When I observe what is happening to America—the country I grew up in, that I was educated in, and that I served as a soldier—I am appalled. Anarchy, violence, looting. This is NOT the nation I know and love. This is an aberration, a disfigurement of our Republic.
When I hear elected politicians threatening to desecrate the graves of Confederate soldiers, tear down statues and smash monuments to our past, what they are actually saying is they want to erase and rewrite America’s history. But history is indelible and permanent. It happened. You cannot change it to fit some 21st Century politically correct narrative. What you can do, is learn from it.
Abraham Lincoln, followed by President Ulysses S. Grant worked assiduously to repair the damage done by the Civil War—the bloodiest war in our history. Part of that restoration was the Reconstruction of the South and appeals to “bind the nation’s wounds” and care for the widows and children of fallen soldiers from both sides of the conflict.
One of the more poignant policies implemented by Lincoln was to bury Confederate and Union dead next to one another in cemeteries. It was a symbolic gesture aimed at healing the deep wounds of the Civil War—a war that was fought to end slavery and which claimed the lives of more than 600,000 soldiers from both sides. Soldiers and veterans can understand the rectitude and reverence that sheathes that sentiment. Conniving politicians and radical demagogues who never served in the armed forces and who never watched buddies die in combat, cannot.
America’s past is a checkered one. No doubt about it. Slavery, discrimination, lynching. They are stains on our history; blemishes on an imperfect nation. Yet, America remains the only country where people can strive freely for a more perfect union, where they are free to speak their minds, to protest, to worship as they wish, to be individuals, to pursue happiness, and to hold elected officials accountable without fear of retribution.
Today, there are those who want to rip our nation apart and divide us into belligerent tribes based on race, religion, ethnicity, wealth, poverty, achievement, failure, livelihood, and political power. As a firm believer in America’s motto: E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One) I will fight the tribalists to my last breath.
For the next several days I am reposting commentaries from Americans of all races and occupations who are as concerned as I am about this attempt to obliterate our country from within. I hope you will find them as illuminating and significant as I have.
Reflections June 2020
By Joseph M. Valenzano, Jr.
In response to the riots, looting and destruction of property by insurrectionists following the death of a five-time criminal named George Floyd, several well-known retired and active duty General Staff Officers and Admirals have chimed into the rising incendiary rhetoric of Black Lives Matter to announce that the names of military bases named after members of the Confederacy must be changed.
They state that these bases must be renamed because the individuals whose names the bases bear, were associated with the Confederacy and were “traitors”. Really? And our new modern military leaders, retired or otherwise, suddenly have come to this conclusion 150 years after the end of our great Civil War?
Many of these modern-day leaders trained on these bases. Did they feel that way as young PFC’s or did this just come upon them in 2020?
Whatever happened to Abraham Lincoln’s exhortations to “bind the nation’s wounds and…care for his widow and children”?
Didn’t Congress declare that soldiers fighting for the Confederacy were entitled to honorable burial and full military recognition?
Did the Generals and Flag Officers today making these bold statements and demands consider these historical facts?
What names will now be ascribed to military bases such as Bragg, Benning, Lee, Stewart, Hood?
Will there be a push to recognize the “heroes of Black Lives Matter” to give them all a more “current look and feel”.
Give me a break.
Don’t our military leaders have more important things to deal with than renaming bases as a gesture to mollify the demands of a few misguided people?
I have the utmost respect for General David Petraeus, a West Point Graduate, but his contention that those who fought for the Confederacy…Robert E. Lee, George Pickett…were traitors is just plain wrong and indefensible. It is also unnecessary. Statues and monuments of General Lee are all over West Point!
Recently, NASCAR and the United States Marine Corps have decided to abolish flying or using the Confederate Flag. This flag has been flown proudly for over 160 years and many sons and daughters of the South have given their lives in the defense of our freedoms.
The Confederacy happened as did the Civil War; it is a historical fact. You cannot change the past by rewriting it; you can only learn from it.
The Civil War happened. Slavery happened…and, incidentally, slavery continues to exist in today’s world…with black slave owners involved in buying and selling slaves in Africa.
If we continue down the path to destroy monuments and flags and artifacts from our past, how in God’s name will we be able to learn from the mistakes we have made?
Where do all these attempts to rewrite history to conform to what we believe should have happened stop?
Who is next?
Already statues and monuments to Christopher Columbus have been torn down in fits of radical rage, and there is a movement afoot to remove Christopher Columbus from history because he is “believed to be someone who treated the Indian poorly’. Says who? And if he did, perhaps there was a good reason.
Once again, you cannot reinvent history, you can only learn from it.
Much of the circulating information about Christopher Columbus is historically inaccurate and it neglects the many positive aspects of Columbus’ explorations and has placed this information totally out of temporal context. His accomplishments as a daring navigator and explorer are unquestioned and he is emblematic of the millions of immigrants and their pursuit of economic opportunity, religious freedom and hope for a better life. To Italian-Americans like myself “to the world he gave a world” But it is not just Christopher Columbus whose monuments are torn down or desecrated.
The real question is….who’s next? Following the logic of the mob, why not destroy any history about some of our founders like Jefferson, Adams….at least seven of our Founding Fathers were slave owners.
And how about Winston Churchill or General Dwight Eisenhower. He was Supreme Allied Commander and didn’t he keep the army segregated in WWII?
Do you see how ridiculous this all is? Where does it all stop?
Revisionist history serves no useful purpose.
Now we learn that epic movies like “Gone with the Wind” must no longer be shown. The TV show “Cops” is to be discontinued after 25 years. Unbelievably, ”Paw Patrol” is now slated for the junk heap.
Recall, that the tremendously successful and highly educational literary work “To Kill a Mockingbird” was removed from high school educational curriculums a few years back, all because it has “racial overtones.’ There were great life-long lessons learned from the study of this work. What changed?
Armed insurrectionists (there is no other way to describe these individuals) have occupied a seven square block area in Seattle, Washington. The Mayor calls this nothing more than a “block party” and the governor of the state of Washington says “he doesn’t know anything about it”, but these officials tell President Trump to mind his own business!
The insurrectionists have already made their demands well known: They want the elimination of the entire police department, the closing of jails and release of all prisoners, elimination of all fines, free education, reparations for blacks and a host of other ridiculous demands. Fascinating, don’t you think?
And all around the nation, primarily in Democrat-controlled cities and states, hardened criminals are being released from prison over fears they will contract the coronavirus while priests and ministers are being arrested and fined for giving sermons and grandparents walking with their grandchildren are being detained and fined.
I find this very troubling. Don’t you? Mayor DiBlasio in New York City just declared himself to be the greatest mayor in the entire nation. He must think he is Idi Amin. Anyone hear from that despot lately?
If you are not concerned and troubled by all of these things, you have not been paying attention to the lessons of history. The riots, lootings, desecration of churches and monuments, and the destruction of private property have absolutely nothing to do with the death of George Floyd.
Mr. Floyd’s death was tragic but he is no hero or martyr. He was a repeat criminal having served five prison sentences, one a five-year term for robbing a pregnant woman’s apartment and holding a gun to her stomach. He was not a nice man.
More to the point is that far more blacks are killed by blacks in the United States than blacks killed by whites.
One thing I am certain of…as Americans, this cannot stand. We should not…cannot….view these things with apathy. All of this strikes at the core of who we are and the values we hold dear. If it is allowed to continue, we will no longer be a nation of laws but a nation of anarchy.
And if we permit the defunding of police departments, we will be consumed by chaos which is precisely what the enemies of our country desire. The consequences of defunding police departments are both depressing and ominous.
Joseph M. Valenzano, Jr., is a writer & blogger; businessman; and Professor of business, economics & accounting. He has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry, holding senior executive positions at McGraw-Hill, Elsevier-NDU, and The Thomson Corporation.