Still Learning Book Covers and G.I.M.P.

A print book cover is much more difficult than an e-book cover. You have to consider the quality of the graphics, and having things in exactly the right place is extremely important.
A print book cover is much more difficult than an e-book cover. You have to consider the quality of the graphics, and having things in exactly the right place is extremely important.

As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, I hate dealing with book covers. I should just hire this done, to someone with more artistic talents who is also learned in graphic arts programs. Alas, I don’t want to have my writing activities indebted to the family budget, so I’m on a pay-as-you-go basis. Right now, that means that, with a few exceptions, I make my own covers.

Here's the print book cover for "In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People". I want the "Headshots" to be as good as this, which was a cover I did based on the e-book cover my son did.
Here’s the print book cover for “In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People”. I want the “Headshots” to be as good as this, which was a cover I did based on the e-book cover my son did.

But I hate it. That also means I have to use a free graphics arts program, rather than expensive programs such as Photoshop or Illustrator. That means G.I.M.P. I believe I’ve also written about hating G.I.M.P. I hate it because it is difficult to use. That’s partly because I don’t understand some of the graphic arts terms, but also because the documentation is poor. I’ve found some third-party help with G.I.M.P., such as article, or videos on YouTube. But, to be honest, they all do their thing by assuming the reader/watcher know more than I do. They’ll say “after you’ve selected the layer” or some such thing, assuming I know how to select a layer, when I don’t. It’s maddening.

Here's the e-book cover for "Headshots". I wanted to improve the font some, and, of course, add the spine and back cover, making it all the right size in the right place at a good quality.
Here’s the e-book cover for “Headshots”. I wanted to improve the font some, and, of course, add the spine and back cover, making it all the right size in the right place at a good quality.

In terms of creating the cover for a print book, however, I’m starting to get more comfortable with the whole process. I didn’t say I was proficient, or that I enjoyed it, or was good at it; just that I was more comfortable. I have come to learn the basic steps needed: figure the exact size of the cover wrap; create a canvas that size; create a “size overall” layer; create a front cover layer; create a back cover layer; create a spine box layer; position these where they need to go; add words and graphics to each. Piece of cake, right?

Several times I’ve gotten something to work, but didn’t really know how I did it, and thus couldn’t replicate it for the next cover, or even for another part of the cover I was working on. For the last cover I asked one of our landscape architects at work to help me to understand what I had to do to move layers into the right place: centered, left, right, whatever. We got it to work, but didn’t really know why—or at least I didn’t.

Here's what I've got so far. I still need to improve the font on the front. But, overall, not bad. I'm not unhappy.
Here’s what I’ve got so far. I still need to improve the font on the front. But, overall, not bad. I’m not unhappy.

Last Friday, I was working on the cover for the print edition of Headshots. I want to have it out for the end of baseball season, which is fast approaching. I had begun this cover about three weeks ago, but got bogged down and left it. I started on the noon hour, but had little luck, so was continuing into the afternoon (guess I’ll charge that time to vacation). I went to the break room for coffee, and ran into our corporate CADD trainer, who I supervise. He asked how it was going, and I said “Great if I could figure out how to use G.I.M.P.” He said that was something he could help me with.

Back to my office we went, and I said I was having trouble 1) placing layers where I want them, which G.I.M.P. calls “Align” or “Distribute”; and 2) filling a layer with color. He showed me how to do the latter, though I don’t think I remember it today; I’ll see at noon. But he couldn’t figure out the G.I.M.P. commands for alignment. He’s a wiz at graphic arts, so I didn’t feel too bad.

But while he was there, I tried something. I wanted to center the “spine box” layer on the “overall size” layer. That assures that the spine will be in the right place. I tried something. I made the Align command active. Then I chose “Active Layer” as the target. Now, the program doesn’t say that drop down menu is to select the target, but when you hover the mouse over it, the words “Select target” appear. Then I went to the list of layers on a side panel and chose “Overall size”. Then I moved the mouse over the spine box on the canvas and clicked it. At that point the arrows in Alignment command box went from grayed-out to active. Aha! I clicked center, and poof! the spine box moved to the center of the overall size, just like magic.

I quickly wrote those steps out, so I wouldn’t forget them. Then I did “undo” several times, until the spine box was back out of position (I saved the file first). I looked at the list of instructions I’d written, and followed them. Again, the spine box moved to the right place. It didn’t seem like magic that time. It seemed almost logical, and replicatable.

I have a long way to go on creating covers. The graphic arts program is the mechanics. I’m slowly but surely getting to know that. The whole artistic thing—what looks good, what looks professional, what will attract a buyer to a book—is something I have to still work on. But I’m getting there. I’m almost at the point of knowing enough to be dangerous.

Getting Things Done

It’s really hard for me to sit down and write when I have other things to do. I don’t really want to bore my readers with all that I have to get done right now, but it’s a substantial list. Some of them major. There’s one, two, or even possibly three weekend trips coming up. Although, my wife has said she really doesn’t want to go to the 50th reunion of her high school class, so maybe scratch one of those trips—unless she changes her mind at the last minute.

The schedule for one trip is finally set. Although, we have to make arrangements for Lynda’s mother, who can’t really be left alone much any more. We started the process, but haven’t heard back yet. I’m formulating a plan b, just in case.

I’m still dealing with the IRS over the 2015 tax year and the ID theft we encountered. I have more than $1000 refund due that hasn’t been paid. I thought this was taken care of more than a year ago. Alas, not. I started the ball re-rolling on Wednesday, and it looks like maybe this time it will happen, and I’ll have my money before the end of the year. I hope so, because…

…getting a new car is another big thing we need to do. I started looking in mid-August, which got Lynda going, since she was afraid I’d make a deal on it, a deal she probably wouldn’t like. We are in agreement on what to get (though she’s a bit more restrictive than me), and which old vehicle to trade or sell. So this ball is rolling. Fortunately, we have a spare vehicle right now, and can afford to wait a while if needed.

Then, we were having a leak from the kitchen down to The Dungeon. I couldn’t tell what it was, or even where it was since there aren’t any pipes above where the leak was. I had the plumber come out Tuesday, and he isolated the problem as the dishwasher. It’s 30 years old, and we knew we were going to have to change it. Today I went to Lowe’s, where we got the replacement fridge from, and began the process of looking. The cost won’t be as bad as I thought it might. Although, there’s that finished ceiling to repair.

Add in a few things such as the genealogical research I’m obsessed over right now (soon to be at a wrapping up point, for now), trying to finish reading a difficult book (and finally being down to near the end of it), being asked by a friend to read another difficult book (and making early progress on it), trying to get an e-book ready for publication, and stumbling on making the print book cover (but maybe having figured out a way), and four or five other things, and, well, I just haven’t felt like writing.

Wednesday I felt awful. I think it was tension building up over all these balls needing to be pushed or juggled, one or the other. Getting the IRS thing taken care of Wednesday didn’t do much for me. Even getting the one weekend trip scheduled and the other (potentially) cancelled didn’t do much. I was dragging at work and at home. Finally, yesterday, getting a couple of minor things done, things not even significant enough to mention here, and the weight seemed to lift off me. I also stopped by Lowes and started looking for the dishwasher.

Just as it was an accumulation of things-to-do that built up, causing the stress, so it was the adding up of getting a few things done that relieved it to a large extent. I feel like I can see light at the end of my tunnel.

I’m still not going to write yet. I want to get the one book finished, and the e-book published in print, before I’ll spend any significant time on writing. But, at least last night and today, I know I’ll get there. It also helped to sell a couple of books yesterday!

I Moves and Clicks the Mouse

In looking back on my posts, I see it’s been quite a while since I wrote anything about research. When I did, it was mostly in connection with books I was writing. Yes, books do require research, even if you’re writing about a contemporary topic, but certainly if the novel is set somewhere in the past, or if you’re writing non-fiction. In actual fact, however, I see that some of my recent posts included discussion of research, so I’ve gone back and edited their categories to include it.

My research of late, however, is of a different kind: genealogy. I finished research for Documenting America: Civil War Edition in June. Before that I had research for Preserve The Revelation, which I finished around April, while I was writing it. Both of those involved pleasant research—research that was fulfilling.

But I never completely give up on my genealogy research. I’m always looking for that elusive ancestor. Several posts ago I wrote something about this: how I never could get information about my maternal grandfather; about how I thought I had finally found him. I still haven’t gone the route of seeking confirmation through DNA testing. That’s something I will eventually do. Meanwhile, I’m 99.99% certain that the man I found is indeed my grandfather.

Found, not in the sense of him being alive, but in the sense of learning who he was, where he was, and confirming what little family lore I had. That has involved research. Since I’m not in a position of traveling, my research has been on the internet.

As I mentioned many years ago, research has tentacles. You research one thing and find it or learn it, but that only leads you to look at two other things. Then research and find those two things, and suddenly your research to-do list have five more things on them. Except, since it’s all a matter of looking for reliable sources on the internet, and steering away from unreliable sources, the research tends to go so fast you don’t even mess with a to-do list. You just move the mouse and click.

As I said, my current research has mostly to do with my grandfather. Born in 1882 (based on my research; some sources say 1881, some 1883; the most reliable say 1882), I’m finding tons about him. One of his sons, a half-brother to my mother, had written a family history based on interviews with his dad (my grandfather). One interesting item was that he had been in the militia in Canada before going on active duty in WW1. This family history, however, said that he was called up with the militia to take part in a peace-keeping action due to a violent strike, this taking place on Vancouver Island. The town he mentioned was Ladysmith.

Could this be true? If grandfather told it to his son, you’d think it would be true, end of story. Confirmation is nice, however, so I decided to look for history about this peace-keeping action. Who knows but that his name may show up in some official record. I usually start with Wikipedia. Much maligned, I find it is mostly reliable. Like any source, confirmation is always advisable. I looked for such things as “Ladysmith-strike” and “Canada strikes 1913”, and found nothing. I did find a page for Ladysmith, however, that included this entry:

Ladysmith has been notable in the history of the labour movement with significant unrest and violence during the major strikes of the 1913–1914 era. During this time militia were dispatched to put down unrest and protect property.

That’s sort of confirmation, but it was given in Wikipedia without any source citation. I decided to look for newspapers. Several large databases of digitized newspapers exist. They are all behind paywalls, and I have no access to them. I find, however, that some of the databases give a snippet of text with them. I hoped for that for a 1913 newspaper on Vancouver Island. I remembered I had already found one newspaper, the full edition as picture and text, at archive.org. I found it while searching for grandfather’s third marriage, which I found in a newspaper out of Victoria BC. Might more of it be on-line?

I went to my browsing history, found the paper I’d already seen, and brought it up. Following links at archive.org, I discovered that many editions of the newspaper on-line, including all issues between 1912 and 1918. Bingo! I searched through 1913, and found the stories about the labor strike (International Mine Workers, representing the coal laborers), the violence associated with it, unsuccessful police attempts to quell it, and finally calling up the militia in early August 1913—exactly the time given in my uncle’s family history.

I have much more to read in these newspapers, including going back to 1911 for some items. This will take much more time than I have right now. Hopefully these newspapers will still be there when I retire.

But I had another success. I wanted to find out more about grandfather’s first wife, the one who divorced him before he married (maybe married, that is) my grandmother in St. Lucia during the war. After many mouse movement, many clicks, and following my intuition, I found information on her birth, found her in the census, found a marriage index for her and grandfather’s wedding, found evidence that they were indeed divorced during the war (just as grandmother told me), and even found a record of her death, in Taft, California, in 1938.

I discussed this with my half-sister, who seemed surprised that I had been able to find that much. I told her “I just moves and points the mouse and the magic happens.” Sometimes I think that’s true. To some extent, it might be my ability to reason things out, anticipate the most likely outcome, and focus on that till I find success.

For whatever the reason, I’m glad for it.

Lazy on Labor Day

Yes, it’s true. I’ve had a very lazy weekend. We’ve been watching television and reading. We dog-sat for our neighbors, so I did a fair amount of walking with the little fellow. I did almost no writing, save for a page or two of manuscript in my family memoir. Yesterday was church. Though they cancelled life groups for the day, I didn’t get the memo, and so prepared to teach and came on time. About eight other people didn’t get the memo either, so we had a combined class.

Today we went to two auto dealerships, looking at newer used cars. We are ready to trade in my truck for a late-model van. That will become Lynda’s vehicle, and I’ll drive the old van until it wears out. We saw some nice cars. Just too early to pull the trigger today.

Back to routine tomorrow. I’m ready for it.

Thinking Of My Next Writing

What to write next?

Sales haven't been "robust". Not even steady. But it's already at #10 on my list of books as to total sales.
Sales haven’t been “robust”. Not even steady. But it’s already at #10 on my list of books as to total sales.

I finished writing Documenting America: Civil War Edition in June, published it as an e-book in July, and as a print book in August. Sales haven’t been great, but better than lots of what I’ve published. Then, in August, I began work on another novel. It’s a prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant, tentatively titled Adam Of Jerusalem. I wrote two nights in manuscript. Later, when I typed it, I was surprised I had over 1,300 words.

Meanwhile, I have several other books that I’ve started. Here’s the full list and approximate degree of completion, without explanation of what each one is. It includes one I’ve not mentioned previously on this blog

  • The Gutter Chronicles, Volume 2: about 20% done
  • Thomas Carlyle’s Chartism Through The Ages: about 50% done
  • Thomas Carlyle: A Chronological Composition Bibliography: about 60% done
  • Stephen Cross of Ipswich (a family history): about 75% done
  • Adam Of Jerusalem: <5% done

Any of these will make a fine place to direct my efforts. At the same time, two as of yet unstarted items are on my radar, and are consuming brain power, coming into focus.

  • the next short story in the “Sharon Williams Fonseca: Unconventional CIA agent” series
  • the next book in the Documenting America series, most likely on the Constitution

Either of those would be good also.

The cover theme has been black and white. A graveyard featured in this one, and will on the combined volume.
The cover theme has been black and white. A graveyard featured in this one, and will on the combined volume.

However, I believe, instead of any of these, that my next writing/publishing project will be to collect the six Danny Tompkins short stories into one volume and publish it, both as an e-book and print book. The stories aren’t selling on their own (the six having had 39, 9, 10, 4, 4, and 1 sale respectively from first to last). Perhaps they’ll sell better as a volume. This has been on my radar for a while. A problem was what to call it. The Danny Tompkins Stories was not a good title. I’ve been thinking about this, and finally came up with what I think is a good one:

When Death Changes Life

That matches the theme of the stories, which is teenage grief at the loss of a parent, and adult dealing with the old grief. I’ve even thought about a cover for it, a cover that will fit the theme of the individual covers but will be different, no just re-using one of the others. On Wednesday I did a quick check of how large a print book of these will be. With title, copyright page, and author’s works, if should run around 70 pages. True, that’s small, but large enough for a print book. I suppose the e-book will sell for $2.99 and the print book for $5 or $6. Maybe, at those prices, I’ll be able to get a little traction with it.

Unexpected Change in Plans

So, Dorothy, just who was your father?
So, Dorothy, just who was your father?

Yes, this last week I had an unexpected change in plans.

Is any change in plans expected? Maybe some are, but I suspect most aren’t. Some are bad; some are good. Some result in a little change; some in a major change. This one, that began last Monday and extended through the rest of the week, was a doozey. A major change in direction for my extra-curricular activities, so to speak.

On Monday I received an e-mail from 23andMe, the DNA company, saying that I had new DNA relatives posted. Great; I get that e-mail from them every month. As new people have their DNA checked, 23andMe figures out who’s related to who, aggregates them month by month, and notifies you when you have new ones. I have new ones almost every month, but few are close relatives. Most are distant cousins, and we share 0.05% or less of our DNA. No way to tell how we are related, and not really worth taking time to try to figure it out.

It was World War 1, after all. Wartime romances can, I'm told, be intense. For sure your dad never saw this nice photo of you.
It was World War 1, after all. Wartime romances can, I’m told, be intense. For sure your dad never saw this nice photo of you.

But this month I had a guy added with the last name Penson. That’s significant because I’m related to another man (and his daughter) on there in a significant way. He was predicted to be my third cousin, and he was related to me and my half-sister, but not to some other cousins who are related to my through my grandmother’s mother. That meant this guy and I had to be related either through my mother’s father or her paternal grandfather. If this man and I are third cousins, that means we share great-great-grandparents as common ancestors. That’s close enough to pursue, so I asked for sharing with them. His daughter gave me what information she had for his great-grandparents. She had all of them, eight names for me to pursue, none of them a family name I recognized.

I need to back up. I haven’t know for sure who my mother’s dad was. My grandmother told me his name, way back in 1977-ish, but with her it was always difficult to know if she was telling the truth. Sorry if that’s a terrible thing to say about a grandmother, but it was so. She said he was married before, but had divorced his wife, and they were married. However, the marriage was annulled when her husband was found to be a bigamist. She described it as an honest mistake, him thinking his divorce was final when it really wasn’t. That’s how things stood for 40 years. I knew his name, which included only a diminutive for his first name. When I started to seriously research genealogy around 1998, and in the years since then, I would from time to time spend a little time looking for him. I thought once I found him, but couldn’t place the man of the right name and age in St. Lucia in 1917, which I was pretty sure was where he had to be for him to have a relationship with my grandmother and for my mom to be conceived.

It would have been nice for you to have known your dad. Alas, such are life's circumstances.
It would have been nice for you to have known your dad. Alas, such are life’s circumstances.

Back now to 23andMe. So on Monday I’m notified I have new DNA relatives. Among them was this man named Penson, who was predicted to be my 3rd cousin. The significance was Penson was one of the names given to me as great-grandparents of the other man. That told me I should be looking for a connection between Penson and Foreman, the name my grandmother said was her husband’s name (though she had never taken his name). An internet search turned it up almost immediately. A man of the right diminutive and last name was in a family where his mother’s name was Penson. Bingo!

I believe it was Tuesday that I found that. As I searched more for this man, I discovered he was Canadian (as I was told he was), and that he served in the military during World War 1—also as I had been told.  I just needed to put him in St. Lucia during that war. Further searching showed that Canadian WW1 records are scanned and on-line. I searched, found the guy, and saw he was in St. Lucia from November 1915 to August 1918—exactly when he needed to be there.

From that point the week was filled with confirmations, finding genealogy website that showed him with families before and after the war, and trying to find people of those names on Facebook. From various websites I was able to confirm much information those websites had, and even expand greatly on them. By Friday I was pretty sure who some half-first cousins were, and made contact on them on Facebook. With two of them I’ve had some messaging conversations. At this point I don’t want to give any names, even of the long dead. That may come in another post.

So, my forty year quest to know who my grandfather was is now over. Well, not quite over. I’m hoping some first cousins will be willing to take DNA tests to confirm the relationship. All the pieces have fallen into place, confirming what my grandmother told me. But so long as there’s a scientific way to prove it, why not? That will be the next step.

So, this week, I hope to return to normal off-work activities, such as writing, reading, stock trading, upkeep around the house. The saga isn’t over, but may have to go on the back burner for a bit.

Author Interview: Paul Lawrence

Today’s blog post is an interview of author Paul Lawrence. I don’t remember exactly where I met Paul on-line. Probably at a blog for writers that we both read and post at from time to time. I checked out him and his writing. Time for you all to know about it.

DAT: Your website bio indicates you were a computer security analyst, and that you wrote articles in your professional field. How does someone make the jump from writing computer articles to writing creatively?

Paul in a casual pose, no doubt with the gray cells churning out a scene or some dialog.
Paul in a casual pose, no doubt with the gray cells churning out a scene or some dialog. And, while I’m at it, thank you, Paul, for your service to our country.

PL: For many years, I dreamt of writing fiction. In fact, my wife bought a wood name plaque with Paul Lawrence (my pen name) on it about fifteen years ago for my birthday. She said, “Maybe this will motivate you.” But I stayed so busy with my work and keeping up with the changes in my chosen field, that there was little time even for reading outside my profession. I was asked to write an article for Securityfocus.com, because another writer had declined to at the last minute. Once I had written the first one, they kept asking me to write more. That helped me believe in myself as a writer.

When I retired, I decided it was time to fulfill my lifelong dream of being a novelist. But the two fields are so dissimilar that it’s quite a leap. In nonfiction, you write about facts but try to do it in an entertaining way.  With fiction, you have to stir the readers’ emotions and make them feel like they are living the experience.

The first thing I started writing was a crime story with a Christian
detective. The first fifteen pages were what is known as “telling”. I was writing the story as if it was nonfiction, describing the detective and his accomplishments without any emotion or action. (I may go back to that one day, but it will be dramatically different than the way I started it.)

DAT: Your book is titled “Prayers Were No Help”. It’s a provocative title. Tell us something about it. And how did you come to write it?

A novella, "Prayers Were No Help" is available both as an e-book and a print book.
A novella, “Prayers Were No Help” is available both as an e-book and a print book.

PL: It’s a story about a guy who is flying high, enjoying life and success, and thinks the good times will never end. Then his wife is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and his world comes crashing down. Like many others in similar circumstances, he sinks into depression and begins drinking heavily.

Realizing that he has to either end it all or find a way out of the
darkness surrounding him, he travels to his family’s lake cabin to be alone with his thoughts and the bottle. But he meets a mysterious man named Toby, who’s persistence and patience lead to his healing and a positive outlook on life from a God-centered perspective.

One day, he decides to return to the lake and thank Toby and finds out Toby was not who he thought he was at all.

I was inspired to write the story, because I have been touched by cancer personally. I lost my best friend to pancreatic cancer, and five years ago my wife was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Then, while she was waiting for her surgery date, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Both of us believed she would beat cancer, and she has. She has been cancer-free for five years now. The experience, dealing with the doctors and learning about the treatment modalities, informed my writing.

The title was suggested by my editor. I had tried similar ones but liked her suggestion so much I decided to use it. I think it speaks to the questions we all have when we think our prayers aren’t being answered and we don’t understand why. I love the Garth Brooks song, Unanswered Prayers, by the way.

DAT: Why did you decide to self-publish this?

PL: Since I’m new to the business, I began by doing a lot of research. I knew it wasn’t easy to publish using the traditional route, but I tried. I was told that no one reads Christian fiction and no one wants to publish novellas.  (My book is only 23,000 words, less than half the length of some novels and less than a quarter the size of many sci-fi novels.) I knew the story was complete. Adding more to it would have made it worse. So, eventually I decided to self-publish. Even if only one person reads it, it is my prayer that that one person will be inspired.

What’s next for you? I assume you’re working on a second book, if not  even more than that.

Actually, I have three in the pipeline.  The first, which is nearing completion, is a story about a young man from Iowa who volunteers to go to Vietnam, to carry on the family tradition. His experience there, and upon returning, shapes his life and causes him to endure a great deal of emotional upheaval. In the end, God’s love will save him and heal his heart. The title is Some Wounds Never Heal.

The second and third are in the germ stage; a story about a woman who is abused by her husband and how she finds the strength to believe in herself and God to escape from that prison, and a story about a girl who is kidnapped by a serial killer and a female FBI profiler who desperately wants to catch him before he kills again. The two together will solve the case and bring closure to many grieving families.

DAT: So there you have it, folks. Check out Paul’s book at Amazon, as well as his website.

Things Useless and Distracting

I was a senior in high school when this eclipse happened. The map says I was in 98% eclipse. I don't remember it as being particularly special.
I was a senior in high school when this eclipse happened. The map says I was in 98% eclipse. I don’t remember it as being particularly special.

The last four to five days have been much taken up with things that I found distracting, and, to some extent, useless.

Oh, I’ve had some important things in my life. Such as work around the house and yard on Saturday. Such as the weekly Wal-Mart run on Saturday. Such as church yesterday, including teaching adult Life Group. I spent a little time on the checkbook, and am pretty well caught up on that (though not on budgeting). Beyond that, truly meaningful things accomplished recently are few and far between.

I view the eclipse that will take place today as something similar. Big deal. We will be at about 92% eclipsed. Based on eclipses I remember from 1970 and 1979, that’s not really enough to get excited about. The amount of sunlight is lessened, and the sky looks eerie. But it doesn’t really get dark. I suspect you have to be at 99% for it to be really dark, to really see the disc of the moon covering the sun.

Our maximum eclipse is at 1:12 p.m. I’ll take my usual noon walk between 12:30 and 1:00. So I’ll be walking as the shadow is getting larger. I might glance up for a quick look just before I go inside. But, anything more? No. It’s just not worth it. One more thing useless and distracting.

Thoughts on the Removal of Confederate Monuments

The Confederate monument on the square in downtown Bentonville
The Confederate monument on the square in downtown Bentonville

Once again, removal of Confederate monuments, symbols, and references from the states that were part of the Confederacy is hot in the news, even in the city I work in, Bentonville, Arkansas. Actually, it’s not just the states of the Confederacy that have such monuments. The border states, the ones that were slave-holding but stayed in the Union, also have a fair number of Confederate monuments. And, a few such monuments exist in states that made up the Union side—not many, but a few.

In addition to monuments, you have: schools named for leaders of the Confederacy; military bases named for leaders of the Confederacy; US Navy ships named for leaders of the Confederacy; streets named for…you get the picture. These are everywhere, at the Federal, state, and local level.

It's hard to see, but behind the landscaping recently added, in big, bold letters is "CONFEDERATE"
It’s hard to see, but behind the landscaping recently added, in big, bold letters is “CONFEDERATE”

 

Should they be removed? And, if so, how far should you go? In the city of Lowell, Arkansas, which is in the county where I live and work, a street is named for William Henry Harrison, 9th president of the USA. At two city council meetings I attended in that city, during public comment time, a certain man stood up and demanded that the street be renamed, because Harrison was a slave owner (I got the impression this man did this in every city council meeting). Is that a good idea? If so, you should also rename streets named after George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, etc., who were also slave owners.

How this monument gives praise to a public servant.
How this monument gives praise to a public servant.

But focusing for a moment on the monument issue, should they be removed from public land? Most such monuments are to the leaders of the Confederacy, such as General Robert E. Lee and President Jefferson Davis. But not all of them are. The monument in the square in Bentonville is to a man named James H. Berry. Originally from Alabama, he was raised in Bentonville and eventually became a legislator, governor, and U.S. senator. But, before that, during the Civil War, he enlisted and became a junior officer. Being wounded in one of his first battles, he came home and took no further part in the war. The monument, however, isn’t really about him. The statue is of him, and his name appears, with a plaque that details his years of public service. But elsewhere on the monument is this inscription: “1861-1865 To the Southern soldiers” On the base of the monument, on each of the four sides, the word “Confederate” is prominently displayed. This was erected in 1908, forty-three years after the end of the Civil War. On the base of the statue, on all four sides, “CONFEDERATE” appears in the largest letters on the statue.

A movement is now afoot to remove this monument. Should it be removed? The funny thing about this, there was absolutely no clamor about removing this monument until Sunday, August 13, 2017. In light of what had happened in Charlottesville, Virginia on the two previous days, a group of concerned people got together in Bentonville to make a public statement against hate. They did this in the center of the city, which is the square in front of the courthouse, the square where this monument is. As they got together, they stood on the paved path that encircles monument. They held hands as they sang and prayed for unity, peace, and giving up hate. I was unable to go due to an after-church meeting. From what I can tell based on reports, the “demonstration” was beautiful. The venue, however, was the worst possible place in the city to hold such a gathering. You decry racism and hate while encircling a Confederate monument? The event organizers should have thought that one through a little more. At the end of the “demonstration,” a number of people started chanting “Tear it down!” What else could you expect?

What it says on the monument around the corner. The other reason for it, perhaps the main reason.
What it says on the monument around the corner. The other reason for it, perhaps the main reason.

But I ask again, should this monument be removed? As I said in an earlier post on this blog, I say no: don’t tear down this monument, or any other. I say that as a man of mixed race but who knew nothing of the black component of my heritage until I was 46 years old, who never faced racial prejudice, who was raised in the north but who has spent most of his adult life in the south. This monument wasn’t erected to be a symbol against me or my people. So I can certainly understand that the feelings of others that are contrary to mine are valid, and perhaps more valid than mine.

Again I suggest that we not tear down this monument in Bentonville, or those in other places. Rather, add to them to tell the full history. To this monument in Bentonville, I suggest adding these words. If they won’t fit on the monument itself, find another way to prominently display them so that they will be seen equally with what’s already there.

This man, while honorable and a public servant, fought to preserve slavery. That may or may not have been his intent, but that’s what he did. That’s what all the enlisted soldiers did. They fought to preserve white ownership of blacks for no other reason than skin color. Remember this. Learn from it. Never let such an injustice happen again.

The print book is now available.
The print book is now available.

Do that in Bentonville. Do that in Charlottesville. Do that in Richmond. Do that at Stone Mountain, Georgia, along with an image of a white overseer whipping black slaves. Do this, and the full history will be told. Do this, and maybe, just maybe, we will make sure no such injustice happens again. And maybe, just maybe, the hate that these monuments seem to promote will be lessened, or even done away with.

We won’t expunge history, but will tell it fully and openly. We won’t forget it. And learn from it.

Author | Engineer