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Whatís in a Name?

Justin Kiska

(9/2017) I had just finished my column for this month and was getting ready to submit it for publication when something happened that made me set it aside.

What happened you ask?

A school board in Oregon decided to remove "Lynch" from the names of three elementary schools Ė Lynch Meadows Elementary, Lynch View Elementary, and Lynch Wood Elementary Ė because they feared the word was conjuring up images of lynch mobs and lynchings.

In a statement, Sharlene Giard, the chairwoman of the Centennial School District, said, "We have children of color and other cultures and we want to make sure that they are able to cross the threshold of those three schools and be comfortable in their surroundings."

That would make perfect sense if it werenít for the fact that the reason these three schools had "Lynch" in their name was because over a century ago, the Lynch family donated the land for the schools to be built. They were named after people. People who wanted to help make a difference and do something good for their community.

Unfortunately, because their last name might now upset someone, it has to go. No one is saying anyone in the Lynch family ever did anything wrong. No one is accusing them of being racists. They werenít generals in the Confederate Army. They didnít do anything except have the wrong last name in todayís politically correct charged atmosphere.

At what point do we say that this is getting a little ridiculous?

I do understand having discussions about removing statues or symbols on public land that can be deemed offensive or have some direct connection to hate or intolerance. I would certainly never want to a statue of Adolph Hitler in a public square. But changing a schoolís name because it may upset someone . . . ? I understand this is a very emotional issue. But at some point, common sense and rational thinking must prevail.

Iíve said it before and I will again. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say we have the right to not be offended. And now if we have to start changing names of things just in case they upset someone, does that mean Taneytown needs to change its name? What about Lynchburg, Virginia?

The Lynch family did something good for their community. They deserve to be recognized for it. Not banished from public view just because some people donít like their name.

That is where I had intended on ending my column. Then the events in Charlottesville occurred.

I am personally of the belief that we canít change history simply by removing anything and everything that reminds us of darker times in our past. As a student of history, I know the only way we can better ourselves in by learning from history, even if that means confronting those darker times. Will taking down every statue of a Confederate general really make a difference? Or are we missing an opportunity to have an open conversation about what happened during the Civil War and what that general was fighting for or against?

Youíll remember that it wasnít too long ago that the City of Frederick removed a bust of Chief Justice Roger Taney from in front of City Hall because of the part he played in the Dred Scott Decision. And officials in Annapolis are once again talking about removing a statue of Taney from in front of the State House. Shouldnít we use Justice Taney as a way to educate people about what the Dred Scott Decision meant and how all these years later we see why it was wrong? We should be using him in the fight against what he stood for.

The violence that erupted in Charlottesville can in no way be condoned. We will never be able to get to a place where we can have open and honest conversations as long as there are people who thrive on hate and bigotry. Any group thatís sole purpose is to advocate for the repression of others and uses violence and hate as weapons, makes itself irrelevant and should be treated as such. People are allowed to have their own beliefs in this country, but they arenít allowed to hurt others. There can be no tolerance for that.

This is a very emotionally charged issue facing our country today. One that wonít be going away anytime soon. The only way for us to come out on the other side better than we are today is for cooler heads to prevail and for the majority to avoid following the path of violence and hatred and talk to one another.

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