Monday, December 28, 2015

Only time will reveal the true motives of Talbot Boys detractors

The flames of anger that drove many to tear down the Confederate flag flying over the SC capitol quickly fanned out, engulfing anything and everything Confederate.  The Talbot Boys Memorial in Easton, MD is only one of many battles fought across the state and across the nation to erase anything Confederate from our landscape and our vernacular. 

The Talbot County Council voted to keep the Talbot Boys Memorial honoring our Confederate soldiers right where it is and provided for the building of an additional monument to honor our Union soldiers who fought brother against brother.  Without rehashing all that I have already written, my eight articles linked at the end of this one build the case our boys fought to protect their homes and communities from an increasingly aggressive federal force and most likely never considered slavery as a driving reason to join the Confederacy. 

The New Yankees fighting the battles to purge anything Confederate today really aren't that different from the Old Yankees who fought the Civil War and then engaged in "reconstruction" after the War.  Astute history students will be quick to note that after the War, the Yankees did everything in their power to punish the South.  Rebuilding efforts were slow in coming and the emerging stereotype of the racist, dumb hillbilly came to be the standard all Southerners were judged by and are still judged by today. 

The Old Yankees punished the South.  The New Yankees continue whipping the southern boys.  Today's technology has proven to be a very powerful whip.  Facts don't need to be known.  Pop cultural rhetoric backed by five minutes of Google research is all that's needed to banish those southern boys to oblivion.

First, let's look at the key players in the Talbot Boys Memorial Battle:
  • Star Democrat, local paper decidedly in favor of removing the Talbot Boys Monument
  • Richard Potter, president of the NAACP of Talbot County, MD
  • Rev. Joel Johnson, Talbot Association of Clergy and Laity
  • Dominic Terrone, writer and guest columnist for Star Democrat
  • Rabbi Peter Hyman, spiritual leader of Temple B'nai Israel
There are a few points to consider when reading the list of key players of the New Yankees:
Instead of tearing down 100-year-old
memorials, how about tearing down
your walls that appear to be blocking
minorities from holding high positions?
The Star Democrat
  • Star Democrat - decidedly White with no Black person to mention
  • Johnson, Terrone, and Hyman - all White and not native Delmarvans, not even native Marylanders
  • Potter - the only Black person and of the Millennial Generation
Now, you may be wondering why I trotted out the race card, namely pointing out that all save one of the key players in the Talbot Boys Battle are White.  As a reader, you may be thinking that my being a New Confederate, I'm being deceitful in my presentation.

Valid thought.  So take a look at the last public meeting before the county council made their decision on the fate of the Talbot Boys.  Hands down, that is a White boys meeting. 

Mr. Potter fired up the White community, but failed to fire up the Black community.  One can't help but look out at the audience and ask him/herself, "Where are all the outraged Black people fighting to tear down the Talbot Boys?"  Mr. Potter walked in behind seven Black people arriving late as if he were with them and, in the limited view of the audience, I counted six additional Black people attending.  If the Talbot Boys were as incendiary a monument as proclaimed by Mr. Potter and others, one would expect a room full of mostly Black people demanding the "insult" known as the Talbot Boys be taken down.  Instead, half of the handful of Black attendees appeared to be supporters of Mr. Potter and most likely acquaintances in his social circles.

We had a lot of outraged White people.  Rabbi Hyman even cussed out an audience member.  In the heavily edited video linked above, you can hear him at around the 1:08:00 mark, but what the video doesn't show is the sheriff's deputy escorting him out of the building because of his behavior.  It's also important to note that Johnson, Terrone, and the cussing Hyman are not native to Delmarva. 

Until the opening of the Bay Bridge eighty-seven years after the end of the Civil War, Delmarva was cut off from the rest of Maryland.  Eastern Shoremen developed a strong sense of independence over almost two hundred years before the start of the Civil War.  For anyone not born and raised on Delmarva to state unequivocally that the Talbot County residents fought the Civil War to preserve slavery is ignorance, at best, and an outright lie, at worst.  Outsiders never do grasp the concept of the fierce independence and defiance in our watermen and farmers no matter how long they live on the Shore among them.

That said, Talbot County didn't have an oppressed, outraged Black community demanding the removal of a perceived monument of oppression.  What Talbot County had was one young, Millennial, who is also Black, jumping on the Great Confederate Purge bandwagon in hopes of gaining his fifteen minutes of fame.  If that assessment sounds harsh, then perhaps his own words will convince you his motives were purely selfish.  Not once does he claim that people of the community wanted him to do something about the Talbot Boys.  No.  He claims that he wanted to "move his generation forward" and he stumbled on this memorial that he decided needed to be removed.

Once Mr. Potter found how he could "move his generation forward," he lodged his complaint and, maybe to his surprise, a bunch of White people suffering from "White guilt" took up his cause.  Nothing in the public meeting suggests anything other than a bunch of White people debating their heritage versus the evils of slavery we all should feel ashamed of.  The Black voice of Talbot County, other than Mr. Potter's and his friends', were conspicuously missing.

After all the turmoil, the Talbot County commissioners ruled that the Talbot Boys should remain because the memorial honored veterans, honorable veterans as decreed by our federal government.  The council graciously offered the opportunity for the whole story to be told by permitting a comparable monument to be erected honoring the Talbot boys who fought for the Union army.

This is where Mr. Potter and all those White guilt supporters had the opportunity to build a community instead of dividing it.  They could've formed a nonprofit or some sort of community effort to begin raising money for a new monument.  Easton could've hosted a grand ceremony unveiling the new Talbot Boys Union Memorial sitting next to the Confederate memorial with Frederick Douglass presiding over the whole grounds.  

Instead, Mr. Potter has decided to pursue more aggressive actions against the county commissioners while the White guilt supporters remain in the background.  The impulsive, reactionary response of Mr. Potter amounts to a subtle accusation that the commissioners may have violated rules in reaching a decision he disagrees with.

At this point, we all have to ask just what is this monument dispute really about? 

It started as one man's complaint because he felt a need to "move his generation forward", code words for "I want my fifteen minutes of fame."   Many others, mostly outsiders suffering from White guilt, jumped on the bandwagon hoping for their fifteen minutes of fame. 

None looked at the history of Talbot County, its people, its heritage, its culture, and none proposed how to make it all tell the real story.  If any were truly interested in building a community and telling the whole story of the Civil War, as Mr. Potter and others claim to be doing, they wouldn't be doing their dangdest to tear it apart by destroying Talbot's history.  The outsiders wouldn't ignore the fierce independent nature inherent in native Eastern Shoremen and apply pop culture, revisionist rhetoric to denigrate the character of generations past. 

I reckon in this day of age where Millennials have been raised on selfies and everything-is-about-me technology, destroying that which they had nothing to do with creating is more important towards achieving their fifteen minutes of fame than is rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard work of building a better community for tomorrow on the foundations past generations have built through their blood, sweat, tears, and, sometimes, even their lives.

Yes, Mr. Potter, Rev. Johnson,  Rabbi Hyman, and Mr. Terrone, raising money for a new Union Memorial to tell the whole story to help bring the community together and heal old wounds is a lot harder to do than simply tearing a memorial down and toasting each other for a job well done at social gatherings.  It means your fifteen minutes of YouTube fame and bragging rights will be put on hold for a few years until the work is done.  Will the work be done by you or by someone else compelled to pick up the pieces you strewn behind?

For your listening pleasure:

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks


  1. I think most reading these comments, unless they are from the shore, will not understand the difference between this particular memorial in Talbot County, and the "Rebel Flag" (which is actually not the Confederate Flag, and ought to be the only target under any reasonable argument regarding the historical significance vs. racist symbolism at issue). One thing most won't understand is the different culture and economic structure of Delmarva areas like Talbot County (where slavery was not a major concern to economic stability)compared to the deep Southern States (which did, indeed, attempt to secede primarily due to the Abolitionist's movement and perceived infringements on the State's rights to slave ownership). There is little argument that secession, which prompted the war, was primarily about the Confederate States' desire to maintain slavery - though individuals fighting the war ranged from those like the Talbot Boys who cared little about slavery and more about general State's rights, to others who understood and fought because abolishment of slavery threatened their economy. Also, the particular Confederate Flag that most want to see taken down is different than this and other memorials, because it isn't even the true Confederate Flag - it is the "Rebel Flag," never an official flag of the Confederacy. It was flown by some Confederate army units, including Robert E. Lee's. It has been historically used as a symbol of racism and racist oppression, with a resurgence in the 1950's at the start of the civil rights' movement, flown by the "Dixiecrats" who fought against civil rights. And, of course, used by the KKK. So your Talbot County Memorial is distinctly different - though I see from your other posts that you 5 Drunk Rednecks seem to just as fervently argue against removal of The Rebel Flag, too.

  2. Thank you for your well thought out reply. I'd like to clarify one point, though. I don't argue against the removal of the Rebel flag. I argue against the nationalism driving the fervor to purge anything Confederate, including the flag. The people of SC needed to decide the issue of the flag over their Capitol, not Amazon and eBay nor a guy writing an anonymous blog.