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Posts Tagged ‘Union’

Upside Down American Flag 2

Today in Seattle tensions are mounting as a group of people demand the removal of a Confederate monument in Lake View Cemetery. This happens from time to time. You might remember Destroying the Seattle Confederate Memorial  from two years ago in which I mention the diverse parties involved in its dedication.

Earlier today I was informed that Lake View Cemetery might be somehow obscuring this monument in response to calls to remove it, so I called to ask for the facts before I commented. Lake View has respectfully removed vulgarities from this monument over the years just as they would from any monument there. Evidently they’ve been very busy so it will likely take them some time to answer. I should add that they are consistently responsive and helpful, and that this famed burial ground houses people from all walks.

This afternoon I noticed that a story written by a major Seattle news source reported that the inscription on this memorial says “Erected by Robert E. Lee.” It was almost funny because Lee died 56 years before this monument was placed. But this omission of the rest of the inscription, intentional or not, was potentially inflammatory. We don’t need more fuel on the fire of civil unrest. The actual inscription reads “Erected by Robert E. Lee Chapter Number 885 United Daughters of the Confederacy 1926” prefaced by “In Memory of the United Confederate Veterans.”

Because of this omission I contacted this news source and asked if they would correct this on a factual basis. I pointed out that the modern UDC is very clear about standing against racism– in other words, know these women before you criticize them. What followed left me gobsmacked. This is not verbatim but it does convey the sentiment.

I was told that anything supporting the Confederacy supports white supremacy, racism, and slavery. I said, “So anyone who supported the Confederacy is white supremacist, racist, and pro-slavery?” His answer: yes.

“What about the larger issue of secession?” I asked. (No answer.) I was told that the South fought to keep slavery alive. I believe I said something about expecting more factual reporting and objectivity, but anyway, asked if they would correct their article, politics aside. I haven’t even looked to see if they did after this experience.

That belief, that anyone who supported the Confederacy is white supremacist, racist, and pro-slavery, underscores the ignorance and assumptions that are dividing our country in two. We are losing the republic by not having our facts straight and not respecting other citizens’ freedoms. Angry, self-righteous, narrow-mindedness that denies others freedom of speech and expression will be the death of our union if we don’t get a grip.

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In my Generation Xer lifetime I’ve witnessed a remarkable shift from critical thinking, fact-checking, and intelligent civil discourse to politics and activism based more on emotions like anger. Facts seem to have become increasingly unimportant. It’s now hip to wield a broad brush and make scathing generalizations about anyone who disagrees with you, attacking people rather than policy or politics.

In the age of social media we go online calling others Nazis, fascists, racists, bigots, and haters not because they actually are those things, but because these are the labels we slap on those who disagree with us. The frightening aspect to this, one that threatens civilization, is that we are losing track of– or don’t care– what these terms actually mean. Merriam and Webster seem to be anachronistic relics of a less enlightened era.

Nazism advocates totalitarianism. What is totalitarianism? The state rules. The state makes the rules. The state gets total control. Nazism is also equated with fascism. What is facism? It’s similar. The state rules, usually with a dictator at its head. There is no freedom to disagree and there is strict social and economic control. Some fascist states have ruled without employing terror but both ideologies might employ it. Racism tends to be more prevalent in totalitarianism. Scholars can debate the finer points all day but here’s the bottom line: Nazism, totalitarianism, and fascism are all about control and the state controlling individuals.

Here’s an example of irony: Antifrees. At least that’s what I call them. This Antifa group, claiming to be anti-fascist, labels those who disagrees with them fascists and then resorts to violence to protest “fascists.” Do you see what’s wrong with this picture? Antifa and similar organizations are the actual fascists by denying others’ individuals rights and using violence to try to force others into compliance. They are judge, jury, and executioner, showing no respect for the right to have a differing opinion in a free country.

Whatever they call themselves, this  and similar terroristic, thuggish, accusatory ideologies have been tried before. They’ve resulted in hundreds of millions of deaths. Call it totalitarianism, fascism, Nazism, Communism, or what have you, these systems of thought have the same basic idea that causes the same problems: one group has control of a nation and it crushes dissenters. This is accomplished by polarizing and punishing those who advocate for individual rights. These are unquestionably undemocratic philosophies as well.

Note that if you label someone “extreme right,” and they’re just a Reagan Republican who believes in less government, you’re way off. Isms want more government and fewer rights. Isms exist at either side of the traditional political spectrum. A better version of the spectrum would be to put all the liberties-sucking, control-driven, dictatorial ideas on one end and little to no government or governmental control on the other. Extreme isms always bring death. So can anarchy. Stay away from those edges.

How about the ‘phobes? It is hip right now to call someone a ______phobe if they disagree with you. If you speak out against elements of Islam that contradict our Constitution or disregard women’s, human, or animal rights, you an Islamophobe. What is a phobia? It’s an extreme, irrational fear. Irrational implies that there’s little to no logical basis for that fear. It’s just a knee jerk reaction that’s likely unfounded and unfair. It doesn’t matter if you track human rights violations like female genital mutilation or domestic violence; you speak out on one issue, you’re a ‘phobe on all counts.

Xenophobe is another term thrown around like popcorn in the bed of a ’64 pickup on a bumpy back road. You might be against immigration for financial reasons and want to take care of homeless veterans or the elderly or foster children in your own country first. But– shazam– you’re a xenophobe because you’re clearly against foreigners. Xenophobes shouldn’t be concerned with our astronomical national debt and the financial train wreck we are leaving our children.

How dare you take care of your own people first. Worse yet, you’ve shown the desire to put your nation first. You’re a patriotic nationalist! Nationalists surely must be racists. Using popular warped logic, that makes you a fascist! If you are a fascist, then you are a Nazi! This is the new math of politics. It doesn’t care about facts. It just accuses. You are an ist of every ilk no matter what you actually, factually believe.

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Then there’s the very popular label of “hater.” “Hate” has nearly lost its meaning. If you agree with the possibility that a local criminal is a sociopath, you’re a hater. If you advocate for punishment instead of reformation, you’re a hater. If you’re a churchgoer and peacefully disagree while showing respect to those different from you, but take a public stand on a moral issue, you’re a hater. “Choose love,” they say, using “love” as a reason to ostracize others.

It’s getting to the point that unless you agree that anything goes, you’re a hater. Superman’s Bizarro World where up is down and backwards is forwards is consuming our culture. True hate and intolerance are unacceptable to me. Calling someone a hater or intolerant because I disagree with them is just an excuse not to have a rational, constitutionally-based defense to my beliefs ready.

It is alarming to see a nation devolve into high school bullying. What happened to the ability to sit down and have a civil conversation with someone different than ourselves? Instead I see a profession that claims to be objective engaged in 24/7 obsession with manic oppression. The media seems to have gone mad, tilting at windmills, laser-focused on perceived slights when much larger injustices and issues plague our world.

After various media personalities become incensed, emotional, and loud, social media erupts with “so and so demolished or destroyed so and so.” I listen, and most of the time I just see a feelings-charged freak out with no real facts or logic behind it. Most of these tirades can’t even address the original “offense” point by point. It’s just lashing out. So-called entertainers do this night after night and people laud their rationale as if it’s the best way to fight against figures and philosophies they frown upon.

The current national climate is also like domestic violence: “You are what I say you are!” Remember that? For those who’ve been in abusive relationships, a huge portion of our population, you know what it’s like to be called filthy words you never deserved that bear no resemblance to reality. If anything, the abuser was projecting onto you words that described themselves. If you yell, “Fascist! Nazi! Bigot!” at me and try to shut me down because I have an opinion that is different from yours, think about that. Who’s trying to control who?

Most importantly, you don’t have to agree with what your neighbor/spouse/friend/congressman/coworker/pastor/teacher/pet sitter is saying. They have a right to freedom of speech and expression backed by the mighty U.S. Constitution. Yes, this is a constitutional right. You don’t have to be happy about it. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to listen or agree or applaud. That is your right. But you have no right to try and limit someone else’s rights. Your rights end where their nose begins. Their rights are just as important and guaranteed as yours.

Returning to the Confederacy issue that sparked this post, there is a swelling movement to tear down all Confederate monuments. Using the sanctimonious statement I encountered earlier today, all Confederate monuments are a celebration of white supremacy, racism, and slavery. On that note, tearing them down sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Why would anyone want to celebrate that? Hold on. Could there are have been other reasons for these monuments? Could these be freedom of speech? Have we bothered to read the history or understand why or are we just making assumptions to feel superior about ourselves?

Of course slavery is one of the horrors of human history. Speaking of that, there are more slaves now than there ever were before. How many of these masked protesters would go into battle to save even one trafficked girl? Per my Christian beliefs, racism is denying that we are all made in His image and have equal value. Devaluing or persecuting someone based on the color of their skin– as if they even control that!– is astoundingly ignorant. I’ve often said that supremacists of all shades need to go have DNA tests and, hello, Jesus wasn’t a white guy. I’m sure that most Americans agree that slavery, racism, and race-based supremacy are detrimental.

Because we generally agree that these things are bad, we want to erase symbols of them. But the cry to tear down Confederate memorials is ridiculously subjective. It dictates how others can or can’t memorialize their dead and their history. They say, “because it is Confederate, it needs to go!” Let’s try this logic on other quasi-random concepts:

-If the state of California were to successfully secede from the union, a movement largely driven by Progressives, then their names should be stricken from history and it should be illegal to memorialize this act in any way.

-The State of Washington should be renamed because George Washington owned slaves. So should D.C.

-Anyone who believed in preserving the union but owned slaves should not be considered a Unionist. Take down all likenesses.

-Any Southerner who fought out of loyalty to their family, state, or states’ rights is a supremacist bigot. None of them ever changed their views either.

-Because our English ancestors oppressed our Scottish ancestors– or our Arab ancestors sold our African ancestors into slavery– or insert any conflict between people groups on any continent– we should disavow that people group in its entirety. Don’t value anything admirable. They’re just evil.

-If I say you’re a racobigofascitotaliphobahateaholic, you are. Disregard the long-accepted and objective definitions of these terms and just go with it. It’s what the cool kids do.

-There’s a monument to William Henry Seward just next door to Lake View Cemetery in Volunteer Park. His family owned slaves. Should that statue be removed despite his own opposition to slavery and tremendous sacrifices on behalf on the Union? Some Alaskans didn’t want sculptures of what they deemed an imperialist white man in Juneau.

-If there’s a monument that offends me, I have the right to vandalize it, desecrate it, and tear it down, even over someone’s grave. Their remains and resting place are no longer sacred.

-It doesn’t matter if a monument is on private property. It should be subject to the same laws that public property is. (Totalitarianism, anyone? That distinction must remain.)

-Symbols of Christianity and Judaism are offensive to me as well as the Confederacy. I demand that those be taken down as well.

-Should we progress to book burning? Why not? (Does anyone see parallels to the “isms” here? See why some consider this Marxist revisionism?)

When does it stop? Where do we draw the line? This could go on and on. If it does, it becomes one group taking freedoms from others and dictating what is acceptable. They could even demand replacements that enshrine ideals and individuals that are just as offensive to huge groups of other Americans. Instead, we need to have dialogues, conversations, respectful exchanges. We need to study our history and stand in others’ shoes for a moment to try to understand where they’re coming from.

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I don’t have the right to go break anything I think is bigoted. If I did, I’d be down in Fremont right now taking a sledgehammer to the abhorrent monstrosity that is the Vladimir Lenin statute. Oh, no big deal, millions were murdered in the Red Holocaust, but it’s just a neat piece of art that blends nicely into Seattle’s kitsch. If it offends someone who came to America to escape such oppression, they just don’t get the joke.

As I said in another forum today, some of us have been telling Seattle to take the Lenin out of its own eye for a while. The hypocrisy of having Lenin there while demanding that other monuments be taken down bothers some more than the actual statue, which could be construed as an homage to one of humanity’s greatest mass murderers. Some have wondered if Ted Bundy and Hitler would be okay there too.

(It could be argued that the structure celebrates what was good about Lenin. Or it’s just art that’s well done. Alright, then please stay on that track when addressing other monuments.)

Broad brushes. Grandiose generalizations. Feelings freak outs. These can be lazy and disrespectful ways to get your points across. Many of you know not to try these tactics on your children– “You always do this!” “You overreact every time!” “You make me crazy!” Your kids will out logic you and/or suffer because you aren’t acting like an adult. It’s okay to use this behavior with adults you disagree with though?

We need to return to our roots. People will die if we continue to allow these subjective labels, violence, and terrorism to continue. Try empathy– understanding the backstory. Try respect– you can speak respectfully even during strong disagreements (think Lincoln-Douglas). Try objectivity– being true to the classic definitions of words and concepts we throw at others. Try having friends who believe differently than you and celebrate what you have in common instead. Try patriotism– being proud of the diverse people who make up this country and the checks and balances our differences provide.

Ultimately there are forces in this world that are savoring every moment of Americans turning on other Americans. If we divide ourselves, we destroy ourselves, making us subject to some other nation or coalition that is an ism– something that won’t value our rights or property or freedoms. Have you considered that we’re playing right into some greater evil’s hands by so flippantly labeling and deriding our neighbors?

Don’t be a useful idiot. Be a passionate individual who expresses yourself and intelligently speaks out for what you believe in. Exercise your American freedoms and use them to achieve justice for others. Having both strong Democrat and Republican role models growing up, I greatly admire people who blaze with enthusiasm for their core values and can advocate for them without alienating their neighbors. They are the people who draw varying opinions into conversations, not insult them and spit them out. They are the brave souls who actually achieve reform and change the world rather than dividing it.

I understand why some want the Confederate memorial in Lake View Cemetery removed. But I disagree with actually removing it. It would be removed on the basis that it’s about racism, white supremacy, and slavery. It is more than that. It is a part of our collective history, a history that should never be forgotten. Americans should be allowed to commemorate their ancestors and graves especially should be off limits. We should not cave in to terrorism and criminal behavior either. If this is taken down, it will just cause even bigger fires. And is this the best thing Seattle has to do considering the state of its mayoral office and widespread human suffering?

We are Americans. To survive we must stay united. We are allowing ourselves to be divided by petty preconceptions and money-making mayhem manufacturers. Allowing one side to issue orders to another about what is right and acceptable without any constructive dialogue or fact-checking is just unleashing the wrecking ball that will take us out. Leave the dead where they lie and focus on saving the living. Let’s leave future generations an intact democratic republic instead of a black hole.

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Update, 8/17/17: Here is verbiage from one of the online petitions demanding that the monument in Lake View come down. Note that these petitions claim that this monument was raised in the name of white supremacy– they are completely ignorant of the monument’s history. They obviously haven’t bothered to talk to the UDC or read their explicitly anti-racist creed. It’s their own version of reality, demanding that a structure on private property be subject to the same rules as public property.

How dare they blindly accuse this group of women as being white supremacist and racist. How dare they trample on others’ freedom of speech. They claim the monument serves no historical purpose– wow. One petition says that because you can see it from the road, it should be considered to be in the right-of-way and the land it’s on should be treated like a public place (!).

This is radical, dangerous thinking that ignores facts, didn’t even attempt to have a dialogue, and wants the government to force a private property owner to do their misinformed bidding. These sentiments are divisive and tear at the very bedrock of our Constitution. They have no right to prevent someone else from memorializing their people on private land. I’m sure some supporters mean well and are trying to do the right thing, but some just plain want to label and control other people’s business in some misguided quest to sanitize our nation of anything that disagrees with them. This has happened before, it got out of control, and hundreds of millions died.

This isn’t bigotry. This is history. Deal with it and stop falsely accusing others.

Erected in 1926 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, it was built to memorialize and commemorate the hate that ripped our country in two. It seeks to remind everyone that – despite losing a war – that White Supremacy is still alive and revered as a positive trait for (white) Americans to have. The fact that it still stands is a testament to how desperately White people clench to their race-based power.

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See also Rantz: On private statues, Murray should mind his own business

With respect to the mayor, he should mind his own business on political speech or historic symbolism when they’re erected on private property. It’s not the role of the government to chill free speech rights, even if we find it abhorrent. He knows he has no power to compel them to remove the memorial, so all this statement does is serve as a heavy-handed dose of virtue signaling that injects him into a national conversation that he should have no part in.

And perhaps, given the allegations against the Mayor, I’m not sure he should hold himself up there as a moral authority in any fight to stand up against oppressors.

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While Depeche Mode’s politics likely differ from my own, they knocked it out of the park with this song. This is the kind of fearless statement that can and should ignite constructive dialogues.

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©2017 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seen on the bulletin board at the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Thank you to whoever posted this and took the time to rightfully put the cemetery’s flag at half-staff. 

Scalia

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Now more than one hundred years old, Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington is home to a 1918 statue of Lincoln by Alonzo Victor Lewis.

One recent evening I paid a visit to Mr. Lincoln as the evening sun blazed in the west just over the rooftops, which made picture taking challenging.

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But the shadows were fabulous.

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The sun behind Honest Abe was blinding so I positioned myself in front of his likeness in order to see. The result was a subtle halo…

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Stepping back farther I snapped this photo, at the time not realizing that the angle of the buildings made our 16th president appear to have wings.

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This is a more typical view.

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The inscription on the base was difficult to read. I couldn’t tell who erected the statue.

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There are so many years of deep and colorful history on these grounds. Generation upon generation has passed through here and many have already gone on to that brilliant realm where they actually get to meet the man behind the bronze visage.

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Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. -Abraham Lincoln

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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I long to be in the Field again, doing my part to keep the old flag up, with all its stars. -Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain,  20th Maine Infantry

On a recent Saturday in late May, Boy Scout Troop 100 from Ballard gathered at the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in Seattle to clean up the grounds and grave markers. Having previously inquired who maintains this sacred site, a member of the Friends of the G.A.R. Cemetery invited me to the work party.

Most Seattleites know where Lakeview Cemetery is on Capitol Hill. It is a popular tourist attraction because it’s where martial arts legend Bruce Lee and his son Brandon are buried. Many don’t realize that just next door is the final resting place of 526 men and women, most of them Union veterans of the Civil War. You can see the G.A.R. Cemetery through the wire fence on the north side of Lakeview.

The Grand Army of the Republic, G.A.R., was an organization comprised of Union veterans, the last of whom died in 1956. The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) website tells us more:

Men who had lived together, fought together, foraged together and survived, had developed an unique bond that could not be broken. As time went by the memories of the filthy and vile environment of camp life began to be remembered less harshly and eventually fondly. The horror and gore of battle lifted with the smoke and smell of burnt black powder and was replaced with the personal rain of tears for the departed comrades. Friendships forged in battle survived the separation and the warriors missed the warmth of trusting companionship that had asked only total and absolute commitment.

With that as background, groups of men began joining together — first for camaraderie and then for political power. Emerging most powerful among the various organizations would be the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), which by 1890 would number 409,489 veterans of the “War of the Rebelion.”

Founded in Decatur, Illinois on April 6, 1866 by Benjamin F. Stephenson, membership was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or the Revenue Cutter Service who had served between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865.

At some point in the 1890s, a number of Union veterans who had moved to western Washington decided that they wanted to be buried together. Some of the first Jewish settlers in Seattle, Huldah and David Kaufman, donated the land for the cemetery in 1895. According to HistoryLink, guardians of our local history, the City of Seattle acquired the title to most of the land in 1923, but I’ve been told that the matter of who, exactly, owns what is still legally murky. Seattle Parks and the Friends of the G.A.R. Cemetery jointly maintain the property. HistoryLink also tells us that the Coast Artillery Corps used the site for an anti-aircraft search light battery and barracks in World War II.

On hand during Troop 100’s cleanup were some very knowledgeable experts on the cemetery and the Civil War like Lee Corbin, Jim Dimond, and reenactor Peter Coulton of SUVCW, who honored his ancestors with his Prussian blue uniform. Although it was on my mind the entire time, I failed to note the name of the female historian and genealogist who guided me around the cemetery and was brimming with amazing facts and anecdotes. I would like to be able to give proper credit if someone could remind me.

In this first photo is the resting place of a member of the U.S. Colored Troops– U.S.C.T., which you can see at the lower right. As many Americans know from the 1989 film Glory, starring Matthew Broderickblack soldiers served in separate units. The G.A.R. Cemetery did not make this distinction.

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Here Troop 100, after planting flags at the central monument, begins to clean the multitude of grave markers. Note how they are all lying down but their shape and style indicates that they should be standing up. This was because of vandalism– there are those with no respect for the dead who find it entertaining to knock their headstones over. Unfortunately, this might have caused the wording to wear off of them more quickly. Many markers are in poor shape and barely readable. Some have already been replaced with newer styles. Per federal protocol, the old markers must be destroyed. IMG_4047

On the lower left you can see an authentic cast iron marker that was placed at many Union graves. Peter Coulton explained that you will rarely see these anymore because they are stolen, particularly by metal thieves. As we in the Puget Sound area know, there are plenty of drug-addicted opportunists who have no respect for the living or the dead.

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On each of these freshly washed weathered stones you can see the unit the veteran served in and which state they’re from. The markers were not intended to be this dark but have aged as the decades have passed. The scouts placed an American flag at each grave to honor their service.

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Clifford Hervey served in the Colored Infantry (C INF).

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This man, whose name I’d have to look up in the directory because the stone’s so far gone, served in the Mexican-American War which began 14 years before the Civil War in 1846 (M.W. is Mexican War). This is when the U.S. gained the American Southwest. I probably wouldn’t have noticed this except for my nameless guide who seemed to know each soldier personally.

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Here you can tell that this marker once stood upright on the square base, but like the others, it has either been broken off or laid down to keep that from happening.

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Yes, there is someone buried here. According to my notes, this might have been John Ryan Smith, who died in Issaquah alone and forgotten. Evidently he had Civil War memorabilia in his house but no one’s been able to prove he was actually a veteran. His temporary marker disintegrated.

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From 1921 to 1972, this is the style of marker that was used for veterans. Theron Lane’s family placed this in the 1940s.

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The Friends placed Jacob Davidson’s marker in 2001. We speculated about what might have been intended for the top as there’s some significant blank space there.

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Here’s an example of a marker in bad shape. I’m fairly certain I was told that the War Department issued this style prior to 1921. They were made of Vermont marble and came in several different widths. The 10″ width markers were ordered before 1906.

Despite the weathering, do we trust that it is who the marker says anyway? Evidently some of these veterans were originally buried across the way in Lakeview and the crew that transferred their remains to the G.A.R. Cemetery didn’t read or speak good English. It is said that a few of the coffins might have been mixed up in transit. Additionally, there are five “unknowns” in the cemetery although the Friends seem to know who they are.

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Okay, this is a good story… These markers had just been cleaned by the Scouts but one clearly stood out from the rest. We discussed whether Griswold’s was made of a different type of stone and what sort of resilience it might have that the others don’t. I was quite intrigued by the condition of Griswold’s marker. It was dazzling.

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So the next day, after a two-hour tour of the Kirkland Cemetery, where the Parks Department had marked veterans’ graves with flags and white crosses, I was talking to the historian conducting the tour about a cleaner he uses to brighten headstones. As I was told at the G.A.R. Cemetery, well-meaning people can do horrific damage to them by using the wrong kind of cleaner. Some people use whatever cleaner makes the marker the lightest and shiniest only to see it fall apart with a couple years. The National Parks Service even has a Best Practice Recommendations for Cleaning Government Issued Headstones.

When the historian, Matt McCauley, heard that I’d been at the G.A.R. Cemetery, he asked, “did you see Griswold?” I knew exactly who he was talking about. “Why yes,” I said. “There was a lot of discussion about why his marker looked so different than the others.” It turned out that Matt had used his special order, $70 a gallon cleaner from back east on Griswold’s marker. So Matt– it was you! We had a pretty good laugh about this. Check out Matt’s Kirkland Historical Foundation page and his fascinating book A Look To The Past: Kirkland: From wilderness to high-tech – Kirkland history in 50 vignettes.

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This monument was placed by the Woman’s Relief Corps, an auxiliary of the G.A.R. organized in 1883.

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Here lies Medal of Honor recipient Frank Bois. As you can see, he served on the ironclad U.S.S. Cincinnati. You can read about him and the 19 other Medal of Honor recipients living in Washington in the early 1900s here. At Vicksburg the Cincinnati had been shot to pieces but tenacious Quartermaster Bois stayed on the sinking, burning ship and nailed the American flag to the broken mast to keep the colors flying. Interestingly, the Cincinnati had been sunk and raised once before and would be raised again. Sadly, Bois later died in a Skid Row flophouse. (Side note: dish soap can’t be used on all types of markers, mild as it seems.)

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The hardworking scouts of Troop 100 were very efficient at placing flags. They worked in teams, with one creating a hole in the ground and the other placing the flag. Their leaders obviously knew what they were doing and I was amazed at what they were able to get done in a relatively short amount of time.

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More awesome and heartfelt work by Troop 100.

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Seeing row upon row of clean markers with the stars and stripes above them created a warm and reverent ambiance.

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Hundreds of graves received the royal treatment.

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See the skinny marker on the lower right? There are many Union wives buried here too. The 75 veterans’ widows in the G.A.R. Cemetery are generally on the flanks but there are some buried with their husbands. While I don’t know if this particular stone is an original, I was told that the narrow ones were the original markers. Some are hopelessly worn. Some families bought civilian markers to replace the originals.

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This appears to be one of the family-purchased, civilian style markers. It obviously used to stand upright.

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A directory and pertinent information is contained in this kiosk at the entrance of the cemetery. It’s fascinating to read through the list and discover just how many states and units are represented. These veterans came to the Northwest from all over the country.

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This quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. is engraved on a large boulder facing the cemetery. It says, “In our youth our hearts were touched with fire. We have shared the incommunicable experience of war. We have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to the top.”

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A job well done: Ballard Boy Scout Troop 100 poses for a group photo.

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Here a couple is buried together. Fred evidently outlived Kate, which was not typical. Someone had already placed flowers on their grave.

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This is the layout of the cemetery as posted in the kiosk. My mystery guide said it might have been designed to resemble a lodgeroom. Evidently there used to be a ceremonial stand here as well with a temporary rostrum on either side.

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You’d think people would already know this. But the first time I visited the cemetery, someone was walking their dogs through it. Every time, I see people with dogs there, and it’s just not okay to see a dog urinating on someone’s grave. I love dogs dearly but it shows respect to steer them around graves instead of over them.

And would you believe that in the not too distant past the city was talking about turning this property into a dog park?! We do love our pooches here in Seattle but that would show total disrespect for these men and women and our past. Open space for dogs to play in is becoming increasingly rare in this region, but cemeteries should always be cemeteries and that should never change.

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These young men knew how to fold a flag and I was thrilled to see their expertise.

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While I recognized these cobblestones as vintage the first time I saw them, this time I learned that they were salvaged from Seattle city streets. The flagpole at the east end of the cemetery (not pictured) came from the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and was dedicated on May 5th of that year. My tour guide was present at that event.

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The finished product. Thank you Troop 100 and Friends! It was beautiful, and they planned to hold a formal ceremony there on Memorial Day proper.

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The grounds are serene and beautiful. The irises reminded me of a Van Gogh painting.

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Peter Coulton explained the authentic memorabilia in this case, which included a medal of General John A. Logan’s as well as his signature. Logan was a Commander-in-Chief of the G.A.R. who served in Congress and helped found Memorial Day (originally called Decoration Day).

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As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, like many Americans, I have both Union and Confederate ancestors. At the time of this writing, more than a month after the G.A.R. Cemetery cleanup, anti-Confederate fervor is at a high not known in decades after the Charleston church shooting. I hesitate to include these photos because I’m concerned that some historically-ignorant or bigoted person will take it upon themselves to deface this piece of history. It will cost some wonderful staunchly non-racist women at the United Daughters of the Confederacy dearly out of their own pockets if something bad happens. This has already been vandalized in the past, but probably not for anti-Confederate reasons.

There were a number of issues driving the Civil War, namely the role of the federal government, states’ rights, preserving the Union, and economic issues. Ultimately the South believed it should have the right to break away. Slavery was certainly a prominent component of all of these issues, but many people didn’t take up arms to end or defend slavery. They asked why the federal government had the right to force them to be part of a union they felt they should be able to choose to secede from.

Similar questions are being asked in light of Supreme Court rulings this week both by those who agree and disagree with those outcomes– does the federal government have the right to dictate to the states? Or does the Constitution allow the states to make most decisions for themselves? In that context, it’s easier to understand why Southerners took up arms. Of course some were adamant about maintaining the ungodly institution of slavery, but it’s ignorant and offensive to suggest that all Confederates and/or Southerners were racist. My Confederate was multiracial and like many, a grandson of a Revolutionary War veteran. Many Southerners probably saw their cause as very similar to that which created our country in the first place.

Destroying Confederate memorials is only gasoline on the fire. Broad generalizations will only deepen the rifts vandals claim to be fighting against. While I absolutely condemn slavery and repeatedly remind people that the ground is level at the foot of the cross– no man is above another– I also choose to honor my Confederate ancestors and to preserve their history. We can show respect for the people who fought for what their home turf thought was right without agreeing with any erroneous ideologies. The Union and Confederate troops are part of our history and to erase the Confederacy from our memory will come to no good end. We must teach our children the whole story.

After my tour of the G.A.R. Cemetery one of the Friends was kind enough to guide me around Lakeview and show me the graves of Civil War veterans buried there. There is a large memorial to Confederate veterans placed by the UDC in 1926. The UDC came into being as an offshoot of the associations and auxiliaries that formed to take care of the Confederate veterans and perpetuate their memories. They have dedicated themselves to the preservation of many historical documents and places and educate others about our country.

In public school we are not necessarily taught that many Union and Confederate organizations like this came together by the early 20th century and worked together. Congress and certain presidents even asked them to collaborate. They did not ask the Southern organizations to disband, they respected that the various groups existed and asked them to unify on particular projects and causes. Should things be any different in a free country today?

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More “you weren’t taught this in public school”: Robert E. Lee was an accomplished, longtime Army veteran who was offered one of the Union general positions but turned it down. His wife was the great-granddaughter of Martha Custis Washington and so the step-great-granddaughter of our first president. He and his wife inherited slaves and granted most if not all of them their freedom earlier in the war. There was much about the man to admire and the more I read of his writings, the less convinced I am that he was all for slavery. Like many Confederates, he asked, “How can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state?”

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These are some of the veterans who are buried near the monument. Like their Union counterparts, many of them went on to successful careers and helped others.

America is finally starting to say thank you for Vietnam veterans for their service even though many of us disagreed with American intervention in Vietnam. We are now wise enough to honor these men and women for their sacrifices independent of their orders. I similarly choose to show respect for Confederate veterans.

Some will be offended by this comparison as these were two very different wars; it’s not the same thing. My point is that we don’t have to agree with the cause to honor the individual. In both cases there were soldiers trying to do what was right and serving to the best of their ability whether they had a say in it or not.

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I don’t know when these markers were created but the font used is beautiful. This veteran, Joseph Pritchett, lived a very long time– until the year World War II ended. He loved his country so much he offered to serve in World War II (his offer was declined as he was in his 90s). He wanted to live to see all the American soldiers come home and his last thoughts were of them. On his 94th birthday he said, “I don’t yield to anyone in my love, devotion and loyalty to America. But if feeling a tender sentiment for the flag of our lost cause makes me an unreconstructed rebel, I guess I am one.”

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James Gilmer lived in Seattle 31 years and is one of many veterans who entered public service after the war. He was active in his church and in veterans affairs. The men who survived the war often lived 50 years or more afterwards; The War Between the States marked them forever but chronologically constituted just a few years of their youth.

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Next to the monument is some intricate stonework belonging to the neighboring plot.

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Farther back in the cemetery I was introduced to Gilbert Meem and his family. Meem was a Brigadier General from Virginia who resigned his commission in 1862, then went on to serve in the Virginia Legislature. After moving to Seattle in 1892 he was appointed postmaster by President Grover Cleveland. Gilbert’s peeking out from behind the tree.

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Sympathies for the North and South still run strong in us Americans 150 years after the end of the conflict. It was hell on earth to have brother fighting against brother, sometimes literally, and the same political disagreements that influenced the Civil War are still very much alive today. I hope that, in memory of all of our people, we can remain united as a nation and true to our Constitution rather than allowing divisive forces to tear us apart. As Lincoln said, alluding to Matthew 12:25, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

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But, nevertheless, the generation that carried on the war has been set apart by its experience. Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing. While we are permitted to scorn nothing but indifference, and do not pretend to undervalue the worldly rewards of ambition, we have seen with our own eyes, beyond and above the gold fields, the snowy heights of honor, and it is for us to bear the report to those who come after us. But, above all, we have learned that whether a man accepts from Fortune her spade, and will look downward and dig, or from Aspiration her axe and cord, and will scale the ice, the one and only success which it is his to command is to bring to his work a mighty heart.

Such hearts–ah me, how many!–were stilled twenty years ago; and to us who remain behind is left this day of memories. Every year–in the full tide of spring, at the height of the symphony of flowers and love and life–there comes a pause, and through the silence we hear the lonely pipe of death. Year after year lovers wandering under the apple trees and through the clover and deep grass are surprised with sudden tears as they see black veiled figures stealing through the morning to a soldier’s grave. Year after year the comrades of the dead follow, with public honor, procession and commemorative flags and funeral march–honor and grief from us who stand almost alone, and have seen the best and noblest of our generation pass away.

But grief is not the end of all. I seem to hear the funeral march become a paean. I see beyond the forest the moving banners of a hidden column. Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death–of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen , the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.

-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., An address delivered for Memorial Day, May 30, 1884, at Keene, NH, before John Sedgwick Post No. 4, Grand Army of the Republic.

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Lee Corbin provided these additional materials about the G.A.R. Cemetery:

MOHAI program (video)

KIRO podcast (audio)

He also pointed me to the well-researched related databases on Rootsweb (just one is featured here).

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Apologies to those who provided the wonderful detail for this article for not posting it sooner. I appreciate your understanding.

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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