Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Offer Still Stands

Leonard Pitts is the most recent person to join with Rev. William Barber, Doug Muder and Eric Foner in suggesting that the 150th anniversary of Reconstruction offers a moment to reflect on how history helps explain our present moment.
On the day after the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Abraham Lincoln appeared at a second floor window of the White House. He was acceding to the wishes of citizens who had gathered to serenade their president in this moment of victory. They called for a speech but Lincoln demurred. Instead he asked the band to play Dixie.

The song — a homesick Southerner’s lament — had been the defacto anthem of the Confederacy during 48 bloody months of civil war, but Lincoln declared now that the South held no monopoly on it. “I have always thought Dixie one of the best tunes I have ever heard,” he said. It was probably his way of encouraging a nation that had ripped itself apart along sectional lines to begin knitting itself together again.

Lincoln received an answer of sorts two days later as beaten rebels surrendered their weapons to the Union Army. Union General Joshua Chamberlain remarked to Southern counterpart Henry Wise that perhaps now “brave men may become good friends.”

Wise’s reply was bitter as smoke. “You’re mistaken, sir,” he said. “You may forgive us, but we won’t be forgiven. There is a rancor in our hearts which you little dream of. We hate you, sir.”

Two days after that, April 14, Lincoln received a more direct response. John Wilkes Booth, famed actor and Southern sympathizer, shot him in the head.

Thus ended arguably the most consequential week in American history. This week, the events of that week move fully 150 years into the past. They are further away than they have ever been. And yet, they feel quite close.
I'm going to let you go read the rest of it for yourself. But the stories about Lincoln and Wise reminded me that the offer still stands.

6 comments:

  1. As many of us whose ancestors fought to end slavery, fought for women's right to vote, fought for labor equity, and then onto our own work on Civil Rights, women's reproductive rights, ending war are well and truly fed up with this. Having the vileness of hate once again raise its ugly head is exhausting. Anyone who is NOT descended from the 'planter class' ought to read Stephanie McCurry's "Confederate Reckoning" to learn how despicable the Confederacy was to the men it sent as cannon fodder. The Daughters of the South need to read how viciously exploited their female forebears were by that Confederacy that gouged them and set even the wives of planters to engage in food riots over the high costs imposed NOT by the North but by Southern merchants. They need to learn how wounded soldiers were abandoned on the fields and saved, when they could be, by escaping slaves. They need to know the fraud that is their true legacy. McCurry is Southern. She knows the facts and supports them. And we all over the nation are paying a price from that mythology and from the return of Social Darwinism of northern oligarchs. If we do not open our eyes to the massive ways we are being hornswoggled, not only will we all suffer collectively but democracy itself will be dead, smothered by the hand of the ruling class upon us all.

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    1. Surely do wish you'd write your own blog, Churchlady.

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    2. What a kind thing to say, Tien Le! But I cannot hold a candle to Nancy or several others where you and I intersect. Someday when I retire perhaps! But I hold Nancy in too high regard to feel I can match the breadth of her understanding yet. I'm working on it!

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    3. Well, lemme know if you change your mind. Your historical knowledge is very broad and deep. Your voice is unique and valuable. I treasure it. Just sayin'.

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    4. Thank you! I read your comments with real pleasure, so coming from you that's a major compliment. Thank you!

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  2. Looking at the excellent graphic you included with this post calls to mind how the Republicans in this country are more recalcitrant right now than the Ayatollah Khomeini.

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