Don't Censor the Great Adventure
Sam Burnham, Curator
Our friends at Save Art Heritage posted an article recently that reported that the city council of Charlottesville, Virginia has voted to remove a statue. That’s not much of a surprise. As the council has shifted further and further to the left they have become more and more hostile to any representation of history in their town. They have even moved to have Thomas Jefferson’s birthday recognition eliminated. It’s interesting to note that Jefferson is the only reason anyone even knows where Charlottesville is, or that it would even still be there.
The statue in question this time is of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis with Sacajawea, the young Shoshone woman who led them through much of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson has commissioned the two Virginians to explore the new real estate and report back. It’s one of the greatest adventure stories in American history.
As is the case with all history censorship, there’s a group who has taken offense to the monument. The council paid $75 thousand to bring representatives from the offended group, members of the Shoshone tribe, to Virginia to lobby for the monument’s removal. This suggests that the council found a potential problem and then went shopping for a lobby to support their nefarious cause.
The link to this story was shared on the ABG Facebook page and got a lot of reaction.
“Put it in a museum” is a constant talking point. What this really means is marginalize this thing or promise to move it to a place that doesn’t and never will exist. It’s a fake attempt at compromise. The truth is that our parks and streets are museums. These are the places our heritage is on display for public view and contemplation. This is where these monuments belong. This is where they should stay.
“It’s our history and you can’t change history” is an accurate description but it doesn’t go far enough. It is a veiled admission of wrongdoing. Lewis and Clark were on a mission of exploration, not exploitation. Cooperation with the people they encountered was paramount to their mission. Without that cooperation they would have disappeared into the west, never to be heard from again. This monument is not offensive to anyone who isn’t already looking for something to be offended about.
A better option would be to take opportunities to tell the story of Sacajawea. America needs to hear the story of the 16-year-old “purchased bride” of one of the expedition members who became a pivotal part of the mission and even GAVE BIRTH during this epic adventure. Quick, without googling it, what was her husband’s name? Does anyone remember him? He’s just a footnote in the Corps of Discovery. He didn’t make it on the Charlottesville statue or the golden $1 coin, but she did. No one knows him. She’s an American hero. Let’s hear more about this remarkable woman. Don’t take away from the story, add more to it.
As our friends at Save Art Heritage said in their post, the anti-history movement isn’t about “Confederate” anything. It’s about changing the narrative, demonizing the pillars of America and changing the narrative to something more in line with their personal philosophy and politics. This isn’t being done out of ignorance. It’s being done out of dishonesty. It’s a purposeful mission that started with monuments from the War Between the States and has spread and will continue to spread until someone stands up to the politically correct censors. You don’t do that with tiki torches, bad haircuts, and racial slurs. You do it with truth. You do it with correct representation of the past, and you do it with the knowledge that people will try to label you as a racist or a bigot or whatever other buzzword they pull out of their hat that week.
If no one stands up, this will progress to monuments to the World Wars, to Vietnam, the Gulf Wars. It will infiltrate battlefields and cemeteries. No part of our history or culture will be safe from censorship or revisionism. Renaming streets, institutions, buildings, and events will scatter our landscape until nothing of our past, our founding, or the very foundations of our society will be noticeable. The new narrative will be all that remains. And that’s just not acceptable.
Gather ‘Round the Fire
Sam Burnham, Curator
From the dawn of time, from the days before people left written records of their ways and traditions, people have gathered around the fire. Thousands of years ago, the fire was life saving. The flames cooked food, provided the only source of essential heat on frigid evenings, and provided a level of security from predators.
As groups developed into tribes and civilizations the fire became cultural. This was where traditions were handed down, where stories and music were born. Without technology, books, or even a written language, evening firesides were the libraries of prehistory. Thousands of years of human culture survived because they were passed down in the warm glow of the fire. Many of those stories can still be told today and in more remote parts of the world they are still told in this fashion.
Closer to home the fireside offers similar opportunities. With friends and family gathered around the dancing flames, we share songs, stories, and laughter. Sometimes we share silence as just watching the flickering light transforming wood into heat and smoke has a therapeutic effect.
In a world of technology and haste it is nice to stop, go back to a simple, even primal activity. The fireside setting beneath the canopy of stars can be communal for a large group or romantic for a more intimate audience.
Dining can become an experience around the fire. Something as simple as roasting marshmallows for s’mores or a hot dog on a stick can be quite satisfying. This goes to another level when you upgrade the menu to meat, fish, or even deserts. Finding ancient methods of cooking opens new opportunities. Cast iron cookware offers opportunities for soup, chili, biscuits, cornbread, just about anything. Some of the best peach cobbler I’ve ever had was cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven on an open fire.
These cool nights of fall and winter in the South offer good opportunities to enjoy a good fire. Take advantage of this and allow yourself to get out. You can get back to the comfort of the heat pump by bedtime. Just be sure to follow safe practices and also acquire a burn permit where required.
Sam Burnham, Curator
Veterans Day has always been important in our home but it has recently taken a step up. Originally Armistice Day, the observance originated from the storied 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when the armistice took effect, halting all hostilities of The Great War, World War I, “The War to End All Wars.”
The war’s nickname failed to be prophetic. Despite the brutality and the horrors of modern technology mixed with traditional fighting styles, the world failed to lose its appetite for armed conflict. The unresolved issues were aggravated by the terms of the treaty that ended the war and the fight continued just two decades later. World War II would grow to overshadow its predecessor in history and much of The Great War has been forgotten, which is unfortunate.
To make the distinctions, Memorial Day is for those who have their lives in war, Armed Forces Day are for those currently serving, and Veterans Day is for those who served previously.
Our family has a long history of military service. My mother has 7 brothers which include 2 soldiers and 4 marines. I have lost count of the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen in the ranks of my cousins, great aunts and uncles, and my grandfather.
Now my oldest son is currently a sailor and training for a planned deployment in the near future. That took things to a new level. While I know Veterans Day is not meant for current active duty personnel, he has given me an even greater appreciation for our veterans. Seeing your own flesh and blood standing in uniform is quite an experience. I’d be lying if I said I have no fear. But that fear takes a backseat to the pride that his dedication has built. I understand the sacrifice of service better now. That empty seat at our dinner table is a constant reminder of the cost of freedom.
While we may debate the motivations of the politicians who call for war, we should never question the honor, duty, and commitment of the men and women who actually serve in harm’s way, far from Washington’s marble halls, those who fly, sail, and march into danger so that others won’t have to. Veteran’s Day is our reminder of those who have already stood their watch and returned to civilian life, at least as much as possible.
As many of these people struggle with where they have been, what they have seen, and what they have done, we must never forget that there are sacrifices made besides death. Perhaps some are worse.
So as we ponder Veterans Day, let us be thankful, let us be understanding, let us be mindful. Take a moment to thank a veteran. Take time to appreciate, hopefully even understand a veteran. We at least owe them that.
A special thank you to all our veterans from All the Biscuits in Georgia, and particularly to the sailors, from our Navy family to yours.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire