Marble Man: Thoughts on Robert E. Lee

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Robert E. Lee/ Image via Public Domain

In today’s United States, racial and socioeconomic tensions are amplified by the rapidity of Internet sharing. The senseless death of a young minority by the member of an historically oppressive race can ignite the emotions of Americans from one corner of the country to the other in a matter of minutes, like a spark in a tinderbox on a bed of kindling.

Cities are attempting to revise the mindsets of those who harbor racist sympathies and to promote race equality by taking aim at the tangible symbols that evoke sentiments of inequality.

In New Orleans, for example, “adversaries marched in a second-line parade to the traffic circle where [Confederate General Robert E.] Lee’s statue stands — centurion-like, stationed above the treeline atop a white stone pedestal — to protest the monument’s place in the circle and to bury Lee’s place in history, which some revere and others revile.”

The basic argument against monuments like Lee’s in New Orleans is that Lee was the leader of the Confederate Army which fought and killed on behalf of a loose band of belligerent, secessionist states that advocated for the institution of slavery — i.e., Lee is one of the de facto faces of slavery in America and is undeserving of celebratory recognition.

Conversely, there are those who think preserving the legacy of Confederate soldiers who laid down their lives for a certain belief is something of a civic and moral obligation. Individually those rebels are ancestors; collectively they comprise a regional heritage.

I happen to think that when it comes to contentious memorials such as those of notorious Confederates, they should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

When it comes to Lee, I happen to think he should be lauded. Jefferson Davis, no thank you.

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A Drive Through the Valley of the Shenandoah

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Broadway, VA/ Image via the author

The valley in which we rode was once a fiery battleground.

The rolling fields, like grassy ocean swells, which give way to imposing mountains on both the left and the right were just as scenic and stoic as in the mid-1800s. Men fought and killed each other on that very same ground over slavery and the preservation of the union.

It was upsetting to think such a beautiful landscape was formerly demeaned by the horrors of war. I couldn’t fathom what residents thought in the midst of it; the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Appalachian Plateau to the west illuminated with cannon and mortar fire, droves of ragged military men charging and hollering and killing, patches of farmland saturated with blood.

It sounds sensationalized but indeed the Shenandoah Valley was the crux of the Eastern Theater of the Civil War. At the mouth of the valley to the north, the town of Winchester, Virginia is said to have changed hands more than 70 times throughout the conflict.

Aside from the complete lack of 19th century militarization, though with the presence of modern technologies like telephone lines, paved roads, and automobiles, much of what could be seen from our roving vantage struck me with the feeling that most of it remains exactly the same as it was for generations past.

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Aunt Thelma: The Matriarch of Bermuda

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Front Street, Hamilton, Bermuda/ Image via the author

Hamilton is a modest municipality, the capital city of the modest British Overseas Territory of Bermuda. Its narrow streets buzz with scooters, compressed cars, and buses that look more like minivans in comparison to the larger caravans seen here in the States. Lining the roads is an eclectic display of architecture.

Front Street, Hamilton’s main thoroughfare, stretches along the northern edge of Hamilton Harbour and behind it the city sits perched on a gentle slope dotted with buildings that exemplify Hamilton’s blend of Western influence and native style.

Limestone storefronts are coated with vibrant, coral blues, yellows, and reds. Rooftops carved and stepped, designed to catch and funnel rainwater into underground holding tanks. Gothic Revival houses of worship standing stoically next to ramshackle take-out restaurants alongside cafes seemingly transported from the Iberian Peninsula.

Off of Front Street is a stout pier called Point Pleasant, home to a park of the same name canopied by slender Bermuda Palmettos. Standing at the tip of the Pier, known as Albouy’s Point, one has a direct view of the sailboats and luxury vessels anchored at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club to the right, the craggy Harbour islands just beyond, and a clear line of sight to the coastline across the azure water.

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Southern Charm Stories: Welcome to the Hostess City

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Savannah, Georgia, James Oglethorpe Monument, Chippewa Square

We arrived in Savannah in the dead of night.

It was a fitting time for reaching the milieu made famous and increasingly popular in recent years by the bewitching novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

The City of Savannah takes its name from the river upon which it sits which also doubles as the border between Georgia and South Carolina. The stretch of highway that connects the South Carolina Lowcountry to the oldest city in the Peach State meanders through several miles of marsh and tidal flats, over the river, and across the state boundary.

After the sun has passed below the horizon, the only guiding light from the exit off I-95 and along US 17 is emitted from the city itself, a distant orb that grows as one approaches.

The aforementioned description paints two distinct pictures of the Savannah area — one dark and gritty amplified perhaps by the assumption of ramshackle huts scattered throughout sparsely-populated and under resourced communities that live and die by the fishing industry; the other an isolated, gleaming, and welcoming destination from which it earned the nickname “The Hostess City of the South.”

Both notions of Savannah hold some truth.

Both are bound together by a common thread.

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A Jersey Shore Vignette: Password to the Ocean City Boardwalk

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Ocean City, N.J. Ferris Wheel/ Nick DeLuca

“Open or closed?”

The question is something of a secret password for nonnatives, or, conversely, a nod of respect to those who have tread the Ocean City, N.J. boardwalk before.

Johnson’s Popcorn, a Jersey Shore staple more than half a century, is celebrated for its decadently sweet, lightly buttered, pinch-salted caramel corn so saccharine it’ll give your dentist an anxiety disorder.

The sweet and savory ingredients act as an adhesive, creating chunky popcorn balls swimming in a sea of perfectly seasoned kernels.

Needless to say, it’s damned delicious.

The question, posed by the cashiers manning each of the four Johnson’s Popcorn kiosks on the historic boardwalk, is an on-the-spot test of your shore knowledge and acts equally as an identifier if it’s your first time.

And if it is, in fact, your inaugural visit, there’s only one answer:

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‘I Watched a Man Die Tonight’: Thoughts on Personifying Social Media Post-Trauma

Social media is arguably the biggest contradiction of this Digital Age.

A rather amorphous and ambiguous entity, social media can be broken down to a number of different platforms and apps most of which were designed for a specific uses or mode of sharing, all of which are intended to link a person or organization to another.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear, and subsequently supported by scientific evidence, that social media often yields the opposite result. Users yearning for acceptance via social networks too frequently and unknowingly ostracize themselves from the tangible world. Brands, companies and organizations attempting to engage with others similarly toe the line of over-sharing and alienating their audiences. Some looking to share their “true selves” invariably pick and choose how they want others to perceive them.

I, for one, have a deep-seated aversion to social media but I actively upkeep most of my accounts knowing full well that having an online presence in an increasingly tech-based world is mandate in the realm of writing and “content creation.”

And isn’t that the essence of successful social media? Knowing when to promote, provoke and prattle without falling short and without overstepping? It’s about trying to strike a balanced and harmonious chord in order to build relationships without razing any.

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An Open Letter to Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley: Please Run for Mayor of Boston

Dear Ms. Ayanna Pressley,

Boston needs you.

In roughly one year’s time, office-seeking residents will formulate and put into motion campaigns with the admirable hope of unseating Marty Walsh as Mayor of Boston.

I’m writing to you today to urge you to toss your hat into the municipal ring.

You probably don’t remember me and that’s okay. We’ve chatted a handful of times on city issues when I was a news reporter. It was clear to me then that you had the makings of a true political luminary, one who sought public servitude to increase the quality of life for all Bostonians — not just to reinforce the foundation of a formidable career as a politician.

Ayanna Pressley

Ayanna Prssley/ Image via City of Boston

It’s clearly not political aspirations that fuel the fire of your civic motivations. It’s doing good and being good. And that’s certainly lacking in the executive office of City Hall.

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History Repeating: 2016 Sanders vs. Clinton Evoking 1960 JFK vs. LBJ

On Tuesday, April 5, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont won the Wisconsin Democratic primary over fellow presidential contender Hillary Clinton, former New York senator and secretary of state, by a margin of 56.6% to 43.1%. 

Wisconsin’s primary could prove pivotal for Senator Sanders as he tries to oust Clinton, considered by many to be the Democratic front-runner. It was pivotal, too, for the young Massachusetts senator in 1960, John F. Kennedy, who carried the state in unlikely fashion and went on to triumph over rival Lyndon B. Johnson, the Senate Majority Leader from Texas, and assume the presidency thereby establishing a new era of American politics and enshrining the former as the insignia of unrealized political potential.

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President Kennedy (left) & Vice President Johnson (center)/ Image via John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum [public domain]

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Portsmouth, N.H.: The Unpretentious Underdog of New England

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The author at Book & Bar, Portsmouth, N.H.

Mankind has a natural affinity for the underdog.

Endorsing dark horses is a humanistic trait, dating as far back as, and certainly beyond, the biblical showdown of David vs. Goliath.

It’s a psychological phenomenon that, according to research, helps explain the likes of the nation’s unbounded enthusiasm for March Madness, the worldwide popularity of Harry Potter, the meteoric rise of presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders and the surge of farmstand shopping over corporate supermarkets.

I would argue that the underdog role is one that can also be portrayed by locations, and that urban centers, for example, boast similar characteristics as those aforementioned. The Harvard Business Review described this twofold effect as having “a disadvantaged position… and a passion and determination to triumph against the odds.”

In that regard, Portsmouth, N.H. is the Northeast’s underdog city.

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In Good Conscience, I Can No Longer Support Marty Walsh as Mayor of Boston

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Mayor Marty Walsh (left) and the author

consider myself a decent judge of character.

For better or for worse, I’m often able to discern what certain people’s strengths and weaknesses are, how to read their expressions and body language, why they act certain ways in certain situations, and even sometimes their thought process in particular scenarios.

In 2013 I employed this capability to the race to succeed Mayor Tom Menino who had announced in March of that year that he would not seek to prolong his tenure as the longest serving mayor in the history of Boston. Leveraging my then-embryonic role as a news writer covering my first election of any kind, I was able to compile an informative foundation upon which I built my unprejudiced rationale for my candidate of choice.

I’ll freely admit that I cast my ballot for the incumbent Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh.

One week removed from the 2016 Massachusetts primary, I regret it wholeheartedly.

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