Four generations of Americans

By Edward Achorn

Years ago, my sister, Nancy Engberg, an award-winning amateur photographer, took a fragile glass negative from my father’s hands and made a print from it.

The sepia-toned image that emerged offered a striking glimpse of a sunny day in 1922 on the front lawn of 80 Court Street, in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Four generations had gathered: Civil War veteran John F. Mead, wearing his uniform; his petite daughter, Josephine Mead Comey, better known as Josie; her daughter, Mabel Louise (Comey) Achorn; and her infant son, Robert Comey Achorn.

They are, respectively, my great great grandfather, my great grandmother, my grandmother and my father.

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How ex-slaves freed America

By Edward Achorn

It is one of the supreme ironies of American history that our nation and our freedoms were saved by men who had been enslaved.

I think this story is not as widely told as it should be. Perhaps it does not fit today’s ideological narrative that black Americans are eternal victims of white privilege, and that blacks and whites must remain enemies.

But the heroism of the 180,000 black Americans who served for the United States during the Civil War ought to be recognized, remembered, and honored. They filled the Union ranks, fought, and died, and ultimately made it impossible for the Confederacy to fight on.

They saved the United States and, in doing so, radically transformed race relations in America.

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The lessons of Memorial Day

By Edward Achorn

The COVID-19 disaster had many depressing effects. One is that it has underscored that many Americans do not seem to understand their basic rights, the nature of their Constitution and how their government works.

Unless Americans reconnect with how this country is supposed to work, and why it remains a beacon of hope to oppressed people around the world, it is hard to see how our freedoms will survive.

An understanding of history is a crucial part of that, because it informs us of the nature of most human societies, and how rare and magnificent our blessings are.

History also acquaints us with the cruel cost of protecting these freedoms. This weekend we mark Memorial Day. Barbecues and sunshine are part of the celebration, even in this grim year, but the day is really about those who laid down their lives to preserve this country.

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