Not long after McDonnel’s stunning omission of slavery from Confederate History Month, he was forced to make an apology and once again include slavery in what very well may be the darkest chapter in American history, the Civil War. The pundits are calling it a stumble and the armies of pro-confederate Americans have not rushed to his aid. By all accounts, the rising star McDonnel is now a falling star. Yet I see a greater issue in this debacle: the future of the Republican Party.
Understanding how one can be fascinated with the bloody conflict is not very hard. Those four pivotal years witnessed the greatest and worst natures of men and women alike, from brave abolitionists that risked everything to grant freedom to their fellow human beings to Southern prison camps, like Andersonville, that produced walking corpses unlike anything the world had and would see until the Holocaust. Brothers were literally fighting against brothers, for and against the keeping of men, women and children locked in absolute bondage. There are great characters in two presidents, generals, soldiers, freedom fighters, journalists, photographers and common people forced to deal with the realities of war.
The four years of war changed the nation forever so drastically, that it is arguably an indirect revolution, that purged slavery, jump started Northern corporate capitalism, affected an entire generation with the horrors of war and led to a crippled South, that turned upon itself in frustration and instituted an apartheid that carried forth horrible atrocities against a whole segment of its population.
I have to admit that I am one of those people that is fascinated with the Civil War. I have visited the battlefield at Gettysburg and have studied the war at great length. Growing up in my family, we talked a lot about the Civil War and when Ken Burns released his documentary of the same name, it was like an event on par with the Olympics.
This is why I find people like McDonnel so disgusting. There is no doubt the man is intelligent, which makes his crime even worse. It is highly likely that he full well knew what he was doing when he tried to glorify the Southern history as something unique and independent from the rest of what he claims is “his” nation and separating slavery from this history is even worse. It reeks of political ambition as it does what many politicians do (especially conservatives), they fill their constituency with phony nationalism and unproductive hearkening back to a time that never existed, in this case, a glorious Confederate army that fought for state’s rights and the original intentions of the founding fathers. Oh of course that’s what it’s about and not the vile institution of slavery. It’s not about a bunch of rich plantation owners that hoodwinked their own impoverished neighbors into fighting to for their own selfish designs. Of course it’s not about slave masters abusing their slaves by rapping, whipping, torturing, impregnating and then separating them from their families. No it’s about the rights of the states.
Slavery may not have been the REASON the North went to war, it was to keep the Union whole, yet it WAS the reason that the division between the North and South existed in the first place. Slavery may not have been the REASON that so many poor Southern men went off to die, they believed they were defending their way of life, yet their way of life WAS centered around slavery. America was in such denial about slavery that North and South alike were in denial about what the war was about, and STILL are. As a youngster in a public school, I was taught that slavery was not the cause of the war, 120 years later. However the truth was so apparent, even then, that us “naive” 5th graders argued just the opposite. Sometimes a child’s innocence makes the most sense.
So when I see McDonnel giving his response to the State of the Union address from the Virginia legislature building, I see a man who is living in a fantasy of Southern glory. I see a man who wants to play dress up as the Southern President. I see a man who wants to tug at defeated Southerner’s heart strings to gain political power. I see a conservative, wealthy, white man pulling the wool over his impoverished fellow citizens again by targeting the same people that have done nothing but suffer at the hands of men just like McDonnel.
I also see everything that I hate about the Republican party, since, this is what happens all over the country. Of course it is not about slavery. It’s about the rich manipulating the angry white middle-t0-lower classes by filling their heads with simple answers that usually distract the progress of real changes. Think about it, issues such as health care reform, Wall St. reform, establishing a progressive tax system, fixing schools, building mass transit and improving the infrastructure of our economy so it can boom once again are severely held back or defeated all together by loud mouthed, angry conservatives who never shut the hell up about death panels, reeducation camps, socialism, birtherism, NRA gun fear, taxes, crazy spending, labor unions, immigration and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It’s mostly buzz words, filler and distortions that in the end mean nothing. It’s like being in a business meeting where everyone knows the buzz words and has no idea what they actually mean, yet somehow everyone can get all emotional about an issue because what they are really debating is who is in charge. Catch phrases get said and nothing gets done. Sounds a bit like Washington today doesn’t it?
So McDonnel appears to have fumbled for now. It appears that his secret is out and his career in Virgina may hopefully be short-lived. Perhaps he had his history in mind when he made his decision to play the race card and was keenly aware of the 30-40 years after the Civil War in the South, when Jim Crow was instituted and the white Northerners lost their stomach to care. Let’s hope not. Let’s just hope that McDonnel is another Republican who didn’t realize that the largest growing segment of the Southern population is not white but black, brown, yellow and mixed.
Regardless of McDonnel’s fate, the conservative manipulation of the afraid will likely just perpetuate as it has, with wealthy white families convincing Americans to be angry at their fellow Americans so the rich can save a few measly bucks while their so-called beloved country goes down the drain.
Let us hope for one last piece of history to be true: that the forces of greed are eventually defeated by the forces of the morally just.