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Reparations - How about a beer?

July 31, 2009|By LLOYD "PETE" WATERS

My great-great-grandfather John William Walters was a Lieutenant in Company "B" of the 2nd Virginia Infantry. He was killed on Oct. 19, 1864, at the battle of Belle Grove just down Interstate 81 below Winchester, Va. Lt. Walters was just 38 years old.

He was supporting his government on the issue of slavery.

His son, John Newton Waters, my great-grandfather, decided that Waters sounded better than Walters so he dropped the "l" and thus my family name became Waters instead of Walters.

I never had the opportunity to have a discussion with Lt. Walters of Stonewall Jackson's brigade, but I have to assume his political views favored slavery.

If I could have sat around his campfire, I would have told him that slavery was wrong, and enumerated the reasons why.

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Many in our country would suggest, however, that all Americans, including me, should pay some amount of money ("reparation") for our government's role in supporting slavery.

I'm not sure what exact formula might be used to determine the amount owed, and to whom, but I suppose our politicians might come up with a dollar figure.

Recently, our Congress, although a little late, thought it a good idea to offer up an apology for its part in supporting slavery.

The Senate version, however, included a disclaimer as it related to reparations.

I suppose there are some politicians who support the idea of reparations. Some others, however, strongly oppose this approach.

Condoning slavery was an obvious decision absent of any just or moral thinking. Generations of people have suffered because of that decision.

As a taxpayer who does not agree with those less-than-wise decisions of government, I am not convinced that I should be billed for any reparations. I believe most Americans feel the same way.

Can we really fix the problem of race relations by writing a check anyway?

For a real fix, I sort of like the recent idea offered by President Obama.

After the fiasco involving the black professor and the white police officer in Cambridge, Mass., the president initially concluded that the police had "acted stupidly."

He later said that he had spoken a little hastily in regard to his description of the police, and he has now asked both involved parties to meet him at the White House for a beer and some serious discussion about race issues.

President Obama apparently believes that this incident of racial conflict can best be resolved and improved with some good conversation over a beer.

I have to admit, I like the president's approach. I think he may have borrowed that idea from Dargan. We call it conflict resolution down here.

Maybe he might even offer the parties a black and tan brew (a beer combination of pale ale and dark beer) as a symbolic gesture on how race issues might be improved in America.

If having a beer with professor Gates and police officer Crowley does help improve race relations in America, maybe this same approach might even work with Israel and the Palestinians, or even with the Russians and North Koreans.

"Cheers" to you Mr. President from Dargan, we raise our glasses and send a toast for your success. "Bottoms up!"

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Sharpsburg resident.

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