Monday, May 4, 2009

Glory, glory

Amherst's "Sacred Dead Tablets" in storage

So as Civil War battles go the losses at Fort Wagner (under 1700 total with 90% of them Union attackers) were relatively minor; like the damage done to the Empire of Japan’s capital city of Tokyo by Doolittle’s B-25 bombers only four months after Pearl Harbor.

But they both made history because of a far greater symbolic meaning. And as such should always be remembered.

The ill-fated attack on Fort Wagner led by the 54'th Massachusetts Volunteers dispelled the notion that black soldiers couldn’t (or wouldn’t) fight. And the daring air raid on Tokyo sent a message to Japan early on: you messed with wrong country.

Amherst Town Meeting will take up the issue of restoring the Civil War tablets and placing them back in Amherst Town Hall where they were proudly displayed back in the early 1900’s. Two members of the Community Preservation Committee issued a minority report suggesting the total cost to clean all six and display two tablets at $65,000 is $20,000 too high.

Hmmm…Amherst spent almost $300,000 to preserve the Kimball House in North Amherst (now dwarfed by the aircraft carrier sized house behind it) but we can’t spend one-quarter of that to restore and display these donated tablets to honor locals who served--especially those who gave their "last measure of devotion"?

West Springfield City Hall

The Kimball House in North Amherst


Anonymous said...

No one has missed these tablets for almost a hundred years! We've got to have priorities. Let's do this when the enonomy's better. I don't think we should lay off a fireman or teacher for this, worthy as it may be.

LarryK4 said...

It's Community Preservation money (you know, the kind that falls from the heavens) so at least 10% of it has to be used for historical preservation.

It cannot be used for fireman, teachers or cops.

Anonymous said...

But it can be used for affordable housing.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, but not the same dollars that have to be used for historical preservation.

They can of course bank it, and two years ago the CPA folks were criticized because there was such a large balance left in the historical funds (but then we blew it all on repointing Town Hall)

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting what Mr. Kelley wants to spend money on and what he doesn't.

As if his personal preferences were the touchstone of all that is good in Amherst.

Yeah, he's a fiscal conservative: well, sort of.

Ed said...

I consider something like this similar to a memorial to firefighters or cops who died in the line of duty. Military units were very much local back then, it was the hometown boys who died.

And what would we say - heaven forbid - if a good chunk of the AFD or APD were to die in - well say a terrorist attack - and then in the 23rd Century they said "so sorry, we want to have affordable housing instead..."

Put all six tablets up. Let people realize the cost of war and I say this as a conservative.

Anonymous said...

Just put them up. There is no reason to spend money to restore them. They are old. Let them look old. Do the whole thing for a grand.

Anonymous said...

Good job Ed! You managed to pull off an entire comment without any spelling errors or grammar gaffs.

Realist said...

Anon 6:03 (aka "Mr. Know-it-all") I believe that you meant to say "gaffes" as in blunders versus "gaffs" as in what you use for landing fish...Oops! Kinda funny how the whole I'm-a-Smarty Pants thing has a way of coming around and biting you in the ass, eh?

Anonymous said...

$60,000? That's a ridiculous amount of money to spend on this project. Put the tablets inside a glass case and put the money to better use.

Anonymous said...

At this time, we don't have the money.

Anonymous said...

"It's Community Preservation money (you know, the kind that falls from the heavens)"

You mean the kind that comes from higher property tax and from our state income tax?

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, that.

Why I voted against it five years ago when it first passed at 1% and again a couple years ago when it was increased.

Anonymous said...

Just the names of some dead white men. Not important. We need to preserve space on the Town Hall walls for murals of Obama!

Anonymous said...

I love people that make racist comments and probably don't even know it! Please continue.

Anonymous said...

"Oops! Kinda funny how the whole I'm-a-Smarty Pants thing has a way of coming around and biting you in the ass, eh?"

Keep laughing...

I know a couple of your old friends who are going to have a lot of time on their hands come June 30.

It's over.

Anonymous said...

Ryan Willey Wrote; I noticed Mrs. Latham lost two Sons. Alonzo and William, I would like to see a fitting memorial with all the names from Amherst who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Located on a prominent piece of town property.

-Ryan Willey

Anonymous said...

It's racist now to speak of dead white men at all? I did not know that. All our thoughts and words must be of Obama, all the time.

Citizen Wald said...

Thanks, Larry, for your support on this important issue.

There are things that are important in life above and beyond teachers and sewers and policemen, and that's why the CPA exists.

As for the tablets, they are a unique artifact of one of the most important episodes in American history--and also a powerful representation of what community means: to be willing to make a sacrifice for a common cause.

And we might also stop to think about what it means to make the kind of sacrifice represented here--and whether we would make it, and for what. As one of the German s who attempted to overthrow Hitler said, "A man's moral worth is established only at the point where he is ready to give up his life in defense of his convictions." He did, and so did many of the men--black as well as white--whose names are on those tablets.

LarryK4 said...

I received an email yesterday from the State House (the ONLY listserve I'm banned from is the Town Meeting one privately owned by Mother Mary Streeter).

The Governor, who is black, has ordered all flags under his control to half-staff on Wednesday to honor Disposalman Petty Officer Second Class Tyler John Trahan of East Freetown, Massachusetts who was killed in action in Iraq on April 30'th.

I don't care what color he was, whether he was Irish, Polish, Jewish or Russian immigrant; gay or strait, catholic or agnostic. He died for his/our country.

And it's a simply thing to do, considering the tremendous thing he did.

These tablets were DONATED by the Grand Army of the Republic to the town (it would be interesting to know what it cost them and then update into 2009 dollars).

If you factor in how long, long ago that was and divide that number of years into last night's $65,000 the cost per year is pretty small.