Re: Celebrate what?: A monologue by Jarvis DeBerry


I have a couple of things in common with your dad. I too was a state employee. (NY State for 30 years before I retired 5 years ago.) Every 3rd Monday of January I used to get a paid holiday, ostensibly to celebrate the birthday of an activist who was a preacher of non-violence, but who violence followed around as surely as the plague follows the rat, who was, at least in his professional title, a man of God, but who was, in reality, a serial philanderer, a documented plagiarist, and an alleged batterer whose FBI file a federale judge felt compelled to seal shut until such time as those of us who were alive and could actually remember his less-than-stellar qualities are dead and buried.

Every year I watched my black friends go off to celebrate his birthday. I did not begrudge them. I figured if I were in their shoes I might choose to overlook the man’s shortcomings even though, given my own memories of him, I was, and still am, appalled at the national scene of "genuflection" which occurs yearly at the temple of "St. Martin." And for their part, those black folks never bothered me when I went off to celebrate Lee’s or Jackson’s birthdays (“Stonewall” Jackson, not “Michael” Jackson), which occur about the same time.

It’s called "live and let live." Ever hear of it? You don’t like Confederate history month? Then don’t celebrate it. It is still a free country and you have that right. Celebrate what is important to you and realize that other people live here too, that not all of them share your opinions, that there is nothing written anywhere which says that they must share your opinions, and that they, like you, have the right to celebrate what is important to them.

And like your dad I never complained about having a day off with pay even though I did not particularly care for who or what that day celebrated.

And please spare me the feigned outrage about “traders of human beings.” First, you are here because of that trading. Someone in your distant past was someone else’s slave in Africa. He was then sold to a white guy who put him on a ship, took him to America, and sold him here. That person then went on to produce a line of progeny which eventually led to you and a job where you can mount your bully pulpit, express your righteous rage at those of us who don’t measure up to your holy standards, and get paid decently for it in the process. Without his or her sacrifice, you either would not exist, or at best, you’d be sitting in front of a mud hut in Africa, wearing a loin cloth, and butchering your neighbors, like Africans do today.

Remember that ancestor, give thanks for his strength and sacrifice if you see fit. But remember too that everyone has practiced slavery at some time in the past, that it is not simply the domain of the white man or the southerner, and that the world’s most prodigious practitioners of it have been (and still are), Africans!

Which leads me to my final point about slavery – if you were really all that outraged about “human slave trading” you would be actively involved in combating it where it exists today (In Africa, and in a form far more brutal than any southern planter could ever have conceived of). I’ve got money that says you are not involved in any such thing. Slavery of the present has no value. Slavery of the past, however, has value, be it monetary value, or the value inherent in getting others to feel sympathy for you while getting them to feel guilty about themselves. Some people would be sheepish about pointing such a thing out to you. Some people, either by their nature or by consistent brow-beating are given to self-deprecation and would say nothing. Others are simply afraid to speak up in their own defense. I am none of those, in case you haven’t already guessed.

And as far as any “high opinion” of the Confederate army goes, I’m sure you’ve heard of noted Civil War historian Bruce Catton, certainly no “Lost Cause” advocate. It seems he too had a “high opinion” on this matter.  I could cite many more such quotes from many famous people – some of those were people who even fought on the Union side. But in the interests of brevity I think Catton’s words should suffice to point out that Barbour and McConnell are not alone in their “opinions”.

“There is no legend quite like that of the Confederate fighting man.  He reached the end of his haunted road long ago.  He fought for a star-crossed cause and in the end he was beaten, but as he carried his slashed red battle flag into the dusty twilight of the Lost Cause, he walked straight into a legend that will last as long as the American people care to remember anything about the American past.” Bruce Catton, 1963, Historian

 And as far as “treasonous” is concerned, perhaps you could do an article which would give a demonstration on your expertise in this matter and enlighten your readers as to how you arrived at this opinion? I would think that the experts on the matter of whether or not secession constitutes “treason” would be the men who founded and conceived the government that this “treason” was allegedly committed against. It would appear however, that they disagree with you. In the interests of brevity, I will restrict myself to four examples. There are, however, many, many more.

"If any state in the Union will declare that it prefers separation … to a continuance in the union …. I have no hesitation in saying, ‘Let us separate.’" (President) Thomas Jefferson, 1803, Founding Father and Delegate to the Constitutional Convention

“If we be dissatisfied with the national government, if we choose to renounce it, this is an additional safeguard to our defense.” James Madison, Virginia Convention of 1788, Founding Father and Delegate to the Constitutional Convention

“I do not believe in the practicability of a long-continued union. A Northern confederacy would unite congenial characters, and present a fairer prospect of public happiness; while the Southern States, having a similarity of habits, might be left “to manage their own affairs in their own way.Constitutional Convention Delegate and Massachusetts Senator Timothy Pickering January 29. 1804, in a letter to George Cabot

"The federal government, then, appears to be the organ through which the united republics communicate with foreign nations, and with each other. Their submission to its operation is voluntary: its councils, its sovereignty is an emanation from theirs, not a flame by which they have been consumed, nor a vortex in which they are swallowed up. Each is still a perfect state, still sovereign, still independent, and still capable, should the occasion require, to resume the exercise of its functions, as such, in the most unlimited extent.” George St. Tucker, Founding Father and Delegate to the Constitutional Convention

And finally, as far as being “violent” goes, one tends to get violent when one’s home is invaded. In a free country, it is called “self-defense.” The South did not invade the North. It was the reverse. The South did not seek to conquer the North. The South simply defended itself. Indeed, the South wanted nothing to do with the North. During the Civil War, many Southerners, Jefferson Davis, Judah P. Benjamin, Mary Chestnut and General Patrick Cleburne, but to name a few, made the following statement with wonderful unanimity – “all we ask is to be let alone.” – which, by the way, is all I’m asking for here – simply leave us alone.

Bill Vallante
Commack, NY