Confederates deserve honor

The furor over Virginia governor Bob McDonnell’s proclamation honoring Confederate veterans without mentioning slavery shows just how sensitive the South’s history during the Civil War remains even after 150 years. But the reactions to it by some folks, particularly by CNN analyst and nationally syndicated columnist Roland Martin, go way too far in attacking our history and heritage in a vicious brew of “political correctness,” reverse racism, and ignorance.

Martin brushed off protests by Southerners that the celebrations were meant to honor the dedication and valor of ancestors who died in the failed effort to secede from the Union. He refused to consider that these men and women were fighting in defense of their state and for their right to govern themselves.

He, like many other African-Americans, can only see the war through the filters of slavery, and it is callous of white Southerners not to be sensitive to this seamier side of our history. But Martin loses all sympathy and credibility, frankly, when he goes on to compare the Confederacy to modern Muslim extremists and calls all Confederate soldiers “domestic terrorists.”

“Even if you’re a relative of one of the 9/11 hijackers, that man was an out-and-out terrorist, and nothing you can say will change that,” he writes. “And if your great-great-great-great granddaddy was a Confederate who stood up for Southern ideals, he too was a terrorist. They are the same.”

Those are fighting words, an inflammatory insult, and show an appalling ignorance of both modern terrorism and Southern history. Muslim extremists are individuals, banding together like cancer cells, whose warped view of religion and hatred of Americans lead them to do anything and commit any atrocity against innocent populations who have done them no harm. They are criminals.

The Confederacy was created by 11 southern states through a due process of their legislatures and by votes of the citizens within each state. The roots of Southern secession were political, social, and economic. They were long-standing and deeper than slavery. To reduce the Civil War to a war over slavery is to risk failing to understand some of the same political and cultural tensions that still exist.

And the men and women, mostly white but also some black, who responded to their state’s call to arms by elected leaders, joined legitimate military forces who fought conventional battles and followed the military codes of conduct of the time. Forces on both sides fought bravely and sacrificed much for what they believed right; even President Abraham Lincoln acknowledged that in his Gettysburg address. And the families and communities of the fallen dead, Union and Confederate, still pay tribute to their sacrifices even as we mourn the tragic circumstances that tore the nation apart and pray it never happens again.

It is right, even now, that we do so — not to refight the mistakes of the past or hurt feelings in the present, but to acknowledge the military service of those who died in defense of their country just as much as the veterans of all our wars. May they rest in peace.

Copyright © 2010  Spring Hope Enterprise.

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