Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Confederacy

The removal of Confederate statues and other symbols from public places, most recently in Charlottesville and New Orleans, has revived the controversy once again. It was a prominent topic a couple of years ago when South Carolina removed the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds. 

The Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstrations turned violent and deadly. Many white supremacists, neo-Nazis, KKK members, and other troublemakers flooded the area. Most from out of town. 

I grew up in the South and have lived in the South for all but a few years of my life. I consider myself a Southerner. Still, I can not agree with those who defend having Confederate memorials on public property. At the same time, I am in full support of your right to have a Confederate flag bumper sticker, fly a confederate flag at your house or erect a statue of Robert E. Lee on private property. Even Confederate museums are worthwhile and someplace I would visit.

Let's get the obvious out of the way first. The Confederate States of America (CSA) lost the war. Those who fought for and supported the CSA were traitors to the USA. They were guilty of treason. They split from the USA to preserve slavery. South Carolina and the CSA started the war by attacking Fort Sumter. The states rights argument was only a minor factor that has been overblown to justify support of slavery. So, the CSA was on the wrong side of human rights, were traitors, and got beat. Why should we memorialize or celebrate that? 

I have read many books about the Confederacy and the Civil War. No, it was not the War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression. The South started the war. It was a war by some states against the United States of America. I must admit, I was enthralled by the romance of the Civil War as a youth. It seemed like the underdog Southerners fought a brave and gallant fight against the stronger enemy. I wrote a high school term paper about Col. John S. Mosby, the Gray Ghost, the leader of the quasi-guerilla Mosby's Rangers. They were a small unit of cavalry who operated in Northern Virginia, often behind Union lines. Exciting and romantic. I was also surrounded by an atmosphere that constantly supported and propagated a view of the good Old South. Parks, streets, and schools were named after Confederate generals and statesmen. Rebels was a common school nickname and the Confederate battle flag was prominently displayed. It often felt more like the CSA won the war in many places. 

As I studied the Civil War more, my perceptions began to change. I realized that the states rights and northern aggression arguments were BS. The war was started to preserve slavery, pure and simple. Slavery is wrong. There is no way to argue your way out of that. 

The South miscalculated their strength and ability to defeat the more populous and industrialized North. Had they not started the war, slavery would have remained in effect for several more years. Except for the abolitionists, most people of the 1860's were willing to allow slavery to continue in those states it was already legal in. Their tempestuous actions actually accelerated the end of the exact thing they were trying to protect. Despite losing the war, the South tried to pretend that they won. After Reconstruction, laws were passed that came as close as possible to reinstating slavery. Segregation, poll taxes, and other laws relegated the Blacks to third class citizenship, just a couple of notches above slavery. That lasted about 100 years after the end of the Civil War. 

All those Confederate statues, parks, schools, flags, and other symbols continued to rub salt in the wounds of the Black descendants of those slaves. It's about time that the losing side in the Civil War admits that they lost. 

Do we have memorials to the British generals who lost the Revolutionary War? Would any of you Confederate flag wavers support a monument of a Nazi SS officer who killed several thousand Jews and hundreds US troops in WWII? Well, Lee and Beauregard are responsible for the death of thousands of US Troops, all under the direction of Davis. 

Put these statues, memorials and symbols on private property, document the deeds of these men in history books, historic sites, and museums. Let's not memorialize them in public places and continue to dismiss the feelings of those they sought to oppress.

What I find confusing and contradictory is that many who are ardent supporters of the Confederacy and its symbols also identify themselves as super American patriots. How does that square? The CSA was anti-American. It tried to break-up and defeat the USA. The CSA states decided that politics and discussion were not the way to make their point. Violence and war were. 

Let's never expunge the Civil War from our history. Let's also not continue to glamorize and misrepresent what the war and its aftermath were really about. What part of the Confederacy would people want to support today?

The Civil War ended on May 9, 1865. That's 152 years ago. The old, slave owning, South will not rise again. Thankfully.


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