Small World: Bronze warrior reflects

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

As is my custom, I was out for a stroll on Main Street on a warm summer evening when I espied Bridgton’s Civil War soldier sitting cross-legged on his plinth, his musket across his lap and his right hand finger on the trigger while his left hand massaged his shoeless feet.

“What’s up?” I called to him; I thought you had left town for a Washington job.”

CWS: “That’s right I did. The Trump people were hiring lots of ex-soldiers — men with heads as hard as bronze, unbending personalities, and feet planted in someone else’s flourishing garden. That fit me to a T. Plus, you could throw in my far distant vision and the ability to see far and wide and into the past and future.”

HP: “So what were your duties?”

CWS: “I was stashed in the State Department in charge of creating enemies — troubles with other countries and groups. Every nation needs a parcel of enemies, you know. Some were easy — Iran, North Korea — but others you had to irritate, to provoke, say, Mexico or Australia. Then I had to stir up journalists and pundits and people on Capitol Hill. Some of them were so obnoxious that it was pure pleasure pouring bile over them. ‘Make war not love’ was our slogan — artfully designed to appeal to a discontented bunch of voters. And make intelligent people fear we were nuts and leave us alone with their do-gooding ideas.”

“Pretty quickly it became apparent that the game plan was not a winner — no schemes working out; infighting; a void of trust; ignorance of history. In two words: No gun — except for the chief when folks were showering him with praise. You know, I don’t think he ever really wanted to be the chief. He just wanted to see his name in lights — the brightest light lit. I don’t think he really expected to win. So, I thought, best to get out before he gets really fed up and quits.”

“Maybe I didn’t escape by much, though. Looks to me like the future is apt to be a stack of failure upon failures. I feel sorry for the poor man. First, health care down the tubes; next, immigration — small chance of anything good emerging from that debate. Taxation? No way the congress can agree among themselves or with the White House, to say nothing of the Democrats. Debt renewal in the fall — sure to be a mess. Why stick around and have the stick beat on you? So I snuck out.”

“And, just as I was hitting the road, this ruckus about Civil War monuments broke out. Now, for me, my job in Bridgton is to present an aid to historical memory, the sacrifice for the union preserved, and a decoration for the town. But if you asked a town meeting to build us new monument today, there’s no way the money would be voted in. Now I realize that down South and in the Border States these monuments represent something more meaningful: anger, shame, heritage (tragic though it be), and, I would suggest, a standard or a reminder to measure how much (or little) our nation has changed. There is no place, of course, for violence from ignorant, provocative thugs. They should not be tolerated or ‘understood' on either side. Put yourself in the shoes of the other is always the best lesson of life. Changing your perspective is the only way to avoid fratricidal strife. Mr. Trump was wrongheaded or badly advised in his reaction to the events at Charlottesville. Another step or slip downward.”

“So I skedaddled back to Bridgton. I was also afraid that descendants of the Alabama brigade at Gettysburg might come up this way to seek revenge on our monuments for the defeat General Chamberlain inflicted on them down there. They ought to bear in mind, however, that the General — politically ambitious all his life — may have exaggerated his role for his political benefit. That’s the big lesson: first, there’s the event, then there’s the follow-up or cover-up, the manipulation of facts. The latter is always the source of trouble. If only politicians and other blowhards could learn to hold their tongues”

HP: It’s just too bad more men of flesh or bronze can’t benefit from your wisdom, old fellow.”

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

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