A year ago, I noticed a funny thing. The page www. remember.gov kind of forgot the Civil War for Memorial Day. And I pointed out that Memorial Day, originally known as “Decoration Day” was a holiday remembering the Union Veterans who had died in the Civil War. (They also decided to deep six the Mexican War of 1846):
Screen cap from last year:
Missing in Action: Civil War, Mexican War
You see, the notion that the Union Dead are NOT “heroes” and ought to be forgotten (probably because the Civil War is still “controversial” in some circles) seems a fundamental rejection of our very own history.
If you search Google for “White House Commission on Remembrance,” you’ll find my explanation from The Moderate Voice last year:
by Hart Williams
Good question. In the June 1 post [“WH Commission on Remembrance Forgets Civil War on Memorial Day“], you will recall, the ‘White House Commission on Remembrance’ carried out its mission of the national “Moment of Remembrance” by putting a link to its Facebook page, which managed to forget the Civil War (and the Mexican War of 1846) but remembered the Boxer Rebellion — in which the US only played a minor role.
What wasn’t included in those companion pieces was what happened after that. I sent them to my congressman, Peter Defazio, and his office made an inquiry. Several weeks later, I received this letter:
Congressman Peter DeFazio ****@mail.house.gov
to **** [me]
date Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 3:29 PM
subject Reply from Congressman Peter DeFazio
Dear Mr. Williams:
Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about the White House Commission on Remembrance’s website. I appreciate hearing from you.
Apparently, the section of the White House Commission on Remembrance website that allows facebook users to “dedicate their status” to a fallen soldier was reported to be missing several wars from United States History, including the Civil War and the Mexican American War. The United States soldiers who died in both of these wars, as well as in every other war or instance of U.S. military casualties, are mentioned and honored on the White House Commission on Remembrance website. I am sure that the omission of the Civil War and the Mexican American War from the facebook status section of the website was a mistake.
Thanks again for writing. Please continue to keep in touch about any future federal issues.
[no signature, no sig]
Which seems absurd in retrospect. You FORGOT the Civil War and the Mexican War of 1846 (you know, the one where we grabbed half of their country, including New Mexico, Arizona, Calif0rnia, Nevada, Colorado and Utah?). Seriously, if you can’t REMEMBER those wars, what are you doing on taxpayers’ dime? Jeebus.
Worse, more Americans died in the Civil War than all of our other wars PUT TOGETHER. T’would seem an odd war to forget.
I’m leaving out the fact that Defazio missed. The REST of the website was available after Memorial Day 2010. But that website ONLY referred traffic to the Facebook page ON Memorial Day and leading up to it. If Defazio inquired with the WHCOR, he got sandbagged.
Now, I’m not a babe in the woods. My father with a civil engineer with the Forest Service and I had an inside look at USDA internal politics for a long time; and I spent time in two centuries as the webmaster of the Oregon Democratic Party’s website, and the Lane County Democratic Party’s website. So I know the kinds of meetings where these decisions are taken. The “PC” version of America’s Veterans was up for you to honor your veteran ancestors. Great Uncle Harry who served in the Revolutionary War? Great, you could honor him on the website. Great Grandfather Charlie who served in the Boxer Rebellion? Sure. Cousin Bob who served in Vietnam? Great.
The Mexican American War of 1846? (Huge Hispanic population, might not appreciate a reminder of that blatant theft by the Polk Administration “Fifty-four forty or fight!”)
The Civil War? (Too many powerful politicians STILL upset about the outcome. Best to forget it accidentally on purpose.)
I’m not saying that was the case, but it seems likely.
I guess I’m just too thin-skinned. What does it matter if the Civil War is such a minor event that it entirely escapes the White House Commission on Remembrance, created in 2000, at about the same time as 551. H.R.3514 : Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection Act ” and “557. H.R.5461 : Shark Finning Prohibition Act”?
579. S.3181 : National Moment of Remembrance Act Sponsor: Sen Hagel, Chuck [NE] (introduced 10/10/2000) Cosponsors (21) Committees: Senate Judiciary Latest Major Action: Became Public Law No: 106-579 [GPO: Text,PDF]
So, naturally I wondered what our official rememberers commission was doing this year, a decade after its creation.
From the last archived page at www.remember.gov, 22 November 2010:
From the previous archived page of the White House Commission on Remembrance:
White House Commission on Remembrance
America Unites In Remembrance
The White House Commission on Remembrance, established by Congress in 2000, is an independent, non-partisan government agency that encourages Americans to honor the sacrifices of our fallen and their families. It promotes acts of remembrance throughout the year and asks citizens to pay our debt of gratitude in memory of those who died in service to our country by giving something back to the Nation.
The Commission is also tasked with sponsoring the National Moment of Remembrance, Public Law 106-579, which invites everyone to pause where they are at 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day in an uplifting act of national unity. In this shared remembrance, we have the chance to successfully connect as Americans.
For more information on any of the Commission’s special programs and activities, please contact us at (202)783-4665 or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The page today?
The Facebook pages today?
I’ve been tracking them for the past week or so, and this is consistent with that week BEFORE Memorial Day.
To go from forgetting the original War that gave Memorial Day its reason for being to forgetting ALL wars seems less like an evolution of the WHCOR’s congressionally created mandate than a profound oxymoron: rather than remembering our war dead and veterans, the commission on REMEMBRANCE seems to have forgotten ALL of them. At least in cyberspace.
And, you have to admit that it takes some real planning, when your charter surrounds ONE specific day of the year — only one day in 365 or 366 — it seems an administrative miracle in negation that on that ONE day, your website and Facebook page aren’t working.
As the [insert group name to be belittled here] medical student in that old joke says, pointing to his skull: Takes kidneys.