Roy Exum: Writing From Bragg Avenue

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Far and away, my favorite comment on destroying statues appeared on my Facebook page the other day and, believe it or not, it was the clear-minded Times Free Press Sports Editor Stephen Hargis who penned, “This statue offends me! It must be torn down!” Underneath his fiery words, the long-suffered UT football fan posted a picture of the bronze monument outside of Bryant-Denny stadium of Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

That perfectly illustrates how the crazies have turned their attention to destroying another something that their shallow minds believe will make a key difference in our lives instead of a void.

One time I lived on Hooker Street, named for General Fightin’ Joe Hooker, who was on the Union side. In the years I lived there just the mere mention of my street address never failed to bring a smile but – get this -- never did a person – not one – associate it with the War Between the States.  Oh, I could explain it all I wanted but that was boring compared to the wondering if any lady-long-legs might live in my house.

As a matter of fact, back in those days you were assigned a telephone number by South Central Bell. When the clerk sent me mine she could hardly contain herself: 821-5678. “Look at the corresponding letters on your phone … the last four digits spell L-O-S-T … ‘Lost on Hooker Street’ … C’mon, you know that’s funny.” Yes ma’am.

Today I live on Bragg Avenue, just right above where the “Battle above the Clouds” was fought in the Chattanooga Campaign of the Civil War. The street where I live is named for Confederate General Braxton Bragg. Other street names in my community include Lee, Forrest, Crandall, and Morrison – just to name a few – and we’ve got a military park not a mile away chock full of monuments to American people. We’ve even got a Lincoln Street.

Is there any numbskull in the world who thinks my street address bothers me or is offensive to anybody else?  On the Georgia side of Lookout Mountain there wasn’t much spilt blood. That’s why some of the Georgia streets are named for fairies and nymphs -- Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Gnome Trail. None of them have complained, either.

The best way I have heard it is, “That was then, this is now.” This statue garble is total nonsense. Because of my Bible, I am assured every man or woman – those on any statue aside from Jesus – have a flaw that could keep any of them from getting into the Kingdom of heaven. I believe statues are intended to remind us of the past as we travel into the future. “He who does not study history is forced to relive it.” And, guess what? Every politician who orders a statue removed ain’t ever gonna’ deserve one.

There are ten Army bases named for Confederate generals. What’s next? Should we bomb Fort Lee in Virginia, Camp Beauregard in Louisiana, Fort Benning in Georgia, Fort Gordon in Georgia, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Polk in Louisiana, Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, Fort Pickett in Virginia, Fort Rucker in Alabama, and Fort Hood in Texas?

I can tell you what the soldier’s stance is. In New York City, in the borough of Brooklyn, there is an Army base known as Fort Hamilton (think Alexander, or a $10 bill) and it dates back to 1776 as a coastal gun base.  It has two particular streets, one General Lee Avenue and the other Stonewall Jackson Way, and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY) is determined they must be changed. “Monuments to the Confederacy and its leaders have always represented white supremacy and a continuing attempt to deny the basic human rights of African-Americans,” she said.

The Congresswoman didn’t divulge exactly what “basic human rights” anyone is denying, and now New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is all riled up as well.

Last week there was a wrought-iron plaque in front of a tree at a now-shuttered Episcopal church near Fort Hamilton, this in a quiet Brooklyn neighborhood, that read, “This tree was planted by General Robert E. Lee in 1842 while he was stationed at Fort Hamilton.” Well, when the NY priests got the news they wasted not a second before taking down the 105-year-old plaque in front of the tree Lee grew in Brooklyn.

“For us, it wasn’t a decision that needed more than a minute of thought,” said Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. “I think it was the right thing to do, because (the plaque) just being there was offensive to the African-American community.”

Forget that Lee and Stonewall Jackson ever worshiped their God in the church, that they were graduated from West Point and, at the time, were very much honored officers in the Union’s Army. That is the view of the Army, which originally denied the Congresswoman’s request.

Army records show the streets were named after the Civil War in “the spirit of reconciliation,” a trait some Americans amazingly still find in short supply. Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for the Army, Diane Randon, said that removing their names would be “controversial” and contrary to the why they are so-named. The men in question "were honored on Fort Hamilton as individuals, not as representatives of any particular cause or ideology,” she wrote.

Since then, Rep. Clarke has introduced what amounts to no more than “hate legislation,” masked as “The Honoring Real Patriots Act of 2017.” Her bill would require the Department of Defense to rename any streets currently designated for individuals that either fought for or supported the Confederacy.”

If Congress orders our military to rename its streets, what becomes of our bases? If we rename Fort Bragg – the largest military installation in the world – how many steps removed before Bragg Avenue on Lookout Mountain will be named for a fairy or a nymph?

From experience I demand something with more zip. Everybody would smile when my Southern voice would say, “Two-oh-six Hook-ah Street.”

“I’m sorry … I didn’t understand your accent…”

“Hook-ah … HOOK-ah … you know, like a lady of the evenin’”

Every sales girl would giggle.

royexum@aol.com


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