‘Gone with the Wind’
February 3, 2008
By Glen McAdoo
In a column several weeks ago, I made what some thought was a serious error by stating the obvious: The Confederate States of America lost the Civil War.
It never dawned on me that this fact was in question. However, according to the volume of e-mails I received, I guess all the history books are wrong. Could be, since they are all wrong about Columbus discovering America. I got mail from several people proclaiming themselves citizens of the Confederacy. One said he would dig up and shoot Lincoln again if given a chance and praised John Wilkes Booth as his hero. I kid you not. Well now, ain’t that just precious.
The symbols of the Confederacy have always been some sort of sacred cow. Truth is, all flags have some blood on them. Old Glory waved over many massacres of Native Americans and brought shame upon the United States for eternity. In this country you are free to wave any flag, even the Confederate flag. I just don’t think it should wave over state capitols. Consider, if you will, what the descendants of slaves must feel when they see the symbol of the Confederacy and all the evil it stood for waving in the breeze over their state’s capitol. I would submit their feelings would be comparable to those of the victims of the Holocaust when they see a swastika. It’s a stretch, but not entirely without merit.
The North was the aggressor, they told me, totally ignoring the fact that the South fired the first shot. Yeah, I’ve heard that northern war of aggression line for years. Even if true, it was a dirty job and somebody had to do it. I was reminded of atrocities committed by those damn Yankees. Both sides were guilty of that, as they are in most wars. The very idea that we had people in this country, and evidently still do, who thought it was perfectly acceptable to own other people is repugnant and an atrocity in and of itself.
Some of whom I heard from wanted me to believe the only reason the South had slaves was because of slave-trading northerners. The counter to that being, if there were no market for slaves, there would have been no slave traders. There is enough blame to go around. There is a wonderful movie titled "Amazing Grace" about one man’s 30-year fight to end England’s participation in the slave trade business. I highly recommend it.
Northerners were against any expansion of slavery and the South was determined to do just that. Inevitably, a conflict over slavery would have erupted into a civil war. The South would have never abolished slavery without a fight.
The actual fighting began when the South fired the first shot at Fort Sumter, a federal (Union) fort, after the South seceded. That’s the short version. The secession of the South was triggered by a dispute over cotton tariffs. That cotton was grown and picked by slaves who were routinely beaten, sold away from their families, prevented from learning to even read or write and treated like animals. Wonderful folks, those secessionists.
Heap upon me all the criticism you will, I still believe that Lincoln’s decision to hold the Union together, at great cost to himself and the nation, was the right choice. I would say the overwhelming majority of people agree with me and not the Confederate sympathizers I heard from who have harangued against Lincoln and opposed every piece of civil rights legislation since time immemorial.
Many of the mailers wanted to make the point that the South was not the enemy of the United States. Some want to call it the war for Southern independence. They wanted to be free to enslave others. Talk about hypocrisy. I believe that slavery was reprehensible, and those who engaged in its practice at the time of the Civil War were enemies, not only of the citizens of the United States, but of all mankind and God Almighty.
So I disagree with the mailers’ contention. Some said that makes me a bigot. That logic escapes me. For the record, I don’t look kindly upon any of our founding fathers who owned others. Morality is not a new thing. They knew better.
We can’t change the past, nor should we forget it, but we all can forgive, as we should, and we all can. We should be part of an un-ending battle for equality, not only for African Americans, but Native Americans, women and all others who have suffered and still suffer under the yolk of racial and gender discrimination.
I don’t accept that the South was a benign victim of northern aggression. That argument has been espoused in many books, all of which were recommended to me during the past few weeks. I’ve read those fairy tales before when I was in school in the South. The history they paint of the South is one of peace and tranquility where magnolias surrounded plantation mansions set atop hills, and Southern belles in their fancy dresses and parasols sat on the veranda with their gentlemen callers sipping mint juleps all the day.
The story they don’t want told is the story of those same gentlemen callers going home and raping teenage slaves, sometimes aborting their offspring, or selling them with child to the highest bidder. The sun didn’t shine so bright on the home of those who lived out back, just down the hill from those mansions. That is where human beings were being held in bondage to do the bidding of what today’s Confederate sympathizers would have us believe were benevolent overseers. That mean old Mr. Lincoln ruined it all. What a pity.
Today, what was once the Confederate South is as progressive and liberated as the rest of the country. It’s a beautiful part of our country and full of wonderful people who have joined the Union and left the Confederacy far behind.
Still, there are some, a minority to be sure, who weep for what might have been and will never surrender. They worship at the shrine of Stone Mountain, shout down anyone for suggesting that Confederate flags belong in museums. They obfuscate the history of human bondage with a depraved indifference that is beyond contempt. They need to go back to Tara and get on with their lives. Tomorrow is another world.
Oh, the land of cotton, old times there are not easily forgotten, as I found out. However, they are gone with the wind, and frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. Nor should I. Nor should anyone.
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