Let's not proclaim wisdom where folly reigned
By Les Young
Apr 6, 2007, 00:00
Stanly News and Press
(published April 3, 2007):
Concerning the Stanly News and Press lead article “Confederate heritage considered” (published April 1, 2007, Section A, Page 1), it would be wonderful if this were an April Fools’ spoof. Doubting that is the case, I write to encourage our Stanly County Commissioners to reject the temptation to honor our courageous Civil War ancestors by glorifying their ill-fated experiment in military intimidation.
The American Civil War is considered, by most students of history, our greatest national blunder to date.
In mid-19th century many citizens in the South, and some in the North, thought that individual States were privileged to withdraw from the Union voluntarily, just as they had joined the Union voluntarily – something akin to marital separation. President Lincoln and a majority in the North did not understand the U.S. Constitution in that light.
Also, many southerners thought their fight for independence would not take long, and that the North soon would recognize the South’s determination and valor, and allow the South to “go its way in peace.”
As it turned out, neither side would quit. The Union prevailed. The South’s economy was devastated and would remain so for generations. During my youth in the 1940s and 1950s, we sang Dixie with pride and often heard it said, “Save your Confederate dollars, boys. The South will rise again.”
The South has risen again. We are strong because we are united. We’ve learned a new way of treating our neighbors. When a neighbor prospers, everyone prospers. This is a difficult lesson to learn and to hold dear to our hearts, but we know it is true.
I doubt many of our ancestors would want us to glorify the dreadful decision to initiate the American Civil War. I’m proud of my ancestors. I like to think of them as brave and courageous. But, I cannot dishonor them by suggesting that they were wise to initiate and pursue that disastrous war for southern independence.
Today, even in our own time, America continues to imagine we can resolve our differences best through military intimidation. And, as our ancestors learned in the Civil War, our strength is not all-pervasive and the enemy does not always lay down its arms.
In war we cannot know its outcome at its onset. Yet, we can acknowledge its outcome at its conclusion, particularly when more than 140 forty years have elapsed.
As for history, by all means we should study the past, and hopefully learn from it. As for family, we should honor and treasure our ancestors, but not proclaim wisdom where folly reigned.
April 1, 2007
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