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.

 

Comments 3

 
Former Member on Friday, 26 June 2015 16:34

The information in this post is invaluable, especially at this time. For instance, for all of my life (I'm 80) I've been under the impression that Missouri was an anti-slavery state, not allied at all with the deep south. That the importation of slaves was outlawed after 1807 is new information to me. But the stock-farm position of Missouri is so ugly as to sadden anyone who values human life. Anyone who values humanity. That whole period of American life has left a curse -- I believe -- on this country, the U.S.

So many of those who died in such horrifying numbers and in such grisly ways (the disease, etc.) had no idea what they were dying for and the confederate states were especially deluded -- and many still are -- about what they were fighting for. As with recent wars they were fighting for corporations, for large business interests who were never going to share their wealth with those who did the fighting. I exclude from this WWII but look at the way those who had the power ignored President Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex. He had seen what the profiteers had done on all sides during WWII and their complete disregard for the lives lost when they wanted to keep the wars going.

Stangely, as I was contemplating this post, a sample copy of The Atlantic City Press arrived at my door. I don't read this paper usually but on the Opinion page was a statement by Steve Biko: "You cannot keep a man down without staying down with him."

The information in this post is invaluable, especially at this time. For instance, for all of my life (I'm 80) I've been under the impression that Missouri was an anti-slavery state, not allied at all with the deep south. That the importation of slaves was outlawed after 1807 is new information to me. But the stock-farm position of Missouri is so ugly as to sadden anyone who values human life. Anyone who values humanity. That whole period of American life has left a curse -- I believe -- on this country, the U.S. So many of those who died in such horrifying numbers and in such grisly ways (the disease, etc.) had no idea what they were dying for and the confederate states were especially deluded -- and many still are -- about what they were fighting for. As with recent wars they were fighting for corporations, for large business interests who were never going to share their wealth with those who did the fighting. I exclude from this WWII but look at the way those who had the power ignored President Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex. He had seen what the profiteers had done on all sides during WWII and their complete disregard for the lives lost when they wanted to keep the wars going. Stangely, as I was contemplating this post, a sample copy of The Atlantic City Press arrived at my door. I don't read this paper usually but on the Opinion page was a statement by Steve Biko: "You cannot keep a man down without staying down with him."
Ken Hartke on Friday, 26 June 2015 17:25

Charles -- thanks for the comment. We are haunted by the ugliness of slavery. It's so ugly that we have to keep looking at it....like a sore that won't heal. In some places the Civil War is the same open wound. I think I may have mentioned once here or in a blog that I always patted myself on the back because "...at least my family didn't do that". A few years ago I discovered that, in New York State (when slavery was legal there), one of my ancestors was awarded a female slave as payment of a court settlement. My smugness was shattered.

Charles -- thanks for the comment. We are haunted by the ugliness of slavery. It's so ugly that we have to keep looking at it....like a sore that won't heal. In some places the Civil War is the same open wound. I think I may have mentioned once here or in a blog that I always patted myself on the back because "...at least my family didn't do that". A few years ago I discovered that, in New York State (when slavery was legal there), one of my ancestors was awarded a female slave as payment of a court settlement. My smugness was shattered.
Rosy Cole on Wednesday, 01 July 2015 12:12

Thanks, Ken, for a nicely balanced perspective. It's of particular value to readers from other Continents.

Thanks, Ken, for a nicely balanced perspective. It's of particular value to readers from other Continents.
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