Letting Them Rest in Peace

      

westport battle

Battle of Westport


The last mortal casualty of the Civil War was laid to rest over 150 years ago.  Somewhere around 750,000 people died in that war. Most of the soldiers died from disease — for every three killed in combat there was another five who died from disease.  Many more were maimed for life.


There is a great deal of agitation and consternation over the future of the Confederate flag and what it actually stands for. To claim that the flag stands to memorialize and honor Confederate soldiers who died in a misguided and vain attempt to preserve slavery (yes, that’s what it was about in the south) is to, conversely, dishonor and minimize the efforts and sacrifice of Union soldiers who also died in the conflict in the struggle to preserve the Union and abolish slavery. Many soldiers’ lives were cut short even if they survived the war. My great-grandfather died from complications from a Civil War injury long after the war ended. Another relative suffered thirty years of pain with a war injury until he finally had his leg amputated in the 1890s.


The Confederate flag doesn’t stand for or serve the purpose that it was originally intended. It is now mostly a tool to symbolize obstructionism and white privilege. No matter what you think of it or its history, today it is the bigot’s flag. It was once vilified as “the traitor’s rag” and has evolved into the “bigot’s rag”.


Slavery and the Civil War were horrendous things in our history. I was born and raised in Missouri, a one-time slave state. Our version of Civil War there was particularly brutal on all sides.  Slavery in Missouri was not as widely practiced as in the deep south but had a particular ugly aspect — one not much talked about.  Slave plantations in parts of Missouri were essentially stock farms where slaves were bred and then shipped south.  Slaves could not be imported into the United States after 1807 so there was a business side to the “peculiar institution” — making baby slaves that could eventually be sold south to large agricultural plantations. I’m sure this went on all over the south but it is seldom talked about. Where do you think all those slaves came from?


The killing of the nine church members in Charleston is not directly related to the Confederate flag.  The murders are related to the mindset and bigotry that the flag represents.  The flag bolsters and fosters the hate and aggression that permeates the minds of too many people…not just in the south. That’s how the murders are connected.  You can see Confederate flag “do-rags” on bikers in California or any state. The flag decorates pick-up trucks in Michigan or Idaho or anywhere in the country. Six-year-olds wrapped in Chinese-made Confederate flag beach towels in Texas or Cape Cod don’t (yet) know what that symbol is about but others with them or seeing them do and it won’t be long before they figure it out.


It is time to grow up and put all of that behind us. This is not “political correctness” as right-wingers like to complain about. They don’t fly Nazi flags in military cemeteries in Germany. Put the flag in a museum — there is no place for the Confederate flag in public or government institutions or business…as in state flags or license plates.  It’s time we laid it all to rest.

 

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Human Relations

The world’s people aren’t really too good with human relations. The Holocaust is a big example. We all point to that as one of the grossest human relations mess in history. Shame on Germany.

Well, shame on America, too, right? We invaded another country and toppled their government, treating their people as savages, methodically hunting them down and murdering them using superior killing technology. Many of the nations and people we displaced in that process, first as a colony, and then as a growing nation who wanted stuff the Indians had, disappeared. Their survivors are still pretty bitter about it. Now the Indians fight to keep their sovereignty and keep their languages alive.

Meanwhile, a few centuries later, we invaded Iraq with almost the same scenario. They had stuff we wanted, or, like it was sometimes used to murder Indians, we just didn’t trust them. We didn’t like them. They were brown people, with a different culture and religion. You know they can’t be trusted, because they’re not much like us. Our newest hero, Kyle of American Sniper fame, made it clear that the Iraqis were savages and he didn’t think anything more than that about them.

It’s an attitude many have about blacks. Black slaves were shipped to America. They were an economic boon to the new bastion of freedom, liberty and independence. Surprisingly, many blacks, just like the Indians, and the Iraqis later, weren’t real pleased with their situation. Some fought back. That wasn’t a problem.  As pieces of property, they were easily put into their place, just like women who used to insist they were equal to men. Rape them, kill them, torture them, imprison them, that’ll teach them to be uppity.

I’m not bitter about this. But then, I’m a MAM – a Middle-class American Man. We mostly have it pretty good as far as rights good. I’m heterosexual, too, which improves my situation, generally speaking.

No, given all that, and my age and general financial situation, I’m in very good spirits today, yes, worried about things like our water supply and other people’s rights, and the police killing unarmed people and getting pretty violent, and people killing police and escalating it as well, but that’s sort of abstract from my POV. Nobody is hunting me, at the moment, at least that I can see. I’m a fiction writer. Some part of my mind always dwells in plots and paranoia, something fostered in me by military training to watch out for terrorists and military training to plan and train for the worst imaginable situations. I also sometimes plan bank robberies, as Dell's father does in Canada. 

What brings me to my human relations thoughts is my adopted state’s history. I live in Oregon. I moved here from my previously adopted state, California, almost ten years ago. I lived in California about fourteen years. I know more about it from my elementary school history lessons than I know about Oregon. They taught us about California and Texas. They skated over Oregon – along with Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and a whole bunch of square states in the country’s midsection.

I recently learned about Oregon’s racist past. When Oregon became a state, no blacks were permitted to own property. Blacks weren’t allowed to move to Oregon and the KKK had a strong presence reinforcing that position.

It frankly sucks. I’m proud of my new state in some matters, disappointed in others. This is an area that disappoints me. I had to wedge this piece of knowledge into the mosaic of my feelings and thinking. That’s what shipped me down the path through world human relations.

America isn’t alone in this. I watched Fingersmith last night, reminding me of how the English treated one another based on their class differences. Or peer into at the Middle East’s history. Or Africa. I hear Australia had some issues with their indigenous people, too. Killing to assert superiority, take over lands and improve security and welfare, whether we’re a country, nation, empire, tribe, clan or family, has been standard human methodology as far back as history is recorded.

 

Well, my mind and fingers are limbered up. Time to write like crazy one more time, and address the complicated lives and situations my characters face. It’s easier to cope with than reality.

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