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Out and About (Sort Of): Income Inequality Not So Simple By Howard Freedlander

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I learned last week that income inequality, a term frequently used in the Presidential primaries as a provocative soundbite, has meaning and substance beyond the current political slugfest.

To provide some context, Geoff Oxnam and I, both graduates of Leadership Maryland–a statewide program to expose leaders in the for-profit, non-profit and government worlds to the major issues facing our state–organized a forum last week at Easton Utilities to talk about economic disparity. Leading the lively discussion were two Salisbury University educators, Dr. Dustin Chambers and Dr. Memo Diriker.

Here’s what I learned:(not necessarily in the order of importance):

* Simple solutions are not the best ones. Our economy is complex.

* Income inequality (economic disparity) is the nature of our economy.

* What’s particularly important is opportunity, unblocked by government/corporate policies and unhindered by corruption and cronyism, political instability and redistributive tax policies.

* Part of economic opportunity and growth is the overriding need to increase skills through education and training. I will discuss this more when I have completed this list.

* New technology can be disruptive to parts of our economy. It’s also beneficial. While a few entrepreneurs and their associates can become terrifically wealthy, their products, such as IPads and IPhones, can change consumers’ lifestyles for the better. Ancillary industries can result. Employment can grow. More risk-taking entrepreneurs are good for the economy.

* Depending on the metric used by economists, from 1976 to 2006, wages declined 4%, increased 10% according to another measuring tool, or shot up 26% if compensation benefits were considered.

* In terms of economic mobility, from 1996 to 2005, 50 percent of people moved to different income brackets; of the top 1%, only 25% who were there in 1996 stayed there by 2005.

* To boost our economy, both political parties need to agree on greater investment in infrastructure and research and development.

For the sake of readers, I will list no more. Instead, taking my cue from Chambers and Diriker, I will focus on education. Remembering that a simple solution typically is flawed, I do believe, however, that educational opportunity for all economic strata provides a direct route to individual growth and more universal economic improvement.

For the sake of this column, I’m including “training” in education, though the purists in the academic arena argue that training is separate and distinct. Perhaps they are right, in a pure, sometimes territorial way. While I realize that Chesapeake College offers specific, critically necessary training in the allied medical professions, I also believe that the acquisition of a specific skill involves learning, though it is more hands-on than requiring an essay about Shakespeare or Mozart.

Allow me to remain ever so briefly on my soapbox. As discussed at our Leadership Maryland forum, vocational training may be just the right fit for young people ill-suited for a conventional four-year college education. And vocational training, whether it’s becoming a tractor trailer driver or an automotive mechanic, should be honored, not stigmatized.

While I seriously question a free education subsidized by government, as some have suggested, I came away from the forum with the firm thought that accessibility to higher education, whether on a community college or four-year level, needs fixing. After making this declarative statement, I am incapable of saying more. Possible solutions evade me.

Are many young college graduates saddled with enormous loan obligations that burden them for years? Yes, that’s the case. Should these loans be forgiven, since these financial obligations impede qualifying for a mortgage? I just can’t fathom the cost of such an idea.

Two other adjuncts to economic growth and opportunity arose during our discussion, and they were mentoring and apprenticeship. The former is vital for any person dealing with the demands of a first job, or even a second or third one. The latter is a concept once very common and useful in our country. I think it should be revived.

A free-ranging discussion led by two capable and practical educators is difficult to summarize. Income inequality is more complex than a political cudgel, though both parties have expressed concern. As always, solutions are complex but worth pursuing.

Education is a good place to start.

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.

What Do You Have by George Merrill

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Today, pictures dominate communication. Photographic images and art play a powerful role in how we understand and respond to our world. A picture accompanies almost every story. Some make little impression, while others, like specks lodged in the eye, can’t be ignored.

I couldn’t ignore the attached picture or get it out of my mind. It’s one among many of the heartrending images to appear during the present day migrations from Syria to Europe. I saw it on Facebook. The picture shows a tenderly wrought assemblage created with pebbles. It depicts a Syrian refugee family on the move, carrying all that they have. The Syrian artist, Nizar Ali Badr lives in Latakia. He gives his thoughts and feelings expression with what he has readily at hand – pebbles from a beach. He reaches out to our hearts through stones.

The day I wrote this essay, twenty-four Iraqi Kurdish refugees had drowned in the Aegean. It’s frightening. I want to help. The enormity of the problem intimidates me.

In 2015 upwards of one million refugees fled Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo and other states seeking refuge in Europe. Nearly 3,700 migrants fled from North Africa and 700 died crossing the Aegean Sea. Members of European Union, not able to determine refugee quotas for each member state, are beginning to close borders. Member states don’t feel they have enough resources to continue accommodating migrants.

There’s a Biblical story, popular with many Christians. It’s known as the parable of the loaves and fishes.

Jesus takes to the wilderness to preach and teach. The word gets out. A crowd of five thousand shows up. At the end of the day, the disciples feel compassion for the crowd. They remind Jesus that the crowd is hungry and weary and they’re in a “remote place.” The disciples urge Jesus to “send the people away so that they can buy themselves something to eat.”

Jesus replies, “You give them something to eat.”

The disciples grow anxious; “That would take more than half a year’s wages. Are we to spend that much on bread and give them to eat?”

Jesus simply replies: “How many loaves do you have?”

“Five loaves and two fishes,” they reply.

When the disciples proceed to feed the crowd with what they have it turns out there’s sufficient food . . . and leftovers.

Preachers I’ve heard, see the story as an example of how faith overcomes obstacles. Perhaps that’s a part of it, but I understand the import of the story somewhat differently. To me the miracle is not that they fed so many with so little, although twelve basketfuls of bread and fish left over is no small feat. The miracle is revealed not in how the story ends, but near the beginning when the question is posed, “How many loaves do you have?”

The question changes the game and creates another paradigm.  It challenges our minds and spirits to shift from despairing over our scarcity, to assessing our abundance. Acclaimed spiritual leader Fr. Richard Rohr puts it this way: “The flow of grace through us is largely blocked when we are living inside a worldview of scarcity, a feeling that there’s just not enough.”

Rohr sees significant economic and political ramifications in this scarcity mentality. “Our unhealthy economics and politics persist because even Christians largely operate out of a worldview of scarcity: there is not enough land, healthcare, water, money, and housing for all of us; and in America there are never enough guns to keep us safe. A saint always knows that there is more than enough for our need but never enough for our greed. In the midst of the structural stinginess and over-consumption of our present world, how do you possibly change consciousness and teach the mind to operate from mercy and graciousness? It will always be an uphill battle, and it will always depend upon a foundational and sustained conversion.”

The EU has twenty-eight member states. They vary in population, wealth and resources. America, despite the scarcity rhetoric of some presidential hopefuls, has vast abundance. Within each of the EU member states and the U.S., there are a variety of resources of all kinds to help the migrants to safety. I wonder if, when the resources are identified and then cooperatively pooled, how they might serve the process of addressing the humanitarian crisis the Syrian war has precipitated.

“How many loaves do you have?”

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio. 

Getting the Shot with Photographer Anne Nielsen

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When Ansel Adams said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it,” he might as well been speaking about Centreville-based photographer Anne Nielsen. For more than twenty years, Anne has made photos of her beloved Eastern Shore but not in any typical fashion. In 2010, Nielsen decided to photographic Native Americans on the Delmarva but instead of a standard camera, she chose instead the use of a wooden camera and an 1864 Voigtländer lens, painstakingly uses the same techniques that were found in the 19th Century, which results in a single image that has taken minutes, rather than seconds, to capture.

Fast forward to 2016, and she has updated her camera to a digital one, but she has not removed the complex nature of her photography. In her short interview with the Spy before Friday’s opening of her work at the Massoni Gallery, she describes the enormous length she takes to get the right shot, with the right model, at the right time of day.

This video is approximately two minutes in length

Ms. Nielsen’s work can be seen as part of “SPARK” a mid-winter exhibition opening at the Carla Massoni Gallery on Friday, February 5th. For more information, please go here

Good Call: Jeff Horstman Named New Director of Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy

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As of January 1, 2016, Jeffrey Horstman has been named executive director of Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC). Horstman will continue in his role as the Miles-Wye Riverkeeper, assessing, monitoring, and providing a voice for local rivers. For the past two years, Horstman has also served as MRC’s deputy director. “I am very proud to be taking a leadership role with such a dedicated group of professionals committed to a better community and cleaner water,” says Horstman. “I look forward to continuing to build programs that protect, restore, and advocate for our local rivers.”

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Jeffrey Horstman

MRC Board President John Kelly has been involved with the organization for the past five years. Horstman and Kelly share a mutual appreciation for the outdoors, cycling, and the importance of giving back to the community. “We could not have asked for a better leader to step into the executive director role,” says Kelly. “Jeff is knowledgeable, and he has the energy and the drive to lead MRC in advocating for healthier Midshore rivers.”

Horstman joined MRC’s board in June, 2010. He was served as chairman from June 2011 through 2013, providing key guidance and support in building MRC during its formative years.

Horstman grew up near Queenstown on the Wye River, and is a 1982 graduate of Washington College with a BA in Political Science. While attending college, Horstman worked for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources helping to integrate Wye Island into a State holding.

Horstman has continued his passion for conservation interests, serving on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s President’s Advisory Council and as a board member of the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT). “We are thrilled to see Jeff move into this role,” says Jana Davis, executive director of CBT. “We have been so lucky to have had Jeff on our board and on an advisory group for our Chesapeake Conservation Corps program over the years. He is going to be fantastic at the helm of MRC.” In addition, Horstman currently serves on the boards of the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, Inc., Waterkeepers Chesapeake, and Aspen/Wye Fellows.

Horstman will continue to work alongside Tim Junkin, MRC’s founder and former executive director. Junkin will remain on staff and as an advisor at MRC. “Jeff is an unusually gifted leader and advocate,” says Junkin. “I couldn’t be more pleased to have him step into this role. I have every expectation that Jeff will continue to build MRC as a force for clean rivers, river advocacy, and a healthy Chesapeake Bay at every level.”

Out and About (Sort Of): In Praise of First Responders of Last Week’s Storm By Howard Freedlander

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Ice has melted. The weather has warmed. Memories of our snow onslaught on January 22 and 23, 2015 have faded.

Yet, we should remember that the first responders at the town and county levels, as well as Easton Utilities, created conditions for a quick return to normalcy amid our winter’s first blizzard. These unsung men and women deserve our collective applause.

I recently ran into Clay Stamp, director of the Talbot County Department of Emergency Services, and recalled when I first met him as Ocean City braced for a hurricane that fortunately did not hit this coastal resort in August 1993. I was serving then in the Maryland National Guard. He was directing Ocean City’s emergency response.
Clay Stamp is a consummate professional, blessed with extensive experience in emergency management. What he understands is the need for total, unselfish coordination between local and state agencies, including police and fire departments, public utilities, hospitals, non-profits and the Maryland National Guard.

And, of course, a little luck is helpful; unlike portions of the Western Shore, our county escaped snow accumulations of two feet or more and gusty winds.

What the public doesn’t see is the behind-the scenes coordination performed on a 24-hour basis at local and state emergency operations centers. It’s here where an array of agencies entrusted with responding together to a civil emergency, natural or man-made, command and control a complex response system. Communication is absolutely vital; without it, the response turns to mush.

Allow me to elaborate a bit on communication. It doesn’t happen by chance. Training exercises are common throughout the year. In some cases, they are graded by outside evaluators. During these exercises, men and women who normally work and serve in their own particular silos are compelled to coordinate their responses with others, to know well their partners during a seriously disruptive emergency.

Trite as it might sound—and maybe a bit bureaucratic—communication and coordination spell the difference between a first-class response and a defective one. Egos have to play a secondary role in undertaking a critical mission to serve your fellow citizens in an efficient and rapid way. Trying to seize credit for your agency is human but terribly unproductive and wasteful.

As I learned during my military career, constant training is critical to success. While you might not be able to anticipate some crises, you have trained to respond without disabling panic, and with invaluable teamwork.

What the public also doesn’t see or know is that first responders have little or no time to care for their families during an emergency. The families have to take care of themselves, hopefully with support provided by compassionate neighbors. It’s just a fact of life in a public emergency.

At the risk of paying undue praise to the Maryland National Guard, I must recognize that this organization provides an incredible service, using their vehicles to transport patients and doctors to hospitals, delivering medications to people unable to leave their homes and transporting police, particularly in the cities. The Guard is not a Lone Ranger. It operates under the director of professionals like Clay Stamp.

I join many others in Talbot County in commending Stamp, his staff and many others in working together long before an emergency and then executing the training and partnerships to respond rapidly to a natural or man-made crisis. The seamless teamwork during January 22 and 23 and afterwards enabled county residents to resume their normal lives without too lengthy and bothersome an interruption.

I dread the next storm. I find little beauty in snow, though others do. However, I feel confident in our first-responders. They serve us well.

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 of the Fire and on the Walls: Artist Howard Lapp’s Oxford

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Editor’s Note: There are quite a few art galleries in Easton but only one of them will serve you a perfect Basque seafood stew and a glass of Trisaetum Vineyards’ pinot noir while you look around. And that gallery would be Amy Haines’ Out of the Fire cafe on Goldsborough Street. While it is not a novel idea to show art in restaurants, few bring to the table Amy’s curatorial mission and critical eye. Since Out of the Fire opened almost 15 years old, she has sought out some of the region’s most exceptional artists and sponsored their work by using the restaurant’s tall walls and controlled lighting to brilliantly display their work. Over the next few months, the Spy spend time with some of them to help put a spotlight on their art and the important role Out of the Fire has played in the life of the visual arts on the Eastern Shore.

Oxford’s Howard Lapp always had a unique advantage over many other struggling artists over the last forty years. Not only did he have a day job, but a vocation that would bring him to the world’s great art centers on a weekly basis as a commercial airline pilot for US Air. This allowed the remarkable luxury of viewing and learning from the masters, but also gave him a totally new perspective on the use of different landscapes and the people that live in them.

That is one of the reasons that Howard’s work has focused on two completely opposite landscapes – the Island of Maui in Hawaii and the small town of Oxford where Howard and his wife, Diane, have lived off and on for more than twenty years. In his interview with the Spy, we focus mostly on his Oxford work, which will be on display at Out of the Fire starting next month (Howard’s Hawaii work is currently on view this month). Howard talks about his artistic response to the special challenges that come with the Eastern Shore terrain, his relationship with Oxford, and when it needs to move on to the next project.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Amy Haines and Out of the Fire artists, please click here.

http://outofthefire.com/about-us/our-artists/

On Mailing a Letter by George Merrill

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I walked three miles to mail a letter. Although it happened a couple of years ago, it was a memorable event. The letter was a birthday greeting to a friend who was turning ninety-one. I wanted to be sure she received it on time.

At the time, I was staying in Puerto Rico, and the post office, although minutes by car required a lengthy walk along a beach that would take me close to an hour. A hefty trek for such a small task.

I made my way along the beach– and with nothing else on my mind, I became aware that I was walking; simply putting one foot in front of the other. How many years of my life had I actually spent walking, I wondered? At seventy-eight, then, considering I’ve slept away a third of my life and spent possibly another third sitting around, walking was a prudent choice. As years mount, every step counts.

The sand was russet hued and course, like the beaches that I recall from my boyhood on Staten Island. My steps sunk into the sand making the walk laborious. Having to lift and place my feet so deliberately annoyed me at first. I wished for a harder surface, one easier to walk on.

Being barefoot I noticed how the sand yielded to my steps and although slowing me down, it warmly caressed each foot as it sank in, as if the earth were welcoming me, the way in ancient times our ancestors once received their guests by first washing their feet. It pleased me that the earth still welcomed me. Recently the earth’s inhabitants, myself included, have been trashing the planet, overwhelming her with plastics. Sea glass has become almost obsolete.

I found my toes regularly unearthing plastics of all kinds – bottles, bottle caps, toys, plates, knives bowls, forks and a Frisbee. I remember beach combing from my childhood. Then plastics were rare. On beaches then, the ocean washed up varieties of used and broken glass but the sand and sea transformed them, even beautifying the glass by fashioning new and lovely creations from what were old, useless castoffs. Plastics, seem deathless but lifeless, too, eternally young, resistant to time and transformation.

When she turned ninety, I remember my friend commenting on death. “When I’m no longer useful, I want to be out of here.” She added, “First, though, I want to go up in a hot air balloon.” She preferred ascending to walking.

Leaving the beach, I put on sandals, and walked a macadam road up a steep hill to the post office. I liked the firm certainty of the macadam underfoot but trudging up the hill I missed the intimacy my feet enjoyed with the beaches’ sandy ground: macadam’s efficiency displaced the sand’s hospitality and I wasn’t walking the earth, anymore. I was hitting the road.

I found the post office and gave the postmistress the letter. She spoke in Spanish. I understood enough to understand I just missed the pick up. My friend would get the letter a day late but I was sure that was time enough.

Returning, I saw two women on the beach; one elderly and the other I surmised was her daughter. The old woman – my contemporary, I wondered? I don’t reckon ages well any more. She was on a walker, intently negotiating the sandy beach and as she slowly placed each foot in the sand, her daughter stood apprehensively at her side watching each step. The daughter behaved like a mother, hovering and protective, and the mother like a child, lost in her own play, oblivious to all else.
The Evangelist John once wrote that when we’re young, we go where we want. When we’re old, someone else carries us where we don’t want to go.
The old woman wanted to walk the beach, I was sure of that; she seemed into it. She felt her toes in the sand, experienced the sensuality of being alive, the simple pleasures we never forget, like the caress of sand underfoot or watching a balloon rise in the air.
How much longer can she choose to place bare feet on the earth and have them welcomed and embraced, as they were on this day and when she was a little girl? I passed by her slowly, and in my heart, silently cheered, yes, yes.
Shall I, one day, be taken where I don’t want to go? I don’t want to go and sit in plastic and chrome chairs in rooms where the flooring is composed of synthetic compounds and smelling like disinfectant, floors hard and unyielding underfoot, preventing my toes from feeling the warm earth. I’ll leave no footprint behind on floors like this.

And should that be my lot, there will be no more long walks to post letters, anymore. I’ll have pick up and delivery to my room every day, from those who still remember who I am.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

The Craft of Becoming George Bernard Shaw for a Night with John Norton

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Imagine the ability to go back into time and be a guest at one of Gertrude Stein’s famous salons in Paris in 1925, and you get the idea behind the Friends of the Talbot County Free Library’s third annual “Among Friends”.  In this case, attendees will chat and talk with the likes of Stein, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Harpo Marx and George Bernard Shaw this Friday with the help of some of the area’s most talented actors.  All of this makes for a fun event, and ends with a nice contribution to the Library, but it’s easy to forget the extraordinary research and time commitment on the part of the evening’s cast to make their characters come alive for almost three hours of performance.

That is why the Spy caught up with local actor John Norton yesterday in St. Michaels, who will be channeling the playwright George Bernard Shaw at the salon.  During the day, John has a very successful career as a medical videographer, but in his evening hours, he has long been associated with the Tred Avon Players and takes very seriously the task of getting his character fully developed before arriving for libations and hors d’oeuvres on Friday.

In our interview, Norton talks about the extraordinary life of Shaw, and the extra steps he takes as an actor to prepare for the evening, and the fun he himself experiences in the sometimes spontaneous but always historically correct interaction he has with some of Shaw’s counterparts during the roaring 1920s.

This video is approximately four minutes in length 

Friends of the Library will host the third annual Among Friends event from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on January 29, 2016 at the Easton branch of the Talbot County Free Library. In honor of the library’s 90th anniversary. Admission to this adults-only fundraising event is $50 per person for reservations made before January 15 and $60 per person after January 15. Information is available by contacting Julie Barnett at (703) 424-6445 jbarnett@goeaston.net or Susan Sherman at (410) 770-4568 shermans1@erols.com.

 

Out and About (Sort Of): What’s in a Statue? How do We Judge It? by Howard Freedlander

Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney

 

For months in 2015, Talbot County residents argued over the propriety of the Talbot Boys Confederate statue in front of the courthouse. Should it stay, or should it be removed and relocated?

I thought that the Talbot County Council’s decision to keep the statue where it was and support construction of one paying tribute to county soldiers who fought with the Union forces was a reasoned and even a reasonable one. Like many in the county, I am bothered by the Confederate flag being held by the color bearer; the racism symbolized by the flag is tough to take.

 Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney

Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney

Now, after reading about the renaming of Byrd Stadium at the University of Maryland’s College Park Campus, the renaming of Robert E. Lee Park in Baltimore and the recommendation by a commission to move two statues in Baltimore—one showing General Lee and General Stonewall Jackson and the other one showing Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney (he of the dreadful Dred Scott decision in 1857 declaring that black Americans were not citizens and therefore could not sue in court)—I have serious misgivings.

The present is trumping the past. It doesn’t seem that the widely accepted premise that one should be very careful to judge the past by today’s values and mores has substantive merit to some decision-makers. It’s okay now to say we disagree with the past—understandably in some cases—and then act to erase it by removing statues that sear our moral and cultural sensitivity.

I find it telling that Jews are intent to retain concentration camps such as Auschwitz, Dachau and Buchenwald as shrines of abominable inhuman behavior because they don’t want citizens of the world to forget what happened in the 20th century’s worse attack on humanity. A visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC illustrates the intentional policy by Jewish leaders to preserve the past to ensure it is not forgotten, nor repeated.

So, my thinking is this: the past stinks in many instances, particularly in our nation where slavery imprisoned people because their skin was black, and whites treated them with disdain and depredation. This behavior was horrendously wrong and evil. For that reason, we should retain statues of Confederate generals and soldiers and a Supreme Court, if only to remind us that our past was ugly and disrespectful.

Much respected leaders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and therefore tolerated the degrading treatment of individuals who craved to be free, to enjoy our new nation like anyone else. Though neither fought in the Civil War to preserve Southern values, or issued a court decision, they did nothing to rid their plantations of this noxious institution. Shall we rename our Nation’s Capital, or suggest that the University of Virginia minimize its reverence of its founder?

While clearly I question the removal and relocation of statues, as suggested by the commission appointed by the mayor of Baltimore, I do support the inclusion of “context,” that is interpretive narrative that offers another viewpoint. For example, I would support—should a statue honoring Union soldiers not be built—a plaque stating that 50 Talbot County residents (if that’s the correct number) also fought in the Civil War. I think that historical fairness is far more preferable than a one-sided perspective. Distortion is undesirable.

Some years ago, I visited the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. What I found remarkable and insightful was the museum’s effort to present a fair picture of how Native Americans were treated by white Americans. I learned that schools set up to remove Indian children from their homes on reservations to assimilate them into white American culture implicitly denigrated the culture in which these children were raised. It was wholly unsuccessful. It was a social experiment gone awry.

A Baltimore Sun columnist recently wrote, “As with many controversial issues, it is difficult to draw lines. Reasonable people can disagree as to what should be done with individual symbols. This however is no reason not to engage in such line drawing where it makes sense to do so. One such way to decide which monuments should be removed would be to see if the person represented on the monument was identified in a significant way with the particular evil at issue.”

This writer uses this argument to endorse the removal of monuments honoring General Lee, who fought for the Confederacy and therefore the retention of slavery, and Curley Byrd, who led the University of Maryland at College Park to great achievements but was known for blocking enrollment of African-Americans based on their race.

While I agree we should not venerate evil, I think that reminders of abhorrent behavior, like the killing factories in the German concentration camps, have deeply absorbing meaning: not again.

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. 

 

Really Good Stuff: Asbury United Methodist to Move Forward on Rehabilitation Project

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Photo provided by Ted Mueller Photography

Historic Easton, Inc. and the Trustees of Asbury United Methodist Church are delighted to announce that 2016 begins the construction phase of an exciting program to rehabilitate the prominent, historically significant church structure for the next 100 years. After many years of planning, restoration work at Asbury United Methodist Church at 18 S. Higgins Street is about to begin. Plans for the first phase of the restoration work were approved on January 11, 2016 by the Easton Historic District Commission. Initiated by Historic Easton, Inc. and the Trustees of Asbury Church, rehabilitation of the prominent, historically significant church structure is funded by a grant from the Maryland Commission on African-American History and Culture. The Maryland Historical Trust oversees the grant.

After the request for contractor bids was announced at the end of last year, the Board of Historic Easton, Inc. accepted a bid from Yerkes Construction of Chestertown MD. The Restoration and stabilization of the steeple will begin this quarter. Yerkes Construction is the general contractor with Easton-based Encore Sustainable Design, LLC as the architect. The initial stabilization will address the steeple roofing, belfry floor, steeple structural repairs, steeple trim repairs, round window repair, and a new front door. This restoration project will be the first highly-visible capital investment in support of the larger Hill Community Project Small Area Plan, an effort to revitalize the neighborhood based on community input. The plan is for the 16 homes to eventually be sold and attract people who wish to own and live in the home, rather than rent it to a tenant.

Restoration of this culturally and historically significant structure complements the past five years of archaeological research that has been conducted within The Hill neighborhood. Archeologists with the University of Maryland have been digging in Easton’s The Hill community since about 2010 to uncover the community’s history and heritage. These projects provide a foundation for documenting and preserving the history of the African American experience in Talbot County and may be used as leverage by the Town of Easton for additional grant-funded projects.

As one of the central anchors of The Hill community, Asbury United Methodist Church frequently opens its doors to visitors, in addition to its ongoing church services and social programs. Through these activities, the congregation of Asbury continues its engagement in the civic life of Easton and its residents, a legacy that dates back to the early 19th century.