I should make one thing crystal clear, removing memorials to Confederate "heroes" does not imply in any way that I would like to see this blot against our nation's honor forgotten in any way. We MUST remember what the Confederacy was all about. We must NEVER allow ourselves to forget that from the very beginning, the Civil War was about slavery. But the fact that the memory of this atrocity should be burned into our collective memory does NOT mean we ought to honor those traitors who betrayed their country and led an armed rebellion to overthrow the duly elected government of the United States.
Confederate apologists may well contend that the REAL root cause of the Civil War was much more benign in nature. They would argue that the Civil War was merely an extension of a philosophical or Constitutional disagreement, that the deaths of over six hundred thousand people was really a disputation over the rights of the individual versus the overwhelming power of the federal government. What is conveniently lost in this maze of pure balderdash, is that the primary individual right the leaders of the Confederacy wanted to preserve was the right of a white man to own a black man like so much property. Those who would justify the South's position in the Civil War can fuss and fume from now until doomsday, but when you get right down to it, the leaders of the Confederacy were willing to spill the blood of countless young men in a bloody battle to hold on to their "right" to keep slavery alive in this country.
What makes honoring the leaders of the Confederacy such an affront is that they were perfectly willing to smash to pieces what our Founding Fathers fought so hard to achieve, one nation under God. Yes, many of the leaders of the American Revolution were unabashed slave owners themselves, and efforts were made to ban the institution of slavery through our Constitution. Those efforts failed, much to our disgrace. But the Founding Fathers left us the ways and means to deal with the issue of slavery peacefully, something called democracy. What Southern political leaders REALLY feared was the democratic system. They positively shook in their boots that slavery could be put to a vote, that a majority of their fellow citizens in a free and fair election could have the power to tell them what to do. In fact, the election of Abraham Lincoln to be President only exacerbated their fears. And so Southern political leaders chose to go to war rather than submit to the "tyranny" of democracy. These are the people the South chose to honor in a most public and conspicuous way.
Refusing to honor these traitors publicly is NOT a denial of their very existence, rather it is a strong statement that we, as a country, refuse to honor those people who would betray the principles of democracy, to defend the indefensible. There is no statue of Benedict Arnold in the U.S. Capitol. There are no Air Force bases named for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. There are no public schools named for Alger Hiss. These people sought to harm their country, and as such do not deserve public recognition. Neither do Confederate traitors.
Charlottesville tells us that there are elements in our society who would have us return to "the good old days". They are entitled to their own opinions, of course. But the fact that we erect and maintain honorifics to traitors only serves to lend a patina of respectability to an untenable point of view. In this climate, hatred and racism will flourish rather than fade!
Filed under: Politics