Thursday, July 9, 2015

Losing The Peace

I often find the debate over the Confederate Flag confounding. Don't get me wrong, as much as I hold onto my southern heritage I have no pride for our ancestor's support of slavery. State's rights and slavery are a match made in Hell, somewhat akin to an honorable man's favorite daughter who eloped with a scumbag low life ax murderer and cheat of a man. What 95% of the world sees as the symbol of the Confederacy is actually the battle flag, which a few correctly refer to it as. The official flag of the Confederacy was the Bonnie Blue flag. Remember Rhett Butler's dear daughter Bonnie? She was named after that flag: Bonnie Blue Butler.

Image result for bonnie blue flag

How that flag got lost in the melee I'll never know. My Daddy was a student of Confederate history and I was exposed to more facts about campaigns, battle flags, and dates than most Yankees are exposed to cold weather. Some of it actually stuck. I have half of his vast collection of books on the subject. Half - because my brother has the other half. It was so much a part of my father's life that neither my brother nor I were willing to cede it to the other.

I think the rest of the world, everyone outside the southern states (yes those who seceded following South Carolina), thinks that we hold onto to the Battle Flag as a remembrance of some days of glory when our economy was much stronger than that of the North. It was a myth to some, a dream made glorious by tour guides and romantic novelists. It was an thinkable condition to others, who were thought of as property and valued only as such.  The South was a conundrum. How could it be such a civilized society, one of manners and arts and beauty and support a hateful institution such as slavery. But it is no more.

Actually Margaret Mitchell put it best in the opening prologue of  Gone with the Wind:

There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South... Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow.. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and Slave... Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A Civilization gone with the wind...

That land, a dream to some, was Hell to so many more. And the South paid a dear price for many years - as in 50 or 60 years. We paid so dearly that when the depression of the 1930's hit the nation, the South, all of us - both black and white, knew no different. We were still recovering from the devastation of "Reconstruction". Had Abraham Lincoln lived, the country would have been healed and been made whole again in a much more peaceful and humane way. All the American people would be better off. Just as he freed the slaves with his Emancipation Proclamation, no doubt he would have prevented the carpetbaggers from ravaging what remained of the South, the over taxation, graft and corruption that finished what little economy was left. 

Andrew Johnson was not strong or wise enough to guide the country through the period of reconstruction. "Winning the peace is harder than winning the war" said Xavier Becerra. And President Johnson lost the peace and with it the South. We were the belligerent step child cast out of the family. Worse yet, the leper left to die.  

So what the rest of the world does not understand is that the red and white and blue battle flag some down here insist on hanging on to doesn't necessarily stand for slavery. In those who don't want to let it go, it is the last bastion of their pride. They lost the war, then they lost the peace, then for years the history of the atrocities of the corruption and devastation of "Reconstruction" was lost in the history books. The slavery up North is something few speak of.  All criticism of slavery is squarely pointed toward the South. Washington and Jefferson, two of the great leaders and founders of our country had slaves. Whoever and where ever -  slavery was horrible. It was wrong - terribly wrong, ghastly, nasty, cruel, disgusting.  

We are past that. The South has risen again, not to secede and form another nation but to find its voice and its economy - to tout its strengths, its climate, its soul. But there are those who cannot forget. However, the world needs to understand what it is they are having such a hard time forgetting. It isn't so much Lee surrendering to Grant at Appomattox and losing the war as it is the North failing to try to win the peace. If only we could had been the prodigal son welcomed back, albeit repenting our wrongdoing, life would have been so much better for all of us. But hope for all that ended that fateful night in Ford's theater.

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