Editorial: The Serious Threat of Fake News

As our more observant readers noticed today, the Spy has run our annual fake news story in honor of April Fools’ Day with the announcement that the Eastern Shore will have its own rapid transit system next year. We have also enlisted columnist Howard Freedlander into this fictional project with his reporting that Annapolis is moving ahead with a tunnel from the Bay Bridge toll center to Claiborne to connect with the new system. We hope these two breaking news stories will be enjoyed as much by the Mid-Shore region as it has been for the Spy team to produce.

April Fools Day has always been a cherished tradition at the Spy. From our announcement last year that Trump International was constructing a luxury twenty-four story apartment building in Claiborne to the Town of Chestertown accepting responsibility of Binny, an orphaned giraffe, in exchange for funding the town’s Marina on the Chester, The Spy writers allow this field day of imagination to test readers aptitude in depend on their judgment of what is true or false, no matter how crafty our art director is with photoshop

We are also glad that this unofficial national holiday comes only once a year, since the Spy, like any responsible publication, depends on the community’s trust to fulfill our mission as an important educational news source for the Mid-Shore. While it is always tempting to take poetic license during the rest of the year, our desire to maintain our reputation for credibility will always trump our enjoyment of irony or mischief.

Sadly, we are living in a culture where an increasingly large number of independent media sources have turned April Fools Day into a daily occurrence. The production of fake news, from every end of the political spectrum, has invaded our daily consumption of information. And the results of which has been devastating.

In the last year alone, fake news impacted a presidential election, caused a gun assault at a family pizza restaurant in DC, and has sent the United States Congress into endless and costly investigations using false news reports on such topics as Benghazi or presidential wiretapping.

It is particularly hard to imagine that this harmful practice will end anytime soon but that doesn’t necessarily mean it must remain such a potent force in our culture. But it does require that citizens, the country’s consumers of news, become increasingly become more vigilant in relying on their good judgment and common sense rather than accept at face value what they find on the internet.

Home by Sue Ellen Thompson

While it may seem traditional to share with our Spy readers a special holiday message or image as Talbot County ends one year and begins another, it is our instinctive choice to turn to poetry to celebrate this important passage of time.

In this case, we turn to poet Sue Ellen Thompson and her reading of her poem “Home” to set the tone as family and loved ones return to the Shore for reunions and holiday cheer.

We chose “Home” for the same reasons that National Public Radio’s Garrison Keillor chose this particular poem two years ago for the award-winning program devoted to poetry. It is a poem that creates unforgettable images in the mind’s eye for all who listen and think of their own homes during this season of memories.

The Talbot Spy editors and writers send our best wishes to our readers and those coming to our very special home of Talbot County.

This video is approximately one minute in length. “Home” by Sue Ellen Thompson, from They. © Turning Point Press, 2014. Reprinted with permission and can be purchased here.

Sue Ellen Thompson is the author of five books of poetry, including They (2014), The Wedding Boat (1995), and This Body of Silk (1986). Her two other books, The Leaving: New & Selected Poems (2001) and The Golden Hour (2005), were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Known for her elegant control of form, Thompson’s poetry has been praised for its metaphorical heft and sinuous syntax. Poet B.H. Fairchild praised The Golden Hour for its “elegant, wild, beautifully disciplined quatrains and casually rhymed sonnets.” She is also the editor of The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (2005).

Thompson has received numerous awards and honors, including the Samuel French Morse Prize, the Pablo Neruda Prize, the Maryland Author Award, and two Artist Fellowships from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism. She has taught at Middlebury College, Wesleyan University, Binghamton University (SUNY), and Central Connecticut State University. She currently works at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and tutors adult poets.

Spy Recovery Urgent Message for Mid-Shore Heroin Addicts

With the news that the Talbot County Narcotics Task Force seized the largest heroin bust in county history this week, it is very likely than many of the estimated 400 to 600 active heroin users on the Mid-Shore will be facing a major shortage of the drug’s supply.  For those addicted to the substance, the anticipation of the shortage will undoubtedly cause severe and life threatening withdrawal symptoms.

The Spy and the Mid-Shore Recovery Community want to alert those individuals that it may be an ideal time to seek treatment for their addiction rather than face a painful withdrawal process. We are recommending that they contact Chesapeake Treatment Center in Easton as a starting point.

The CTS is a clinic located just off our Route 50 dedicated to the recovery of individuals struggling with opioid addiction. You can start the process for treatment here

We would also remind those suffering from addiction to go here to see a summary of resources on the Mid-Shore.

 

Publisher Note: The Spy Launches Senior Nation for a New Generation on the Mid-Shore

Simply stated, the Mid-Shore has one of the most extraordinarily large and diverse senior communities in the United States. In addition to its native population of people over 50 years old, the Eastern Shore has become one of the most sought out retirement communities for Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. residents, all of whom have been attracted to the local beauty of the Chesapeake and its extraordinarily diverse cultural opportunities.

Kent County News June 1978

Kent County News June 1978

To match this remarkably unique constituency, The Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy, the Mid-Shore’s non-profit, educational online newspapers, has launched a unique portal we call Senior Nation that is dedicated to this important Shore demographic. With the support and partnership from Heron Point at Chestertown, Londonderry on the Tred Avon, Shore Regional Health, Upper Shore Aging, Talbot County Senior Center, and a dozen other stakeholders focused on those Mid-Shore senior issues, we plan to expand our primary mission of being a major educational conduit for this unique demographic.

Since the Spy began in 2009, we have always been interested in senior life. While this may reflect our readership, since, over 70% of the Spy’s 250,000 readers that come to our online newspapers every year, are over 50 years old, I have been acutely aware of Mid-Shore aging issues since working with Upper Shore Aging in the late 1970s to run their Meals on Wheels program. From those early years, when I was twenty-two years old, in learning of the particular hardships that come with aging in rural communities, that interest has expanded, since reaching the age of sixty, to lifelong learning, cultural programming, caring for aging parents, and new models of aging-in-place practices.

I am also pleased to announce that William C. Rolle, Jr. (Bill) has agreed to serve as editor of Senior Nation. Before his retirement to the Mid-Shore in the early 1990s, Bill spent his career running a highly successful marketing firm in Washington, D.C. and now serves on the Talbot Hospice, Londonderry on the Tred Avon, the Easton Airport Boards, and serves on the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Executive Committee. Rolle graduated from Georgetown University with a master in communications from American University. He also has taught branding at Georgetown and courses on advertising and marketing at Washington College.

Through the use of original content articles, reader-provided columns, features on services, and a public forum and comment, The Spy intends to move beyond a bulletin board format to provide a comprehensive overview of being older on the Mid-Shore for a new generation of senior citizens.

Dave Wheelan
Executive Editor

Editorial: On Zoning and Gun Control

The New York Times recently reported the 100th birthday of zoning in our country. In 1916, New York City enacted the first zoning ordinance in the nation.

Like many other nationwide trends, the implementation of zoning ordinances spread slowly but surely across our country such that they are now a ubiquitous reality although there is the inevitable exception to the rule – Houston is a major city which still does not have a comprehensive zoning ordinance.

The idea of zoning was embraced, and ordinances were enacted, in many towns and counties on the Eastern Shore in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Today zoning ordinances are accepted – mostly – as effective tools in maintaining the “quality of life” that is unique to the Chesapeake Bay region.

But the essence and stark reality of zoning regulations are that they are profound restrictions on our fundamental property rights.

Those rights were established by centuries of the development of Anglo American “common law”. They were more fully legitimized and expanded by and through the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and later codified by zoning regulations and other legislation.

Indeed, the right to the ownership, use, enjoyment and protection of property in the United States is one of the most fundamental and cherished rights of our democratic society and republic. Yet as a nation, we now universally accept the impact of the restrictions land use laws impose on our use of that property.

In 1926 – in a seminal case known as Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. – the Supreme Court confirmed that zoning regulations are a reasonable exercise by state and local governments of their “police powers” to protect the collective best interests of our citizens and communities.

Perhaps there are others who agree that a reflection upon the 100 year history of zoning in our country can give rise to a thoughtful and enlightened perspective on the current debate about the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

On one extreme side of that debate are those who believe that there should be virtually no governmental restrictions on the right to own firearms. On the other equally polarized side are those who believe that firearms of all types should be all but totally prohibited.

Unfortunately, the groups who advocate those extreme positions are not infrequently the loudest, to the end that they drown out the voices of those who believe that there can be a reasonable and appropriate middle ground which both limits and protects our Second Amendment rights in fairness to all – in many ways like the restrictions imposed on our property rights by zoning regulations.

The majority of us cherish and embrace our right to own and use firearms for recreational and safety purposes. Therefore, it may be that those people who fear that the “slippery slope” of gun ownership regulations will mean the decimation of our Second Amendment rights are unreasonably paranoid.

The key point is that reasonable regulations of gun use and ownership can be implemented – in the same fashion as zoning regulations – to the end that the Second Amendment will retain its profound importance to the psychology, culture and realities of our collective safety and enjoyment.

There are many Americans – probably a significant majority actually – who are “in the middle” in their belief that the right to bear arms was intended to be interpreted reasonably as time has passed since that essential Bill of Rights protection was enacted more than 200 years ago during the Age of Enlightenment & Reason in America.

Many people reasonably and instinctively believe that our Founding Fathers could not have intended for the Second Amendment to be interpreted expansively to allow individual citizens to bear modern weapons of war for the simple reason that they could not have anticipated the development of such destructive arms – and the potential harm they could cause if in the wrong hands. Likewise, notwithstanding their wisdom and intentions for the establishment and protection of personal liberties and property rights, the Founding Fathers could not have anticipated the need for and benefit of zoning and laws.

While there are some inevitable imperfections in our zoning laws, the reasonable regulation of land use has given rise to our fantastic kaleidoscope, fabric and diversity of cities, towns and rural areas, and serve to protect the interests and rights of us all. There is no reason why reasonable regulations of firearms cannot do the same.

And one other thing . . . what is the big deal to and consternation of Second Amendment advocates about the imposition of “waiting periods” and gun registration and licensing requirements?

After all, our zoning ordinances include all sorts of waiting periods before the issuance of many types of building and use permits, zoning board approvals and the like, which in many cases are not issued until after weeks of public notice and hearings.

We all accept that permits – which are a type of registration and licensing – are needed for all sorts of land use, the most benign of which are for new homes . . . perhaps our most cherished property of all.

A dispassionate view of gun licensing and waiting period regulations is that they really should not be – and are not – a big deal when compared to the same type of restrictions on our property rights.

The point here is not subtle . . . if we can all accept restrictions on our property rights, should we not also be able to accept them on our right to bear firearms?

As we reflect upon the 100th birthday of zoning, perhaps there can be hope, and should be optimism, that we can find a common ground on a reasonable modern day interpretation of the Second Amendment . . . but like zoning regulations that restrict our most cherished property rights, it must be “somewhere in the middle” to reasonably protect the individual and collective interests of us all.

In other words, there are many of us who appreciate, have faith and believe that if the Constitution permits a century heritage of the reasonable regulation of our cherished property rights by zoning regulations, then it also permits reasonable regulation of our Second Amendment rights . . . no more and no less.

Editorial: The Importance of Ruth Starr Rose

Some thirty-five years ago, the stepson of a deceased local artist stepped into the Chestertown studio of art conservationist Ken Milton with the idea that Ken may have some interest in his mother’s work. Ken agreed to look at the art, and a few weeks later, Ken and Dick Rose met at Rose’s Colchester home to look at Ruth Starr Rose’s portfolio.

Remarkably, the artwork was not protected inside steel cabinets, or even carefully stored in an attic, but instead on Rose’s back porch. It was quite apparent that the paintings had been exposed to the elements for many years, but as Ken began pulling the art into the daylight, it didn’t take him long to realize he had come across something quite amazing.

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Ruth Starr Rose

One by one, images of beautifully dressed children, handsome men in suits, pretty women in dresses, all African-Americans, started to emerge while Dick Rose slowly recalled his mother’s love for her neighbors in Unionville, who had become Ruth Starr Rose’s subjects for most of her career.

Over the next three decades, Milton would painstakingly repair and restore a significant number of her work, but it wasn’t until art historian Barbara Paca noticed one of them in his studio a few years ago that a unique partnership formed to find and protect Ruth Starr Rose’s work and the legacy of the families of Unionville and Copperville.

The cumulative effect of that hard work has finally emerged, and starting Friday, through the generosity and vision of the Dock Street Foundation, it will be on display at the Waterfowl Building for the next seven weeks. It might be the most important art exhibition ever to be shown on the Eastern Shore.

That may be in part due to Ruth Starr Rose’s skill as an artist. Trained at the Maryland Institute College of Art in the early 20th century, Rose quickly adopted a form of portraiture that demonstrated superior ability. But to place emphasis exclusively on the artist’s mastery would tragically misunderstand why Ruth Starr Rose’s art is so relevant. As competent an artist as she was, it was her subject matter that makes this exhibition the powerhouse that it is.

When she moved to Talbot County after her marriage, Rose rejected the temptation to continue her artwork with drawings of the Chesapeake Bay landscape or waterfowl in flight, and instead chose to concentrate on human portraits. But rather than work on traditional subjects of the times, like wealthy estate owners and their children, Rose instead was drawn into the community and its church that lay just outside her door.

And it is this cumulative impact of art, community, and spirituality that Rose brought to her portraits of African-Americans that makes this so invaluable to the Eastern Shore and its history. At a time when racial tensions still remain high, Rose’s work brings into focus a different kind of world of beauty, pride, and humanity.

From documenting families to finding visual imagery for traditional spirituals, Rose depicted the quiet dignity and historical relevance of Unionville and its residents in ways rarely seen. It was through this artist’s eye that one is reminded of the real Eastern Shore, and its African-American communities of strong families, local heroes, and breathtaking history.

Over the next few days, the Spy will be sharing some of that history with its readers to entice many on the Shore to make the trip to Easton to see Ruth Starr Rose: Revelations of African American Life in Maryland and the World. This once in a lifetime event not only brings to life a part of the Eastern Shore too often ignored or misunderstood. but it will remind us again of what a special place it truly is.

Ruth Starr Rose: Revelations of African American Life in Maryland and the World
April 30 to June 16
The Waterfowl Building
40 South Harrison Street
Easton, Maryland

Editorial: Talbot County’s other Food Hub

If residents have heard anything about a food hub lately in Talbot County, it is more than likely they are thinking about the rather ingenious idea of providing local, small acreage farmers with a distribution center to jointly sell their produce competitively to national wholesalers.

While it seems reasonable that this form of cooperative commerce should be entitled the title of the Talbot County “Food Hub,” it might be best to come up with an imaginative term for Talbot’s other food hub – that being its restaurants, cafes, coffee houses, specialty shops, farmers markets, and high-quality grocery stores.

And food hub means that every day of the year, a certain percentage of the fine people of Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline and Dorchester Counties, decide to get in their cars for the 30 to 50-minute ride to Talbot County for its surprisingly large and diverse food scene.

From picking up fresh produce, grabbing some sushi, or finding a venue for such important celebratory moments as anniversaries and milestone birthdays, the surrounding Mid-Shore counts on Talbot County to play that role.

When one pauses to ponder how far Talbot has grown since the days when the Rustic Inn in the Talbottown Shopping Center was the bee’s knees, with its generous supply of mini bread loafs and unlimited butter, it is a stunning example of what a food revolution actually means.

There are more than a few local heroes to thank for this remarkable turn of events. Early pioneer Amy Haines at Out of the Fire immediately comes to mind, as do the excellent team that brought us the Railway Market in the late 1970s. But the list is long, including the likes of the innovative Masthead in Oxford in the 1980s, the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels in the 1990s, or the opening of Scossa on Washington Street.

And this tradition is continuing in the 2000s with the likes of a Bartlett Pear, Rise-Up Coffee, Lyon Distilling Company, Gina’s, and more recently the charming addition of Sunflowers and Greens on Federal Street, the return of the sports bar with The Barn in Easton, or Trappe’s new hip BBQ Smokehouse.

There are certainly still some remaining gaps in the Talbot County portfolio. We still are lacking a serious bread company, Thai or Indian options don’t exist, we don’t have a food truck culture yet, and we lack an organization committed to significantly expand local produce in our community schools and food-assistance programs.

However, none of these seem outside the world of possibility as Talbot grows in reputation as the Eastern Shore’s best incubator climate for food entrepreneurs of all kinds.

All of this adds up to a remarkable moment in Talbot County’s economic history. It is this kind of regional food hub that not only allows locals to enjoy high-quality food experiences but provides an incredibly important incentive for families to come to Talbot for dining, but to coordinate those trips to take care of many of their other needs, be it from big box chains, the boutique stores on Goldsborough Street, or health and legal services. The aggregate impact of this kind of traffic is a really, really big deal now and in the future.

One simple way to show appropriation of our foodie leaders is, of course, through patronage. In short,we should all buy and eat their food. And there is no better time to start doing that with the launch Sunday of Talbot County’s annual Restaurant Week.

Participating restaurants also feature special prices and menus throughout the week. Two-course lunches will be available for $20.16 while three-course dinners are priced at $35.16.

And perhaps before every dinner starts this the week, we might also remember in a secular way the true meaning of the traditional Grace of “bless this food to our use and us to thy service, and make us ever mindful of the needs of others.”

Now let the meals begin.

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Merry Christmas!

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Editorial: Talbot Boys Next Steps

After six months of debate, history lessons, editorials, and public comment, the Talbot County Council last week made the unanimous decision to keep the Confederate Veterans Memorial, a.k.a. The Talbot Boys, on the County Courthouse lawn. It was the right decision.

It was also the right decision to ask the Talbot County community to raise funds for a similar memorial for those who served in the Union army. This need for parity is long overdue.

There were still however quite a few questions left unanswered. Who or whom would lead this effort? What organization(s) should take responsibility?  What would be the budget and on what timetable?

It is not the Talbot County Council’s job to provide those answers. They have completed their work with serious intention and input, and it now falls on our community to do their part.

And there is little doubt that the citizens of Talbot County will step up and lead this project. It can only be hoped that this will be done sooner rather than later.

More importantly, it would be a very sad lost opportunity indeed if yet another monument was erected with just names and no context to help the visitor understand the Civil War’s impact on Talbot County and its people. In short, it is hoped that with this new monument comes space for signage devoted to telling that complex story to truly appreciate the honor given to those that served.

Editorial: The Community’s Talbot Boys

As the Spy has noted before, it was inevitable that after the tragedy of Charleston and the banning of the rebel battle flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds earlier this year, every municipality in the United States was going to take a second look at how it honors the veterans of the Confederacy. And Talbot County has not been the exception here. The 100-year-old “Talbot Boys” Memorial, which gives tribute to those who fought for the South, was an extraordinarily good candidate for this kind of scrutiny.

And scrutiny has indeed been the case. The local chapter of the NAACP has formally asked for its removal, the Star-Democrat has advocated a similar position while the Talbot County Council has had at least one open meeting on the subject. In addition, the Talbot Association of Clergy and Laity has scheduled a four-month program of events, workshops, and social gatherings built on the theme of race awareness to continue the conversation as well.

Let there be no doubt how constructive this kind of community dialog is for all who live on the Mid-Shore. While it is surprising it took a century to have a regional discussion about the appropriateness of the Talbot Boys Memorial as it stands now, this prolonged examination of the past provides an extremely useful, and perhaps even healing history lesson for all who choose to participate. Painful as such subjects are like slavery and racism, they are nonetheless collectively the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed often and with great care.

The fact that the Talbot Boys has been the catalyst for all this activity testifies to the powerful symbolism monuments have, consciously or unconsciously, in our society. While many times lost in the daily lives on those who pass these statues, they still convey the importance of history, particularly when located on the sacred grounds of a courthouse of justice.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 10.01.26 AMIn the case of the Talbot Boys, the symbolism seems at first rather clear. With large initials spelling C.S.A. to indicate the Confederate States of America, the memorial lists the scores of local men who lost their lives fighting for the South. With no mention of the similar number of Talbot’s Union soldiers who were also killed, the statue welcomes the impression that Talbot County’s pride has only been reserved for the boys in gray. And by extension, this one-sided tribute could logically be seen as not only honoring the South’s veterans, but to also mourn subtly the death of the Confederate cause itself.

While there could be a legitimate debate on what that “cause” was, for the vast number of Americans living today, many of whom rely exclusively on Hollywood as their primary source for history, the only motive for the South’s secession was to preserve the institution of slavery and racism in our laws. And this consensus of opinion has enough facts behind it that any effort to formally highlight that “cause” can only be seen for many, and particularly African-Americans, only as repugnant reminder of the evil that slavery has caused humanity. It seems reasonable therefore that all of these potent symbols  should be eradicated from the public’s property.

But if only it were as simple as that. Real history inconveniently reminds us often that with the Civil War very few things were black or white or blue or gray. As our interview with local historian Russell Dashiell last week highlighted, there was perhaps no other region in the country, nor Maryland for that matter, who was more evenly divided between secessionists and unionists than the Eastern Shore. As Dashiell points out, newspapers and local elections show almost a clean 50-50 split during the lead up to the Civil War.

Adding to the complexity was the frequently seen paradox of local slave owners, or their sons, enlisting with the Union while known anti-slavery advocates felt compelled to serve in the Confederacy to support state rights. Similarly, local newspapers echoed this strange dichotomy with editorials supporting the South’s right to leave the country while being on record as abhorring slavery; others wanted Maryland to continue as a slave state but remain in the Union. In short, the Eastern Shore was profoundly conflicted on both the cause and purpose of the war.

Keeping in mind that the majority of those who held those debates were rarely candidates for military service themselves. The call for enlistment targeted teenagers and young men of Talbot County to join both sides of the war. And in the keeping with the local values of duty, loyalty, and family tradition, most of those boys had no choice in determining on which side they would serve. In the isolated world of a rural Eastern Shore town in 1861, their allegiance had been conditioned and sealed decades before they were even born.

Those Talbot boys marched into battle for the simple reason that they loved their family and their community. To attribute any other motivation would be exceedingly difficult and unconvincing. For every man that had the critical thinking skills to debate the moral or political pros and cons of a war, there were twenty to thirty illiterate and poor farm boys only doing what was expected of them.

And in that sense, those boys do need to be honored by our community. They possessed an unconditional sense of responsibility and courage that should stand out as something worthy of special acknowledgment in Talbot County. Those values were important then, and they are important now. To honor those who possessed that sense of duty, regardless of the tragically flawed thinking of their elders, is the right thing to do on the courthouse lawn.

But the same holds true for the Union’s Talbot boys. Those qualities of bravery and loyalty were equally present with those in blue uniforms. Their noticeable absence from the lawn cannot be compensated by the presence of Frederick Douglass nor any other leader of the Civil War era. Those young people had their own names and their own families. They deserve the same honor of public acknowledgment, not because of the righteousness of a cause, but because they were our community’s boys.

They were all Talbot County boys.

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