Editor’s note: This blog was originally published Thursday Jan. 7, 2021.
Today I went out and bought the biggest American flag a local maker had on offer.
It will join the two smaller ones that are up outside the house now.
Nobody needs to hear from a Northwest hook-and-bullet magazine editor in the wake of what happened Wednesday in the capitol of our nation, but along with the rest of our countrymen and many across the world, I’m also still processing things.
Still digesting the start of that solemn Constitutional ceremony, the nearby rally, the banners, the calls to action, the split screens, the scaled walls, the lone cop chased up stairs, the scrambling Congressmen and their staffers, the gunshots, the five deaths that now include an officer bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher by insurrectionists, the chanting, the broken glass, the trespassed offices, the smoke, the police lines, the return of lawmakers to complete the electoral process.
And especially the photos.
One stands out: A man parading the Confederate flag through the Capitol Building of the United States of America, a profoundly sickening image to me.
Maybe that’s why I went out and bought that 5-foot-by-8-foot stars-and-stripes.
Maybe it’s that and what I’ve been reading lately.
I will admit that I’ve done more genealogy research than hunting or fishing so far this winter. (My last outings were in mid-December on Yaquina Bay, “trolling” for crabs with unweighted rings as a storm-enhanced king tide swept past the pier, and trying again at o’dark hundred the next morning at the bottom of a far softer – and more productive – exchange.)
One thing I recently learned about my family is that my great-great-great grandfather Abraham was a staunch Unionist who lived in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley his entire life. Right before the Civil War he was threatened with hanging by rebels after he sent a son to the North.
That son, Jacob, my great-great grandfather, responded to the call of Lincoln and served in an Ohio infantry unit that saw action in what is now West Virginia, Mississippi and elsewhere in the South as the Confederacy was destroyed.
As son fought, father helped rebel deserters escape to the North.
“I fed a great many soldiers, carried provisions to sick and wounded … and helped Confed. Conscripts into the Union lines, and persuaded my neighbors (sic) sons to go also.”
And if I’m correctly reading the federal documents from 1871 that my genealogy research turned up, in October 1864 General Phillip Sheridan expressly “commanded” his army “to respect the person and property” of Abraham and that no crops be taken from his farm without a receipt being issued for eventual compensation, such was Abraham’s observed loyalty to the Union and the fact that Jacob had been in the army at that point for three years.
I take strength from my ancestors’ bold, honorable actions that helped defeat those would try to tear this nation apart under that banner marched inside our Capitol Building on Wednesday, as well as provided relief to those who abandoned its heinous cause – the continued enslavement of human beings.
Flashing forward from that most bitter attempted cleaving of our country to today’s absurdly hyperpartisan times, yesterday’s events also had me considering fishing and hunting blogs I’ve written over the years.
It’s hard to judge yourself objectively, but I’ve always considered myself to be open-minded about things in this world, recognizing the wide variety of stakeholders and disparate interests, the changing times and environment, and generally taking a moderate, pragmatic tone. Having done this for so long now, I see far more shades of gray than stark black and white.
And yet at the same time – and just like the times we live in – I’ve felt myself hardening as the lawsuits and petitions and court settlements have piled up and piled up in recent years, threatening fishing, hunting and wildlife management as we’ve known it, and I recognize that feeling in my own words of late.
I worry about that.
As Wednesday unfolded in DC, I found myself reflecting on a recent blog, one that I had worked on into the night trying to weigh my words carefully because of the subject matter, the complexity of the situation, the sensitivity of my sources.
I realized I may not have done a good enough job and that I need to do much better.
Words matter and those saying them have an awesome responsibility to not be full of sh*t, as we’ve had reinforced for us this week in staggering fashion with that lost cause in the other Washington.
All of it is a reminder to me to always be tempered, to see others first as the humans they are and not enemies of the state, to not egg on trusting masses to battle, to report facts, and to hold truth to those in power – as well as those who would try to take it.