This Is Really Rich

I was born and raised in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in the 1940s and 50s. Still a wonderful neighborhood defined by parks and lovely prewar buildings despite being blighted in the 60s by the towers of the gigantic Verrazano Narrows Bridge looming over it (some people like them.) And although though I left for upstate a long time ago, in many ways I still think of Bay Ridge as my home, in great part because I miss the ocean, in particular the Narrows -- the body of water along Bay Ridge’s shore which separates Upper from the Lower New York Bays.

And guarding that picturesque three-mile-long two-mile wide saltwater channel almost since the United States came into being there were and are two forts: Hamilton on the Brooklyn side and Wadsworth on Staten Island.

At one time both forts bristled with huge cannon able to sink any battleship which tried to pass them, enter Upper Bay and bombard Manhattan. Days long gone. Today Fort Hamilton is all about aging mellow brick buildings and history. Part of that past is the fact that the post was once commanded by Robert E. Lee and that Stonewall Jackson was once stationed there too. As a schoolchild growing up outside the main gate of Hamilton I was taught this. I was also taken on a trip, really just a walk to an Episcopal Church locally known as the Church of the Generals where there was a plaque commemorating the fact that both Lee and Jackson were vestryman there and that Lee had once planted a tree in the church garden. Inside the fort itself there were also two streets named after those two men who of course would later become the most famous of Confederate generals.

Was our school trip or the naming of those streets somehow a celebration of slavery? No. Every school child in Bay Ridge was taught about slavery and how repugnant it was. We were, after all, the dictionary definition of Yankees. Instead, those streets, that church were history with a capital H. They lent texture and meaning to our neighborhood and city just like the other ancient forts gave their own texture and meaning, just like the Statue of Liberty did, Castle Clinton, the ruins of Ellis Island, the surviving Dutch manor houses, the way Prospect Park in downtown Brooklyn preserved the battlefield where the dastardly British trounced George Washington during the Revolution added yet another dimension or for that matter the way in which children went to bed in Bay Ridge hearing the ship horns from the ceaseless parade of ships entering the Narrows did.

But we are not to be allowed history any longer. That plaque in the Church Of The Generals commemorating the planting is to be ripped out and the U.S. Army, if certain people have their way, must rename those ancient streets and to that extent at least, pretend those two remarkable men never existed.

Worse we are to be lectured by certain types of people about how evil our nation’s history is. Scolded that is by recent arrivals who religion provides for slavery, allows it, enshrines it in law.

And so, in a recent public protest against Fort Hamilton’s history we find “community organizer” Aber Kawas  given prominence at a public meeting and saying this:

“We’re rightfully and deeply disturbed by the events of this last weekend,” said Kawas, referring to the White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville and its aftermath. “The rally this last weekend was a confirmation of the bitter reality that exists today in the United States that we must confront as a nation. Today, as we stand in the largest Arab-populated neighborhood in the city, we have to address the utter hate and disrespect that is going on in our neighborhood when two streets are named after Confederate soldiers.”

“Utter hate and disrespect?” Look in the mirror, Kawas! What and who are you flacking for? Real slavery and the hate it engenders only rears its ugly head today, only is celebrated, in the society whose uniform you are flaunting. In what your clothes signify. Indeed, you might as well be standing up there in a Storm Trooper’s duds lecturing us about love for the Jews as talking down to us about evil Confederates while wearing a Niqab. Because in case it missed your notice, Saudi Arabia only abolished slavery in 1962 and while castrated little black boys and crying little black girls may no longer be sold openly on the street, every evidence is that the trade has only moved out of sight. Indeed, the Saudi government almost always refuses to prosecute citizens guilty of holding others in involuntary servitude. Saudis have even been found guilty of traveling to the United States with a slave. Then there the fact that we all got an education from ISIS recently about Islamic and sex slaves and if you look you see chattel slavery openly practiced, and claiming the sanction of Islam, in Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Sudan, and God knows where else in the Moslem world.

So shut your yap about your imaginary “hate and disrespect” in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Lecture us? You lecture us? Wearing a Niquab? The irony is too rich.

Richard F. Miniter lives and writes in the Colonial era hamlet of Stone Ridge New York and may be reached at miniterhome@gmail.com.  The acclaimed author of The Things I Want Most his most recent book What Sort Of Parents Should We Be?: A Man’s Guide To Raising Exceptional Children is now available Here

I was born and raised in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in the 1940s and 50s. Still a wonderful neighborhood defined by parks and lovely prewar buildings despite being blighted in the 60s by the towers of the gigantic Verrazano Narrows Bridge looming over it (some people like them.) And although though I left for upstate a long time ago, in many ways I still think of Bay Ridge as my home, in great part because I miss the ocean, in particular the Narrows -- the body of water along Bay Ridge’s shore which separates Upper from the Lower New York Bays.

And guarding that picturesque three-mile-long two-mile wide saltwater channel almost since the United States came into being there were and are two forts: Hamilton on the Brooklyn side and Wadsworth on Staten Island.

At one time both forts bristled with huge cannon able to sink any battleship which tried to pass them, enter Upper Bay and bombard Manhattan. Days long gone. Today Fort Hamilton is all about aging mellow brick buildings and history. Part of that past is the fact that the post was once commanded by Robert E. Lee and that Stonewall Jackson was once stationed there too. As a schoolchild growing up outside the main gate of Hamilton I was taught this. I was also taken on a trip, really just a walk to an Episcopal Church locally known as the Church of the Generals where there was a plaque commemorating the fact that both Lee and Jackson were vestryman there and that Lee had once planted a tree in the church garden. Inside the fort itself there were also two streets named after those two men who of course would later become the most famous of Confederate generals.

Was our school trip or the naming of those streets somehow a celebration of slavery? No. Every school child in Bay Ridge was taught about slavery and how repugnant it was. We were, after all, the dictionary definition of Yankees. Instead, those streets, that church were history with a capital H. They lent texture and meaning to our neighborhood and city just like the other ancient forts gave their own texture and meaning, just like the Statue of Liberty did, Castle Clinton, the ruins of Ellis Island, the surviving Dutch manor houses, the way Prospect Park in downtown Brooklyn preserved the battlefield where the dastardly British trounced George Washington during the Revolution added yet another dimension or for that matter the way in which children went to bed in Bay Ridge hearing the ship horns from the ceaseless parade of ships entering the Narrows did.

But we are not to be allowed history any longer. That plaque in the Church Of The Generals commemorating the planting is to be ripped out and the U.S. Army, if certain people have their way, must rename those ancient streets and to that extent at least, pretend those two remarkable men never existed.

Worse we are to be lectured by certain types of people about how evil our nation’s history is. Scolded that is by recent arrivals who religion provides for slavery, allows it, enshrines it in law.

And so, in a recent public protest against Fort Hamilton’s history we find “community organizer” Aber Kawas  given prominence at a public meeting and saying this:

“We’re rightfully and deeply disturbed by the events of this last weekend,” said Kawas, referring to the White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville and its aftermath. “The rally this last weekend was a confirmation of the bitter reality that exists today in the United States that we must confront as a nation. Today, as we stand in the largest Arab-populated neighborhood in the city, we have to address the utter hate and disrespect that is going on in our neighborhood when two streets are named after Confederate soldiers.”

“Utter hate and disrespect?” Look in the mirror, Kawas! What and who are you flacking for? Real slavery and the hate it engenders only rears its ugly head today, only is celebrated, in the society whose uniform you are flaunting. In what your clothes signify. Indeed, you might as well be standing up there in a Storm Trooper’s duds lecturing us about love for the Jews as talking down to us about evil Confederates while wearing a Niqab. Because in case it missed your notice, Saudi Arabia only abolished slavery in 1962 and while castrated little black boys and crying little black girls may no longer be sold openly on the street, every evidence is that the trade has only moved out of sight. Indeed, the Saudi government almost always refuses to prosecute citizens guilty of holding others in involuntary servitude. Saudis have even been found guilty of traveling to the United States with a slave. Then there the fact that we all got an education from ISIS recently about Islamic and sex slaves and if you look you see chattel slavery openly practiced, and claiming the sanction of Islam, in Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Sudan, and God knows where else in the Moslem world.

So shut your yap about your imaginary “hate and disrespect” in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Lecture us? You lecture us? Wearing a Niquab? The irony is too rich.

Richard F. Miniter lives and writes in the Colonial era hamlet of Stone Ridge New York and may be reached at miniterhome@gmail.com.  The acclaimed author of The Things I Want Most his most recent book What Sort Of Parents Should We Be?: A Man’s Guide To Raising Exceptional Children is now available Here

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