on specifics.northamericanhightorytradition A fuller account of its contents is found here, including this synopsis of what the “North American High Tory Tradition” actually is:

Prof. Dart’s new book offers an excellent introduction to the venerable conservative principles of the North American High Tory tradition. As the book starts out, Prof. Dart identifies ten characteristics that can be seen to define this High Tory tradition.

First, there is an emphasis on the wisdom of tradition as an antidote to the danger of “chronological snobbery.” The current generation may always consider itself to be the wisest of all, but High Tory politics strives to avoid the perennial folly of this prejudice.

[I am reminded, here, of G.K. Chesterton’s assertion that “Tradition is the democracy of the dead. It refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about!”]

Second, the High Tory maintains a resolute focus on the common good, instead of on inflexible ideological programs. Political prudence keeps in mind the difficulty of politics, steering a middle course between the extremes of unprincipled pragmatism, on the one hand, and the geometric certainties of ideological action plans, on the other.

Third, ethics is considered more important than economics. A politics that reduces everything to jobs and economic concerns must be rejected. Politics has a higher calling, to address the full human person.

Fourth, the environment cannot be sacrificed to economics. This is a corollary to the previous point, which aims to avoid economic reductionism, because “economic nationalism” is simply too reductive a notion for a nation ever to base itself upon. Moreover, any nation shares the same planet with other nations.

Fifth, state and society must work together, which is unlike the approach of either the usual conservative politics (which distrusts the state and exalts a society of individuals) or the usual liberal politics (which uses state power to reengineer society).

Sixth, public spaces and commons can serve the commonweal, in ways that complement private property. Private property is not the only way that citizens can attain the good life. Communal spaces are also essential to nourish the human spirit in ways conducive to its full flourishing.

Seventh, education needs to focus on the classics. This may also be seen as a corollary to the first point above, which seeks always to keep the wisdom of the ancients in mind.

Eighth, too much power should not be concentrated in one place. This is because of the fallibility of human nature. Unfortunately, the “authoritarians of the right” seem destined to learn this lesson the hard way in America’s near future. The ancient Greek appellation of “tyrant”, for the strongman who promises a quick fix, soon became a historically pejorative term, because human experience always shows that such a ruler will end up doing more harm than good, at least in the long run.

Ninth, religious traditions spanning the centuries are what will bring true vitality to political life. Religious diversity is thus a net benefit to political life, because it affords the wisdom of the ages many opportunities to find its way into public life, as people of all traditions bring their respective gifts to bear upon the most difficult problems of political life.

Tenth, we must admit there are things beyond politics, higher things to which we all must aspire. The High Tory tradition recognizes that, if we don’t admit this, then politics ends up endorsing relativism, which disastrously lowers our sights. In short, the High Tory is best known by his or her affirmation of their tradition’s judiciously high aspirations.

With most of this, I agree. Now, I have not read the book, so I am not sure whether “religious diversity is thus a net benefit to political life” is a feature of the book itself, or the opinion of its reviewer; nor am I sure of the boundaries of “religious diversity” in this context. But that is the only point among the above that raises a caution flag for me. I am very much in agreement that “religious traditions spanning the centuries are what will bring true vitality to political life.” But they have to be the right “religious traditions spanning the centuries.”

As those familiar with my thoughts as expressed on this blog will know, I believe the core religious tradition essential for the survival of the West consists of the Judeo-Christian tradition, as informed and infused by its Classical (Greco-Roman) and Celtic-Norse-Germanic predecessors on the European continent. Christianity and European culture have grown up together, evolved together, and mutually influenced one another for the better part of two thousand years; if Christianity “baptized” northwestern European paganism, it was also deeply influenced by it.

Western civilization as we have it is inconceivable apart from its Christian inheritance – some of the greatest works of art, architecture, music, and philosophy stem directly from the “Age of Faith” – but Western Christendom is also inconceivable apart from its Celto-Germanic inheritance. Foreign spiritual influences – be they basically peaceful ones such as Buddhism or frequently volatile, even violent, ones like Islam – should be tolerated with considerable caution, if at all.

That caveat aside, I am in very substantial agreement with this platform, both in principle and (for the most part) in its specifics. Definitely a book I should add to my reading list. Maybe a lot of us should!