Let’s get this part out of the way: The Civil War was fought over slavery.
To argue it was states’ rights is not entirely incorrect, but it was a war for the right of the states to keep slavery legal.
Not everyone who fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy was a slaveholder, but they fought in a war about slavery.
The events in the lead-up to the Civil War — the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the 1857 Dred Scott decision, the hot-button topic of the actual Lincoln-Douglas debate, and the fear from Southerners prompted by the election of Abraham Lincoln — were all about slavery.
These events were not philosophical occurrences about the 10th Amendment.
However, as with any war, the Civil War was messy. It was not as simple as some of the left-of-center wannabe smart-set in our state have tried to make it out to be — as if it were territories on a board game of Risk, and it ends without geopolitical ramifications when the territory is captured.
The South lost. But it is not as simple as Southerners saying, “OK, you guys won. We can now eliminate our economic dependency on slave labor and go about our lives.”
When compared to the entirety of the American experience, the postbellum American South experienced a bizarre chain of events that spanned generations — Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, the Civil Rights Movement, etc.
What is unfortunate is now, even though many of the demons of those sorely misguided eras have been conquered, the self-proclaimed do-gooders have decided to wage war on the symbolism associated with that time.
Fine. There is validity in questioning why Southerners engaged in idolatry over the Confederacy. One might think the immortal glory should be bestowed upon the winners of the war.
It just wasn’t that simple.
Who knew what was to lie ahead for the American South? Could an embittered Washington, D.C., keep the country together after the South’s surrender and Reconstruction?
Was it a commonly held belief among Northerners after the Civil War that the South should be allowed to have its backward ways — honoring the Lost Cause and imposing illegal and unfair restrictions on African Americans — as long as the country continued to be somewhat united?
Was there ever a point in time when Confederate iconography became less about the Civil War and just a symbol of geographic roots or heritage? Why did all of these Confederate monuments start springing up throughout the South in the early 1900s?
Much of this is a waste of time if your primary concern is public policy and how it can improve your quality of life.
However, it is an interesting study of politics and human behavior.
Some of the Confederate monuments you see throughout Alabama were likely erected in the early part of the 20th century for some political reason.
It is also undeniable there was lineage to the Civil War. Fathers, grandfathers and other blood kin fought or gave their lives for the Confederacy despite the cause, and emotions ran deep because it was family.
Could those sentiments have been why local governments of the era were invested in having these monuments erected on public grounds?
Maybe it was something much darker and more nefarious.
All of these seem like possibilities to consider if one engages in any critical analysis of the era.
But instead, there is a notion you have to defer to proper intellectual authorities on this subject by accepting Confederate symbols are nothing more than racial hatred. If you don’t, you are part of the problem.
There are a few problems here. The ones raising the most stink are the shameless partisans. What’s the motivation? Get more Democrats elected through guilt? Have more liberal policies been enacted?
Exhibit A: An AL.com columnist, who is fighting a “war on dumb,” recently called Alabama’s Capitol in Montgomery a “crime scene.” (Yes, it is a scene of many crimes over the past 171 years, but those aren’t the ones to which Kyle Whitmire refers.)
The problem for him is it is full of Confederate relics and it was the scene where the state government enacted racist policies.
That is what is criminal in his view. However, such a charge of criminal behavior should not be done recklessly. Then again, that was not a serious take.
He isn’t the only one.
However, Whitmire and his ilk are categorizing something they disagree with as criminal, where there was no technical violation of law that existed at the time of the alleged infraction.
And instead of realizing the statute of limitations has run out and many of these alleged “criminals” are now deceased, they are looking to indict and convict their modern political and ideological opponents.
That is why it fails.
We do not live in a place where a debt that was once written off generations ago can now become past due, and the descendants of the debtors are now responsible for it — the same with so-called “crimes” of the past.
Call it wrong, immoral, unethical or whatever you must. That is a debate we can have and will likely never all agree on.
That is why whatever objective, political or ideological, beyond the physical removal of Confederate symbols is a lost cause.
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