Thursday, April 29, 2010


This last April 6th was Tartan Day in the United States and Canada – the recognition and celebration of all that is Scottish and the contributions that Scots have made to the development and evolution of North America. The date commemorates the signing and sealing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 by much of the Scottish Nobility (including one of my Family heroes Sir Edward Keith) and witnessed by King Robert the Bruce.

Tartan Day is celebrated in Australia, New Zealand on July 1 the date of the repeal of the Act of Proscription on July 1, 1782 which effectively banned many native Scottish customs including the wearing of the kilt and the playing of the pipes following the defeat of the Scots by the English at Culloden in 1746. We have come a long way since… The Scots – mostly those awa from the auld sod now have a formal day to celebrate their heritage. Coupled with St. Andrews Day, the myriad celebrations of Robert Burns’ birthday, Kirkin’ of the Tartan services and even with the almost unique annual celebration of Hogmanay, we now have suitable representation in the pantheon of national cultural festivities.

Though some have maintained that the eloquent Arbroath Declaration technically wasn’t a declaration of independence (Scotland was already independent) it certainly was tantamount to that and is perceived by most Scots as an assertion/affirmation and declaration of Scottish sovereignty and rejection of England’s continuing attempt to subjugate their Kingdom. The influence of that document has been widespread and was known to have been part of the spirit and deliberations of the Founding Fathers in the United States when they were crafting the US Declaration of Independence.

“As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom -- for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.’

The Declaration of Arbroath was based on the premise that Man has a right to freedom and a duty to defend it with his life. This was an appeal to the then Pope who had earlier (1305) ceded Scotland to Edward I of England – something to do with the Maid of Norway. Edward was merrily inclined to keep stirring the pot and fully intended to ultimately subjugate Scotland. The Longshanks quote from the most popular 1995 movie Braveheart, “The problem with Scot Land is that it’s full of Scots” and delivered so eloquently by the late American born though essentially Irish/English actor Patrick McGoohan pretty much sums up the attitude of the English who were bent on conquering all of “their” island. If you fast forward to the 21st century that conclusion is very much in doubt. In a historical “blink” the ultimate dissolution of what was the United Kingdom remains a given.

So, what the heck does this have to do with Tartan Day aside from my predictable penchant for upping anything Scottish? First, it acknowledges that for a variety of reasons the migration of a myriad of diverse cultural groups to what would become United States of America and punctuates our ever prevailing penchant for and acceptance of an invited multicultural, pluralist rationale. In case you haven’t noticed the melting pot is close to being officially DEAD. We have evolved (and thankfully progressed) to mainstream perspectives that embrace the opportunity to retain a spark of our former selves and our cultures of origin. We can embrace our individualism as part of a more important whole that allows us to be us.

Some rabid and apparently very scared Americans feel that we need to totally homogenize ourselves into some American cultural gumbo where we are required to lose our individual and cultural identities less even than some alphabet soup. To embrace your culture of origin is traitorous. That which was our strength now becomes a skewed rationale of a “Diversity Dogma” and some harbinger of doom.

The distinguished diplomat, Koïchiro Matsuura, former Director-General of UNESCO takes the role of pluralism one step further, “Cultural diversity is therefore in itself a pre-condition for attaining mutual understanding and harmony in a multicultural world.”

While now almost trite, I earnestly believe our strength is in our diversity and the fact that we have attracted the best of many lands to our shores with the hope of opportunity and a better life. That’s what keeps people charging our borders, wanting to be part of our great experiment. Many of my northern European ancestors were here when we formally parted company with the English. They came here to escape tyranny and oppression and to create new opportunities for themselves and their Families. Has anything really changed? Not really…

All this comes at a cost of an even greater vigilance and doesn’t insinuate that we dwell on our origins to the detriment of our new home. As an ever evolving modern immigrant nation we need to keep it all in perspective. I am an American of Scottish origins and damned proud of that fact. I understand the concerns of the sometimes rabid hyphenated sensitive who fear that to allow such celebrations will encourage the failure to assimilate. While I guess some folks might fail to do so on someone else’s time line, that shouldn’t prompt us to rewrite or ignore the history books.

So I say if you have Native American, Irish, Yoruba, Sami, Dogon, Pole, Norse, Rus, Vietnamese, Greek, Mexican, Scot, Indian, Italian, Mende or Japanese or other origins and you are so inclined, be proud and stand tall and embrace your heritage as one part of the whole we call the United States of America. Otherwise, we might be forced to forego any and all cultural celebrations and holidays including St. Patrick’s Day and among others, Tartan Day where the Scots will ultimately find themselves again reduced to touching Tartan swatches and engaging
puirt à beul (mouth music) to mime the pipes and preserve their heritage for more hospitable days…


Ned Buxton

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Tiger’s return to golf via The Masters is now old news and came down just about how most folks predicted. Despite all the controversy, it turned out to be just another day at the office for the most dominant force in the game of golf. This was yet another celebrity misstep and a much anticipated and predictable recovery – real or imagined. The Tiger Woods story again includes all of us and how we have reacted – embraced or rejected – Tiger and all the attendant hullabaloo. Predictably, some of us get failing grades, even if we forgive and try and stay above the fray. Maybe that includes me for involving the Might of Right in this whole messy deal. Methinks there just had to be some higher truth or lesson to be learned here. I looked and looked and looked

When Tiger first stepped onto the practice green there was tension and an anticipation – of what? – nobody really knew. Friends reflected that there might be some heckling and a not so friendly welcome. After living in Georgia and understanding the hallowed and majestic pine-lined fairways of Augusta, I knew those behaviors wouldn’t be tolerated. You pays your money but you have better well behave or get tossed on your keester and n’er allowed to return again. Security had to have been at an all time high. This, then, was the perfect venue for Tiger to return to the game.

There are expectations of congenial and extraordinarily polite behaviors at the Masters unlike any other event in sports and that includes players, caddies, staff, the media and members of the gallery. This is a very courteous and well mannered place where Georgia sourwood honey fairly oozes from most pores. That is until Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne decided to ceremoniously unload on Tiger, one day before the Masters and almost five months after the revelations of Tiger’s celebrated infidelities. This was a cheap grandstanding stunt that couldn’t go unnoticed. If Grandpa Payne the chairman of the Masters Morality Police had delivered his missal in time and tune with the events (even in private) then it probably would have meant more. While I don’t disagree with the message I do question the timing and venue. The self righteous Payne ended up stuttering and defending the fictitious chastity and double standards of Augusta.

The hypocrisy of Payne’s mean spirited tirade is most evident when you consider that the Augusta National Golf Club is a time capsule and bastion of masculinity – a men’s only refuge for the weary bifurcated rich. That policy (which is their right) has gotten Augusta National in trouble with many enlightened folks who understand that such discriminatory practices are now out of step in the 21st century. Indeed, the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) made it a requirement for all PGA Tournament hosts (including Augusta National) to prove that they did not discriminate on the basis of race or gender. They still don’t have a female member and we understand that the number of their Black members can be counted on one hand. They didn’t have an African American member until 1990. Can they do that? Absolutely, but as a voluntary member of a greater body that enforces these higher standards of behavior, they remain out of compliance.

David Dow the distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Houston Law Center who founded the
Texas Innocence Network, put it all down for me when he commented, “Augusta has the right to discriminate, and opponents of gender discrimination have the right, if not the moral duty, not to associate with any company, including a commercial broadcaster, that abets in this discrimination.”

That’s why even as keenly interested as I was, I did not watch the Masters Golf Tournament. And, yes, I did find a higher truth in the reprehensible behaviors of Billy Payne. It’s once again a wink and a nod accompanied by the sound of crisp new dollar bills being transferred from one pocket to another.


Ned Buxton

Sunday, April 11, 2010


The other day I learned through compatriot Ken Medernach that mutual good Friend Richard Newton Kennedy, Jr. of Dunwoody, Georgia had passed following a long and courageous fight with throat cancer. Dick was spot on – one of the most admired and unforgettable characters that I have ever met. He was born and raised in Chatham County / Savannah, Georgia, attended the University of Georgia where he embraced all things historical and the Kappa Alpha Order (KA). With my degree in anthropology and an abiding interest in militaria especially the French & Indian War and WWI, we had a lot to talk about… He was an eager and very able, hands-on educator.

While a Son of the South and revering the memory of General Robert E. Lee, Dick was also part of the new frontier, embracing history and looking forward at the same time. He was a strong proponent that the past is prologue and taught us to remember and cherish all that is right and good (and some bad) about our past - using that as the basis for our life’s journey. He was mentor, teacher, example extraordinaire and remains an inspiration to all that knew him.

In a world gone sideways Dick Kennedy was simply the most congenial person I have ever known. That view is shared by folks from all walks of life that knew him. He could have been a very successful politician though he was certainly most comfortable engaging all things historical and especially when it related to arms and militaria.

Dick took an incredible intellect and that body of knowledge and moved to Atlanta in the early sixties where he established The Gun Room in Smyrna, an enterprise that he operated until his passing. It was the preferred meeting place for a wide demographic, perhaps as varied as our world itself.

The Gun Room was always a refuge sought frequently by me where Friendship, good conversation and cup of coffee were always available. Whether you wanted to discuss the merits of the Short Land (second pattern) Brown Bess, the role of the Enfield in the Civil War, the politics of the time or just chew the fat, then this was the place to do it. It seemed at times that I could have used The Gun Room as my permanent address.

With a passion for Family, Friends and History (especially antique arms), Dick Kennedy was my guide and mentor for many years. His cool, objective and always right on observations and appraisals were an inspiration to those who wanted to share his world. Indeed, he was considered one of the foremost authorities on antique arms and militaria in the world and for several seasons was honored as a featured and highly respected appraiser on PBS’s most popular Antiques Roadshow.

We enjoyed mutual membership in several organizations to include The Old Guard of the Gate City Guard of Atlanta and the reraised 78th Fraser Highlanders, 2nd Battalion of Foot, Fort New Inverness Garrison of Georgia. Dick’s leadership and camaraderie allowed organizations like the Fraser Highlanders to pursue their objectives at the very highest level.

Until Dick became ill I could always count on him to call me every January 19th in order to toast the birthday and memory of Robert E. Lee. He always found me in disparate parts of our country to engage this tradition. Dick admired Lee not just as the inspiration for the Kappa Alpha Order, a Son of Virginia and Commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, but as the iconic leader who embraced “duty and honor” (at any price) and following the war encouraged and facilitated reconciliation. Few know that Lincoln originally offered Lee the command of the US Union forces…

Ken Medernach (who grew up with Dick in Savannah) and this writer at 3:00 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time on Saturday April 10, 2010 (the start time of Dick’s funeral in Norcross, GA) stood up, raised our glasses high and toasted the memory of Richard N. Kennedy, Father, Grandfather, Husband, Mentor and Friend. Ladies and Gentlemen, likewise please be upstanding and when the opportunity arises, raise your glasses high to the memory of this extraordinary Man. My toast was a fine Chivas 18 year old that just continues to get better with each passing day. Apologies to Dick that it wasn’t a 30 year old Lagavulin.

Please note that this post is but a thumbnail sketch of a Man who was many things to many different folks. Dick was to most a Man of all seasons and he was and is My Friend.

Before Might of Right engaged this post we Googled Dick and expected to find a plethora of material to include his many papers and articles and found absolutely nothing? We realized that most of his work came prior to the advent of the Internet and hasn’t made it to that level. We will try and fill that gap so that those interested can gage and appreciate the merit of this exceptional person. Having said that, there is no doubt that no amount of words, however eloquent, can describe the monumental character and breadth of this Man.

Beat the drums slowly and then celebrate the remarkable life and contributions of Richard Kennedy who provided us the ultimate example of a life well lived. Dick (aka Sir Sigmund) now resides in that green valley with all the other heroes of The Kingdome of Räknar. Our sincere and heartfelt condolences to wife and Milady Vickie, daughter Laurie, son Ben and granddaughters Georgia and Piper Kennedy.

Well done and rest well…

Respectfully, Aye

Ned Buxton