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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Nothing Lasts Forever

And that includes the names of military bases -- or "posts" or "forts" or "camps," as the Army calls its facilities.  The Navy has both "bases" and "ports", and only the Air Force – which didn't begin until after World War II -- uses "base" exclusively.  But because the media has dubbed the issue of renaming military installations as "bases," that's what we will use.  The larger point is that names are far from inviolate and frequently change with time.


Here in Florida, for example, you probably know that cities such as Fort Myers and Fort Lauderdale evolved from Army posts built during the wars to wipe out the Seminoles.  If you go up to the mouth of the Hillsborough River, you will find the remnants of Fort Foster, another Seminole barrier on the road to Ocala, which was Fort King back then.  You probably know that Tampa once was Fort Brooke, and when Fort Brooke and Fort King closed, the sites returned to their native names, Tampa and Ocala.  Similarly, Miami was the native name for that area, and you would look in archives for a long time before realizing that it once was Fort Dallas.


These forts – and many hundreds of others – were deactivated when there no longer was a need for them.  The United States did not have a professional military for most of our history, and the War Department had no mandate to continue to honor men whose names had become obscure.  Erasing such names is not "erasing history."  Instead, our current conversation should be about whether or not a particular historical figure merits the honor bestowed. 


I noticed a commentator recently who said it was interesting to him that no historians were locking arms either to protect or to remove statutes.  Historians, of course, are not shallow enough to do that – but that doesn't mean we don't care.  We care deeply.  We just wish that the talkers would have a clue about what they are talking about, and that both sides of the argument would get off Facebook and learn some facts.




The most interesting thing to me about the controversy over renaming military bases is the conservative insistence that we cling to Civil War names.  Instead of debating the merits of specific Confederate and Union men, we should be thinking about greater esteem for the heroes of later wars, especially World War II.  These wars were not in defense of slavery, nor did the military men who led them commit treason against the United States.  World War II, in fact, was a straight-on fight for democracy, as well as for the literal lives of racial minorities throughout the world.  Equally to the point, African Americans joined, with both black men and black women understanding that their future might well depend on American victory.


While I support Black Lives Matter and other organizations working for reform, especially in law enforcement, it also is important for protestors to recognize that black people are not the only targets of racism.  Racism was (and is) pervasive throughout the globe.  Nazis, indeed, were so racist towards European Jews that they systemically exterminated six million of them.  Yet some modern radicals are so ignorant of history, so full of themselves and their narrow world, that they view Jews as an enemy, not fellow victims of racism. 


Nor is deep-seated prejudice limited to Europe and the Americas; it was equally powerful in Asia.  Prior to losing World War II just 75 years ago, the Japanese considered their emperor to be the earthly embodiment of God, and themselves divinely ordained to wipe out Koreans, Chinese, and other Asians -- as well as white colonialists.  If either Asian or European fascists had reached the United States, there is no doubt that African Americans, Native Americans, and more would have met the same horrific deaths as European Jews and Chinese Christians.


Homosexuals, gypsies, and others deemed different also were fascist targets.  Millions of people, many of them white, were enslaved all over the world.  They were starved, tortured, and worked to death, with their bones used as fertilizer.  Yet again, sadly, we have blacks, especially Black Muslims, who are not embarrassed to exhibit prejudice against others, particularly because of gender.




World War II really did change everything, or at least it was the beginning of real change.  The United Nations set new standards with the trials of war criminals, and "following orders" no longer would be a sufficient defense for participating in genocide.  Europe especially changed, from nations that chose Hitler and Mussolini to nations where freedom is possible for those who are different.  So how about some military installations to honor the genuinely honorable men who made this possible?  How about facilities named for Generals Omar Bradley and George Marshal. who led the war (and the peace) in Europe?  How about Admirals Chester Nimitz and William Halsey, who commanded the ships that took the Pacific back from men who thought they had a divine right? 


Your parents would have recognized those meritorious Americans, but the odds are that your children do not.  Bringing such genuine heroes of our own times to the attention of the next generation would help move the current (and often confused) conversation away from debates about this or that Civil War figure to more recent democratic achievers.  There are enough of them that we still could limit the renaming of military facilities to military leaders.  I'd be willing to ignore hugely important civilians if that is what it takes to satisfy the flag wavers who are proud to support the military -- even though most of them never signed up themselves.


But I really didn't intend to write all of the above.  It was supposed to be just a short introduction to the item that's been flying around the internet re "military bases named for Confederate generals." If you have seen this, you may have noticed that even though the search result says "10 military bases named after Confederate generals," only eight are listed.  Even more illustrative of the need for editors at Google is that there are no Navy or Air Force bases, but instead just Army installations that shouldn't be called "bases" in the first place.


The list also should have been categorized by size or alphabet or something other than its randomness -- so if you check on me, please know that I've rearranged Goggle's input to create a list ranked by greatest current importance.  Here are the eight -- located in just five of the thirteen Confederate states:


·      Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which abuts Pope Air Force Base, is the largest military installation in the world.  It has family connections for me:  It was the headquarters of the 82nd Airborne, and my sister's husband learned to parachute and fly there.  (And broke his back when his plane crashed.)  It is named for Braxton Bragg, a North Carolina native who fought in the wars against the Seminoles, Mexico, and the United States.  Indeed, the thing about Bragg and most of these generals that I find most offensive is that they got their West Point educations at taxpayer expense and then violated their sworn oath to the United States.

·      Fort Benning, which straddles the Chattahoochee River between Phenix City, Alabama, and Columbus, Georgia, is even important to me.  Hubby trained as an officer there, and several other family members were stationed at Benning.  It now has a beautiful and progressively thoughtful museum dedicated to the infantry.  I never heard of Henry Benning until I looked him up just now; he was a minor Confederate general, and most of his career was as a lawyer and judge.  There probably are many thousands of Benning veterans whose names would be more suitable.

·      Fort Gordon, in southeastern Georgia, has fewer family connections, but Hubby's brother was stationed there when he was in the Signal Corps.  Yes, the Army's communications unit is still called that because of the signal flags used for long-distance communication more than a century ago.  Fort Gordon began with the beginning of World War II, and the Signal Corps pioneered coding systems and modern computers.  Like Benning, Fort Gordon has an excellent museum that demonstrates the history of communications, both military and civilian.  John Brown Gordon, for whom it is named, was local plantation owner and only briefly a general.  He's got nothing whatever to do with the corps' important mission, and we can do much better.

·       Fort Hood, near Austin, Texas, specializes in armor – the tanks and other heavy equipment essential to land battles.  It is named for John Bell Hood, a West Point grad from New Orleans who was the youngest of generals.  Perhaps because, at the war's beginning, New Orleans surrendered almost without a fight, General Hood developed a reputation as recklessly aggressive.  He lost crucial battles, as well as an arm at Gettysburg.  So let's rename Fort Hood for Lyndon Johnson, who lived in that part of Texas and joined the Navy during World War II – even though he was a member of Congress.




·      Fort A.P. Hill, in eastern Virginia, was named for a native of that area, a professional soldier who also fought the Florida Seminoles.  Except for being killed a few days before the Confederacy surrendered, Hill did nothing particularly notable.  The fort didn't begin until 1941, in preparation for World War II and long after Ambrose Powell Hill had died.  My assumption is that the Roosevelt administration, which was in charge in 1941, placated a Virginia congressman with this Confederate name.  It probably doesn't matter much to anyone.

·      Fort Lee, also in eastern Virginia, is different, having been named, of course, for Robert E. Lee -- who needs no bio.  An ex-brother-in-law on Hubby's side of the family was stationed there, and if he is any measure, it definitely should go.  Seriously, Fort Lee traditionally was the headquarters of the Quartermaster Corps, and it appears today to have the same specialty of supply -- except that "supply" now is called "sustainment."  Whatever.  It also has a couple of museums, including one for the Women's Army Corps that used to be in Anniston, Alabama.  As to Robert E. Lee:  More things are named for him than any other Southerner, and somehow I don't think he would mind giving up this one.  Virginia has a lot of eligible nominees. 

·      You know that Camp Beauregard is going to be in Louisiana as soon as you hear the name.  Established during World War I and two decades after the death of Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, it's now a little place in Cajun country limited to training the Louisiana National Guard.  It has gone in and out of existence, so this is a good time for the Pentagon to strike it off their map.  Louisiana has a Democratic governor right now, and I'm sure he can think of something.

·      Finally, Fort Pickett, of course is named for the guy of the famous "Pickett's Charge" at Gettysburg – though it seldom is pointed out that General George Pickett was unsuccessful and that the South lost this tremendous battle, which was its only attempt to invade the North.  For someone who hates to identify with losers, Donald Trump certainly is doing so with his knee-jerk reaction to the renaming proposal.  Anyway, Fort Pickett, like Fort A.P. Hill, is near Richmond, and like Camp Beauregard, now is primarily used by the Virginia National Guard.  If the Pentagon decides to give up on it, Virginia also has a Democratic governor.  The times, they are a'changin.



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