The following letter was submitted to The Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial page in response to a very well written piece on Abraham Lincoln’s first Inaugural Address 150 years ago. My motivation was my frustration with complaints – mainly from liberals scribes and commentators – that have recently taken to criticizing any commemoration in the southern U.S. of its Civil War history as “celebrating slavery”.
In my opinion, it’s the same old, tired foolishness – done on both sides of the political spectrum – to portray groups you don’t agree with as raving lunatics looking to destroy everyone’s way of life. The Left does it here, as they do whenever the Tea Party gathers; looking for the most unacceptable messages on signs and t-shirts from the loonies on the fringes, who tend to be attracted to large crowds. The Right tends to do the same thing with coverage of the union protests of late; looking for those who are way out there on the fringes of decorum or sanity.
When it comes to Southern commemorations of the Civil War, you can read letter after letter in The Inqy, or catch Bill Maher and the MSNBC afternoon/evening rabble criticizing southerners for daring to recognize their Civil War history. Yet, I have yet to see any evidence that anyone at these well-publicized events are “celebrating slavery”.
Thanks for publishing William C. Kashatus’ piece that sheds a little light on President Abraham Lincoln’s struggle with balancing his constitutional mandate to preserve The Union and the maelstrom over slavery that was consuming the nation. Not many people – especially those who have taken to criticizing southerners for daring to commemorate their Civil War “slave history” – realize that Lincoln never promised to do anything about the institution of slavery. And that he didn’t act upon it until he was certain the issue could solidify The Union’s support in the North and it’s position internationally.
Perhaps Mr. Kashatus’ next contribution (for Memorial Day?) could focus on all those common soldiers on both sides – fresh immigrants and stand-in draftees in the North and poor dirt farmers in the South – who fought and died with absolutely no personal or moral stand on the issue of slavery. Then perhaps we can bury the disingenuous criticism of southern commemorations of their Civil War history as nothing more than celebrations of slavery.
Certainly there are inappropriate ways in which anyone – north or south of the Mason-Dixon – can sully the memory of one of the most defining moments in U.S. history. But the contention that every Civil War commemoration in the South is inexorably linked to commemorating slavery is a disingenuous attempt to paint one group of people with a wide brush all in the name of political expediency.
People often lose sight of the fact that until 1964, the South was known as the Solid South due to its penchant for voting solid Democrat. Those were southern Dems standing in the doorways of schools, blocking black access. And Democrats who controlled the most violent states during the civil rights struggle.
My point being, these southern commemorations – that liberals so abhor – were cultivated largely under Democrat leadership. So they really have no room for false righteous anger.
(The Inquirer notified that they are considering the above letter for publication.)