Out and About (Sort of): Old News Maybe, but the Message is Not by Howard Freedlander

When controversy in 2015 engulfed our community about the Confederate statue of the Talbot Boys in front of the Talbot County Courthouse in Easton, I did not devote a word in this weekly column about it. I held no position. I was torn.

While I condemned a statue on public property commemorating the Confederate forces in the Civil War, I also adhered to the concept that it is foolhardy to rewrite history. The 84 local soldiers named on the statue fought bravely for a cause in which they believed—though it was a corrupt one based on retaining the evil institution of slavery and white supremacy. Slavery repressed and imprisoned blacks in a system that brought great riches to white property owners throughout the South and Mid-Atlantic.

Some readers may wonder why I am resurrecting an issue settled by the county council after months of hearings and furious letter-writing in The Star Democrat. Discussion over the proposed removal of the Talbot Boys monument was part of national revulsion over the shameful killing of African–Americans in a Charleston, SC church.

I changed my mind after recently reading eloquently passionate and reasoned words spoken by Mayor Mitch Landrieu before the removal in mid-May of four monuments in New Orleans paying homage to Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard.

I now view the propriety of the Talbot Boys statue in a harsher light. I also realize that my epiphany will make little or no difference.

We see no monument in front of the courthouse referring to slave auctions that took place there. This omission certainly would represent, if not the erasure of history, the purposeful ignorance of it. While I hardly suggest such a monument, I think thought should be given to an unvarnished view of history—if that’s the primary argument behind retaining the Talbot Boys.

In explaining the reasoning behind the removal of four monuments in New Orleans, a place well known as America’s largest slave market, Mayor Landrieu said:

“The historic record is clear; the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. The cult had one goal—through monuments and through other means—to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity…these men did not fight for the United States of America. They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause, they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy, ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement and the terror it actually stood for.”

Revisionist history states that the Civil War was not about slavery but about states’ rights. Confederate states were not fighting, so the argument goes, to retain slavery but their rights to govern and conduct themselves as they wished. This is hogwash.

In Mayor Landrieu’s powerful speech, he cites remarks made by Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, in which he said, “the cornerstone (of the Confederacy) that rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Stephens’ words sound eerily similar to those spoken by Adolph Hitler. It’s critical to remember that no statues of Hitler stand as reminders of history. It was an unforgivable blight that never will go away. Concentration camps stand as a grim reminder of human terror and unconscionable behavior.

While I have no desire to stir the cauldron, I do think that the African-American mayor of Richmond, VA, Levar Stoney has developed a workable solution to the awful story of slavery and the horrific human and physical damage imposed by the Civil War as symbolized by statues that define Monument Avenue in the former capital of the Confederacy.

The theme is always the same. The monuments in Richmond and elsewhere represent false history set deceptively in stone and bronze. They pay tribute to military heroes and political figures in enabling Jim Crow discrimination and repression to continue.

Mayor Stoney has recommended interpretation—historical context—to accompany the monuments. The purpose is to perpetuate truth, not revisionist history. Some sort of explanation would provide the “other side” of history.

At some point, I suggest that county government and community leaders consider a plaque or sign beside the Talbot Boys monument to address the horror and stain of slavery. While I applaud the bravery of the Confederate soldiers, I believe the omission of a monument to Union soldiers is glaringly wrong and misguided.

The presence of the Frederick Douglass statue does not provide equal treatment; it stands on its own in honoring a person who gained national fame for his eloquent abolitionist writings and speeches

Some might say that our community has had its dialogue—and that’s true. The county council members strove to listen to all viewpoints and make a reasoned decision. I do not intend to criticize the county council. I do suggest, however, paying attention to actions taken by other jurisdictions.

History should reflect the truth. Even if it is inconvenient.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): A Community with History Driven by Tumult by Howard Freedlander

For nearly 41 years I have driven across the Miles River Bridge through the small African-American community of Unionville and never understood until recently its significance not only in Talbot County and the Eastern Shore but also in our nation.

I just didn’t “get it.”

Surrounded by waterfront estates and expensive homes, Unionville seemed oddly placed. The modest homes and well-kept church gained scant attention through my car window. I have since learned that I should have delved more deeply; I should have opened my eyes and mind to a community tied not only to the Civil War but to a Quaker landowner who despised slavery.

Thanks to an exhibit at the Talbot Historical Society and specifically Larry Denton, its dynamic executive director, I learned that the 150-year-old Unionville exists only through the generosity of Ezekiel Cowgill, a Quaker abolitionist who leased lots to 18 soldiers–former slaves and free blacks who fought for the Union in the Civil War Many of their descendants, including Harriette Lowery, still live in Unionville. Her ancestor was Benjamin Demby.

A Delaware native, Ezekiel Cowgill bought Lombardy, a dilapidated Miles River Neck farm, in 1856. He employed only free blacks. Most of the land on Miles River Neck belonged to the Lloyd family; the owner of the Wye House plantation at the time was Colonel Edwin Lloyd VI, whose bustling enterprise included hundreds of slaves. According to the Maryland State Archives, “Ezekiel Cowgill was affected by his slaveholding neighbors and expressed surprise to find himself living as a neighbor to slaveholders.”

It’s not surprising that Cowgill was one of two votes in Talbot County for Abraham Lincoln during the 1860 presidential election. I wonder how this principled man coped with being a lonely voice in Talbot County politics.

His Quaker roots go back to Delaware, where he served as State Treasurer and the trustee of a fund used to establish a school for free blacks under the auspices of the Preparative Quaker Meeting of Little Creek. After moving to Maryland, he became a “well-respected and influential member of the Quaker community in Talbot County” as a member of the Third Haven Meeting in Easton, according to the Maryland State Archives.

I have spent four paragraphs writing about Ezekiel Cowgill because I suspect that his story as a Quaker abolitionist who treated blacks fairly and humanely is one duplicated elsewhere in the United States. His leasing of land, however, for $1 a month to Civil War veterans who served with colored regiments—11 of the returning soldiers had previously been slaves on the Lloyd plantation—was an incredible and notable act embodying generosity both of spirit and material support. Though the leases generally extended 30 years, one granted to Isaac Copper spanned 99 years.

When I think about the 150th anniversary of Unionville exhibit at the Talbot Historical Society and the recent event sponsored by the Frederick Douglass Honor Society at Wye House on May 21, 2017, I feel pleased that blacks and whites are acknowledging together the county’s history—good, bad and ugly. I hope that other communities above and below the Mason-Dixon Line are facing the past equally as honestly and forthrightly.

As I’ve written before, grace comes in different forms.

Ezekiel Cowgill’s move to Talbot County changed the social order of the Miles River Neck. The establishment of Unionville paid visible tribute to Civil War veterans who escaped slavery and degradation to fight in a conflict that changed our country. The current actions by the Frederick Douglass Honor Society and the Talbot Historical Society represent a form of grace in the united efforts of well-intended individuals to give visibility (“transparency” in current vernacular) to periods of history that often displayed despicable human behavior.

Now, as I drive through Unionville, my eyes are wide open.
I see a community founded on the goodness of Ezekiel Cowgill and populated initially by resilient former slaves who fought in a horribly divisive and destructive Civil War. I see descendants of the Lloyd family, such as Richard Tilghman and his wife Beverly, and a descendant of an original Unionville resident, Harriette Lowery, working in unison to build ties that will last another 150 years.

Our county and the Eastern Shore are rife with history. We all benefit from examining it.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): You Can “Go Home” With Some Retrospection by Howard Freedlander

It’s often said, you can’t go home, you can’t recapture or repeat an idyllic time in childhood or youth.

The past Saturday when my wife and I watched our 12-year-old granddaughter play softball at Route 18 Park outside Centreville, I had flashbacks to another fun-producing time when her mother and aunt played softball on the Eastern Shore.

I was a parent heavily invested in a daughter’s athletic performance, possibly too much so. I didn’t sit on my emotions. I had played sports throughout college. I expected my daughters to do well. If their performance were lackluster on a particular day, I expected exhaustive effort. At the same time, I tried to be positive about their prowess, even if I felt otherwise. Sometimes I said nothing after a game. I’m not sure my behavior was constructive.

It was so different that past Saturday. I watched with little or no emotional investment. I was there to provide some grandparent support; the results were less important than they were 30-35 years ago.

In days of yore, I often was an obnoxious parent. I can’t deny it. I yelled and screamed, mostly at the umpires. I tried to encourage my daughters, even when it hurt. I tried ever so hard to be a patient parent, able to forgive my daughters should their performance fail to measure up to my too-high expectations.

It’s far easier being a grandparent. Your sportsmanship is much more admirable than it was at another time, when victories were of utmost importance. Your attitude is healthier. You’re just there, because being a more mellow spectator seems important to your daughter and granddaughter. Your daughter is empowered to shout and moan, though I rarely have witnessed that. Her demeanor is far more mature than her father exhibited so many years ago.

As a grandparent, you’re just a kindly accessory. You’re treated as “old” people, as we were Saturday as two team parents moved a canopy to enshroud us in shade and improve our experience at the ballfield. Is it respect or sympathy that motivates this generosity of spirit? Does it matter?

Aging has some advantages, though not many. Sometimes, your pride has to take a backseat to nice, benevolent gestures of friendship. Sometimes, you accept the extra effort of kindness without reservation or embarrassment.

As I watched my granddaughter work hard to hit the ball and contribute to her team, I was reminded of the intrinsic value of sports. While it does matter if you win or lose, if you hustle or hold back, if you focus or daydream, the opportunity to be part of a team is invaluable.

Though I periodically decry the predominance of sports in American society, often to the exclusion of cultural pursuits, I feel thrilled that women’s sports have gained more attention and respect and public support. No longer is a woman, driven to succeed in amateur or professional sports, stigmatized by athletic excellence. It’s perfectly acceptable to seek to succeed in a competitive sports venue and know that the American public honors your abilities and prowess—while at the same time appreciates your human qualities.

As a parent of two daughters, I unabashedly encouraged athletic participation. And, yes, I might have been too pushy for top-flight performance. I also understood, however, that learning to win, participating in endless practices and melding your talents with others were life lessons that should be and in fact are available to male and female athletes alike.

Maybe, just maybe, women’s sports have opened up other opportunities in other fields, such as business, the law, academia, medicine, science, government, and non-profits. I’m realistic enough to know that women still face discrimination in the work world in terms of salary and upward mobility. Change comes slowly, glacially so.

America is still the land of opportunity. Women can advance from playing softball on a well-kept field at Route 18 Park outside Centreville to leadership in a major corporation or university. Being on a team can provide valuable life lessons.

A grandparent can be hopeful about a grandchild’s future. We can even mentor benignly. The ultimate responsibility, of course, lies with a parent and a child.

As it should be. Grandparents have had their turn at bat.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): 2017 Chesapeake Champion Thrives in Nature by Howard Freedlander

Subject a week ago of a Talbot Spy interview, Jim Brighton epitomizes a nature lover who has undertaken a project that has created a first-time inventory of plant and animal species in Maryland. And he’s done this on a part-time basis.

A boat-builder during the week at Campbell’s Boatyard in Oxford, Brighton has become the fifth recipient of Horn Point Laboratory’s Chesapeake Champion award. He will receive this award on Friday, June 23 at the former Maryland National Guard Armory in downtown Easton, now owned by Waterfowl Chesapeake.

I’m lost in nature, appreciating the beauty but having no earthly idea about the species surrounding me. The Maryland Biodiversity Project (MDP), founded five years ago by Brighton and his fellow nature-loving associate, Bill Hubick of Pasadena (Anne Arundel County), removes the mystery. Its website comprises a catalogue of more than 17,000 species in checklists, more than 9,000 with photographs, more than 73,000 total photos and more than 323,000 total records.

So, the question arises: what difference does it make that MDP has created a web-based record of plant and animal life in the small but diverse State of Maryland? And another query comes to mind: how do the state’s residents benefit from this inventory?

More inartfully, I wanted to ask “so what?” when I met with the affable Jim Brighton. He was very persuasive.

What I learned during an hour-long conversation with him for an article in another publication is his determined mission to create a sense “of wonderment and stewardship” among his neighbors, friends and website users. To my way of thinking, Brighton, aided by a slew of volunteers throughout the state, wants to motivate people to feel they have an ownership interest in our natural environment.

That’s an admirable and difficult task.

We can easily overlook plants and animals and perhaps take them for granted. We might see no need to preserve the environment in which a diverse spectrum of species lives and survives. We might think that the beauty surrounding us during walks in the woods or strolls n our neighborhoods is eternally stable.

We should know better. We just need to ponder the poor health of our beloved Chesapeake Bay and understand that the riches inherent in this estuary require serious and science-based stewardship.

A Dorchester County native whose grandfather, Jim Richardson, was a well-known Cambridge boat builder, Brighton understands the need to preserve and treasure our piece of the planet.

As hard as I try to ignore the absurd announcements emitted too often by the Trump White House and their connection to life on the Eastern Shore, I simply cannot. Specifically, I wonder what impact withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and its implicit denial of global warming bear on the venues in which plants and animals survive.

This senseless decision by our fact-challenged president might, just might, underscore the long-term importance of Jim Brighton’s and Bill Hubick’s Maryland Biodiversity Project. With the federal government seemingly abdicating its role in abating climate change, the work done to capture the incredibly diverse and numerous species in our state is a step in the right direction to propel all of us to care about the environment that sustains these plants and animals.

It would be far too easy to devote this weekly column to the daily outrage that spews ever so recklessly from the people’s White House. For the sake of readers and my personal well-being, I will continue to try to refrain from too-frequent observations and criticism.

For readers and their friends who want to attend Horn Point Lab’s fifth annual Chesapeake Champion award presentation on Friday, June 23, 2017, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Waterfowl Chesapeake Building, you may call Liz Freedlander at 410-829-9913 or email her at lfreedlander@umces.edu. For full disclosure, Liz is my wife and development director at Horn Point Lab.

Jim Brighton and Bill Hubick deserve credit and commendation for creating a project that promotes awareness and ownership.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

For readers and their friends who want to attend Horn Point Lab’s fifth annual Chesapeake Champion award presentation on Friday, June 23, 2017, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Waterfowl Chesapeake Building, you may call Liz Freedlander at 410-829- 9913 or email her at lfreedlander@umces.edu.

Out and About (Sort of): Slavery Draws Candor at Wye House and Williamsburg by Howard Freedlander

Nine days ago, 200 people gathered under a tent on the beautiful grounds of the historic Wye House on Bruffs Island Road outside Easton to hear a brutally frank discussion about the renown abolitionist and writer, Frederick Douglass, born and bred in Talbot County.

The marriage of “John and Dolly”

Just seven days ago, my wife and I visited one of our favorite destinations, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia and watched a powerful re-enactment of the wedding of two young slaves readying themselves to escape slavery and possibly face dire circumstances for fleeing their masters to become free and unshackled.

Then seven-years-old, Douglass confronted the evil and repressive institution of slavery at Wye House. It informed the rest of life. Amid the agri-business that defined this magnificent property in the early 19th century, young Douglass watched with horror as slaves were beaten and their souls crushed by cruelty and violence.

According to one of the panelists participating in “a conversation at Wye House,” organized by the Frederick Douglass Honor Society, Douglass wrote that the lovely trees that graced the Wye House plantation were “witnesses” to an impressive farm operation that viewed slaves as mere property to be used and abused. Not unlike plantation life elsewhere in America at the time.

Sitting in a small outside setting in Colonial Williamsburg, we watched a simple dramatic production of a wedding ceremony fraught with anxiety over the future of two slaves optimistic that their love for each other and determination to live free lives would help them overcome severe obstacles. If caught, they knew they would absorb horrible lashings.

This column is not merely about slavery, the subject of millions of words in innumerable books. It is about courage and honesty, as exemplified by Richard and Beverly Tilghman, current owners of Wye House. Richard is the 12th generation member of the Lloyd family to own the distinctive Wye House property.

For full disclosure, Richard and Beverly are personal friends. I’m writing what I said to each of them on Sunday, May 21, 2017 at the end of the two-hour program, entitled “From Frederick Douglass to Barack Obama.” The Tilghmans exhibited sincere gutsiness in hosting a session that presented an unvarnished view of life at Wye House, as described by Douglass, celebrated for his intellectual acuity and insights, and examined in depth by academic scholars.

Richard, and his now-deceased mother, Mary, have unabashedly and publicly claimed the history of slavery on one of the Eastern Shore’s premier plantations. In fact, as occurred nine days, they have provided a platform for a no-holds barred look at a particular instance of a slave-driven economy.

I believe that Richard and Beverly deserve high praise for their openness to discussion of the horrible conditions endured by Frederick Douglass and hundreds of slaves at Wye House.

The marriage of “John and Dolly” in a ceremony illegally conducted by a Baptist minister was touching and terror-ridden. It seemed that love alone would not help them overcome obstacles on their way to Philadelphia. They would need not only physical stamina but well-placed allies on the way.

The circumstances surrounding the staging of this slice of drama are similar in some ways to the Tilghmans’ purposeful acknowledgement of the slavery that imprisoned young Frederick Douglass. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation realized some years ago it could not focus merely on the well-educated, wealthy white men who founded our country and decided to become unchained from British dominance.

To be relevant and credible, Colonial Williamsburg had to pay attention to the plight of the slaves owned by the leaders of Virginia and eventually the new United States.

Our country was founded on the precepts of liberty and freedom. Unfortunately, this idealistic thrust did not apply to blacks who were slaves. It was a flaw that required a civil war to fix. Mistreatment of blacks did not vanish despite the outcome of the War Between the States.

Though many decry the obtrusive nature of today’s pervasive (some say “invasive”) media, I believe that while the truth may not set us free, it does offer insights that often leads to actions encompassing grace and goodness.

The past is an invaluable teacher. We ignore it at own peril. Thoughtlessness is a worthless option.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Reunions and Losses by Howard Freedlander

I took a week off in writing this weekly column immersed as I was in my 50th reunion at my university in Philadelphia. My perspective about this milestone event was skewed a bit due to my leadership roles. Nonetheless, I joined classmates in celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime experience with gusto and good health.

When I first encountered my classmates at the beginning of a weekend filled with social and educational activities, I perceived a certain shyness, or maybe a human reluctance to accept the fact that attendance at our 50th reunion required you to be 71-72-years-old. A common refrain was: “Twenty-five years ago when we were on campus for an earlier milestone reunion, we looked at those celebrating their 50th and thought they looked awfully old.”

Life is a matter of perspective, isn’t it? We all walked more slowly, carried our gray or white or colored hair and undeniable wrinkles with grace, talked incessantly about grandchildren—while simply enjoying the fact that we were able to mark our 50th anniversary as graduates with abundant enthusiasm, sufficient dexterity and overwhelming desire to reconnect to each other.

Appropriately, at our last event, we paid tribute to 261 deceased classmates. The memorial service was a poignant one. I could return home thankful for a fun and festive weekend and pleased that our deceased classmates remained part of our memories and souls.

Herb Andrew

Here at home, the community suffered a terrible loss two weeks ago of Herb Andrew, a native Talbot County resident, longtime farmer, well-regarded bank board member and quietly effective community leaders. He also had served four terms on the Talbot County Council.

Though I didn’t know Herb well, I found him exceedingly and sincerely friendly. He served our community with little fanfare. Our longest conversation happened when we spoke for a few minutes in October 2015 at the Ruth Starr Rose exhibit at the old Maryland National Guard Armory in Easton. This exhibit featured wonderfully evocative paintings of African-American life in Talbot County in the early 20th century. He talked candidly about what he observed in his youth about how black residents were mistreated in Talbot County. He talked about his service in the U.S. Air Force and the bias he observed.

Herb Andrew was a terrific person killed tragically in a car crash. Our community has lost one of its truly good and service-oriented people.

A significant resource in our Mid-Shore region, Chesapeake College has severed its relationship with Barbara Viniar, its hard-working president for the past nine years. Information has been sparse concerning the reasons for Barbara’s departure. While I understand the sensitivity of personnel actions, I find it regrettable that we are losing such a capable educator with so little explanation.

Barbara Viniar

Serving Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties, Chesapeake College is an invaluable asset to residents young and old. Change in top leadership is therefore important to all of us. I can only guess that being responsive to elected officials in five counties is a difficult, often thankless task.

As readers know, I often have moaned and groaned about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the season traffic that heads east from late May to early September. I normally focus on the Shore and the burden on local residents dealing with chronic congestion. This time around, I must talk about Annapolis.

By this time, most people probably have heard about a fatal crash that occurred early afternoon on Route 50 on Wednesday, May 17. Eastbound lanes leading to the Bay Bridge were closed to traffic as police dealt with a total mess. Annapolis became the favorite detour locale. Plans to pick up grandchildren at a day care center and elementary school became delayed.

Many of us are inextricably tied to the Western Shore for personal and professional reasons. Hence, we have to deal with agonizing delays often caused by vehicle accidents. What’s the answer?
For me, it’s patience, which I lack. It’s long-held appreciation for life on the Shore.

I started this column about a college reunion and ended it with angst over a traffic accident on Route 50 near Annapolis. In between, I bemoaned the tragic death of Herb Andrew and the unfortunate end to Barbara Viniar’s relationship with Chesapeake College.

Life moves forward, sometimes with joy at reconnecting with old friends, sadness at the loss of a community pillar, regret over the departure of an educational leader and the travail of navigating Route 50.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Sundry Comments on a Range of Subjects by Howard Freedlander

More than a week ago I read an article in The Washington Post about a reunion of Vietnam veterans trained as officers in 1967 at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. One of the men was Paul Berents, an Easton resident whom I wish I knew.

Of the 516 members of the basic officers who graduated in class 5-67, 39 were killed in combat. Like the faces of most war victims, those pictured in the Post article are young men facing deadly conditions in an unpopular war brought home as never before in images broadcast on TV.

Now 72, Paul Berents lost both legs to amputation after action in which a new Marine shot Lt. Berents after mistaking him for an enemy soldier. It was Dec. 7, 1967. Berents had been in country for 10 weeks.

The article about the upcoming 50th reunion of class 5-67, focusing on Berents and two other former Marine lieutenants, brought home for me a war that killed or maimed many in my generation, leaving lasting and painful emotional scars on survivors.

The Vietnam War divided our country. Our troops returned stateside to a nation that treated them poorly and disgracefully.

Our country learned a few things from the Vietnam War. One lesson learned was to commit maximum force to achieve combat victory, as we did in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Another was to ensure that participation in a foreign war draws its strength from the national will, without which it’s difficult, if not impossible to win. And, unquestionably, the nation wholeheartedly should support its troops; anger against the reasons for, and execution of war should be directed at our political leaders—not the men and women who fight our wars.

I would like to meet Paul Berents to thank and commend him for his service in the Vietnam War. He suffered severe wounds. He served well.


Congratulations to Pete Lesher, my friend and neighbor who last week was re-elected as Easton Town Councilman for Ward 2. He and two others, Megan Cook (Ward 4) and John Ford (Council President), ran unopposed.

Though the results were less than dramatic, I believe that those who serve on the local town or city level deserve public kudos. They not only have to deal with potholes and neighborhood disputes, they must tackle complex policy challenges, such as land use and economic development, issues that have long-term compact.

Time will come in the next few years when the Town of Easton will have to face what to do with the property vacated by the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton when it moves to a site near the airport. As a neighbor in South Easton, I am very concerned about the “repurposing” of this property. The Easton Town Council will confront complex land use decisions, ones that will have a marked impact on the Washington Street corridor and adjoining community.

I hope and believe that the Town Council already has determined a process involving input not only from the community but experts who have dealt with vacated hospital properties in and out of Maryland to fix upon a rational and productive use of what most of us know as Memorial Hospital. Decisions will have far-reaching consequences.

A sterling example of sound land use decisions is just down Route 50 in Annapolis. The question was the same: what to do with the property vacated by Anne Arundel Medical Center. I believe the resulting residential development blends beautifully with the Murray Hill community. While the center of Annapolis lost its hospital, it gained sensible, well-planned development.


One last comment: I was pleased that the spending bill approved a week ago in a bipartisan manner by Congress included $75 million for the continued clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay. We can only hope that the Trump Administration would consider this funding inviolate in future budget proposals.

The idea that the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed could afford to manage alone the health of this national gem would be akin to believing crabs could fly. I pray for good sense to prevail in the White House and Congress.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): After 103 days of Chaos, It’s Personal by Howard Freedlander

Though 100 days is an arbitrary standard to judge the accomplishments and competence of a new U.S. President, I think it’s fair to judge a man who claimed he would amass significant achievements in his first 100 days in office.

It’s personal to me. We have a president prone to empty hyperbole on a constant basis, uttering statements with scant connection to reality. We’re asked to tolerate these outrageous comments, which, of course, turn out to be sorely lacking in fact or even a scintilla of due diligence.

His staunch supporters—and there are many–will simply claim that I simply dislike Donald Trump and cannot stop grieving the results of the Presidential election. This assertion would be partially true; I find the President’s bombastic, bragging style repugnant, while I respect the election result.

It’s personal. I feel embarrassed and ashamed of our current White House occupant. His credibility sabotages his lame efforts to function effectively in a government built on checks and balances.

On April 18, Trump claimed that no president had accomplished more in 90 days—and then rushed around last week to achieve something momentous. Of course, he didn’t just talk; he issued a one-page tax plan that favors the rich and provides scant assistance to the people who elected him. It strikes me as silly that Trump’s plan, subject to extensive congressional review and readjustment, would represent constructive action on the part of the Trump Administration.

While Trump has signed 24 executive orders, 22 presidential memorandums, and 20 proclamations, he has scored no significant legislative victory. His attempt to torpedo the Affordable Care Act fell victim to Republican dysfunction. His executive orders to ban entry certain Muslim-majority countries have been blocked in the courts.

It’s personal. We have a president skilled in bombast and tweets. We lack someone able and willing to do his homework before commenting on domestic and foreign affairs. He’s capable of shallow observations, such as expressing support of Fox News Commentator Bill O’Reilly, who shortly afterward was fired for a pattern of sexual harassment. It must have been consoling to have Donald Trump’s blessing. Trump, again acting without thinking, called the president of Turkey to congratulate him on constitutional changes that solidified increasingly repressive autocratic behavior.

Now, let’s be fair to Mr. Trump. His appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court was a good one; even Democrats concerned about the naming of a clone of Justice Antonin Scalia had to acknowledge Gorsuch’s professional and academic credentials. Elections have their consequences; appointment to the Supreme Court is one of them, though even more so than any time in history by divisive politics.

I’m still on my fairness kick. Trump’s attack on Syrian aircraft after an unspeakable chemical attack on its own people was the right thing to do. While I applauded President Obama’s rational, drama-free decision-making, he missed a chance to use U.S. power after a Syrian chemical attack in 2013.

Perhaps because of my military background, I believe that the appointments of generals like H.R. McMaster as director of the National Security Council, Jim Mathis as Secretary of Defense and John Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security were worthy ones. My experience is that general officers are often more circumspect about ordering troops into combat, having seen death first-hand in foreign battle, than are their civilian counterparts who often have not experienced the terror of war.

I’ve heard recently that the White House is operating more efficiently, less subject to internecine fights and back-stabbing brought on by a President who supposedly likes chaos as a way of centering attention on him. While pleased that adults driven more by the nobility of public service seem to be controlling White House staff deliberations, I am less sanguine about President Trump’s ability to listen, absorb and think thoroughly and rationally about critical decisions.

It’s personal. Trump lacks credibility in telling the truth and not engaging in hyperbolic baloney. He seems little interested in details, particularly when they are complicated and not easily explained on cable TV. His ethical antennae are stunted. I was amused to read a few weeks ago that his son Don Jr. was troubled by the chaos and criticism of the White House, for fear these journalistic observations would harm the Trump brand. While it’s common for family members to defend the Oval Office occupant, particularly when he is under constant siege, the connection to the family business is usually not a consideration.

Like others, I will continue to pray for the best but expect the worse on the part of a President whose abominable actions during the Republican and General elections continue to define our nation’s poorly qualified leader.

We can hope that he will choose love of country over love of himself.

It’s personal to me. In every other president in my lifetime, I would find something redemptive, even a bit likable.

I’m at a complete loss to like or respect a person whose brand bespeaks self-centeredness and scant sense of personal accountability.

As of today, we have 1,357 days left in the Trump presidency. It’s a gruesome prospect.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Curtain Closes on Circus by Howard Freedlander

A 146-year-old tradition that once defined family entertainment at its best came to a nostalgic end the past Saturday at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. My wife and I joined thousands of others to bade farewell to the storied Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

It was sad in so many ways. Absent elephants that once symbolized the “Greatest Show on Earth” and profits that kept this famous entertainment vehicle on view throughout our nation, Ringling Bros. declared an end to its deficit-laden business model. Understandable, but emotionally painful as well.

It’s become a cliché to say that Americans experience many demands on their entertainment dollars. Ringling ticket sales have declined for years. Loss of the highly popular elephants due to complaints from animal rights activists exacerbated an already fragile business model.

Just think about it. In 1871, the high-tech entertainment world in which we now live would have seemed like science fiction. Family recreation had no electronic dimensions. A circus with its fantastic variety of acts, often thrilling and dangerous, but always colorful, compelled the attention of families undistracted by TV or radio or computers or smartphones or video apps.

We can’t go back to a simpler time. We can’t dwell on nostalgia. The past is just that, for better or for worse. Public taste changes.

The Ringling Bros. circus filled the seats on Saturday afternoon, mostly with young families and a smattering of grandparents who needed their fix on childhood memories. No one was disappointed.

What amazed me was that the circus I viewed Saturday had little resemblance to what I recalled about the Big Top of yore. Ironically, it had a modern twist, with the theme based upon space travel. I was taken aback. While Ringling Bros. has worked to add modernity to its show, including motorized cycles traveling speedily within an enclosed metal cylinder, the changes were to no avail.

My reading of several articles about the demise of Ringling Bros point to the high cost of offering two traveling editions employing about 500 people and transporting by train a mini-city. As noted, ticket sales have been falling. As I read, smaller circuses still are profitable.

Royal Farms Arena seemed sadly inadequate to me, particularly for a grand, historic show taking its last bow. It was small. Seats were small and cramped, as if on a Southwest Airlines aircraft. The ceiling is relatively low. And the circus had one ring.

Tigers and lions are always a treat, still obedient to their intrepid trainer. The clowns still provide a laugh or two, but it just seemed half-hearted. The ringmaster was mediocre, perhaps because either he enunciated poorly, or my hearing has diminished. I didn’t expect to see ice skaters nor so many stunts on ice.

Despite my critical comments, I felt drawn to the circus, perhaps due to its link to my childhood. A run of 146 years, spanning two world wars, economic downturns and untold cultural changes, is a long one. While the Feld Family, which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, modernized the show, it no longer could withstand the high operating costs and diminishing ticket sales. Loss of the signature elephants, which symbolized the circus to young and old, was the final blow.

My grandchildren will see smaller circuses. So this form of family entertainment will continue on a reduced scale. The drama and romance of the renowned Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will be history.

Accepting the inevitability and even desirability of change, I left Royal Farms Arena Saturday afternoon feeling a tinge of sorrow for the final act of the “Greatest Show on Earth.”

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Lacrosse and Easter Revive the Soul and Spirit by Howard Freedlander

On the day before Easter, as overcast conditions yielded to sunshine, I went with a friend and our two grandsons to watch a lacrosse game between Army and Navy at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. The ancient rivalry between our nation’s two best-known military academies is always thrilling—featuring an equal amount of skill and emotion.

For me, the game of lacrosse fascinates and delights me. I began playing when I was 10-years-old in a Baltimore neighborhood where I’ve often said that had I played any sport other than lacrosse, I would have had no friends. Lacrosse reigned supreme in the community of Mt. Washington.

Funded by Native Americans in what is now Canada as early as the 17th century, according to Wikipedia, “traditional lacrosse games were sometimes major events that could last several days. As many as 100 to 1,000 men from opposing villages or tribes would participate.

The games were played in open plains located between the two villages, and the goals could range from 500 yards to 6 miles.”

Fortunately, the American version consumes less distance and stamina.

I played lacrosse through high school and college and even one year in Manchester, England. I loved the sport. My performance was uneven, at least from my current perspective.

Like most team sports containing a degree of controlled violence and disciplined execution, lacrosse offered me a strong sense of teamwork and camaraderie, physical conditioning and mind-numbing preparation. The desire to win was all-consuming. The sting of loss was unnerving.

Now 71-years-old, I watch modern lacrosse with great delight. I marvel at the skill level of today’s lacrosse athletes and their physical capabilities. By the latter, I must confess that 50 years ago at my university we were required only to report to practice able to run and survive a demanding game. But we spent no time in a gym training our muscles and bodies to perform better than we could have imagined. I regret that vacuum.

Back to the Army-Navy lacrosse game that past Saturday. Scoring seven goals in the second half, after being down by three at one point, the Navy midshipmen battled back to win 10-6 before a number of Army fans, including my friend, a West Point graduate. Not surprisingly, Naval Academy supporters were ecstatic.

Though I wore an Army uniform for more than 30 years as a member of U.S. Army Reserve and the Maryland Army National Guard, I am always torn when watching these two superior military academies face each other in athletic battle. The U.S. Naval Academy feels like a hometown school, generating loyalty and interest.

While pleased to watch Navy win, I had hoped to see an Army team whose record this year would have predicted a different result.

For me, the Army-Navy lacrosse contest felt like the outset of spring, a renewal of spirit at time when flowers and trees blossom and the sound of lawn mowers fill the air. On the day before Easter, it seemed appropriate to watch a game that stressed athletic excellence, self-discipline and good sportsmanship.

For me, the experience was uplifting, particularly when I could share it with my six-year-old grandson. Maybe he will continue the legacy of lacrosse played by his grandfather and mother.

As I sat in church on Sunday, buoyed by my experience as a spectator and grandfather the day before at a game that is becoming increasingly more popular throughout our country, I took solace and comfort in the resurrection of spirit represented by Easter. I think back at times that were difficult and disheartening. I feel thankful that the grace and goodness of God enabled me to face and tame personal demons and overcome health problems.

We often seek personal and spiritual renewal, sometimes more purposefully and urgently than watching a lacrosse game and remembering moments of youthful exuberance and athletic competition.

A sports stadium provides an escape from everyday worries. A church can compel honest self-examination. They both renew the soul.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.