August 30, 2007
All through the South there are monuments to the Confederate heroes of the Civil War. There are statues to Robert E Lee, Jefferson Davis and Andrew ‘Stonewall’ Jackson and every place more than 3 rounds were fired is designated a historic battlefield.
Why is that?
There was certainly more than one reason over which the Civil War was fought, but in the end, they all paled before the tenacity of the South as they fought to retain the institution of slavery.
There is no getting around that. It is true that many southerners did not approve of slavery, but in the end, they took up arms to defend a society and culture that defended that terror. To be clear and not obtuse, slavery meant that people were auctioned off- torn away from their families. Many men, women and children were whipped mercilessly and suffered degradations in public. Many were tortured and all were oppressed in varying degrees, from birth to death. And yet, to this day, throughout the South, the Stars and Bars are flown, the flag under which slavery was defended and fought for, displayed as both a source of pride and a declaration of defiance.
Now, we as a nation are fighting a war on terror and we are demanding that good men stand up and be counted. We are asking people to repudiate evil, totally, to divorce themselves from any and all symbols of evil.
We need to look long and hard- at ourselves. Free people everywhere, and Americans in particular, need to take a painful look in the mirror. As history has shown, Americans set the standards for defining freedom.
We are not comparing the radical Islamists and the soldiers of the Confederacy. No Southerner celebrated the death and destruction of innocents. There was no war against civilians, blessed and cheered on by Southern clergy. Further, that was fought at a very different time in history, with very different sensibilities. There is no excuse today for the kind of evil the Islamists espouse.
Nevertheless, there is a whispered truth that must be addressed. Slavery, the institution the Confederacy defended with their lives, was in fact not much different than evil radical Islamists espouse today. The Islamists are fighting to keep an entire culture enslaved. The Islamists are fighting to keep Muslims from claiming the freedom all men deserve. They fight to keep women oppressed and subject to beatings, humiliation and even honor killings. In fact, there is no more nobility in the actions of the radical Islamists than there was in the Southern fight to preserve slavery.
Of course, these Radical Islamists are nothing more than the next chapter of centuries old tradition of Muslim slave masters, continued today, by evil and tyrannical despots.
The United States would be a very different country had the South won the war or had left the Union. That, happily, did not happen- for which we believe, has been to the benefit of all mankind. That said, we cannot glorify and romanticize those who fought for evil. If we do, we cannot make that demand of others. Why should they totally abandon the evil or the romanticizing of evil doers? We haven’t, as of yet- and we are the ones the world looks to for it’s cues on how to define and exercise freedom.
One of the legacies of the Civil War is the American commitment to civil rights. No other nation on earth has done more to erase the cruelty of discrimination and bias. It is ironic to note that the repressive nations and regimes that are most critical of America’s past and point their fingers are the same nations that are the most racist, bigoted and oppressive. In their attempt to draw moral equivalence, they only highlight their own dysfunctions.
There are no reasons religious people of any faith anywhere, can tolerate or give their blessings to those who would make heroes of those men who would deny that we are all children of God.
The Stars and Bars will always be a part of American history, to be sure. We just need to rethink what that means.