(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images/The Minnesota Reformer).
This year marks my twentieth as a member of the U.S. Army War College faculty and resident of the greater Carlisle community.
Each year we receive a new cohort of War College officer-students attending the resident education program. They come from diverse backgrounds and locations from across the nation.
In addition, we have about 80 International Fellows from more than 70 countries.
We encourage both U.S. students and International Fellows to explore the America outside of the perimeter of Carlisle Barracks. In doing so, we hope to connect them with our society and the nation we serve. This is part of the Carlisle experience we tout as an important part of their year with us.
In 2023, it seems that timing is everything. Our U.S. military continues to identify, assess, and remove confederate symbology from its posts, camps, and stations. The Department of Defense has commenced redesignation of installations named for officers of Civil War secessionist states.
On April 27, the first post was redesignated as Fort Gregg-Adams to honor two African American Army officers. The actions to remove iconography and rename posts undoubtably have resulted in informal discussions among our War College students and faculty.
I wondered to what extent similar conversations were happening within our Carlisle Borough.
In November 2021, I participated in the renaming ceremony at Dickinson College for some of its buildings and for an entrance gate to the campus, for which I represented the U.S. military in our community for Civil War veteran Noah Pinkney and his wife Carrie.
With my wife’s encouragement, I recently attended the first Friendship Dinner hosted by Moving Circles at our YWCA. The theme of the dinner gathering was to explore the meaning of community and to assess what kind of community we have in Carlisle, and then perhaps commit to creating the kind of community we think we should have.
Recently, one of our War College students sat down in a local establishment to enjoy a cup of coffee in the borough while watching the foot and vehicle traffic passing through the town square.
What the student observed caused him concern and generated the email message below. As you read the text of the email, consider the impression our town made on one ‘outsider.’
Email Subject: Race Today, Confederate Sympathies in PA
A large Confederate flag caught my eye as it passed by staked to the bed of a Chevy El Camino. The colors streamed from the rear window past the rear wheels and rose a couple of feet above the roof. It stood with a sick pride that reminded me to ask a question that has struck me several times this year.
What is the status of race relations in Carlisle, and to what extent do rebel sympathies spill into the public discussion?
I witnessed a dark blue F-150 parked near my apartment with a confederate front plate throughout the year. I have seen a white jeep in town with the same. A home on Petersburg Road I pass by every Sunday has a giant flag in the front yard. I have also seen a red Jeep with a confederate bumper sticker, and during some of the auto events, I’ve seen several more.
This is a complete anathema to me as we do not see this in my southern home state and would rarely see anything like this except in particular areas of my state. I do not have a scientific assessment of data to compare, but I expected no such appearances in Pennsylvania. Granted, my social and professional network back home may drive my experience, but I notice the difference.
It just seems unusual to see the rebel stars and bars north of the Mason-Dixon Line. You have to embrace the confederate attributes to publicize its sympathies up here; it’s more difficult to claim “Heritage, not Hate.”
No immediate response is required, and I’m open to meeting in person whenever it’s convenient for you.
I met with this student for about 30 minutes the following morning and we had a candid conversation. If you are interested in continuing the conversation about our Carlisle community, I invite you to check out https://www.movingcircles.org/
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.