Sunday Reads: Memorial Days and One Hot Summer Ahead

Memorial Day 1909, click image to see more vintage postcards.

Morning all!

This is a long weekend for many of you, and I hope that you all are enjoying it! Take care because it is during these weekends that bring about travel and water related fatalities.

Earlier this week, Boston Boomer mentioned something in a comment about the origin of Memorial Day. So I thought this link from the New York Times was interesting… Many Claim to Be Memorial Day Birthplace

James Rajotte for The New York Times

WATERLOO, N.Y.: OFFICIAL RECOGNITION Col. Lars Braun, who had just returned from 14 months in Iraq, in a Memorial Day parade in 2008 with his daughter, Rachel. In 1966, a presidential proclamation designated the town, in the Finger Lakes area, the official birthplace of Memorial Day.

Right on either side of Alabama, there are two places with the same name.

Like the one over in Mississippi, this Columbus was founded in the 1820s and sits just a few minutes from countryside in almost any way you drive.

Residents say it was here, in the years after the Civil War, that Memorial Day was born.

They say that in the other Columbus, too.

It does not take much for the historically curious in either town — like Richard Gardiner, a professor of teacher education at Columbus State University here — to explain why theirs is the true originator of a revered American holiday and why the other is well-meaning but simply misguided.

“I’m going to blame Memphis to some degree,” Professor Gardiner said, about which more later.

Oh boy, there is nothing like a good old-fashioned squabble about something that dates back to the Civil War.

The custom of strewing flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers has innumerable founders, going back perhaps beyond the horizon of recorded history, perhaps as far as war itself. But there is the ancient practice and there is Memorial Day, the specific holiday, arising from an order for the annual decoration of graves that was delivered in 1868 by Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, the commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a group made up of Union veterans of the Civil War.

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, roughly two dozen places claim to be the primary source of the holiday, an assertion found on plaques, on Web sites and in the dogged avowals of local historians across the country.

Yet each town seems to have different criteria: whether its ceremony was in fact the earliest to honor Civil War dead, or the first one that General Logan heard about, or the first one that conceived of a national, recurring day.

The article mentions several of the towns that claim being the first, but it focuses on two specific towns.

the claims of the two Columbuses, eyeing each other across Alabama, are among the more nuanced and possibly the most intertwined.

[…]

Columbus, Miss., was a hospital town, and in many cases a burial site, for both Union and Confederate casualties of Shiloh, brought in by the trainload. And it was in that Columbus where, at the initiation of four women who met in a 12-gabled house on North Fourth Street, a solemn procession was made to Friendship Cemetery on April 25, 1866.

As the story goes, one of the women spontaneously suggested that they decorate the graves of the Union as well as the Confederate dead, as each grave contained someone’s father, brother or son. A lawyer in Ithaca, N.Y., named Francis Miles Finch read about this reconciliatory gesture and wrote a poem about the ceremony in Columbus, “The Blue and the Gray,” which The Atlantic Monthly published in 1867.

“My view is it’s really the poem that inspired the nation,” said Rufus Ward, a retired district attorney, sitting in his basement and sipping a mint julep (his grandmother’s recipe, he said, the one she shared with Eudora Welty).

The Georgians dispute little of this. But they argue that the procession in the other Columbus was actually inspired by the events in their Columbus.

And what about Georgia’s Columbus?

…Professor Gardiner points to a local woman named Mary Ann Williams, who in the spring of 1866 wrote an open letter suggesting “a day be set apart annually” and become a “custom of the country” to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers.

That day, described as a national day, was chosen to be April 26, the anniversary of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender in North Carolina to Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army. The letter, or a summary of it, ran in newspapers all over the South, and as far west as St. Louis and as far north as New Hampshire, leading to widespread ceremonies on that day.

It also ran in the The Memphis Daily Avalanche on March 27, 1866. But the paper had the wrong date — April 25.

“This misprint right here is the difference between what you’ll hear in Columbus, Mississippi, and here,” Professor Gardiner said, concluding that the Memphis misprint traveled to the other Columbus. The Mississippi commemoration did take place a day earlier, he admitted, but they go too far in claiming they came up with it independently. “I just can’t — I don’t buy it.”

But this day set by Mary Ann Williams was only for the Confederate dead. And still to this day the south celebrates Confederate Day, our Banjoville courthouse is closed on that day.

However, according to Professor of History David W. Blight, Yale University…the event that brought about Memorial Day is…

…a mostly forgotten — or possibly suppressed — event in Charleston, S.C., in 1865 at a racetrack turned war prison. Black workmen properly reburied the Union dead that were found there, and on May 1, a cemetery dedication was held, attended by thousands of freed blacks who marched in procession around the track.

He has called that the first Memorial Day, as it predated most of the other contenders, though he said he has no evidence that it led to General Logan’s call for a national holiday.

“I’m much more interested in the meaning that’s being conveyed in that incredible ritual than who’s first,” he said.

I agree with Blight’s assessment too. The meaning of the day is what is most important.

So with that in mind, please take a moment today and remember all the soldiers who have died in the service of their country.

More news links after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Breaking News : Prop 8 is Unconstitutional!

Quick Reads: Breaking News

The decision is out!

Ninth Circuit Rules Prop 8 Is Unconstitutional | TPMMuckraker

A federal appeals court in California has upheld a lower court’s ruling that Proposition 8, the state’s ban on gay marriage, is unconstitutional.

In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit announced its long-awaited ruling on Tuesday.

Proposition 8 was a 2008 ballot measure, approved by voters, that amended the state constitution to ban same-sex couples in California from getting married.

In 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, presiding over a challenge to the law by two gay couples and the American Foundation for Equal Rights, ruled that the law was unconstitutional. Walker wrote that “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.”

Prop. 8: Gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, court rules – latimes.com

A federal appeals court Tuesday struck down California’s ban on same-sex marriage, clearing the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on gay marriage as early as next year.

The 2-1 decision by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that limited marriage to one man and one woman, violated the U.S. Constitution. The architects of Prop. 8 have vowed to appeal.

The ruling was narrow and likely to be limited to California.

Court: Calif. ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional – US news – Life – msnbc.com

BREAKING: Ninth Circuit Strikes Down Proposition 8 – Poliglot

Court – CA Gay Marriage Ban Is Unconstitutional – NYTimes.com

BREAKING: Federal Appeals Court Finds Proposition 8 Unconstitutional | ThinkProgress

And I figure we should also mention…

Komen official quits after Planned Parenthood flap – TODAY Health – TODAY.com

An executive with a major U.S. breast-cancer charity has resigned after a dispute over funding for the country’s best-known family planning organization and its providing of abortions, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

Karen Handel, the charity’s vice president for public policy, told Komen officials that she supported the move to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. She said the discussion started before she arrived at the organization and was approved at the highest levels of the charity.

“I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it,” Handel said in her letter, dated Feb. 7. “I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen’s future and the women we serve.”

Karen Handel, Susan G. Komen official, resigns after Planned Parenthood dispute – Kate Nocera and J. Lester Feder – POLITICO.com

It’s All Over But For The Severance Package and Non-Disclosure Agreement | TBogg

Looks like Karen Handel will be packing up her desk (novelty coffee mug, Jesus riding a dinosaur Precious Moments statue, stolen office supplies emblazoned with pink ribbons) because a job may be opening at the Komen Foundation very soon.

Hers:

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves — Karen Handel hasn’t resigned (yet), but as pressure for her to quit grows, it seems like odd timing for the organization to post an ad that looks a lot like it’s an ad to fill the embattled Senior Vice President of Public Policy’s shoes. The ad is for a Director of Public Policy — are we just mincing labels here? Director, Senior Vice President — tomato, tomahto.

The ad seeks a candidate with a “health care policy background and existing relationships with Members of Congress and their staff.” The position is DC-based, and requires “7+ years of experience on Capitol Hill and/or in government affairs or nonprofit advocacy.”

Lingering baggage and public relations headache from previous Public Policy jobholder(s) is included as part of compensation package.

This is all the fault of those breast cancer surviving thugs, you know.

Now Handel will have to wrestle with nutbar Jill Stanek for the title of Most Glorious Martyr of The Great Baby Jesus Fetus Holocaust.