Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Greenwood Cemetery Memorial Day 2016

I've been unable to find anything in local media noting the Memorial Day ceremony at Greenwood Cemetery yesterday, so I thought it worthwhile to make note of it here.

Each year the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter No. 30, host the ceremony on traditional Memorial Day: May 30.  Most years this is not actually on that three-day-weekend Monday, but this year as it happens, May 30 fell on Monday.  Steve and I were a little worried that attendance would be down because the Hillcrest ceremony was at 9:00, the Keithville cemetery ceremony at noon, then the American Legion ceremony at 2:00.  The ceremony at the Greenwood Cemetery was at 1:00 so attending them all would take a superhuman feat of accomplishment.

Happily, attendance was about on par with past years though perhaps a little low - certainly understandable with so much going on this year.

A new addition to the organization line-up this year was the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

As in past years, the Parkway High School JROTC did a lovely job first posting the colors, then the National Anthem which was played on the violin.

The JROTC also did a flag folding demonstration, noting the relevance of each fold of the flag...

... and the cadets escorted various organizations to the flagpole for wreath laying.

Guest speaker this year was Jim Adams of the Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home. He spoke of the importance of remembering the fallen, noting that it's certainly okay to watch a ballgame and light the grill on Memorial Day, but to take a moment and remember the sacrifices of those who made it possible.

The placing of the wreaths came next: The United Daughters of the Confederacy ...

...and other organizations made the procession.

Each group was escorted by the Parkway JROTC:

Also in attendance, as in past years, were the Sons of the Confederacy with their three-shot rifle volley that is always impressive!

This is truly one of my favorite Memorial Day services each year and I wish it was better attended.

Greenwood Cemetery is full of incredible history and is a fascinating place to visit.  It is beautifully maintained and well kept.  You may recall the Kelley brothers are buried there that I've written so often about, but there are so many other stories as well.

Memorial Day was a quiet one for us; after the service we went home, ate some watermelon and called it a day!  Still recovering from our trip, we didn't have much energy for anything else yesterday.

At any rate, local media may have been there, but I didn't see anything posted about the event and wanted to be sure the ceremony was noted. It is one that we never miss.

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation

Monday, May 30, 2016

Home Again

I've been on vacation for the past week and thus the longer-than-usual dry spell between posts.  We spent a lovely week in Iowa visiting family and rushed back sooner than we may have liked in order to participate in several Memorial Day events today.  If you read this in time, be sure to get over to the Greenwood Cemetery at Centenary and Stoner for their annual Memorial Day ceremony at 1:00.

I'll share some vacation photos later -- I attended my first livestock auction, which was pretty neat, and we ate everything on our Iowa Food Bucket List like Maid Rite sandwiches and breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches, among other things.  It was heavenly.

I love being in the Midwest for those patriotic holidays - Memorial Day or Independence Day.  It's truly the heart of America.

Take a moment today to remember the fallen.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Caddo Parish Confederate Monument Under Attack

The youthful soldier stands at rest, facing north; his face is "handsome and sensitive, with a slight trace of bewilderment in it."  Perhaps his confusion centers on the conflict swirling around him, on the animosity and anger, or maybe he is attempting to understand how 150-years later, we are still such a divided country.

At issue throughout the South is the manufactured outrage over decades old Confederate monuments.This brouhaha has been roiling New Orleans under the mayoral term of Mitch Landrieu; it has erupted in Memphis,  in Louisville, and let's not even begin the discussion about the battle flag.  Now it has come, once again, to Caddo Parish.

The Confederate monument that stands in front of the north side of the Caddo Parish Courthouse has been challenged  this time by Caddo Commission member Ken Epperson.  The NAACP called for removal of the monument in the past and the issue dissolved into limbo when it was (once again) determined that the 400 square foot parcel of land the monument stands on belongs to the Shreveport Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, given to them for use in perpetuity back in June, 1903. The Caddo Parish Police Jury (the forerunner of the Caddo Commission) donated not only the land but $1,000, or ten percent of the funds needed to pay for the monument, to the UDC.

Portion of 1903 minutes with regard to Confederate monument.

After the end of the Civil War, it fell to the women across the South to bury their fallen sons, brothers, and husbands and to commemorate those who were buried in unmarked graves in places unknown.  Across the South, women banded together in memorial associations, such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy (founded in 1894), for they had a common purpose. By the time our Caddo Parish monument came into consideration in 1903, the second phase of Civil War commemoration was underway and monument building was prevalent.

Despite what the NAACP might tell you, the original intent was not to perpetuate division and celebrate conflict. The primary purpose of these monuments constructed during this second phase (1883-1907) was to not only memorialize the fallen but to educate those in the future who may not have the same "emotional and personal ties" to the war.  The figures on these monuments had no overt political message or content -- something the NAACP and the uneducated liberals might be interested to know.

Because public citizens donated money for the construction of these memorials, it was then believed that these memorials should be a subject of civic pride "to be displayed in conspicuous places" like courthouses, public parks, and cemeteries.  Local historian Eric Brock wrote in the Forum Magazine in 2006:

For many [Confederate soldiers] in unmarked graves around America's battlefields, it is a symbolic tombstone, a sacred place that should forever stand and be respected. Those who forget their history, it has been said, are doomed to repeat it. Worse yet are those who deny history, for they doom civilization itself.

Attempting to erase, or sanitize, or revise, history by dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars to move hundreds of monuments into warehouses or dry museums is cowardice. It is to deny the sacrifices of men who sacrificed and fought for what they believed was their sacred honor -- their homes, families, and their state's rights.  The issues that divided the nation then divide us still only because there are those hate mongers and poverty pushers like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson who make their living and line their pockets off our being divided.

In July 2015, David French wrote:

Many thousands of the men who risked their lives and spilled blood to defeat the Confederacy would be appalled. Abraham Lincoln would see the malice toward all, the charity toward none. Ulysses S. Grant would be shocked at the notion, for example, that Pickett’s Charge represented “false valor,” and the great warrior-abolitionist, Joshua Chamberlain, would be disgusted at the thought of digging up Confederate bones to make a political statement. But why take any guidance from Union heroes when determining how to remember the past? After all, tweeters and Facebookers know so much more about right and wrong, about justice and injustice. After all, they’ve spilled their own online blood, and they have the hate-tweets to prove it. 

It would take a dim mind indeed to believe that once the Confederate monuments are all gone that our roads will smooth out, the paint will stop peeling off the walls in our crumbling schools, criminals will put down their guns, and drugs will only be used for healing.

Perhaps Ken Epperson and Lloyd Thompson, and their ilk, should take some art history classes, step back and admire the artistic masterpiece that Texas artist Frank Teich created for us.  Not only does
our monument have the young, bewildered soldier, but there are four busts of Confederate generals carved from Texas granite.  And most unusual, and not seen on other Confederate monuments, is the full sized figure of a woman, the Roman goddess of history, Clio, who is writing the names of the Confederate dead in a book of history.  She is lovely.

Our monument is one of the most beautiful Confederate monuments in existence. It was installed in 1906 with thousands of people from Shreveport and Caddo Parish in attendance. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, the application for which can be found here and from which I have consulted for some of this background.

As it stands now, discussion about the future of the monument has been scheduled for June 9 when it will move before committee chaired by Mario Chavez who said yesterday:
"We have removed it from the agenda tomorrow and it has moved into my long range planning committee. We will have open discussion on June 9th at 1300 in regards to this topic. You better believe I plan on keeping it exactly where it is."
If you feel so inclined, you are welcome to attend the meeting, fill out a speaker card, and have your three minutes to speak before the Commission on the matter.

Local attorney Henry Walker was at the meeting this week and he expressed his concerns that the monument "could possibly affect a trial because of its "implied subject matter."  What would that implication be, Mr. Walker?  What exactly is implied by this monument of Confederate generals, military men of respect and honor, men of value and integrity?  Men of courage.  Men who stood up for their families.  What is implied by a lone woman writing in a book of history?  What is implied by a non-confrontational, bewildered young man?  Mr. Walker told the Commission that the monument is just a bunch of concrete.

That might be the most revealing quote yet.  What exactly is threatening about a bunch of concrete, Mr. Walker?

Just a bunch of concrete?!  Now I'm bewildered.

In past attempts to remove the monument, the NAACP suggested replacing it with a monument for law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty -- even though we have one of those three blocks away. Now the suggestion is that we erect a monument to the USS Golet -- a submarine lost at sea during WWII which was financed with War Bonds, some of which were purchased in Caddo Parish and there was one Caddo resident aboard.

Liberal logic.

Here is the KTBS story of the meeting this week.  Here are the minutes of the Work Session this week.

It seems to me that in the end, preserving our past is the only way to protect our future.  Just as we can't wrap our children in bubble wrap and expect them to negotiate the travails of this world unscathed, we can not sanitize or revise history.  Sometimes that takes resolve and sometimes it is painful, but always it takes courage.  These times of division that we now find ourselves in, more so than ever before, will take courage and all of us pulling together to overcome the closed minded people who want to perpetuate division and discord among us for their own gain.

Hold strong.

Joseph Welsh Texada's Life Mattered Too

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Full of Promise, Bossier Bearkats Receive Their Tickets to the Future

Bossier Bearkats Graduation 2016
Yesterday was graduation day for most Bossier Parish schools at the Century Link Center which sits at the end of the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway along the Red River.  School and city officials have this day down to a well organized machine as the parish high schools seamlessly run through the building all day long. As purple robed Benton High School graduates march across the stage, Bossier High School is lining up backstage. As the new Bossier High graduates are dashing out, gowns flapping behind them, Haughton High School moves in.  It's a pretty good system.

At the end of the day we have hundreds of new graduates.

As a teacher at Bossier High, it's my favorite event. The kids are excited, emotional, nervous, and proud.  And the families!  Oh the families!

Our senior class sponsor organizes our graduation and oversees the most minute details most people never think about like providing ties for boys who don't have them or white dress shirts. A large number of staff members show up to help on the big day. My job, along with the speech/drama teacher, is usually working to line up the actual diploma envelopes on a long table backstage.  After the ceremony, the new graduates pick up crisp white envelopes in which they will find their diploma, a souvenir copy of the program, and each senior also receives at least one personal, handwritten note from a teacher.  Some kids get three or four notes, but everyone gets at least one.  This is one of the unique traditions at Bossier High School that set us apart from bigger schools.

There were so many moments yesterday that made me misty eyed and that helped strengthen that fabric of family that defines Bossier High School:

That image of our librarian/senior class sponsor, papers in her hand, directing volunteer staff members to various positions: check the right side of the line, be sure everyone is lined up correctly!  Check the left side, be sure everyone is in the right place!  She is cool and collected and always smiling.  Reassurance defined.

The kids are all in line, waiting.  One teacher walks along the line collecting gum.  You do NOT go out there chewing gum. The senior counselor collects a nose ring and tucks it in her pocket.  Guys with earrings?  We'll take those until after the ceremony.  Everyone complies.  

One senior tunes out the noisy din, standing quietly in line with his earbuds in, hands in pockets, watching and waiting.  As time gets closer, he removes his headphones, unprompted, and slips them under his robe, into his pockets.

In the last few moments before the long walk down the hallway toward the auditorium, the principal has the kids link hands one last time and calls them to attention. There is utter silence. Pinkies are linked, hand are clasped. Silence. Then he speaks in familiar tones of their time at Bossier, of the love we share for them, and offers good wishes for whatever journeys are ahead.

In comes one late arrival, cap tucked under her arm and robe flapping behind her as she runs on perilously high heels to take her spot in line just as it is ready to move into the auditorium.  A staff member calms her down, pins the cap neatly, and slides her smoothly in line, ready to go.

The speeches are moving.  They are brief, about three to five minutes, but powerful. I stood with the speech/drama teacher in the wings, listening.  I was doing pretty well until the salutatorian, staggeringly tall, blond, and sweet as she can be, approached the microphone and began her speech with a tiny gasp of a sob in her voice.  "Come on," I whispered.  "You can do this!"  Urging her on with silent support.  The speech teacher next to me smiled confidently, peacefully, with the knowledge that this student would muscle through this. The crowd encouraged her with applause. She got through it.  Her speech was fabulous and caught every tiny memory that had occurred over the past four years in a five minute speech: chicken day on Wednesdays, the long run from the second floor of one building to the third floor of the other, football games, surviving multiple AP classes, and what got me was when she called out the support of her teachers that she will never forget, catching the essence of each one.  "Oh, that's great...," she quoted her English teacher's support and just nailed that teacher's voice in the impression.  Everyone laughed and clapped.

One of our two valedictorians gave part of her speech in Spanish to her parents who have sacrificed immeasurably to support their daughter's education.  It was a stunningly beautiful moment and filled with emotion.  Not many dry eyes in the house at that point.  I had to take that moment to slip back to my table of envelopes and find my tissues.

The kids are all so filled with promise and hope.  

I looked at the envelopes standing up alphabetically in the box, waiting for me to lay them out in rows on the table.  Each one of those envelopes represented twelve years of work.  Twelve years of relationships, love, support, and promise.  Each envelope represented a different person, a unique personality, a life wide open with promise. A ticket to the future.

As the new graduates marched down the hall after the ceremony, led by their class leaders, they were chanting "Bossier! Bossier!" It's the last time they will march together as a group, the last time they will all be together as a group, and the last time we will see some of them, although many of them will continue to return to Bossier just to visit, to be sure they've not been forgotten, to remember.

Those kids will now scatter far and wide, making new lives and new memories. As teachers, administrators, and staff, and as a Bearkat family, we have given them all we possibly could. We have taught lessons, both life lessons and academic ones, we have guided them, watched them grow, tried to keep them on the right, straight and true path, and we have loved them. We have gotten aggravated at them sometimes, but always loved them.  We are a family.

Godspeed little Bearkats!  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

It's Time to Face the Music

I can hardly bring myself to blog about Donald Trump, as you may have noticed.  I agree with practically everything Kevin Williamson wrote about him last week:

He is unfit for any office, morally and intellectually.  
A man who could suggest, simply because it is convenient, that his opponent’s father had something to do with the assassination of President Kennedy is unfit for any position of public responsibility.  
His long litany of lies — which include fabrications about everything from his wealth to self-funding his campaign — is disqualifying.  
His low character is disqualifying.  
His personal history is disqualifying.  
His complete, utter, total, and lifelong lack of honor is disqualifying.  
The fact that he is going to have to take time out of the convention to appear in court to hear a pretty convincing fraud case against him is disqualifying.

There's more.

Truth is, there are quite a lot of things about Hillary Clinton that should disqualify her as well, but they don't.

I loathe Trump.  He's boorish and crude.  He's as far from the Ronald Reagan archetype as any candidate can be.

That being said, he is going to be the Republican nominee and any attempt to derail that through a third-party run or a brokered convention will be doomed to failure and will only ensure to elect Hillary, in my opinion.

Despite George Will's conviction that Trump can't possibly win, and Josh Gelernter's third-party scenarios, I think that at this point, Republicans must unify behind Trump. Certainly nobody wants to, but reality bites.

All the talk about Mitt Romney coming in to save the day is simply garbage. He ran and didn't win, he didn't want to run this time, and he's not going to save you now. And he's the only one with a ghost of a shot.

If America wanted a successful businessman to save the day, we should have elected Romney when we had the chance, but we didn't, and we aren't going to do it now.

I had dinner with friends recently who tried to make the case that as offensive and boorish as Trump is, as president Trump will likely surround himself with people smart enough to do the job that Trump himself can't do.  Trump may be ignorant of the responsibilities of presidential office, but maybe they're right.  Maybe he'll appoint the right people.  It's the only hope we've got.

We are in for a long, miserable campaign and God only knows what after that.  I long for the days when we had class and grace in the White House but those are so far behind us now I don't think we can redeem ourselves.

Perhaps I will unplug from the internet for a few more months...