Wrongo and Ms. Right made it to Florida, and found his sisters doing well. We took our annual roundabout path to the Sunshine State, stopping first in Gettysburg, PA to visit Ms. Right’s sister. We drove slowly through parts of the Gettysburg battlefield on our way out of town.
When we drive south through Virginia, we always think about the penultimate battles of the Civil War. That is particularly true in and around Richmond.
We passed Civil War battle sites like Fredericksburg, where Chancellorsville was fought. And Spotsylvania. And Cold Harbor, where Grant lost to Lee in a battle that prolonged the war for another year. On June 2nd, the armies were arrayed on a seven-mile front. Grant was poised for a major assault on Lee’s right flank to cut off the Confederates from Richmond, but had to delay the fight for a day. Then they lost a bloody battle to an undermanned Confederate army. Grant later said:
“I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made… no advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained.”
It is a tragedy that the Civil War is still living history in America. On to cartoons.
Cohen switched sides, and the GOP was pissed:
Trump didn’t like Cohen’s testimony, but was totally OK with Kim’s denial about Warmbier:
After the Kim summit, Trump now regrets what he said about McCain in Vietnam:
Snow in moonlight near Mammoth Mountain, CA – 2019 smartphone photo by Mwalt19
At the end of the week that includes President’s Day, there’s a story in the WSJ that deserves highlighting. The article, “An American Icon That Almost Wasn’t” is about the iconic, and larger-than-life statue of Abraham Lincoln that rests inside the Lincoln Memorial. As with most memorials on the National Mall, there were differences of opinion about the location of the Memorial, and the size of the statue of a seated Lincoln. It was originally designed to be 12 feet high, but to the sculptor, Daniel Chester French, that seemed far too small for the atrium of the Memorial. He fought for a larger, heroic sized statue, and finished it in 1920.
The Memorial was dedicated in May, 1922. But, according to Harold Holzer in the WSJ, by the time of the dedication, America had not internalized the lessons of the Civil War:
African-Americans in attendance were herded off to a “colored” section at the rear. The choice seats were filled by aged Confederate veterans dressed in their tattered gray uniforms.
Adding injury to insult, the only black speaker at the ceremony, Robert Russa Moton, head of the Tuskegee Institute, could not even deliver the full oration he had composed. The White House demanded he omit his most provocative words: “So long as any group within our nation is denied the full protection of the law,” what Lincoln called his “unfinished work” remained “still unfinished,” and the Memorial itself “but a hollow mockery.”
In 1922, 57 years after the end of the Civil War, we still couldn’t get past the idea that one race was inferior to the other. Worse, we couldn’t even acknowledge it openly. Contrast that with these words from Lincoln’s Second inaugural address:
One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war….
We’ve gone forward in the last nearly 100 years to overcome much of the segregation that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial’s dedication, but much work remains unfinished. Lincoln said it best in the closing of his Second Address in 1865:
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.
And yet, we’ve still got work to do.
But you’ve done enough for this week, so forget about Bernie, Beto, Biden, Buttigieg, or whomever your favorite Democrat of the moment may be, and prepare for Saturday Soothing! Start by brewing up a vente cup of single origin Sumatra Tano Batak ($20.99/12oz.) from Maui’s Origin Coffee. The roaster says it has flavors of dark chocolate, melon and mandarin orange.
Now settle back in your most comfy chair, put on your wireless headphones and listen to Freddie Mercury and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” played in 2013 by the Indiana University Studio Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Hersh, with viola solo by Sarah Harball:
We feature it here in honor of the Oscars on Sunday night. Sadly, it’s the only Oscar-nominee movie that Wrongo and Ms. Right got to see this year.
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.
Redwood logging, Humboldt County CA – 1915 Photo by AW Ericson, hat tip Eric Loomis
Our problem as Americans is we actually hate history. What we love is nostalgia –Regie Gibson
Can we survive a mal-educated population? The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) just released a study called “Teaching Hard History, American Slavery” that indicts our high school education system, at least as it relates to teaching about the Civil War and slavery. Here are their most damning conclusions:
Only 8% of high school seniors surveyed identified slavery as the central cause of the Civil War
Almost half identified tax protests as the main cause
68% didn’t know that it took a Constitutional amendment to formally end slavery
Tax protests? Possibly, the kids who thought slavery had to do with “taxation” are conflating the Civil War with the Revolutionary War.
We teach vignettes, not context. We talk about individuals and concepts like the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, or abolitionists. There is little discussion about how slaves were the most important element of net worth in the south, or how hard southern landowners fought to protect that source of value.
The SPLC says that teaching lessons rarely connect slavery to white supremacy, the ideology that grew up to sustain and protect it. They point out that the American ideology of white supremacy, along with accompanying racist dogma, developed precisely to justify the perpetuation of slavery. The report concludes:
If we don’t get the early history of our country right, we are unlikely to be equipped to do the heavy lifting necessary to bridge racial divides now and in the future…
Most towns probably devote an hour a day to history class in high school. If a class year is 180 days, which means kids have 1,000 hours of history a year, at least for high school. That totals to 4000 hours, plenty of time to truly teach American history, regardless of protests about teaching to the test or Common Core.
We can surely do a better job, or we face the consequence that our future is in the hands of Trump’s “poorly educated”, most likely, an easily swayed group of voters.
Welcome to the weekend. By now you, like Wrongo, know what is in the Nunes Memo. The NYT denounced the Memo in advance, but with the caveat that:
None of this is to say the FBI and the rest of the federal law enforcement apparatus should be immune from criticism or reform.
Nope, not when back in the day, the FBI was run by a cross-dressing maniac addicted to blackmail.
Anyway, to get distance from the world, Wrongo is making chili today. That way it can rest overnight before we eat it during the Super Bowl. What are you having?
To help you read The Memo, get in your most comfortable chair and drink a fresh-brewed vente cup of Kicking Horse Coffee. You can choose between “Smart Ass” blend or, their “Kick Ass” blend. Wrongo suggests Smart Ass, only $11.99 for 10 oz at Amazon.
BTW, they sell “Half Ass”, but no “Bad Ass” or “Dumb Ass” brands. Why?
To help you relax and forget DC, Dumb Ass Democrats, and Trump for a while, settle back and listen to the West Ocean String Quartet perform the old Irish melody “The Lark in Clear Air”. This is one of many versions, some include lyrics from a poem by Belfast’s Sir Samuel Ferguson. The tune is from a folk song called “Kathleen Nowlan” or, alternatively, “The Tailor’s Son” from the early 19th Century:
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.
Wrongo’s internet was down for a few days, and a lottta things happened before he could get back on the air. We will take up trucks killing tourists on NYC bike paths, and Mueller’s indictments at some point, but today, Wrongo again finds that he just can’t quit John Kelly.
You know the headline, Kelly, in an interview with Laura Ingraham, expressed his view that the Civil War was the tragic result of “the lack of an ability to compromise,” fought between “men and women of good faith on both sides,” including the “honorable” Robert E. Lee.
All of our leaders have flaws…Washington, Jefferson, JFK, Roosevelt, Kennedy– that doesn’t diminish their contributions to our country, and it certainly can’t erase them from our history. And General Kelly was simply making the point that just because history isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean that it’s not our history.
Did you notice that she mentions JFK and Kennedy with one name in between? Or maybe she means John F. Kelly.
Was the leader she referred to Robert E. Lee? We can only hope that some reporter asked Sanders what Lee’s actual contributions to the country were.
Of course, he owned the land that is now Arlington National Cemetery, but that wasn’t a voluntary contribution, it was seized. Or perhaps she means the battle at Gettysburg, where he provided generations of military officers with lessons on the importance of managing your subordinates, and not charging fortified positions across a mile of open ground.
Or maybe it is that he lent his name to the 1969 Dodge Charger used in the TV show, “The Dukes of Hazzard”.
The next day, Sanders said that Kelly’s comment that the Civil War was caused by a failure to compromise came from Ken Burn’s “The Civil War” documentary. But let’s not go down the rat hole of whether Burns’ documentary is an accurate telling of Civil War history.
Kelly’s claim that the War was caused by a failure of both sides to compromise is totally undercut by the fact that most of the Confederate states seceded before Lincoln was even inaugurated. The election of Lincoln triggered the conflict; notwithstanding that he had not yet put the question of ending slavery on the table.
John Kelly was 40 years old when the Burns film came out. You would expect that he would have known more about the Civil War than you get from a video, even a multi-episode show. After all, he has a BA from the University of Massachusetts, and an MA from Georgetown. Most educated people do know better.
Maybe the White House will prove Kelly’s view of the Civil War with facts, you know, Hannity-style facts, not fake news out of some liberal text book that’s not approved in Texas.
Denis McDonough was Obama’s Chief of Staff for four years, the entire second term. Does anyone know what his opinion is about civil war monuments? About Robert E. Lee? About how a certain female Congresscritter from Florida is an empty barrel?
Kelly has become the empty barrel he complained about two weeks ago.
Let’s close with “Autumn in New York” by Billie Holiday. After the truck terror attack, we learned that six of the eight victims were foreign tourists. And despite the attack, it is still a wonderful time to be in NYC:
Every year, the Wrongologist reminds blog readers that Memorial Day was called Decoration Day for more than 100 years, ending in 1971. It was established by an order issued by Gen. John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. This is from Gen. Logan’s order:
The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land…
Back then, it was our most solemn holiday. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, a tradition we still follow today.
The Civil War claimed more lives than any conflict in US history, requiring the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. Drew Gilpin Faust’s book, The Republic of Suffering-Death and the American Civil War (2008) reminds us just how deadly the Civil War was: 620,000 dead soldiers, (2% of the US population at the time), at least 50,000 dead civilians, and an estimated 6 million pounds of human and animal carcasses to deal with on battlefields.
When the Civil War began, neither army had burial details, graves registration units, means to notify next of kin, or provisions for decent burial. They had no systematic way to identify or count the dead, and until 1867, no national cemeteries in which to bury them. In an ironic twist, in 1866, after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the Union Army opened an office in Ford’s Theater to record deaths, house the war records and assist families to find lost loved ones. In 1893, the building collapsed, killing 22.
The mortality rate in the South exceeded that of any country in WWI. In addition, the South lost nearly 2/3rds of its wealth in the War.
Decoration Day became Memorial Day when Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971, which made us observe national holidays on Mondays, creating three-day weekends for We, the People. So, along with parades, picnics and mega-sales on the web and in the malls, many think that the holiday celebrates the start of summer.
Instead, please stop and remember the people who died in our wars. Do that irrespective of whether you “believe” in a particular war.
Memorial Day is a time to meditate on the difference between right and wrong wars. Mr. Obama spoke in Japan last Friday, walking a fine line, remembering the atomic weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but not calling WWII and our actions against Japan “wrong”.
Another thing to remember is that our government owes our all-volunteer military policies and policy decisions that are worthy of their sacrifice. But, our government rarely makes decisions that are completely worthy of such sacrifice.
With its military active in more than 150 countries, the United States today finds itself, if anything, overextended. Our principal security challenges — the risks to the planet posed by climate change, the turmoil enveloping much of the Islamic world and now spilling into the West, China’s emergence as a potential rival to which Americans have mortgaged their prosperity — will not yield to any solution found in the standard Pentagon repertoire. Yet when it comes to conjuring up alternatives, the militarized history to which Americans look for instruction has little to offer.
Ask Trump and Clinton what will be different if they become Commander-In-Chief. Which one will address climate change, the rise of China, or the near-civil war in the Greater Middle East?
Finally, when you think about policies worthy of sacrifice, here is a Memorial Day tune from Warren Zevon: “The Envoy”, from the album of the same name. The song was written in 1981, back when we thought our issues in the Middle East were rare. It was inspired by Philip C. Habib, who was President Reagan’s special envoy in the Lebanon crisis.
On Monday, South Carolina’s governor Nikki Haley announced a plan to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the SC state house. That got many Republican presidential candidates off the hook after a weekend in which most delivered waffles about the subject.
But, everything you need to know about the conservative Republican position on the Confederate flag in 2015 was summed up by Bill Kristol on the very same day:
OK. Time to talk about history. The South seceded, and then fought a war to preserve slavery. It was not a war of Northern aggression. It was a war of Confederate choice, and the choice was made first by South Carolinians, who were the first to announce their secession.
SC’s Declaration of Causes of Secession was issued on December 20, 1860, after the election, but three months before Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office. If you choose to read at the link, you’ll see the entirety of their complaint had to do with slavery. They were angry:
• That slaves were escaping from their territory and Northern States were refusing to send them back
• That blacks had been granted citizenship in some Northern states
• That the election of Lincoln would lead to slavery’s exclusion from the new territories
Here is a snippet: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)
A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the Common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that Slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.
Lincoln was explicit during the early years of the war that he fought back, not for slavery, but to preserve the union. Today, some modern “confederates” use those quotes from Lincoln to argue that the war wasn’t about slavery, but that is revisionist history.
The people who started the war, in every confederate state, were explicitly doing so to preserve slavery. Read the other secession statements. Read the speeches of leading confederate politicians. Read the founding CSA documents, in which the CSA states were free to do anything they wanted except end slavery. In fact it’s clear that the main purpose of even having a confederation was to preserve slavery.
The Confederate flag was basically forgotten after the civil war until the civil rights movement when the battle flag was resurrected by those in the south who were against the federal laws prohibiting lynching, segregation, and vote blocking. In other words, that flag has been used only by those promoting white supremacy. Heritage? Of course, but for a flag that represents something that existed for four years?
The flag is just a start. Why are there Civil War reenactments in the South? Battle field reenactments where they honor their defeat of the north, focused on battles they won in a war that they lost. Imagine if Mexican Americans had an Alamo reenactment where they storm the Alamo and kill Davy Crockett.
Taking down the Confederate flag over the South Carolina Capitol, along with Walmart and EBay stopping sales of the flag, and the number one Confederate flag manufacturer ending production are all important steps, but they are the just a few steps on a long road.
The next big question is will country music follow the lead of Governor Haley and distance itself from the Confederate flag? The rebel flag is deeply interwoven into country and southern rock music, that relationship is both deep and wide.
This stuff is symbolic, and a very important symbol is being phased out.