Our Man in Arlington

May 16, 2018 3:24 PM0 comments

clark-fcnpHerewith an update from the Confederate monument beat.

That 50-year-old “Confederate Outpost” historic marker at Wilson Blvd. at the entrance to Bluemont park is about to be reinstalled, I’m told by county historic preservation coordinator Cynthia Liccese-Torres.

It was knocked askew by a truck 18 months ago. I had argued that the headline, which reflects the Rebel army’s seizure of the high land at Upton Hill for two months in 1861, was unbalanced given that Union troops retook the fort and used it for four years.

The recast marker is titled: “Civil War Outpost.”

Another change unfolded just steps away, were you can see a stone missing its plaque that stood for four decades. It read: “This Red Oak and stone were placed here as a Bicentennial Memorial to the men in gray who served on Upton Hill.”

As part of its rethinking of Civil War commemorations, the county this January removed that plaque. County manager aide Benjamin Hampton said, “The county discovered that it had been placed on county land without county permission” by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. “The marker has since been returned to the Alexandria chapter of the UDC, as the Arlington chapter seems to no longer be active or in existence.”

I heard from Chris Tighe, president of the Boulevard Manor Civic Association, which sought the removal. These neighbors argued that the plaque was not historical in nature, was put there on private land before the county bought it, and that no owners could be found, which devolves the decision to the county.

When this quiet tale was reported in ARLnow, several readers expressed displeasure at the county interfering with a proud heritage.

But their angst pales in comparison to the alumni of Washington-Lee High School resisting the suggestion of taking Robert E. Lee off their nine-decade-old alma mater. Some 800 of them this spring endorsed a letter to the school board, I’m told by alum Dean Fleming ‘75—alumni sentiment runs about 10-1 against a change.

The former Generals bash the “underhanded” engagement process underway this month by school staff to establish general criteria for naming schools (the actual decision on W-L would come in December.)

Also active is W-L basketball star Edward Hummer ’63, who sent me sample materials. One letter reads, “It has become apparent to many from the way the school board has been proceeding that, without vociferous and sustained objections being raised and communicated to the school board virtually immediately by Washington-Lee’s large body of proud alumni, the name Washington-Lee is quite likely doomed.”

Hummer favors either limiting the coming new naming policy to new schools, or else hitting “PAUSE button” until the “entire Arlington community has a chance to speak to the issue via a countywide referendum, after several months of public discussion and debate,” he said.

W-L staff are under instructions not to talk. But in an op-ed last November in the student paper, Julia Van Lare summarized arguments, quoting a Black Lives Matter student saying Lee is not a good role model. She challenged the notion that changing the name would be painful and expensive. “Maintaining the ‘L’ may help ease the change, Van Lare wrote. “It would enable the school to maintain many of our logos, uniforms, supplies.” Principal Gregg Robertson said, “It may also be a nice compromise.”

***

If you watched last week’s Senate hearing on the nomination of Gina Haspel as CIA director, you saw a senior citizen interrupt with shouted questions—he was forcibly removed by Capitol Security.

That was Arlington resident Ray McGovern, whom I’ve known as a 27-year CIA veteran now blowing whistles with a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He’s argued passionately against confirmation of Haspel, whom he calls a torturer in her role in “enhanced interrogations” after 9/11.

McGovern this weekend gave interviews to the Russian-backed RT, in which he cheerfully said he’s been charged with disrupting Congress and resisting arrest. He clearly acted with foreknowledge.

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