Day: April 8, 2010

The Civil War Revives Again! Virginia’s Governor Stirs A Controversy! :(

A year from now, the country will be commemorating the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, which cost the lives of about 620,000 Americans.

The scars of that war, the most significant single event in American history, have never been healed, as many white Southerners, descendants of the Confederate side of the war, continue to wave the Confederate flag on their cars and homes, and still look at the North as the “Yankees” and Abraham Lincoln as the devil personified.

Some Southern states still fly the Confederate flag on their public buildings, and the most amazing development of all is that many Southerners, who once despised the Republican party for their prosecution of the war, their Reconstruction of the South, and for Lincoln being the first Republican President, now are loyal Republicans, with a complete switch around evident, as Republicans reign in much of the South, and now embrace the view that they once fought and died for a century and a half ago!

To many Southerners, it is not the “Civil War”, but rather the “War Between the States”, or “The War for Southern Independence”, or “The War of Northern Aggression”. Slavery as the major factor in the coming of the war is ignored, as states rights and the movement to be independent are emphasized.

This is exactly what the newly elected Republican governor of Virginia has now declared, as he decided to issue an official proclamation making April a month to commemorate as “Confederate History Month”.

This has stirred old passions on both sides of the war controversy, and it has led to Governor Bob McDonnell belatedly apologizing for failing to mention slavery as a reason for the war, instead emphasizing states rights and independence desires as the factors that led to war.

It is good that McDonnell has at least acknowledged one day late that slavery was a terrible institution that should be seen as the major reason for the outbreak of the war. But it does not make up for the reality that many white Southerners wish to ignore that reality, and some fail to see how African Americans feel insulted by any display publicly of the Confederate flag.

Virginia has come a long way from the days of slavery and segregation, and with the growth of the northern suburbs outside Washington, D.C., it has become much more “mainstream” and has been seen as a progressive oriented state, more than probably any other Southern state. But the Republican party of Virginia is conducting itself in recent years to look more like Republicans in South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas and other states where governors and other public officials have been shameful in their advocacy of “secession”, “interposition”, “states rights” and other bad memories of the years preceding the Civil War, and the long degradation of racial segregation for a century beyond the Civil War.

It is one thing to say that students should know the history of the Civil War, and know what the Confederacy was all about. It is fine to learn about it, and to have museums devoted to study of the topic, such as the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia, a fascinating place that left a very strong impression on the author when he visited it on vacation in Virginia in 2007.

However, it is not justified to glorify the Confederacy and to propagandize for a lost cause that was evil to begin with–to defend slavery and to wish to break up a nation created by the Founding Fathers to last for the duration of time! It is not appropriate for the governor of Virginia to encourage a distortion of history, and to use the Civil War to promote a political agenda designed to divide the races and the nation at large!

So despite his belated apology for the omission of the subject of slavery, what the Virginia governor has done shows lack of sensitivity and good judgment, and must be used as an example of what should not be done next year on the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of war! Instead, we all need to unite in understanding the great tragedy of that war, that Americans had to fight Americans to promote the basic purpose of the founding of the nation–freedom, liberty, and equality!