Friday, July 10, 2015

Thoughts in a Tumultuous Time

I've been watching in stunned silence as a once-proud nation fast turns into a crazy loon intent on ripping the Bill of Rights to shreds and bullying anyone who fails to comply with the new society emerging. Those who claimed they simply wanted a right now use the court system to aggressively prosecute and silence those who disagree with them. The recent tragedy in Charleston somehow turned into an aggressive campaign to annihilate any signs of a flag used by commanders of the Army of Northern Virginia, both of whom had hoped with all their hearts cooler heads would prevail in the early days of secession and that war be avoided. Men who chose to fight for the CSA only after the new president called up troops against his own nation.

And I'm floored.

A good part of the problem lies in our lack of knowledge of our own nation's history. It's far easier to accept another person's explanation and interpretation of events. I had fallen victim to this as well, and when I first moved to South Carolina in the early 90s, I was under the impression only southerners had owned slaves, that all those nasty southerners had owned slaves, and all southerners who fought in the war did so to protect the institute of slavery. This coming from a southerner.

Did I get a surprise when I began to explore history and historic sites, and my explorations led me to books and primary sources about the War Between the States. It turns out I was dead wrong on all counts, as are people who believe as such today. Do they care? No. It's just easier to believe what they heard.

Now the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia has been removed from South Carolina's capital (where it should not have been flown in the first place because it is the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, but was raised as a show of defiance.) Now there's talk of taking down Confederate memorials because, like you know, all southerns owned slaves and all southerners fought for slavery (far from the truth.) So let's delve into the complexities and hypocrisies that occur when a nation ruled by emotion instead of reason and logic decides to rid itself of the past instead of using events to teach its own history.

Since many who fought for the CSA actually did not own slaves (only a small percentage of Americans did--yes, Americans. This includes northerners, where slavery flourished until the early 1800s, Native Americans, and free Blacks) should  their names and any mention of them be scrubbed from the books? What about CSA soldiers grave markers? Should those be removed as well and grass allowed to grow over their final resting place, thus obliterating the memory of the soldier? Some Union commanders owned slaves. Should monuments to those individuals be removed? How about historic plantations where slaves were forced to do labor? Should those be torn down, erasing them from memory? Should presidents who owned slaves be posthumously condemned and their homes be removed from National historic sites?

It sounds ridiculous, but this is happening in our nation today, and as one who loves history, it grieves me. I'm afraid someday, someone like me who longs to study history, perhaps even teach it, and wants to know accurate details of events that occurred will embark on a journey to walk in the footsteps of those who walked before them, and that person will find only a sanitized field filled with monuments to political correctness.