A lot of times, people take stock of where they are spiritually at the beginning of the year. They make resolutions to do different things that will help them draw closer to God throughout the year. Have you ever stopped in the middle of the year to evaluate how well you’re doing in meeting that goal? That’s an easy goal to let go of and forget because there are so many distractions. If you made that kind of goal at the beginning of the year and you’ve fallen behind, take heart. Our God gives second and third and fiftieth and one hundredth chances. If you want to begin to work on that again, let me introduce you to my devotional book series. I’d like to offer you a free eBook where you can spend five to ten minutes a day reading and contemplating God’s presence in your life. This site won’t even collect an email address! If you don’t know how to send a book to your Kindle, I can help you do that. Gain a habit that will enrich your every day life.
Why Celebrate Juneteenth?
When President Trump scheduled his first rally for it’s original date of June 19, people were astonished and confused. They considered it a veiled attack on the African-American community because it was on a date that has come to be known as Juneteenth. A few days later, he changed to date so as to avoid the appearance of being sensitive to the concerns of African-Americans. I have no doubt that a large part of the country were stunned at the outcry and the date change having no idea what Juneteenth represents. I know what it represents since I moved to Texas, and I hope the president will acknowledge that in his rally on June 20th.
That being said, it took me a while to understand the meaning behind the date after I moved to Texas. I came here to go to school and I spent most summers back home in Illinois, so I never experienced any of the celebrations taking place in the black community. The first summer after I married, I may have seen some news articles about picnics on June 19th, but no one explained why the date was important, nor did I ask. Eventually, I asked my wife what the big deal about Juneteenth was. In case you haven’t heard or discovered the meaning, it was on this day in 1865 that Union soldiers landed in Galveston and let those still kept in slavery know that they were free.
It’s taken me a while to understand the full impact of that event, because I grew up with an understanding of the Emancipation Proclamation as the document that freed the slaves. Later I came to realize that the proclamation only applied to slaves in rebellious areas, but my understanding of the situation was that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves were free. The problem that took me a long time to realize is that since the slave states didn’t recognize pronouncements from Washington, the people living in them may not have gotten the message. And, if word got around to the slaves about the proclamation, their masters didn’t greet that with joy and exultation, but with violence and threats of violence. As other states were occupied by Union soldiers, the news got out. Texas was the last state to get that message and the result is that Juneteenth is a reminder of the fall of the last outpost for legalized slavery in the United States.
Juneteenth has since been celebrated by the African-American community as a reminder of freedom. Both Presidents Bush and Obama made proclamations in support of Juneteenth celebrations. President Bush knew of them because of his Texas connection, and President Obama understood the meaning because of his heritage. President Trump probably had no knowledge of the meaning of the day until his ill-advised rally date became public knowledge. There are those who would confine the holiday to a celebration for African-Americans, and yet, that short-sighted view fails to take into account the deeper meaning of what happened on that day for the Anglo community. Juneteenth not only recognizes the freedom that former slaves finally obtained, but those of us in the Anglo community should recognize that when this last stronghold of slavery was destroyed, it freed us from the stain of upholding slavery in any way, shape, or form.
In the discussion about this day, some have proposed that Juneteenth become a national holiday. Texas first recognized Juneteenth as a holiday in 1979. It’s celebrated in some states either as an official or an unofficial holiday as well. While we can recognize why African-Americans celebrate this day, the question then becomes why should other Americans celebrate this day and why should it be a national holiday? Perhaps people of all ethnic persuasions should celebrate this day because it was on this day that we all became free. As the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is often quoted as saying, “No one is free until we all are free.” While we still deal with problems of racism and even modern day slavery, this day is a reminder that we can all be free, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Those who were enslaved saw the release from physical bondage. May that be an example for all to be freed from the metaphorical chains of hatred and racism that keep us from the greatness we could achieve as a nation. We should celebrate the freedom of others and seek it for ourselves. Juneteenth should be a day when we’re reminded not only of man’s inhumanity to man that was shown in slavery, but the hope that we can become an even greater nation because we seek freedom for all people.
That Confederacy Thing
I grew up in the Chicago area. I watched the Cubs, the Bears, and the Blackhawks. Maybe the Bulls a little but I wasn’t very good at basketball, so I didn’t really enjoy watching it. I loved to read about and study history and because of that love, read about the Civil War. Because of that study, I knew that the North was good because they wanted to free the slaves while the South was bad because they fought to maintain slavery. I’ll be honest, I never heard anything about the South’s perspective on the civil war, but I never thought there could be another side to the question.
Then, I came to Texas for college. I don’t remember how long it took for me to see the bumper sticker, but I’ve got to admit that I laughed when I saw it. “The South’s gonna do it again,” was the caption on a photo of a young man in a rebel uniform carrying the Confederate Flag. All I could think of when I saw that was, “What? The South’s gonna rebel against the United States again, try to secede, and get slapped down again?” Yes, I have to admit that my first encounter with Southern Pride was not sympathetic and reinforced the idea that those people who displayed the flag that I now know as the Confederate Battle Flag were racist hicks. Any time I saw people exhibiting the Confederate Battle Flag after that, I laughed with a sense of superiority, although I didn’t see it much when I was in school because I was focused on my studies.
In the last fifteen or twenty years, I began hearing the “Southern” side of the argument. According to this argument, it’s not that the South was fighting for slavery so much as fighting against interference from the Federal government. They were just fighting to maintain their southern way of life in the face of northern aggression. I even had a friend call it the war of northern aggression – without any sense of irony. (Note: he would never use that term seriously now.) The fight, also known as “The Lost Cause,” was meant to show the power of states’ rights as seen in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. To be honest, as a conservative who see the Federal Government encroaching on freedoms more and more as the years pass by, there was an attractive quality to the argument if you overlooked that peculiar institution – slavery. Some of the people I came into contact with espoused the ideas of the Lost Cause and flew the Confederate Battle Flag. I never could do anything but look on the Battle Flag with disdain, but I began to wonder if perhaps my upbringing in the north might have colored my perception of the war that took place between the Northern States and the Southern States. As social media began to expand, the idea of the Lost Cause, while not mentioned in those terms, grew in mentions, if not in actual popularity. I began to wonder if I had misunderstood the war from the time I started hearing about it.
At the same time, controversy arose over the statues of Confederate Leaders that were displayed around the south and in some cases violent protests broke out as some sought to destroy the statues, while others sought to preserve them as pictures of the Southern way of life. A quick study showed that many of the monuments were erected around the time of World War 1 and immediately after as the last soldiers of the confederacy were dying off and as African Americans began gaining some kinds of power. While I can’t document the reasons for my opinion here, I am of the belief that these monuments were erected to remind African Americans who was in charge, through intimidation. Meanwhile, I was told again and again that the average foot soldier in the South probably never held slaves and only saw himself as fighting for their land and their way of life and not for the right to enslave people in the vilest of conditions.
Somewhere in the midst of all this discussion, I decided to do a little checking up. The primary source documents on this issue were that actual articles of secession by each of the states. I’ll place a link to these documents at the end of this post. As I read them myself I came to the conclusion that when reasons were given for secession the Southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy to maintain that peculiar institution of slavery. When reasons were not given, there was much debate on that issue which was not included in the specific artilce of secession. While they paid lip service to their concerns for states rights, the only right mentioned in these articles was the ability to maintain the institution of slavery. The only “southern way of life” to be maintained was the evil of slavery. At the risk of repeating myself, while the Southern States may have had fears of federal overreach, the area where that was expressed was in the area of slavery.
It all comes back to the issue of slavery. The concept of southern pride goes back to a time before the Civil War when life was easy because the slaves did most of the work. Need I add anything more about the monuments, states rights, or the Confederate Battle Flag? While removing all vestiges of the Confederacy and slavery of that time from the mainstream of American life won’t end racism, it will make it harder to honor those who fought to defend the “right” to keep slaves. While I understand the concerns of those who want to tear those statues down now, doing so that way won’t end the problem. Instead, we should have a rational and national discussion on the types of monuments we would have in our country. For those who would cry that we’re erasing history, let me ask if you can tell me who Iraq’s leader was during the US wars against that nation? They tore his statues down and destroyed his pictures. Yet we all know who Saddam Hussein was. Destroying his statues did not erase him from history. Germany has no monuments to Hitler or his minions. They do have memorial sites to commemorate the horrors that he inflicted on his own people. We can turn those parks in the south dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Lost Cause into memorials the remind us of the horrors of slavery. We should never honor traitors who took up arms against the United States to defend the despicable cause of slavery. We should teach about them, of course, but as a warning of the excuses men will make to justify their evil acts.
Following and acting on the truth is a conservative ideal. There is nothing conservative about supporting slavery, the people who practiced it, or the institutions that encourage it. Conservatives should be about letting all have equal opportunity to succeed or fail in life. Conservatives should be willing to help people in need whether or not they’re compelled to. Conservatives should see the evil nature of the Southern Heritage and work to provide liberty and justice for all.
The order of secession resolutions and dates are:
1. South Carolina (December 20, 1860)
2. Mississippi (January 9, 1861)
3. Florida (January 10)
4. Alabama (January 11)
5. Georgia (January 19)
6. Louisiana (January 26)
7. Texas (February 1; referendum February 23)
Bombardment of Fort Sumter (April 12) and President Lincoln’s call up (April 15)
8. Virginia (April 17; referendum May 23, 1861)
9. Arkansas (May 6)
10. Tennessee (May 7; referendum June 8)
11. North Carolina (May 20)
I’ve always dreamed of being asked to give a commencement speech and share wisdom with graduates. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened. This year, though, since most colleges are doing “virtual” graduations, no one’s being asked and still many are making commencement addresses online. So I figured if no one asked them and they’re doing that, why can’t I. I thought about it because I’ve seen many of my friends, family, and students who are graduating from college or high school. I’m proud of them. Many of my friends who graduated from college have dealt with college classes and, and have still survived. No, I didn’t leave a word out. Instead of being able to focus specifically on college classes, they have gone to college and raised their families, dealt with illness, (my wife who graduated with her doctorate last year dealt with cancer) worked full time jobs. So for those students who had an “and” I applaud you greatly. I’ve seen many of my students graduating from high school and college this year. Sure, I had them in middle school, but they aren’t former students, they’re my students. Teachers will understand that sentiment. My nephew, Charles R. Wells graduated Magna Cum Laude, University Honors with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science from Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Engineering. My son, Timothy James, graduated from University of Alabama at Huntsville with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Engineering. Tim was an “and” student who worked a full time job, raised three children, along with his beautiful wife, and served in the military reserves. I’m proud of my family. I’m proud of my friends. I’m proud of my students. This address is for them! But, before you watch it, you may want to go to YouTube and play “Pomp and Circumstance” on repeat about 30 times…just to set the atmosphere. 😉
Paying Homage to Corona
As we continue various stages of stay at home/lockdown/quarantine humor/coping mechanisms abounded. Two poems came out of some of the humor, although the second one may not really be that funny. The first poem “With Apologies to Paul Simon” will have more meaning if you know the song “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” While you might smile a bit at the story without knowing that song, this poem will make much more sense if you’ve heard the song. The second poem “The Name Game” deals with a really bad practice of naming kids after disasters. That being said, the last line leaves me with a measure of hope, as I hope it does for you.
With Apologies to Paul Simon
Encounter in the Shadows
I misheard someone on the radio. I thought I heard them talk about shadows, when they talked about their shattered life. I thought of Psalm 23 and the idea of walking through the shadow of death. Then, I thought about living in the shadows, not just walking through. I imagined how Adam must have felt after he sinned. This poem is the result of that thought process:
Encounter in the Shadows
I was living in the shadows
What if HE knew?
So much wrong
So much hurt
So much disgust
I can’t let HIM see
But HE’s pursuing me
Is HE toying with me?
Doesn’t HE really know where I am?
I move farther away
HE moves closer
There’s no more room
I can’t run any more
And step into the open
“I’m here.” I call
Afraid to look
And puts HIS finger under my chin
HE lifts my head
To look into my eyes
And then I see HIM for who HE is
Instead of feeling wrong
I feel forgiveness
Instead of feeling hurt
I feel healed
Instead of disgust and shame
I feel loved and valued.
“Come into the Light”
YOU are loved.