Essays/Opinion

Recent Articles

My First Visit to an S.C.V. Camp Meeting

Although I have attended a Sons of Confederate Veterans (S.C.V.) grave dedication, I had never attended an actual S.C.V. camp meeting and when I learned my friend Paul Gramling would be attending a local S.C.V. meeting in Texarkana, I decided to go.  I really did not know what to expect, so the first thing I did was ask if it would be okay for me to attend a meeting.  As far as I knew the organization might have secret handshakes, passwords, and might not smile too kindly on an outside, especially a writer, attending their meetings.  After gaining the reassurance that I would be welcome, and in fact that anyone is welcome to attend, I made my way to Smokey Joe’s in Texarkana last night for the meeting of Red Diamond Camp #2193 of the S.C.V.

Upon arrival, I was happy to find I knew a couple of people in attendance.  I visited with them while waiting for Paul to arrive.  Once Paul and his wife arrived, the meeting got underway in what appeared to be a normal fashion.  The pledge to the U.S. flag and Texas flag were given and an honor to the Confederate fallen was extended.  A prayer was offered by the chaplain ending in the name of Jesus Christ.   One of the interesting things I noted during the pledge was that several of the members saluted the flag which is a clear indication of them having served in the U.S. military.  So far, these men and women gathered did not seem like an “anti-American” group assembling to rant about politics a raise the old Confederacy up.  At that point, the business portion of the meeting started. The business portion of the meeting proceeded much like any fraternity meeting might go.  There were discussions about new and old business, new members, visitors – where I was recognized as “the press” – and naturally, an introduction to Paul and his wonderful wife was given.  Paul currently serves as the Lt. Commander-in-Chief for the entire SVC organization.  If you are not familiar with my first meeting with Paul, you should read the article The History and meaning of the Shreveport Confederate Monument.  He is a wealth knowledge when it comes to the history of the war. During the meeting, I learned that this particular camp has painted flag poles in cemeteries as a community outreach and that they provide bottled water to local law enforcement during the summer months.  I did not ask if each camp had a specific charity, but it seemed that this camp had a solid focus on serving as they could in the community.  I also learned that they provided the cannon for the recent Scout-O-Rama at Spring Lake Park.  The annual event brings in Boy Scouts from around the area and the S.C.V. group was able to provide a live demonstration of a cannon’s operation.  Again, this group appeared to be very community minded.  It reminded me of my visit with the group during a grave dedication.  You can read about the grave dedication here S.C.V. Camp Places Memorial Stone in Miller County. When Paul addressed the group, it was noted that he is running to be the highest leader in the S.C.V. organization.  While I do not know much about the voting process of the organization, I could certainly tell that Paul was passionate, dedicated, and had a solid plan for the organization.  He began to talk about recent attacks on the S.C.V. and how the media often portrays the organization in a negative light.  Paul feels strongly that the S.C.V. must start standing up and defending itself, the history, and the heritage.  He noted that the recent attacks on Confederate Monuments is just a starting point.  He also told about the attacks on monuments to Andrew Jackson and others.  He feels that there is a concentrated effort to remove not only Confederate history but also various aspects of the history of the U.S. as a whole. Continue Reading →

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April 4, The Day They Silenced Him

For most people April 4, 2018, will roll slowly by and pass just like any other day.  People will work, shop, eat, and spend time with family and friends.  Some will surf the Internet in the evening and others will watch television and catch up on the latest news.  Around the nation, there will be some celebrations, some parades, and a few speeches made today, but in all honestly most people will end the day thinking it was a just another typical Wednesday during the month of April, in the year 2018.  The significance of the date will be lost on many, and that is sad.  It is sad because fifty years ago to this day, a voice was silenced whose words and actions have had a profound and lasting impact on all of America, and in fact on all Americans.  April 4, 1968, was the day they would silence a voice calling for equality, rights, and decency in America.  They would silence the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 4, 1968, fifty years ago to this day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was silenced by a bullet.  Perhaps, being a man of prayer and having a strong love for God, King knew his time was ending.  Perhaps he knew the end was near in his heart and soul when he spoke publicly the last time before his death and said, “I’m not worried about anything.  I’m not fearing any man.  Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” to a group of around 3,000 gathered to hear him.   He would say those words with confidence and assurance to his friends, family, and supporters.  He would say them to the nation, and as the six O’clock hour came and passed, King would lay dead in a pool of his own blood, on a small concrete balcony, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Within hours of King’s death, uprisings and riots would spread like wildfire across the nation.  While some would pray and cry, others would seek vengeance and destroy.  Nobody seemed to know exactly what to do, and the man who had told, lead, and guided was now silenced by a single bullet. Maybe King always knew he was meant to have a short life since he strived to accomplish so much before that bullet struck him at 39 years of age.  He had attended Morehouse College, was ordained as a minister by the age of 19 and would have his Ph.D. by 26.  Later he would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the age of 35.  He had lived to see the repeal of the Jim Crow laws, he had lived to see the Civil Rights Act of 1957, The Civil Rights act of 1960, and the act that would propel change across America, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which he would not only push for, but witness being signed into law.  Dr. King would also write five books and leave behind countless speeches.  He would go from marches and serving time in jail, to meetings with Presidents and Senators.  He would become a symbol for the movement of equality and in fact become the very voice for that movement. By April 4, 1968, King had done so much more than most people can do in a lifetime that it is no wonder that he spoke confidently when he said, “I’m not worried about anything.”  His voice had been spoken, his words had been shared, his mission had been preached, and King- better than anyone else – knew that he had done what God had called him to do. Today there isn’t a life in the United States that is not affected by Dr. King’s work.  The impact of his work can be felt from the disabled person who is no longer required to be put away in an institution somewhere, to the worker who can no longer be hired or fired based on sex, religion of heritage.   The Muslim who cannot be fired because of his faith has King’s work to thank.  The African-American who can attend any university in the country has King’s work to thank.  The woman who cannot be harassed on her job has King’s work to thank.  The LGBT person that cannot be discriminated against has King’s work to thank.  The list is perhaps limitless for the people that King has impacted not only during his short life, but since that fatal day of April 4, 1968. Continue Reading →

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Why are Easter and April Fools Day on the same day this year?

Today is Easter Sunday, the most important Christian holiday, and April Fools Day, a day commemorated by playing pranks. There has been a joke going around social media that parents should tell their children they have hidden Easter eggs, when they haven’t done so and after the children search unsuccessfully searched for the colored eggs, the parents should shout “April Fools.”

No doubt many people will wonder why Easter is being celebrated on April Fools Day. April Fools Day, which in some counties is called All Fools Day, is celebrated every year on April 1. It is one of those holidays that doesn’t change dates. This day is celebrated by playing jokes and spreading hoaxes. Continue Reading →

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Roseanne Episode Two’s Subtle Little Message to America

The television series Roseanne has never been one to shy away from political, social, family and religious topics in the least.  With the launch of season ten, or as some call it the reboot or relaunch, the show continues to be true and relative to the issues we face today.  With so many issues on the table such as voting, medication and insurance cost, surrogate parent decisions, moving back home with parents, sibling issues, mixed families, it is almost easy to lose sight of one message tucked away in the young character Mark. Mark is Darlene’s young son and he has some unique views on fashion.  While people like Dennis Rodman, Liberace, Elton John, or the Culture Club – yes, I know who the Culture Club was from the 80’s – can dress in clothing that most would consider “for girls,” an elementary student is not in the eyes of his peers, a major star.  Simply put, he cannot get along without expecting some trouble at school.  Even Roseanne, who can intimidate most people, is unable to intimidate all of Mark’s class when she warns them that she is a witch.   The young man still faces a rough first day. After the first day, Darlene confronts Mark about a knife he had school.  Perhaps her fear is that the bullying by others was leading Mark to take action that would cause harm to other.  This fear is quickly stopped when Mark informs her he was simply going to give it to the other kid in hopes that he would stop bullying him and play with him.  The bully, unseen, had told Mark that he would tell everyone not to play with Mark.  As Darlene tries to reassure her son, he calmly informs her that “…nobody played with me anyway.”  It’s at this moment we see the tears of a parent who supports and loves her child.  She hurts for her young son, fights back the tears and informs him that things will get better.  Mark, always the optimist so far in the series, agrees and goes back to doing his homework. The show carefully shows that Mark has the support of his family.  His support system includes a Trump Supporter Republican who thanks God for Making America Great Again during meal-time prayer in Roseanne, a “life-coach” aunt who wants them all to get along, a grandfather who wants a “manly grandson”, a concerned mother, and siblings and cousins who appear concerned and uncertain of the young Mark.   At the center of it all, despite being bullied at school, Mark is happy as he plays basketball with his supportive family.  He even climbs a stack of boxes and chairs set up to allow him to slam dunk the ball to which his grandfather notes that his grandson can wear a skirt if he wants, but he has to wear underwear with it. While Roseanne can be a loudmouth and somewhat socially awkward family-based show, it does manage to get one thing right that many Americans miss.  Mark is accepted just as he is by the entire family.  Mark will, as his grandfather states, “get beat up,” but he’s going to have the support of his family at home, and this fact seems to drive the character to continue to be happy even when no one is willing to play with him at school.  This powerful message needs to be shared. Continue Reading →

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A Marine Arrives in Heaven

“The Marines have landed, and the situation is well in hand.”  Richard Harding Davis, the famous American journalist wrote those words well over one hundred years ago.   When the Marines landed and fought in Okinawa, Guadalcanal, Saipan, Tinian, and Tarawa, Jessie Tinsley was there.  Jessi Tinsley was a member of the 2nd Division Marines and served from 1941-1945.  During this time, he fought in the Pacific Campaign for the United States.  There he witnessed some of the most brutal fightings of the war and received the Bronze Star for his service in combat.  He rose through the Marines to the rank of Master Sergeant.  Later, during the Korean War, he would continue his service as an instructor for the Marines. Jessie would take his Marine training and experience and turn it into a successful life after his service time had ended.  He would go on to be a Certified Life Guard, an electrical contractor, and even a president for a term serving the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).  Several times throughout his life he would be interviewed and honored for his service to the country as a Marine.   He would raise a family, and live the American dream. By the time I met Jessie, he was well into his 90s.  I met him at a small function where Jessie came in with the assistance of a wheelchair and spoke with several people.  The event was not meant to honor him, but his name and service were quickly brought up.  Along with several other people, I spoke with him, listened to his stories and “talked politics”.  He had the natural ability to draw people to himself.  He smiled, he talked, and he instantly seemed to be like everyone in the room’s grandfather. It was during this function that I had the honor of observing Jessie interact with a young Marine.  As I stood back and watched, the young Marine approached Jessie as if he was approaching the President of the United States or perhaps some other great dignitary.  You could see the awe and wonder in the young man’s eyes as he kneeled down next to Jessie’s chair, and said, “Sir, I want to thank you for your service to our country and to the Marines.”  The young man was not wearing a uniform but knew for a fact that not only was the man a Marine, but he also was an officer in the Marines.  He held a rank that was higher than the one Jessie held, but he spoke to Jessie as if he would have followed him into battle anywhere the Marines may have had to go.  The two men locked eyes and it was at that instant that I knew each recognized the other as a fellow Marine.  The moment was beautiful for the Marines and even more beautiful for our nation. Continue Reading →

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Congress Fails to Protect 29 States with Medical Marijuana

The United States Government has a long history of breaking promises and once again it appears poised to break a promise to the people.  If you really doubt this and think your government could never break a promise, simply look to Native Americans and ask them how they feel about promises made and broken.  It will not take a long walk through history before you clearly see that nothing promised is guaranteed by the government.  29 states and the District of Columbia will soon be in the target sights of U.S. attorneys.  The target this time will be medical marijuana and the failure to act that goes to the halls of Congress. While the medical marijuana business has boomed in the last few years, it has not done so without the knowledge that according to federal law it is still illegal.  During President Obama’s terms, there was a strict “hands-off” policy in place.  In fact, the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment made it temporarily impossible for the Justice Department to spend a dime on the prosecution of medical marijuana distributors and users where state laws protected them.  Now, this ban is about to expire and no new federal laws have been put in place by Congress to extend the ban, or to make it permanent.  Without the protections of the ban or new laws protecting medical marijuana on a federal level, the Justice Department could start implementing raids, arrest, and prosecutions in all 29 states and the District of Columbia once again. Unfortunately for those in need of medical marijuana, those experimenting in labs with potential cancer cures, and even those prescribing it under state laws, Jeff Sessions, the U.S. Attorney General, has openly indicated that he will not leave medical marijuana alone.   The decision has prompted stock sell-offs, shook up medical providers and even has Congress tweeting and discussing it, which appears to be all they seem willing to do these days.   Within the last fifteen hours or so, there have been several news stories covering the issue that now seems to be driving a “panic” in the states, for distributors, and for the medical community. Regardless of who is in charge in the federal government, this is simply another example of broken promises by the United States Government to the people.  In this case, over half the states in the country and the District of Columbia have taken the federal government at its word to not interfere with medical marijuana.   While it is sad to allow one office or man to break the promise of non-interference made by the government, it is perhaps more telling that a Congress – fully aware of the limitations placed on the restrictions – would allow the limitations to expire without taking action. Congressional representatives from 29 states, including Arkansas, have had plenty of time to hammer out laws and regulations that would have protected their home states and the people they represent from the Justice Department.  Jeff Sessions may be the instrument of attack in the broken promises to the American people, but the real failure sits squarely on the shoulders of Congressional representatives who squandered away the time given to them to make meaningful and lasting laws which would have allowed the states to continue with medical marijuana.   While we have yet to see exactly how Sessions will act, one thing is certain and that is that people will suffer due to a broken promise again on all levels from those in need to those providing the medical needs.  In our area, Texarkana stands to lose a substantial economic boom that could have helped hundreds of people from all around the four states.  Congress should be ashamed and more importantly, they should answer the burning question-why did they not act to protect their home state’s interest before now? Continue Reading →

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Disney Becomes the “Bully” of Theaters, and Consumers

Disney was long known as the home of Mickey Mouse, Donald, and an assortment of other characters created inside the gates of the Disney Empire.  Recently, that has changed and Disney has expanded its reach beyond characters they created and into characters that once operated independently or within another company.  Now Disney is using their ownership rights to bully the public and theaters into bending to Disney control. With the pending release of Star Wars, Disney is bullying theaters by requiring them  to show Star Wars for 4 weeks no matter if it stinks or is a hit.  Disney is further taking 70% off the top in sales, an increased amount which will hurt smaller mom and pop theaters which may have only have one screen.  Smaller theaters depend on more than one movie to be shown in a month, however, with Disney that smaller theater may be penalized an extra 5%. Disney owns Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and they make own their movies.   Soon they will require viewers to watch their “pay to view all” channel as well where Disney, Star Wars, Marvel, DC, etc. will be exclusively shown.  It appears they want to monopolize the industry with how long theaters show their movies, prices for tickets, 5% penalties to theaters who do not show their movies for 4 weeks, etc. Consumers might also have noticed when movies first come out on Blu-ray/DVD that there’s not really a “Release” sale anymore.  Disney has shown with Marvel’s Spider-man and DC’s Wonder Woman that the prices were regular price on release.  Movies were running $27.99 or $24.99 and when they finally did go on sale,  the prices were $19.99 or $12.99/$15.99 respectively. Continue Reading →

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Presidential Portrait Still Missing in Federal Courthouse Lobby

Update –  A good friend just contacted me after reading this article and shared an article from another publication stating that the President and Vice President have just released their official portraits.  Thank you for the feedback and thankful for friends taking time to point these things out to me!  
The Texarkana, USA Federal Courthouse is a unique building that sits in both Texas and Arkansas.  The building can be seen on post cards, is a frequent photoshoot site for tourist, and is the location where many U.S. Presidents have spoken going clear back to President Kennedy’s famous speech before his ill-fated trip to Dallas.  Walk inside the doors and, although security concerns have modified the entrance, you can not help but be in awe of the design, the ceilings, the doors, and other significant features leap out at you filled with history.  Walk around the main lobby of the Courthouse, also home to the post office, and you’ll notice the President and Vice-President’s pictures hanging just above the doors as you go out.  They hang there as a reminder that this is a federal building and that they are part of the decor requirements of our federal buildings.  As far as anyone can remember, the President and Vice President has had their portraits in the lobby of the famous Texarkana Courthouse always.  Well, at least until January 20, 2017, when the tradition apparently stopped for some unknown reason. On Inauguration Day 2009, George Bush walked out of the White House in our nation’s symbolic exchange of power and Barack Obama walked into it.  On that day it wasn’t about being Democrat or Republican, it was only about the fact that the President of the United States had served his term, and a new President was now taking office.  On that same day in Federal Courthouses across the land President Bush’s picture came down and President Obama’s was placed on the wall.  In Texarkana, the lobby of the U.S. Courthouse saw the same exchange.  President Obama would go on to serve two terms and on January 20, 2017, like Bush, President Obama would step down as President and hand over the reigns to the new President.  Across the land in Federal Courthouses the exchange of pictures started.  In Texarkana, President Obama’s picture came down, only this time, and perhaps for the first time in the courthouses’ history, no new President’s picture was hung from the old nail over the entrance to the courthouse lobby. Within a few months the Four States News noticed the lack of the President’s picture and an article was published.  Social media stirred with pictures and questions.  Some expressed anger that the picture was not there while others expressed relief as they did not support President Trump.  Through all the questions, nobody seemed to know why the new President’s picture was not hanging in the lobby. A few more months rolled by and rumors regarding there being no official portraits of the President seemed weak at best.  Postal workers stated that they had no control over the pictures.  They noted that the General Service Administration or GSA had oversight and was responsible to hang up all pictures and federal postings. A quick search of the Internet reveled a GSA number for information pertaining to the Federal Courthouse in Texarkana.  After several calls, and no answers, the Four States News opted for the online email site.  It requires a citizen to complete the form, press send and it goes off through the government’s email system.  A sender gets no copy of the email.  Despite sending the email through the government’s site a couple of months ago, there has been no response from the GSA to the Four States News’ inquiry regarding the President and Vice President’s portraits missing. Continue Reading →

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Happy Birthday We’re Increasing Your Premiums to Celebrate!

A few years ago, I reached the awkward age in life when the insurance companies no longer send you a happy birthday card, but instead send you a premium increase to start on or after your next birthday.   Needless to say, I was not happy about my birthday present from the insurance company when it arrived in the form of a letter to increase my cost, but that was to be expected.  This year, my birthday, most fortunate for me, once again rolled around and another letter came from my insurance company.   Much like the letter from the previous year, this one again congratulated me on reaching my milestone in life with a slight premium adjustment.  Naturally, that adjustment was in the upward, or insurance company’s favor. I had just about accepted the change of status that my aging body, which somehow must be breaking my so-called “Non-Profit’s” bank accounts, when I received yet another letter- and yes, my insurance company has a non-profit status.  The Arkansas Legislature, the insurance company blamed them, had given approval for a rate increase.  This letter was dated eight days after my “Birthday Letter” and announced yet another insurance increase.  This time I was mad. I immediately did what any old man my age would do…. I took to social media.  I blasted the insurance company the age increases over the last few years, and then for the update letter of new premiums.  I told them this was ridicules and that my insurance for health had gone up over $100 dollars in just eight days!  That was not to even mention the increase from the previous year.  In our time of social media, the insurance company was quick to respond and offer me the opportunity to speak to a representative if they could call me back.  I agreed to a Monday call. Continue Reading →

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Texarkana Arkansas Mill School Tax Equals NO TAX INCREASE

Texarkana Arkansas Mill School Tax Equals NO TAX INCREASE OR CHANGE But Does Bring in A 6 Million Dollar Partnership With The State

Texarkana, AR- During each election season, someone complains about the tax issue on the Arkansas School Ballots.  Usually during school board elections, you will find the candidates and a tax issue.  Some vote against it simply because they do not want new taxes, and that’s understandable though mistaken.   Others vote for it because they want to see the Texarkana Arkansas School District improve.  Still others refuse to vote either way on it due to not understanding it, not caring about it, or some other reason. Now, here’s the facts – the issue known as 38.90 Mill School Tax is NOT a new tax. It cannot be voted out.  So, a vote of no does not change the tax rate.  Usually a vote for yes does nothing either.  Obscure and sometimes hard to understand laws require the issue of the school tax to remain on the ballot regardless of its status.  The tax has been in place for years and has not increased.   That’s the way things have been…until now. Continue Reading →

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