Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wreath to be Laid at Confederate Memorial

In keeping with a decades old tradition, President Barack Obama plans to send a wreath to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.

The White House plans to proceed with this event in spite of protests by Dallas-based historian Edward Sebesta. Mr. Sebesta sent a petition to the White House signed by 66 including James McPherson. Sebesta believes that the wreath glorifies the Civil War and "legitimizes the Confederacy."

Jane Durden, president general of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, said the controversy over the wreath reflects a misunderstanding that the Civil War was a defense of slavery rather than a patriotic call to arms.

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center believes "neo-Confederates" will be invigorated if Obama doesn't end the tradition.

Unfortunately, all of these individuals miss several critical points:

1. The Confederacy doesn't need to be legitimized. It existed and the dispute about whether the southern states had a right to secede continues. This legality of the Confederacy is best left to Constitutional scholars.

2. The Civil War was fought to protect the wealth of southern slave-owners who led the secession movement. The maintenance of slavery as a means of preserving wealth must be recognized and accepted as a root cause of the conflict.

3. I'm not sure what constitutes a "neo-Confederate" but there are probably a great number of Southerners who relish their roots. Is every Civil War reenactor or living historian a "neo-Confederate?" Do they think that slavery was a good thing? Do they want their state to secede? I sincerely doubt it.

4. Most Confederate soldiers didn't own slaves and were not fighting to protect the "peculiar institution." In fact the northern draft riots showed that Union men were not interested in fighting to end slavery. In many cases, soldiers on both sides were fighting because their neighbors had enlisted. In the South, soldiers fought to defend against Lincoln's invasion. In the North, soldiers fought to preserve the Union and end the "rebellion."

5. Should we honor these Confederate soldiers? Yes. They were Americans fighting in a war between Americans. The descendants are Americans and we should honor their loss. Their deaths illustrate the price that we have paid as a country to grow and become the world leader. We should also honor them to recognize and remember the darkest days of our history in the hope that we won't repeat past mistakes. We should honor them because President Lincoln who saved the Union would have placed the first wreath on their memorial.

You can find pictures of the memorial at The Confederate Memorial.

1 comment:

Seattle Karma said...

Nicely said. I wrote a similar article for my blog, and Obama has done the right thing by ignoring this silly petition. I'll have to browse over to your civil war site and check out your pictures - sounds interesting!