Push for Confederate History Month is amazing

May 15, 2008

I continue to be amazed at this push to legitimize the Confederate History Month (observed in April), last year’s mayor’s proclamation, and the ensuing debate on the matter.

Yes, many of the sons of the South fought bravely for a flawed cause. That is something no one can dispute. Yes, less than 30 percent of whites owned slaves. Yes, they were defending their home territory. Yes, they faced a larger opponent.

I have visited most major Civil War battlefields from Mansfield to Fort Sumpter to Gettysburg and admire both the South’s and North’s troops’ performance and courage.

But yes, as then and now, the wealthy and powerful had inordinate influence in the legislatures and the media, so those without slaves could be easily influenced by their leaders who were predominantly the slave owners. Yes, slavery was the main issue, like it or not. The states’ rights issue had many facets but at the core it boiled down to slavery, plain and simple. If not, what were the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act all about?

Yes, the Confederate Stars and Bars and its many variations have become a symbol of racism and hate, so why continue to glorify it and the attitudes that prevailed before the war — and with some groups, openly continue to today?

Last year, I was in Alabama and Mississippi. There I saw signs proclaiming Confederate History Month. Is the South becoming the home of sedition and trying to rise again? It brings to question the patriotism and the "one nation under God" pledge of those doing the celebrating. I also wonder if those waving the Stars and Bars know that "In God We Trust" on U.S. coinage was a Civil War Yankee plot to corner God’s favor and to say God was on the North’s side. (Similarly, "God is with us" was on the belt buckles of German soldiers in World War I.)

If at all, it would be better if we had a "Civil War Month" — or even better "Union Month" — in April, the month in which Robert E. Lee, given generous terms, surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox and essentially re-established the union. Blacks among us could celebrate the end of slavery. All parties could don the color of their choice, blue or grey/homespun and fire a few guns and cannons, play a few tunes and celebrate their heritage and our great country, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I don’t have any family connection to either side of the issue. My father came off the boat in 1922, my mother’s family a decade or so before. A long time ago, my first Civil War history instruction was from a South Carolina schoolteacher who gave me most of the alternate reasons for the war. I have lived in the South (six states) for most of my life. If anything, I was disposed toward the South, but this whole thing has become ridiculous.

If one wants to privately study the War Between the States for intellectual curiosity and family history, it is one thing. To resurrect it, glorify it and apologize for the South’s grievous error is another.

On The Web: http://www.shreveporttimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/