Photo by Edward F. Palm)

About Me

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Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

My Column for January 31, 2016

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Column for January 24, 2016

Sunday, January 10, 2016

My Column of January 10, 2016

My Column of January 3, 2016

History under further review

The late Hunter S. Thompson, or some like-minded soul, put it best: “When the going gets weird, the weird get going.” That’s about as good a summation of what’s happening these days in the previously hallowed, but now hollowed out, halls of academe as I can find.

Case in point: The Black Student Union at Lebanon Valley College is demanding that the college rename Lynch Memorial Hall. The building is named after Clyde A. Lynch, an alumnus who served as president of the college from 1932 to 1950 and who died in office. As far as anyone knows, Lynch was not a racist and was never associated with any racist practices or statements. And he was widely praised for managing to keep the college open throughout the depression. Students of color, however, find the name itself an offensive reminder of lynching.

It occurs to me that the city of Lynchburg, Virginia, is equally insensitive. Lynchburg was named after John Lynch, who received a charter to found the city in 1786. Given the tenor of the times, Lynch may or may not have been a hateful racist or even a slave holder. But that’s irrelevant. His name alone is liable to remind people, especially people of color, of the practice of lynching.

But a river runs through it — the James River. Hence, I suggest Lynchburg be renamed New Jamestown.

Closer to home, the current DEX directory reveals that at least 11 people and one business bear the name Lynch here in Kitsap County. I recommend they change their names lest they find themselves accused of a “micro-aggression” — academe’s current term of art for expressing attitudes or invoking associations deemed to be offensive or politically incorrect.

As if by uncanny foresight, the bard of my generation, Bob Dylan, put it best: “Look out, kid./It’s something you did./ God knows when,/but you’re doing it again!”

And no one’s safe. The liberal ideologues on campus today feel entitled to judge the quick and the dead.

At Princeton, in mid-November, students occupied the president’s office demanding that the university rename the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The school was named after Wilson because of his leadership in founding the League of Nations after World War I. The problem, however, is that Wilson was not so progressive on the racial front.

While he campaigned on a promise of fair treatment of blacks, once elected, he segregated the federal government. Only after being promised that the university would consider renaming the Woodrow Wilson School would the students leave the president’s office.

As of this writing, Princeton’s trustees have not reached a decision. The issue, of course, is whether Wilson’s progressive accomplishments outweigh his regressive position on race. In all fairness, Wilson may have been a visionary about international affairs, but he was not able to convince his own country to join the ineffectual and shortlived League of Nations. Hence, I’ll punt on this one.

A more problematic figure is Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was a slaveholder who not only bought and sold slaves but also fathered a child with one. Because of that, students at William and Mary, Jefferson’s alma mater, have begun posting disparaging notes on his statue there, and students at the University of Missouri are circulating a petition demanding the removal of his statue from their campus.

Historians have given Jefferson mixed reviews on the issue of slavery. His economic security depended on the institution. But, later in life, he did support a gradual end to slavery, believing that African-Americans were inferior in intelligence and that a sudden emancipation would be a disaster for both races. To fall back on modern psychobabble, he seems to have been deeply conf licted about slavery throughout his life.

But Jefferson was also the author of our Declaration of Independence, and without his moral courage on that front, American independence may have had to wait a century or so. Still, his detractors tend to compare him to Washington, who in his will freed his slaves. The debate centers on which man more accurately reflected the attitude of his day regarding slavery.

That debate, however, is moot.

As the late professor and cultural critic Edward Said reminded us, no one completely transcends the cultural and social constructions of his or her time. We’re all shaped by the manners and mores of the times in which we live, and it is inherently unfair for future generations to summarily dismiss all our accomplishments because some of our practices or attitudes may fall outside of their enlightened standards.

In the end, we’re all subject to the balance scale of history, and to my mind, Jefferson’s positive accomplishments outweigh his commitment to slavery. And I suspect that he, and not Washington, reflected the conventional wisdom toward emancipation in his day.

Ed Palm of Silverdale is a Marine Corps veteran and former dean at Olympic College. Contact him at efpalm@ centurylink. net.

My Column for December 27, 2015

Demagogues doubling down

With the end of the year fast approaching, I'm devoting this week's column to tying up loose ends and clarifying where I stand on some of the issues swirling around us.

"Reason not the need!" Shakespeare's King Lear thunders when his two oldest daughters question the need for a retired king to retain a hundred knights and squires.

This is essentially the National Rifle Association's response whenever anyone questions the average citizen's need for a military-style assault rifle. The NRA seems to consider the Second Amendment to guarantee an absolute right to own any type of gun. That being the case, why not a howitzer for every home?

I'm engaging in a bit of hyperbole here, of course, to drive home the essential irony of the run on gun sales following the recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino. The most popular gun, according to national news reports, has proved to be theAR-15, essentially a civilian version of the military's M16 assault rifle. These buyers are seeking solace in firepower and losing sight of common sense. An AR-15, as with most rifles, does not lend itself to concealed carry. If you subscribe to the view that an armed citizenry is the best proof against a mass shooting, buy a handgun, not a rifle.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. would certainly agree. Regular readers of this column may recall that I devoted my column of April 21, 2013, to Falwell's initial call to arms ("Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition"). Liberty is a private Christian university, and Falwell had just announced a new policy allowing students, faculty, and staff to carry guns on campus. He bragged that this policy would make Liberty safer than Virginia Tech and other campuses that had suffered mass shootings.

According to recent Inside Higher Ed reports, Falwell has doubled down on the policy. Liberty requires all students to attend weekly convocations, and at the Dec. 4 convocation, Falwell acknowledged that he had a gun in his "back pocket" and encouraged all the students to get their concealed carry permits. If more citizens were armed, he added, we could "end those Muslims" before they could kill anyone. "Let's teach them a lesson if they ever show up here," Falwell said
Way to go, Falwell! Throw down a gauntlet and offer up your university as a test case and a target. That would be my concern were I the parent of a Liberty University student. As I've written before, guns in the hands of trained, seasoned professionals are indeed likely to make us safer. But encouraging young college students — many of whom are feeling overwhelmed with academic and personal pressures — to carry guns is likely to backfire (pardon the pun) on Liberty University.

Questioned later, Falwell denied that he meant to suggest that all Muslims are terrorists who need to be killed. But the seed was planted, and I suspect it will find fertile ground among Liberty's fundamentalist Christian students. Many probably believe we're heading toward a Christian/Muslim Armageddon. And that view seems to have been reinforced by a Liberty professor who, in defending Falwell, reminded students that Christ is not only the "Prince of Peace," but also the "Lion of Judah."
Falwell, I suspect, would find an ally in demagoguery in our leading Republican contender, Donald Trump. Both are exploiting popular fears and prejudices.

On the other hand, the problem with Obama is that he can't seem to allay our fears or counter our prejudices. His recent address to the nation impressed me as just more of the same.

Rhetorically, for instance, I find Obama's linguistic caution to be unnecessary and counterproductive. The phrase "radical Islam" doesn't imply that all Muslims are radical, nor does it disparage Islam in general. Obama's refusal to use the term merely invites criticism and would never change the minds of those who, like Trump, would like to register and discriminate against all Muslims.

Militarily, the linchpin of Obama's strategy remains building a coalition of regional forces. What if that never comes to pass? I wish he had given us some indication of progress on that front. We're only now stepping up our adviser and special-operations-forces commitment to make that happen.
Hence, I stand by my previous position: America has to take the lead in this fight, even if it means committing ground troops.

Two of my critics have called me an alarmist and charged me with echoing the discredited hawkish argument over Vietnam — e.g., that we have to fight them there so that we don't have to fight them here. But it's a false analogy. The NVA and VC had no intention of following us back home. They just wanted us gone. Not so with ISIS. Is there really any doubt that they aspire to attack us here?

Ed Palm is a community columnist for the Kitsap Sun. He is a Marine Corps veteran and former dean at Olympic College. He lives in Silverdale. Contact him at efpalm@centurylink.net.