Andrew McCullough's Blog

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The flag must go?

I have been meaning to write something about the Confederate Flag controversy, and time is so limited. Below is something I posted to a friend's Facebook Page. It is a beginning. Hopefully I can come back and "flesh it out" a bit. I have a Confederate Flag in my office. I have had a few comments on it. Most pay no attention. It is not the version in the news, which was never official. It is the last official version of the flag, before the surrender, officially the flag of the "lost cause. As someone who defends lost causes in court for a living, I am inspired by it. I hope that I am not a racist. I try not to be. I am a lover of freedom, and I try and make that my cause.

The question is not so much about the flag, but about the "cause". If you see the civil war as a "crusade to end slavery", that ends discussion. I don't. I cannot imagine that the "Founding Fathers" had it in mind that a State could not leave the union; and the efforts by the central government to force its will on them were wrong. Huge parts of the South were burned to the ground, Thousands of people were killed. Wives and sisters of "rebels" were imprisoned simply for their relationship. Members of the Maryland legislature were arrested to avoid secession. A US Congressman was imprisoned because he made a speech saying that peace should be made. General Order No. 11, issued in Missouri in 1863, ordered four counties in western Missouri where pro-Confederate guerillas operated, depopulated - all residents outside of larger towns were ordered to leave, so they could not provide support to the rebels. Many innocent civilians were ruined. I do not read that history with pride. When parts of the USSR and Yugoslavia seceded, we went to their aid immediately. Anyone who has seriously read the history of the War Between the States would have serious doubts about what Lincoln did to "preserve the Union." Thus, the current effort to obliterate references to the history are, in my opinions, misguided. The two biggest military training camps in the South are named after Confederate generals. I expect they will be targets next. I do not agree with that. That being said, I do understand wanting to do something to prove the worth of black citizens. I do not think obliterating or whitewashing history is the right thing.

My "disconnect" here is that the Civil War (whatever you may want to call it) brought us the Fourteenth Amendment which gave us all rights against oppression by the States. It is the Fourteenth Amendment that gives us the right to seek redress of injuries by police officers and other officials of our own state government. I can hardly imagine life in the United States without these protections. But that does not mean that I support the violence used to obtain them. And it does not mean that I must disavow those who did nothing but resist what they saw as tyranny. the Sesqui-Centennial of the Civil War just ended. It was sad that there was little in the news about it. Many people have decided that any references to the Confederacy are just too "offensive", so we ignore it. I think important lessons of history were lost with such decisions.

A friend pointed out in a FB post today that several States pointed to slavery as the main reason for leaving the Union. Yes, that is what they said. But allowing it to be our main point is missing the main point. If a State has the right to secede (and I am convinced that they did before the 14th Amendment), the reason that they give for doing so does not cancel that right and give other states the right to kill them and burn their cities. Slavery was doomed by the march of human progress. This method of eliminating it was not justified.

Another friend quoted with disgust a passage from the Texas Secession Ordinance:

"She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery—the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits—a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?"

At the start of the Civil War, Texas had been a State less than 15 years. It was admitted to the Union as a "slave state". Did Congress not know what it was doing when it admitted Texas? Should they have refused to admit a slave state? Obviously, at the time, it was an accepted practice; and the agreement made as part of the admission was that they could continue this practice. Someone who looks at this from the view of the 21st Century has a hard time justifying or even understanding it; but things were not the same in 1860. So, Texas decided that the central government in Washington had violated the contract under which it entered the Union. I am at a loss to understand on what basis it became legitimate to kill them for this. Did we not know that several Southern States allowed slavery way back in 1776 when Independence was declared? Did we not know that such great Americans such as Thomas Jefferson (and ten other Presidents) owned slaves? On what basis do we now seek to go back 150 years and impose out moral viewpoint on them?

This next week celebrates the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in NY. At that time, in 1969, everyone knew that gays were just criminals and needed to be locked up. So, once a month or so, the NYC police raided their hangout and arrested them for lewdness (cross-dressing being the main "crime"). One night, they fought back and refused to go quietly. The social change that came from that movement is no less amazing than ending slavery. But no cities were burned, few people were killed or imprisoned. Slavery was abolished peacefully around the civilized world. We are a very much more enlightened society than existed in 1861. But those who defended their homes and families against what they saw as an invasion should not be demonized. I do not approve of what the Union government did in the 1860's; and that does not make me a racist or a bigot.

More soon? P


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