Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Herald-Dispatch on discussions over Confederate symbolism in West Virginia:
The names of Albert Gallatin Jenkins and Stonewall Jackson offend many people in West Virginia. They want these names removed from places of honor.
So far they have not succeeded. Jenkins Hall at Marshall University still bears the general’s name. The Stonewall Jackson statue still stands at one corner of the Capitol grounds in Charleston.
The Jackson statue was erected on the grounds of the old Capitol in downtown Charleston in 1910. It was moved to its current spot on the southwest corner of the Capitol Complex in 1926 while the present Capitol was under construction. At least one critic of the statue has said the statue is in its current location because that spot was closest to the Confederate capital of Richmond.
The placement of the statue became controversial again on June 7, when about a hundred people gathered to protest the statue’s continued presence at the Capitol. It was similar to sentiments in other parts of the nation where many people see statues honoring the Confederacy as monuments to a racist society.
Unlike in some larger cities, though, the point of the June 7 protest in Charleston was not to bring down the statue by force but to urge state officials to consider finding another place for the statue.
Likewise, in 2018 and 2019 the Marshall University Board of Governors faced the question of whether Jenkins Hall should be renamed. Jenkins, too, was a Confederate general. He had a plantation in the Greenbottom area in which he had slaves. Jenkins’ house is being restored as a historic site.
Students at Marshall asked the Board of Governors to rename Jenkins Hall. The board formed a committee, gathered information and ultimately decided to keep the building’s name as is.
Things may have gotten rowdy in Charleston last week, but they did not turn violent. Likewise, a significant number of people in the Marshall community made their feelings about Jenkins Hall known, but they did not resort to vandalism to make their point.
In short, people in both communities respected the rule of law instead of resorting to mob rule.
That is how it should be done. Using violence would set back the cause of making change, as people on the other side would be forced to dig in their heels and resist further.
The question of how and whether to remember the leaders of the Confederate cause will remain with us for years. It’s not going away. Too many people want the names of prominent Confederate generals and politicians removed from their sight, while many others want them to remain lest history be erased as has happened in the Middle East.
So far West Virginians have managed to keep this a peaceful process. That’s good, and it’s a tribute to the way we do things.
Much of the public probably lands between the two extremes. It’s probably accurate to say most West Virginians aren’t dedicated to whether the Stonewall Jackson statue stays put or whether Jenkins Hall retains its name.
It’s not an easy question, and it’s not going away. The generation now graduating from high school or college will likely have different attitudes toward the matter than its grandparents have. Time is on their side.
Let’s keep the process open, accessible and peaceful. Violence won’t help anything.
The Journal on recently reported church-related coronavirus outbreaks:
In the minds of many, among the most abrasive orders issued by many governors in order to combat COVID-19 were those that in-person church services had to be suspended.
Like many of the complainers elsewhere, we West Virginians tend to be sensitive regarding religion. Even many of those who do not consider themselves faithful recognize that freedom of religion is a basic right.
But here, Gov. Jim Justice never issued a lockdown order for churches. He relied instead on strong recommendations for social distancing, limits on crowd sizes and similar measures.
Most church leaders suspended in-person, in-church services on their own. Their congregations supported them, for the most part.
Now, however, Justice’s relaxation of other restrictions has led some churches to resume welcoming the faithful into their sanctuaries. Unfortunately, that may be a problem.
Last week, Justice noted there have been “at least four church-related outbreaks” of COVID-19. “Take heed and be a little careful,” he urged.
It is good advice. Steps such as social distancing and use of face masks can make church attendance safer — especially for older members. We encourage those in churches already open as well as those planning to resume services to be careful. No one wants to have to say prayers for new victims of the virus.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail on taking proper precautious during outdoor graduation ceremonies:
It’s great that Kanawha County schools are moving ahead with plans to allow in-person high school graduation ceremonies conducted outdoors. The novel coronavirus pandemic had already robbed students of so much, and the planned “virtual graduation” ceremonies seemed very unpopular and a poor substitute.
Gazette-Mail reporter Ryan Quinn noted in a report that high schools wishing to conduct such ceremonies won’t be able to do so until at least June 22, per guidelines from the West Virginia Board of Education regarding COVID-19 and outdoor events. Students must sit 6 feet apart, as will family groups attending the ceremony. No hugs. No handshakes.
Coming up with such a seating arrangement could prove difficult. There are only so many outdoor venues in Kanawha County that can accommodate such a large crowd with proper spacing, and some of those — such as high school football fields — are undergoing turf renovations. So there will be some logistical and scheduling challenges.
As for disallowing hugs and handshakes, that’s going to be tough. It’s the right policy. COVID-19 spreads through body contact, and the more bodies in one place over a longer period of time, the more likely the virus that has, thus far, killed more than 112,000 people in the United States — and for which there is no vaccine or cure — is to spread.
That has to be taken seriously, especially at an event where knowing who has been where and had contact with whom is virtually impossible. But such a policy also is going to be difficult to enforce at such a joyous occasion. The temptation to disregard the guidelines will be strong. Students and parents, friends and family need to remember that they are not only protecting themselves, but everyone else, when they keep the appropriate distance and eliminate physical contact with anyone not living in their household.
Maybe the landscape regarding the virus will have changed by late June or early July, but, for now, plan to celebrate with public health in mind.