Heritage

I have had a wonderful life. I never thought when growing up in the shadow of the cotton mill that I would ever see any sights beyond the land outside our personal large geographical circle which encompassed Rome, Texas Valley, and Moultrie. Rome has been my home for life. Texas Valley was the home of my father’s youth and Moultrie that of my mother.

Every other Sunday after church we traveled to Texas valley for the most wonderful family gathering one can imagine. Every Fourth of July week the old car of the day took us to visit Mother’s family in the magical city of Moultrie, tobacco country.

Since my youth, I have been fortunate to have been able to travel far beyond the circle of my youth. Being one of the sons of what Tom Brokaw correctly called “The Greatest Generation”, history has always been a passion for me, especially the history of WWII and of Europe. Perhaps the most meaningful trip was a visit to Austria and Germany in 2005, to see first-hand so many of the places and things I had only seen in the pages of books.

One of those most vivid memories is of the many statues of German Soldiers, wearing the familiar Pith Helmet, standing in the old cemeteries of the small village churches. Most of them depicted a handsome young soldier, gun slung over his shoulder, carrying the cross of Christ on his back. They like us believed God was on their side. That awareness made me see they were no different than us. They shared love of country and love of Jesus, in just the same way as did my daddy and his brothers, who fought in another uniform and under a different flag.

The history of Germany is well preserved in all the museums throughout the nation. The soldiers of the Third Reich are relegated to those museums, as well as to the many old church cemeteries of the countless quaint villages across the country. The names of the young men who gave their lives for the village and the motherland are on plaques on the front of those churches.

I have friends who are of German ancestry. Most of them had Grandfathers who served in the German Military during WWII. They were the foot soldiers of the enemy forces my father and vast numbers of other young Americans fought against in the Battles of Normandy, The Bulge, The Rhine, and other battles across the globe.

The sacrifice of our young men was monumental in the fight to defeat Germany to the purpose of removing Nazism and its threat to Democracy from the earth forever. The loss of life in the Battle of the Bulge alone still stands as the second largest loss of American Lives in any military battle in history. Almost 20,000 young Americans died there, in the frozen forest of Belgium. Their blood was spilled in the snow to save and protect our freedoms, our way of life.

You know, our German friends are just like us. They love their families and the memory of their own Grandfathers hold a special place in their hearts, just as ours do. Even so, they fully support the fact that the display of the Nazi Flag, the Sieg Heil, or the Swastika are crimes in their country. They understand that those things are in fact a part of their history and that of their beloved country. They know however that neither of these emblements is a part of their “Heritage”.

The History of a Country is, like that of an individual, filled with many mistakes and choices some of which are shameful. This is their History, it need not be their Heritage. Heritage is that which has value in the life of a country and its people, that about which they and their descendants may be proud, that which sets them apart as belonging together in sharing common values.

I too share a Confederate History with many of you, and I have ancestors who were in both the Army of the Potomac and that of the Army of Northern Virginia – both the Blue and the Grey. I too have always been conflicted when engaged in the discussion over whether to take down or move the monuments of the Civil War era and can say that I am extremely proud of the great foresight Rome’s city fathers had many years ago in moving Civil War monuments from Broad Street. They saved us much pain.

Is the Civil War a part of my heritage of which I am not ashamed, or is it merely a part of the history of my people and their region of the country? I must admit I am still somewhat uncomfortable in answering the question I received this morning in an email from my friend Charlie who asked, “Are we trying to erase or sanitize history?” “What about the Cyclorama. Stone Mountain?”

We cannot avoid this discussion for we have tried to do so for far too long. There is room in the discussion for differences of opinion and we must be open and willing to discuss it. We must now come to the table expecting to be made uncomfortable. We cannot avoid it any longer.

Our failure to talk about this together as a nation is in part the reason for the disgraceful, tragic event with loss of life in Charlottesville on Saturday. Will our unwillingness to join in a civil discussion of the difficult, hard, divisive topic of Race result in additional loss of life? More deaths?

This is why One Community United exists, to promote the discussion.The motto of the group and that of the many diverse people of this community group is “Let’s Talk”. Think about it. Take the risk. Come join the discussion.

Finally, my hope and prayer is that my history, filled with many mistakes and wrong choices, is not my Heritage. I pray that my Heritage, that which defines the values of the man I am, will be something of which my children, grandchildren, my descendants will be proud.

I love and respect each of you and I am and will always be a proud Son of the South.

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