I'm heading to Gettysburg today to play some good old fashioned old time base ball, with no mitts, no batting helmets, weird rules, and a cow pasture for a field. Great times!
I've been to Gettysburg several times, and love being able to appreciate the battles fought there and the sacrifices made by so many to ensure the unity of these states.
I know the confederate flag is a hot topic right now, or at least will be for another week or so until something else comes along, so I thought I'd weigh in on my opinion as to why a piece of cloth with stars and lines and colors is such a big deal.
To me, it's not about racism, it's not about state's rights, it's about history. So that's where I'm going to focus.
To sum up, this is such a big deal because in my humble opinion, the war isn't over. Not by a generation.
Oh sure, treaties were signed and slaves were set free and we've continued the march towards equality (especially in light of the gay marriage ruling), but that doesn't mean the hearts and minds of the captured have been transformed. Remember, the civil war ended just over 150 yeras ago. That's two generations. Someone who's alive today had a great-great grandfather fight in the civil war. That's not a lot of time.
And why is it not over? Because we won't let it be. We're terrified to face the truth about the civil war, which is this:
1) It wasn't about slavery. Oh sure, there's slavery written into the constitutions of the states, and slavery was the main source of income generation in the south, and all signs point to it being about slavery. But if it truly was, and the north one, and slavery was abolished, why does the divide continue to this day? Why do four states still celebrate a separate confederate memorial day? Is it because they're so proud of their ancestors fighting to keep slaves? Are they proud of their bigotry? Some are, perhaps, yes. There are no shortages of white supremacists in the country. But they're an aberration, statistically speaking. A blip on the radar. The states still continuing to fly the confederate flag, holding confederate day ceremonies, in my opinion, still desperately WANT to be the CSA.
Texas has mentioned it before, and has the option in its constitution. Mississippi took 148 years to think about the thirteenth amendment before making it official. South Carolina just took down the confederate flag flying over the capital as I'm sure you all know.
You see a pattern? We're not done with this war thing.
The second big thing we're afraid to face? We're letting another foreign country celebrate their killing of Americans on American soil with monuments and consecration of grounds that we would never allow another foreign country to do.
2) The CSA was, in its mind, a foreign country. We refuse to recognize that objective.
And that may be intentional. We may never want to forget the fact that the CSA was before 1861 the United States. But I question whether we should or whether that recognition is propagating the secessionist ideal.
Here's another way to look at it. Many of us have relatives that fought in the civil war. Many of us have relatives that fought in the Revolutionary War. FOR THE BRITISH. Why, then, aren't there Union Jacks flying around as part of our "heritage"? Why, at Revolutionary War battle sites, are there no monuments to the Queen's Rangers or such?
Because we recognize them as the enemy, and the USA as the victors, and treat the battlefields as such. But in civil war battle sites, while there is a victor or loser (or in the case of Antietam, neither) we don't recognize the CSA as a separate country.
Should we? My position is that each soldier carrying a weapon against the Union Army was no longer an American. They died Confederate Soldiers, not as Americans. Now it is a logical argument to make that since the US government didn't recognize the CSA (as did no one else in the world except maybe Britain), that they never really left the USA. But here's where my point comes in: in their mind, they did. They renounced their citizenship when they took up arms against the government.
At best that makes them traitors, at worst foreign invaders (in the case of Gettysburg). So to keep monuments up to the Confederate soldiers is to say "This monument is in memorial to those soldiers who gave their lives in an attempt to break away from the US and create a new country, one founded on state's rights, etc. etc." Sound familiar? A little like our own revolutionary war?
Except the CSA lost. The CSA is a ghost, relegated to history as should all of its warriors, battle flags and achievements. Instead, we celebrate it.
To me, this is like letting Japan put up monuments to their fallen kamikaze pilots around Pearl Harbor. If we did that, wouldn't we continue to brew hatred with the Japanese? If some continued to fly the Union Jack and held beliefs that America should be part of the British Empire, wouldn't we continue to harbor hatred towards England?
So we continue to bring forth the CSA and keep it forefront of our mind, and thus we continue the civil war. Will this ever change? I don't think so. And because it won't, we will continue to fight a vicious civil war. Not with guns and ammo, but with words and laws and politics. And that's even more dangerous.
My hope is that we forget the CSA. Keep it in the history books where it belongs as a failed idea and a pointless endeavor. My hope is that we focus on the future and unite the states once and for all, not through force or coercion, but because it's who we are. As Americans.
Optimism is NOT Arrogance
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