A Heartfelt Thanks to the National Park Service

We couldn’t have done it without you.

Education of our children is such an important responsibility.

As homeschoolers, we recognize that all of life is school, and vacations are often more educational than time spent at the table doing math and science. We do what we can to make each trip educational for the kids, or the grandkids who travel with us.

As Texans, we often find ourselves visiting battlegrounds, discussing the battles of our First War of Independence (against Mexico) and our Second War of Independence (against “them Yankees”). We discuss what led to those battles, who was involved, what mistakes were made militarily, and what happened as a result. We see this as valuable in helping them shape a worldview based upon historical fact.

For Memorial Day this year, we took three young ladies (ages 8, 14, 17) to Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Battle of Vicksburg is a sad story for Southern patriots, but must be told. We spent hours reading of General John Pemberton and General Joe Johnston, along with the daring tactics that General Useless Grant employed (which would probably have failed, if Pemberton had followed orders).

One of the difficulties has always been how to convey to children who have so much, speaking of material wealth, about the depth of the destruction wrought by war in general, and by Lincoln’s armies in particular. And then there was Reconstruction. Such an overlooked subject in the government schools today (and no wonder!). The boot of an oppressor on our necks. Not just for a decade, but for a century and beyond.

For that reason, we must thank the Military Park Division of the National Park Service for their assistance in teaching our children about history and about the reality of the results of our loss of the Second War of Independence.

For those who think that Reconstruction is a thing of the past, visiting a national military park can bring enlightenment. From the merchandise for sale, to the merchandise NOT for sale; from the choice of music, to the uniforms, to the guns on the hips, to the smirk on the faces of those who clearly consider themselves superior to “we, the people," one sees one overwhelming attitude and fact – “We won, and you lost.”

It was Katie who observed that one could buy belt buckles that say “US," but that there were none for sale with “CS” on them. Alexandra and Katie came out of the documentary movie shown in the theatre, humming Dixie. Why? “To get that tune out of our heads.” The movie had ended with that scurrilous and anti-Christian, anti-Southern, bloodthirsty hymn, “Battle Hymn of the Republic." (One might argue that such music in a Federal institution constitutes a violation of their own stated principle of separation of church and state, but it does not. Not that one. Because that IS the State Religion: Secular Humanism, Socialism and Statism.)

It was not lost on the kids that only Yankee soldiers were allowed to be buried in the cemetery of the battleground. Confederate soldiers had to be buried locally, wherever the prostrated local population could find the energy to bury them.

And then, we sought to exit the park. Unbeknownst to us, there was a detour. Yes, there was a sign, but it was not clear that we had seen all the monuments, so we hesitated at an intersection, trying to decide what to do next. A woman in a uniform, complete with badge and pistol, very adamantly motioned us in to the cemetery road, a single lane, one-way road that makes a loop.

We stopped, to help a man who had the hood of his truck up. Dead battery. It was a privilege to extend Southern hospitality to him, and help him get his truck started. It was irrelevant that he was black, he needed some help. Teaching lessons to the kids, both verbally, and by example. We were feeling pretty good about all the teaching opportunities.

Half way around the loop, we found that the road was blocked by a Memorial Day Event, with cameras and VIP’s and lots of people. Not wishing to disturb this august ceremony, we quietly turned around and drove back up the empty lane to the gate, and headed for the detour, now more obviously what we should have done in the first place.

A detour to get to the detour. Seemed like common sense to me. We were in plenty of time for the next event – a boat tour out onto the Yazoo and the Mississippi Rivers.

Well, it turned out to be the Crime of the Week for the woman in uniform, who sprinted to her jeep and managed to catch up as we slowly and carefully exited the park. Lights flashing, she came on to my bumper aggressively. As I departed my Suburban, as men often do down South, that we might have a civil exchange, I was ordered in a near scream to, “Get back in the car!!!” Hand on her gun, she shouted hysterically, over and over, “Get back in the car! Get back in the car NOW! Sir, get back in the car!” I’ve seen that scene on COPS, and knew that it had already gotten ugly. I got back in the car. (I’ll skip the rest of this ugly scene. You’ve seen it on TV, or worse, you’ve experienced it.)

In summary: in the most imperious manner possible, this female jackbooted thug issued me a ticket for $50 for my crime of taking a small detour so I could take her detour. It’s not the money at all, although the ticket was very unnecessary. It’s the way in which it was done.

Was I angry? I must confess, I was.

You don’t think I was “profiled," do you? (Was it the small, tasteful Confederate flag on my bumper that said, “Feds out of Dixie!”?) Maybe I could claim some kind of a civil rights violation! I did notice that the black guy’s pickup was gone, and I know he had to have gone out the same gate I went out, and she didn’t have time to write him a ticket before I got back to that point. How could he get away with that? I wondered.

But… upon reflection… I came to appreciate what that petty tyrant had done for us. In a matter of twenty minutes or so, she conveyed to my grandchildren that Reconstruction has not ended; that tyranny is alive and well in the USA; that we lost, and we had better not forget it; and while we’re at it, that radical feminism rides tall over old white guys in Suburbans.

I kept my silence on that subject for a long time. (I didn’t dare speak!) But by the time we got to the motel that night, I had figured it out. And now I’m pretty sure I know what happened.

It’s all clear to me now – that woman was really a lady (in a darned good disguise), a very good actress, and a Southern Patriot to boot! And she is there because she is on a mission – she wants to help Southerners teach their children some of the important historical realities of the USA. That must be the case, and because she was so effective in the lessons, she sure had me fooled! And no one is really that much of an obnoxious, petty tyrant, I’m sure. Yup, I owe her a debt of gratitude. And the National Park Service.

This is just my way of saying thank you to the National Park Service, and that unknown heroine of justice.

Let us continue to teach our children about the world as it really is.

June 3, 2005