William Faulkner wrote in Requiem for a Nun: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” For those who think that the Civil War was over some 149 years ago, need to look around and listen to political commentators and the federal laws that still exist.
Most recently, Mississippian Chris McDaniels was described by the New York Times as a Tea-Party tinged candidate with Confederate tendencies. All because he once spoke to a Sons of Confederate Veterans group. Does that make those of us who belong to Civil War Roundtables warmongers who yearn for the 19th century?
Are Civil War re-enactors in the same category? Are they all yearning for the cotton fields back home? I think not. We are simply people who see the study of the Civil War as an opportunity to understand what happened in America 150 years ago and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
It is only in the last year that the Supreme Court has found that parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act were no longer necessary despite howls of opposition from the left who wished to keep the states of the old Confederacy under their thumb.
Those on the left in American politics see all of this as an opportunity to frighten African-Americans, low-information voters and others into believing that we have been saving our Dixie cups because the South will rise again. The only thing that will rise will be our ire as the left tries to change an America that we love.
The American Civil War forever divided history in the United States. Everything before 1860 was Act I. After Act I ended in 1865, a new act began for the United States. However you want to divide the following 150 years everything before was forever changed.
Slavery and the massive distortion that it caused to our national life was wiped out. Yes, remnants of slavery remained. Sharecropping, Jim Crow Laws and segregation were practices that have taken over 100 years to erase from our national life. It’s been a long road from Appomattox to today.
Along the way there have been many martyrs, black and white, who fought and died for full and complete freedom. Lynchings, murders and assassinations took place along a bloody road to freedom for all. And never once did the oppressed refuse to defend their country. Maybe because they believed in the promise of the United States.
We’ll never be a perfect society. There are those who don’t like black people and there are black people who don’t like white people. That’s just the way it is. But if we keep working at it the scars and pain of a war that took over 700,000 lives will gradually recede. All that will remain is the pride in ancestors who fought for something that they believed in.
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in his book The Passing of the Armies said it the best:
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?