There were many contributing factors to the Civil War, but Slavery was the root cause.
The “Peculiar Institution,” was defended by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens in his March 1861 “Cornerstone Speech” after secession swept the South and just weeks before the Civil War began. He went so far as to say Thomas Jefferson words in the Declaration of Independence, declaring that “All men are created equal” were wrong.
As a nation we fought to end this traitorous institution and successfully defeated the South in the bloodiest conflagration we ever faced. Brother fought brother and neighbor killed neighbor. At the end as General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain accepted the surrender of the southern infantry at Appomattox, he noted the tattered and torn warriors and saluted them.
He later wrote: Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;--was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?
Those Christian sentiments were not equally shared from those who surrendered - and Chamberlain noted that too. There were those in the South who could never forgive and forget. They had children and those children had children and 150 years later, the rhetoric has spread along with the misinformation regarding the Civil War.
Tuesday in the White House Press room I saw the byproduct of this hateful, generational campaign of disinformation when Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to say slavery was wrong.
April Ryan, the African American reporter from American Urban Radio Networks asked her, but Sanders wouldn’t answer. She walked away from the podium wishing everyone a Happy Halloween.
Many have long thought the current administration is filled with racists and White Supremacists, but the inability to even recognize slavery as “wrong” is not only problematic for an administration teetering from continuing scandals, but horribly disturbing on a variety of levels.
The rise of the Klu Klux Klan in the first twenty years of the 20th century, the Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights movement and finally a brief moment in the 1970s when many of us thought we were on the right path in race relations – all of that havs given way to the most divisive time in our history since the abolition of the “Peculiar Institution.”
In this “Up is Down and Down is Up” world we live in those who embrace hate and division have been emboldened in ways I thought long since extinct.
Ryan was noticeably upset after Sanders left the podium as were many other reporters.
It all began because General John Kelly – the man many thought was going to be the White House arbiter of good sense – stepped all by himself, with no prodding, into the race quagmire by telling us what a great guy Robert E. Lee was and how some statues shouldn’t be torn down because of some vague leadership flaws – you know like being a traitor against your country and leading the military insurrection against the United States – things like that.
Union leaders at the time didn't think so highly of Lee. They snatched his home in Virginia and turned it into Arlington National Cemetary so Lee would never forget what he engineered.
In addition to defending Lee, Kelly also said the Civil War came about by the country’s inability to “compromise.” Yet a quick survey of history shows not only how laughable the statement is, but also how insulting it is to many people.
The Civil War came about because the nation had been compromising with the South on its “Peculiar Institution” since Jefferson wrote the words “All Men Are Created Equal.” Finally the United States could find no way to compromise with the concept of one group of men owning another group of men as property. Slavery.
How hard, indeed, is it to say that slavery is wrong? Why must we discuss this now more than 150 years after the event which ended this argument – supposedly for all time?
How foolish and how stupid are we as a people to continue to divide ourselves by color? How much longer will we continue to be mean-spirited toward one another over this particularly shallow distinction which portends massive breaches in liberty and acceptance just because one’s skin is a different color than someone else?
If you want to divide us, I’d say we’re in a class war between the haves and the have nots – and they – meaning people rich like the president may indeed be racists, but it’s just a symptom of a greater problem.
But before we can deal with that – the president has to say slavery is wrong.
Moreover, the administration must make amends to all people of color for its continued inability to recognize “All Men Are Created Equal.”
Those with the Common Sense of Thomas Paine demand it.