Monday, November 26, 2012


Well, it has been over a century and a half since it last came up in a meaningful way, which is to say, more than a few tax dodgers in places like rural Idaho.  So, I suppose it was bound to come back around at some point.  The movement to leave the Union of States seems to be gathering the most momentum in Texas.  Go figure, eh.  One Texan argues that Texas has an economy larger than that of Australia, and will, therefore, have no trouble going it on its own.  Some fellow is promising to run for governor in 2014 purely on a secessionist ticket; he's even changing his middle-name to 'secession'.  Wow.

As I read these reports of people who are so determined to break-up the United States, to fragment it into minor republics that each have their own issues to complain about, my mind drifts back to descriptions of Civil War battles.  An eye-witness account of the Corn Field, at the battle of Antietam, on the evening of September 17th, 1862, comes to mind.  A Union captain had to dismount his horse in order to carefully lead it through the carnage of corpses and wounded. He described stepping in puddles of blood. Thousands of men lay dead and dying, calling out to God, their mothers, and the din of these cries was undergirded by a general moan issuing from the throats of both Confederate and Union men who lay where they had fallen this day. It was the bloodiest single day in American history, still is.

A few hundred yards away, bodies were layered four deep in the soon to be called, "Bloody Lane", most of them Confederates who had died trying to stop a Union advance up the hill towards this sunken wagon road.  All these many decades and four generations later, the descriptions tear at my heart, rend my soul.  My great-grandfather was a Union drummer boy who witnessed Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg the next summer.  He described to my boyhood grandfather seeing a cannon-ball bounding across the field, whereupon a Yank put his foot out, thinking anything so easily visible could be stopped....and it took his leg off at the femur.

This stunning violence and suffering, on both sides went on and on, for four endless years. More than 220,000 Americans above the number who died in World War II were killed, a total of approximately 620.000, making it far and away the most devastating war in our nation's history. And, while conventional wisdom that is being passed along in high-school history classes mostly would have you believe the Civil War was fought over slavery, that was more of an 'add-on' to the primary issue which was whether the United States of America would remain united.

In the minds of the majority of southerners, the issue was 'states rights', which was a way of saying, "Y'all ain't gonna tell us what to do."  And, of course, that included the right to own other human beings.  Many a rebel private or corporal resented the fact that he was fighting 'a rich man's war'.  Desertion was a huge problem for the south as the war ground on.  Johnny Reb, in great numbers, no longer felt that suffering and dying so that 'Massa' could have his slaves was a bargain worth making.

As you drive around the south today, particularly Virginia, where by far the preponderance of battles were fought, you would never guess that this resentment existed back then.  In a humble roadside restaurant you are quite likely to see Civil War mementos for sale.  This includes everything from little cases with 'genuine battleground' bullets, complete with engraved rifling marks from some poor soldier's musket, made in the heat of a struggle to nicely framed portraits of southern saints, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Jeb Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and of course, the saintliest of all, Robert E. Lee...."Massa Rob't" himself.

To a casual observer, it might seem that the Civil War, had ended favorably for the south, that issues once in doubt had been resolved, perhaps laid to rest for all time.  They, we now learn, apparently were not.  But, here's the deal: there are now over 310 million Americans.  Now they come in all colors and all faiths; back then, not so much.  'The deciders' were, and down through the generations have always been, 'Old White Men'.....until now. 

We are changing, in exactly the same way that we have been since our inception.  America is a work of art in progress.  It is also a masterpiece that relies on its resilience, our stunning ability to adapt to the challenges that face us.  And we will continue changing; it's a fact of life and a product of who we are in the world community.  Those souls who cannot accept this reality, who are so short-sighted and selfish as to suppose that things will be frozen in an old and now obsolete paradigm, should not think for even a second that the solution to their discontent is to dissolve a union for which hundreds of thousands have already died. That decision has already been made...and sealed in blood, lots of it. Nobody will break away and take land, and unwilling others, with them.  Never going to happen....not again.

If they are that dissatisfied with the direction America has chosen, the best and proper response is simply to leave.  You may recall the red-neck, faux patriotic, bumper-sticker that started showing up on the bumpers of mostly ratty pick-up trucks in the late 60s: "America Love It Or Leave It"

Well, there it is: if you cannot love our democracy and respect its process of self-determining democratic rule.........then GET THE HELL OUT!  And, leave us to continue this inspired and magnificent process of becoming our fullest potential, because that is exactly what is happening.

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