I was born and spent most of my life in Talbot County. I have ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War, including one man whose name appears on the Talbot Boys Monument.
As this resolution is considered, it is my hope the Council has not forgotten that in February 2020, well before George Floyd’s death, our National Intelligence Agencies warned the nation that our enemies, both foreign and domestic, planned to stoke racial animosity for their gain, and to our country’s detriment, during this election year. I wonder, as our nation debates Confederate monuments, who is really best-served at this time? (Ref 1)
Nonetheless, here we are… and I am compelled to share my views…
I speak in opposition to Resolution 290. (Ref 2)
This Resolution states that some people consider the monument as a racist symbol, presumably pointing to the Confederate flag that is formed into the Statue. However, according to the Anti-Defamation League (a leading, non-partisan authority on anti-hate and keeper of a hate symbol database), “one should not automatically assume that display of the [Confederate] flag is racist or white supremacist in nature. The symbol should only be judged in context.” I suggest, in the context of the Talbot Boys monument, the flag is merely identifying the colors under which these men fought. Unlike South Carolina or Mississippi, this flag is not waving over government property. (Ref 3)
To rationalize the removal of the statue, this Resolution instructs us to draw a comparison between the Talbot Boys Monument to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, known as the “The Wall”, in Washington DC. I would like to offer some differing perspectives on how we can take some guidance from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Resolution 290 states that The Wall is “one of the most powerful monuments to military action in the US”. Likewise, the Resolution states the Talbot Boys monument is dedicated to the “Confederate cause”. These two statements are incorrect and they are the roots of this flawed Resolution. Both the Wall and the Talbot Boys monuments are dedicated to the war-fighters, not to the wars. They are dedicated to the persons, not to the events or the causes. If there is any doubt about the intent of the monument at the Courthouse, I simply ask folks to read the inscription, “To The Talbot Boys”.
Denying the Talbot Boys a place of honor at the Talbot County Courthouse would be akin to denying our Vietnam Vets their monument on the National Mall, which is, in fact, almost what happened as a nation grappled with a difficult memory. Yes, the Confederacy is charged with waging a morally corrupt war. And yes, America is charged for waging an equally corrupt war in Vietnam. But we, as a community and as a nation, have a long-standing principle, that even if we can’t support the war, we can still support and honor the soldiers who fought. When communities ask war-fighters to engage in battle, we must promise these soldiers that their sacrifices will be honored, whether the conflict is won or lost, and no matter how history might ultimately judge the war itself. It is a citizen’s promise to a soldier.
If today we want to indict the Talbot Boys as racists, I ask everyone to remember that one’s participation in the Union or Confederate Army does not act as a litmus test for racism. By any measure, the Commander in Chief of the Union Army, was indeed a racist. Ref 4
If we want to indict the Talbot Boys as traitors, I ask everyone to remember the equally terrible insults hurled at American soldiers during Vietnam. During the Vietnam era, a great many citizens (including civil rights activists) considered American soldiers as traitors to humanity, and cheered draft-dodgers as they burned their draft cards. Eventually, as part of a long healing process, America agreed that Confederate Veterans were indeed U.S. Veterans, not traitors, entitled to the same respects as any Union soldier. (Ref 5)
If we want to indict the citizens of this County for being racists for construction of this monument during the so-called Jim Crow era, I believe we fail to consider that many similar Union monuments were erected simultaneously to recognize the Civil War’s semi-centennial anniversary. (Ref 6)
And if folks think the story is incomplete on the Court House yard, then I ask them to bring forth ideas that add, not subtract, from our history.
I oppose both the content and spirit of this Resolution.
Ref 1: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/10/us/politics/russian-interference-race.html
Ref 2: http://www.talbotcountymd.gov/uploads/File/council/Resolution%20290%20(Talbot%20Boys%20Statue)%20-%20new%20hearing%20location.pdf
Ref 3: https://www.adl.org/education/references/hate-symbols/confederate-flag
Ref 4: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/did-lincoln-racism-equality-oppose/
Ref 5: https://www.knowva.ebenefits.va.gov/system/templates/selfservice/va_ssnew/help/customer/locale/en-US/portal/554400000001018/content/554400000014980/M21-1-Part-VII-Chapter-1-Section-D-Memorialization?query=confederate (Vii.1.D.e.a)
Ref 6: https://www.aier.org/article/what-the-data-say-about-civil-war-monuments/
The Talbot Boys
In Douglass’s shadow,
Steely, staring straight ahead.
Boys. Voices silent.
Echoes — what once was.
Whispers of a wind long gone.
Constant? Only change.
Where travels the heart,
The mind must truly follow,
For fallen fellows.
Talbot Boys of olde,
So silent, still cause new pain.
Elsewhere — let them rest.
While Covid 19 and the Talbot Boys statue are taking up our attention, The County Council is also working to pass changes weakening the Short-Term Rental law by;
Allowing an Unlimited number of guests on the property during daylight hours, currently two people per bedroom are permitted,
Reducing the lease term from a three-night minimum to two nights,
Reduce, the distance notification for Talbot’s Residential and Village zones by half. These are Talbots most dense neighborhoods.
These changes are being requested by special interest groups who profit from the proliferation of Short -Term Rentals.
The Council is also asking through resolution 285 that County Voters decide whether the County requirement that states, Department Heads must live in Talbot County, be upheld or removed.
I was surprised when I researched and found out, that not only does all our County Council members live in the Town of Easton, (which is protected by strict Short Term Rental laws), but that several of the County Department heads who make the enforcement decisions don’t live in Talbot County, even though their job description says they must?
How can our elected officials, and their Department Heads, possibly know the affect Short-Term Rentals have in heavy residentially populated neighborhoods when they don’t live there?