My mother’s three brothers and one of her three sisters served in the army in WWII. Uncle Buck flew close order air support of ground combat soldiers, one of whom could have been Uncle Bill. Uncle Bud never saw a shot fired in anger but went where he was told. Aunt Betty was an army nurse.
My two brothers and I served in the military during the Viet Nam War as did my sister Jane’s husband, Bruce. Bruce was stationed in North Carolina and was not sent to Viet Nam. My eldest brother, C.E., is a fine musician and the army decided it needed his saxophone for the U.S. Army Field Band more than they needed his rifle.
My other brother, Phil, is an excellent attorney whom the army ordered into the Judge Advocate Corps as they thought his legal advice was more important to the war effort than his fighting. And for reasons known only to the U.S. Air Force my country determined my supposed linguistic skills were more vital for gathering Intelligence than was my body for cannon fodder.
One of my numerous first cousins, Billy Mike, survived a year in combat in Viet Nam and my son, Jim, earned a Combat Infantryman’s Badge in the Gulf War of 1990-91 and another in the Iraq War in 2006. He also earned a Bronze Medal for service in each war. My son, my cousin and two of my uncles dodged enemy fire while my other uncle, my aunt, my brother-in-law, my brothers and I simply went where we were sent.
Twenty-nine of our presidents served in the military before becoming Commander-in-Chief. Some saw combat, some did not. At least two of our recent presidents actively avoided serving themselves but later, as President, sent others into combat. Abraham Lincoln always dreamed of military action and regretted only serving about one month of non-combat service during the Black Hawk War (May 1832–August 1832). Ironically, he later served as our top non-combat “soldier” during our deadliest war.
These differing military/non-military, combat/non-combat circumstances were brought sharply into focus for me last week when some of my siblings (C.E. and his wife Shirley plus my sister Jane along with my wife Peg) and some of my first cousins (Susie, Barbara Joan, Billy Mike and his wife Annette along with their son Ryan) got together in Canada for our first full blown reunion since the Viet Nam War. The hair may now have a lighter hue but absolutely nothing important inside has changed since we threw firecrackers and climbed on the huge sandstone rocks at Osage Hills State Park in Osage County, Oklahoma over half a century ago.
We each almost instantly realized what a debt we owed to our parents and grandparents for all the times they brought us together at Christmas, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, weddings and funerals. The bonds formed in an enchanted childhood not only helped us through these many intervening years although separated by time and space, we found they remain unbreakable even today.
And the strongest bonds were formed by loving relatives who supported those who were strong enough and wise enough to address with action the futility of wars fought for reasons other than national defense or humanitarian necessity.
So, thank you to our ancestors who taught us the value of loving one’s country and one’s family and to those who are keeping the flame burning brightly in spite of time and distance.
Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was a professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York. Campbell was America’s recognized guru in the area of myth and religion. He postulated that the ultimate/unpardonable sin was to be unaware.
When Peg and I visited the just opened Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama earlier this month then participated in the Dred Scott convocation in St. Louis, Missouri last week, I was constantly made aware of Campbell’s admonition. I thought back to when I lived in an apartheid society of which I was barely conscious. When I saw the representations of lynchings and Jim Crow laws in Montgomery the stark reality of a separate and unequal daily life assaulted me. But when in St. Louis I listened to personal accounts of Black people who were on the unequal side of the equation, my own lack of alertness came into focus.
While you can anticipate the content of the displays at the EJI, when you walk through the hundreds of metal coffins inscribed with thousands of names of murdered Black people including several from Posey County, Indiana, you will naturally contemplate the evil we are capable of doing to one another just because someone may be an “other”. But when you hear directly from living persons who are still experiencing a denial of equal justice you are forced to confront your own previous lack of awareness.
The Dred Scott case was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1857 and led directly to the Civil War four years later. It is only one of many wrong decisions of the Supreme Court but is probably the worst. Chief Justice Roger Taney (1777-1864) who sat on the Supreme Court for almost thirty years authored the 7 to 2 opinion. It held that Negroes could not be citizens of the United States and had no rights that white men were legally bound to recognize, and that Dred Scott must remain a slave.
On Monday, July 16, 2018 at Logan University in St. Louis descendants of Dred Scott (c.1799-1858), Confederate President Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) and Roger Taney along with one hundred and fifty judges, attorneys and academic scholars were brought together by Judge Judith Draper and her husband Justice George Draper in conjunction with the National Judicial College to engage in “reconciliation”.
NJC President Benes Aldana, NJC technology specialist Joseph Sawyer, Michael Roosevelt education specialist for the State of California Courts and I as an NJC faculty member presented the afternoon sessions after the descendants and audience members held an interesting and extremely positive discussion during three hours in the morning.
The relatives of Taney and Davis did not attempt to excuse slavery. They did, however, clearly and poignantly point out their ancestors had done many good things along with their egregious errors in moral and legal judgments. As Peg and I listened to them I was reminded of Mark Antony’s funeral oration for Julius Caesar:
“The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft’ interred with their bones.”
William Shakespeare, Act III, sc ii.
What the EJI and Dred Scott experiences did for me was force me to remember and dissect my experiences under the system of legal apartheid in my hometown of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. I had never given more than a passing thought as to why “Colored” boys could not enter the front door of the pool hall or come to the front part of the building. And now my home town is New Harmony, Indiana where, according to the book by William E. Wilson On the Sunny Side of a One Way Street at page 91 he wrote that when he was a boy in New Harmony:
“By the twentieth century New Harmony had lost the egalitarian faith on which it was founded a hundred years before, and Aunt Minnie’s Lizzie (Wilson’s Aunt’s Black servant) was the only Negro permitted to live in the town. She had a room in the hotel (owned by Wilson’s Aunt and Uncle) and never went out on the street, day or night. Uncle Harry and Aunt Minnie did everything possible to make Lizzie feel like one of the family, not only because she was an excellent cook but also because they loved her. Even so, I have often wondered since how Lizzie endured her ostracism in the town.”
And Wilson also writes of his father’s loss of his Congressional seat in 1925 because he refused to join the Ku Klux Klan.
Well, I am more “aware” now than I was before the visit to the EJI Museum and Memorial, the Dred Scott convocation and Mr. Wilson’s book, but realize there’s more I need to do while, I hope, there’s still time to do it.
I wish to sincerely thank the friendly and expert staff of our fine Alexandrian Public Library in Mt. Vernon, Indiana for providing me with several excellent reference works on Dred Scott and William E. Wilson’s interesting book on New Harmony.
For video of Peg’s pictures of the Convocation please go to: https://www.youtube.com/edit?video_id=qqOf6KZ7ZBw&video_referrer=watch
I was married, had a son and was broke when I started Law School in Bloomington, Indiana in the summer of 1968. Although I was working full-time on a night stock crew at a Kroger’s grocery store and was receiving the G.I. bill for my Air Force service, our family just made it. My mission was to get out of school as quickly as possible. I.U. allowed 44 of us new law students to enroll on a new 27-month plan instead of the normal three years with three summers off. Only 6 of us completed the program where we actually started in June 1968 and took the Bar Exam in the summer of 1970 before we graduated in August.
What this did for my family and me was to allow me to become a lawyer when that would not have been possible had we had to remain in Law School another year. My G.I. Bill benefits were used up by the spring 1970 semester and we could not survive on my Kroger pay.
Now I will leave it up to my past clients and those who have appeared in front of me as judge to determine if I.U. made an error in judgment in allowing me to cram three years of education into two. But as for me it was a necessity. However, it also showed me how the summertime, when most Law Schools are not in session, could be put to use.
Another long-term association I have had as judge is with the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada. While NJC does conduct summer continuing education sessions for judges from every state and many foreign countries, these courses, due to the demands of working judges’ schedules, usually are a maximum of two weeks. In two weeks judges can have existing skills more finely honed. However, the in-depth education and training one should experience before being charged with the thousands of critical judging decisions affecting our citizens requires a greatly expanded curriculum and much more time. Unfortunately, in America today all judges get their judicial education after they become judges. Such a system of on-the-job training might work well for workers on a night stock crew, but it is anathema to receiving equal justice from new judges.
In some countries, the pool of potential judges is formed in Law Schools where those who wish to someday be a judge must complete a rigorous and specially designed regimen. That is in contrast to America where if one wishes to be a judge all that is required is that he or she graduate from a law school. And in Law School not even the law professors are likely to have a clue about what a judge’s role really entails.
What I suggest is a system of developing a pool of attorneys who have a Law School specialty of Judging much as in medicine where one must be trained as a neurologist before they operate on someone’s brain. Naturally the students who want to later be considered for election or appointment as judges should have at least all the education and training of any attorney who will appear in front of the judge, so the judicial specialty must call for additional Law School time just as a medical student who wants to specialize needs extra education and time. I suggest the three summers of a Law School education are a natural fit for a Judicial Specialty. I will more fully address these issues in future columns. Try to curb your excitement.
“The American Creed”
I believe in the United States of America
As a government
Of the people,
By the people,
For the people,
Whose just powers are derived
From the consent of the governed;
A democracy in a republic;
A sovereign Nation of many sovereign states;
A perfect Union;
One and inseparable;
Established upon those principles
Of freedom, equality, justice and humanity
For which American patriots
Sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
Therefore, I believe it is my duty
To my country to love it,
To support its Constitution,
To obey its laws,
To respect its flag,
And to defend it against all enemies.
This poem by William Tyler Page was adopted by a Resolution of the United States House of Representatives on April 03, 1918 as America was helping to end the Great War to End all Wars (WWI).
It was recited by Ann Greenfield who is Posey County, Indiana’s First Lady of Political Service during the impressive and appropriate Fourth of July program sponsored by the Friends of the New Harmony Working Men’s Institute, University of Southern Indiana/Historic New Harmony and the New Harmony Kiwanis.
Ann is of that generation where capable women believed they could best serve by supporting capable men. The demographics of history support this regrettable reality. Fortunately, at least in America, history is being rewritten and the wisdom of such women as Ann, my sister Jane (Redwine) Bartlett, my wife Peg, and many more may be what guides us through the troubled waters we appear to prefer to curse instead of carefully navigate.
Perhaps it is provident that as we face our current challenges involving technology, health care, the environment, military deployments, immigration, equal justice and more issues than can fit in one column, we have in reserve a fount of experience, knowledge, self-sacrifice and wisdom whose time to spring forth is just now arrived.
The generation of women who helped end the Viet Nam War, started us on the road to equal justice, began to demand equal opportunities for everyone while still managing to bind our wounds brings unique talent, experience, perspective and courage to today’s bitter divisions. Of course, huge numbers of women have always personally joined the fight while many others saw their place as spear carriers. But the current challenges require a general call to arms where all the available soldiers are engaged. I respectfully suggest that we encourage women in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and maybe even some elderly women, to step forward on their own. Your time has finally come and we need you; more importantly, your country is hurting and it needs you to lead on the field not cheer from the sidelines.
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Most of us know of and many can even recite President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address delivered during the Civil War on November 19, 1863. And most of us know of and probably sometimes paraphrase his House Divided speech delivered when he was a candidate for United States Senator in Illinois (June 16, 1858). Lincoln lost to Stephan Douglas whom Lincoln later beat for the presidency in 1860.
The topic might be a little heavy for a short weekly newspaper column but with our country’s birthday this week and the country in a perpetual state of mutual invective I humbly submit it is worth our attention.
In an attempt to pare down the extremely complex and emotionally charged issues of our country’s Negro slavery, the Civil War, our current status in re civil rights and the cacophony of our public discourse, I will just refer to a few items: (1) The United States Constitution, (2) the Missouri Compromise, (3) the Kansas-Nebraska Act and, (4) the Dred Scott case as decided in 1857 by the U.S. Supreme Court. If you are still with me, I caution it gets worse.
Originally slavery was recognized as a States Rights issue, i.e., if a state wanted slavery and wanted to be part of the Unionthat was okay. But as a device to apportion the number of a state’s congressmen, the Constitution declared Negroes in eachstate would be counted as 3/5 of a person for census purposes. However, African Americans were not made citizens until the Civil War via the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Of course, Indians were not included, and women of any race could not vote until 1920 via the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Because of the great divide between free and slave states, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was enacted, although many argued it was unconstitutional. The Missouri Compromise allowed for the admission of Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state and prohibited slavery north of a certain parallel (36°30’) but allowed it below that border.
This worked alright until heightened tensions arose between slave and free states so Senator Stephan Douglas in 1854 got the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed, which allowed for the admission of the states of Kansas and Nebraska to the union with the provision of slavery by popular majority vote of each state’s citizens. Of course, this was not within the spirit or the substance of the Missouri Compromise.
Then in 1857 the United States Supreme Court decided the Dred Scott case. Scott, was a slave whose owner had taken Scott with the owner to live in a free state then returned with him to Missouri. Scott sued for his freedom claiming that once he was in a free state he was then after always free.
Precedent as old as a decision from colonial times in 1772, the Somerset case, was clearly with Scott and most legal authorities, including the lawyer Abraham Lincoln, expected the Supreme Court to declare Scott free. How wrong he and many others were.
Chief Justice Roger Taney a former slave owner and fierce opponent of the Missouri Compromise, ignored established precedent and used Dred Scott’s case to declare no Negro could ever be a citizen of the United States and that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. Taney’s overreaching andpoorly reasoned opinion led directly to the Civil War four years later.
According to the historian Paul Finkelman who wrote the book Dred Scott v. Sandford, A Brief History with Documents:
“By the 1850s Taney was a seething, angry, uncompromising supporter of the South and slavery and an implacable foe of racial equality, the Republican Party, and the anti-slavery movement.”
See p. 29
Taney declared that Blacks:
“[A]re not included and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution… [T]hey were at that time (1787) considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings….”
ibid p. 35
Stephan Douglas held the position the question of slavery should be a matter of state option. Abraham Lincoln on the other hand foresaw that a nation half-slave and half-free, that is a nation divided against itself, could not survive. We are still working that out after 242 years. Happy Birthday!
I would like to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear, you know, when you could turn on the television and not hear overpaid jerks shouting at one another,“You are lying!” Unfortunately, unless I watch re-runs of “I Love Lucy”, invective is the only fare available. As Anne Murray sings, 🎵”We sure could use a little good news today”🎵. Well, here is some.
My friends Glenn Curtis, Ray Kessler, Jerry King and Harold Morgan, Gentle Reader you might note a particular demographic here, all write a lot of good news. Glenn, Posey County’s Historian Emeritus, even drafts entertaining cartoons about current events and historical ones.
Harold Morgan has written several books on area history with a concentration on World War II. Ray Kessler in his Ray’s Ramblings has preserved many entertaining and enlightening stories while Jerry King, with his wife Marsha’s support, has taught us all a great deal about Posey County and the Civil War with a current emphasis on The Great War.
Posey County is a unique place. I wish we had more information on the Native Americans who first lived here, but from McFadden’s Bluff to 2018 we have some pretty good records, although much of our early information is via oral tradition.
On the other hand, we have several excellent professional historians, such as U.S.I.’s Emeritus Professor of History Donald Pitzer, who have researched and corroborated the deeds and words of Posey County residents who have made significant contributions in many areas.
Of course, tomorrow’s history is today’s news and we need new generations of historians to help preserve it. Chad Williams, the official Poseyville Historian who graduated from North Posey High School in 1988, is one who has joined in the responsibility of documenting our past and present. There are numerous others and I apologize to those who deserve to be mentioned but due to time and space are not.
Each of the people mentioned in this article can be located by name on the Internet. I respectfully refer you to their informative, entertaining and objective efforts to preserve our past and guide our future without resort to diatribe.