Memorial Daze?

A year ago, I noticed a funny thing. The page www. 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:

So Who IS the White House Commission on Remembrance?

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 ****
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, 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:

The page today?

the  [non-] webpage @ 7pm PDT 29 MAY 2011

The Facebook pages today?


Memorial Daze?

No activity since June 1, 2010

And, finally:

No activity for about a year.

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.

[Note: everybody ELSE  in the Über-patriot crowd seems to have forgotten, as well.]

As the [insert group name to be belittled here] medical student in that old joke says, pointing to his skull: Takes kidneys.


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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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2 Responses to Memorial Daze?

  1. JosephW says:

    “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!”)”

    Except that the slogan referred to America’s EXTREME claim of the Pacific Northwest. The US already had a claim to the “Oregon Territory” which ran from the 42nd Parallel to the 54-40 Parallel (which was the southernmost limit of Russian America, aka Alaska). The US and UK both claimed the full territory with the US claiming the northernmost limit and the UK claiming the southernmost limit.

    The Mexican-American War was prompted not by the Oregon question, but rather the US’s annexation of Texas. Mexico hadn’t conceded Texan independence in full but had agreed to a de facto independence (sort of the way both Koreas deal with each other; both nations claim to be the sole, legitimate government on the peninsula but recognize the political realities of the situation–neither is willing to go to full-scale war to achieve their claims but neither is willing to concede their claims to the whole of the peninsula). The Mexicans had somewhat accepted the Nueces River as the northern limit of their full control but the Texans (and the US, following the annexation) insisted the Rio Grande was the border between Texas and Mexico.

  2. Hart Williams says:

    Yes, all true. Having lived in Oregon and Texas, I am well aware of these facts. Indeed … I’ve written about the issues you raise before, elsewhere and didn’t feel a need to elaborate here.

    “Fifty-four forty or fight!” is arguably the most famous political slogan of all American politics, although no one remembers that Polk quickly settled with the British for the 49th parallel so that he could (with the Mexican War) make the single biggest land grab in US history. And didn’t run for re-election. (See the musical group “They Might Be Giants” for more on this.)

    No error here, just no need to pursue an interesting but unnecessary side-track.