The Chicago Tribune has reported that Lake County Forest Preserves President Angelo Kyle recently declared he wants to eliminate the 27-year-old tradition of Civil War Days, effectively making this month's annual reenactment at Lakewood Forest Preserves in Wauconda the last one, in favor of events that focus more on environmental issues such as climate change.
As the ensuing fallout has become rather contentious, Lake County activist and former candidate for Illinois state Rep. Adam Solano (R-Grayslake) sees merit in arguments for both sides but takes issue with the lack of a process of debate.
“Two things that jump out are they’re trying to – whether it’s local, state or national – get rid of some of the things that are long-standing traditions,” Solano told the Lake County Gazette. “People seem to be a little too sensitive about certain icons or statues of people or symbols that are part of the fabric of our history. [Kyle] made the point we could be doing something different. Well, then come up with something. It’s kind of like these things have served their purpose and this is public property, therefore we should get rid of it.”
Solano said one of the sticking points has been how decisions are being made, such as enacting a new policy that would effectively end the event.
“It didn’t sound like there was any debate about this,” he said. “It was just done by fiat, which initially makes me suspect. It just doesn’t seem to be thought through or very mature. Real leadership builds consensus. It doesn’t just do things by fiat.”
In coming to his decision, Kyle, an African-American, said he took into consideration the abundance of Confederate flags and other symbols people may find offensive. He added that reenactment events often tell only one side of the story.
“Our ancestors told us what really happened," Kyle was quoted in the Tribune as telling fellow board members. "Did you know that black soldiers were put on the front line in the North and Southern front lines so they would be killed first?”
Solano said he believes the controversy can be diffused with strong leadership.
“I thought there were one or two points in terms of we could be doing something more productive with the property,” he said. “You got that job, lead. Don’t just appease a certain segment of the voters that keep you in office. Your job is to serve everybody. If there are some legitimate data points to think through, I hope they reconsider it. I hope [Kyle] says, 'Let’s get some public input.'”