If I remember correctly, two or three weeks passed after Sept. 11, 2001 when I was working as a reporter for the Americus Times-Recorder in Americus, Ga., when I was assigned to go to some Civil War event at nearby Andersonville, Ga. Apparently every year, all these re-enactors would fire off their rifles in memory of those who died in the Civil War. Some were dressed as Union soldiers. Others were dressed as Confederate soldiers. Someone made a comment they were also doing it for the victims of 9/11.
Later when I was back at the office, a page designer who worked out of the office but for a different newspaper said that they probably didn’t understand the irony of what they were doing. My supervisors had told me to try to ask some of the re-enactors about 9/11. The irony was obviously lost on a lot of people. When you’re having to ask someone dressed up as a Confederate rebel what they think of 9/11, they obviously don’t understand the gravity of what they’re doing.
It was more than two months after the Civil War ended on June 19, 1865 when it was finally announced by Union Gen. Gordon Granger that all enslaved people were free. This came two months after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. But it would go into obscurity the same way the success of Reconstruction and how President Rutherford B. Hayes did a slimy deal to win support and securing the Oval Office were erased from common public knowledge.
We were always taught Reconstruction was a failure. It was actually a very progressive era in which many freed slaves were elected to Congress. We were taught that people from the north were all in favor of abolition. Yet, many of them really didn’t support the Civil War at all. If you’ve seen Gangs of New York, the Union Army swindled immigrants into serving. (George Washington and his officials did the same thing during the Revolutionary War by accusing people of trumped up charges that they could get out of if they served.) They also began the Conscription Act, aka the military draft, which resulted in a violent, deadly Draft Riot on from July 11-16, 1863.
We were also taught that many people from the South favored slavery. I’ll agree with some of these Lost Cause people that not everyone owned enslaved people, but the wealthy plantation owners made the decisions. So, they were pretty much screwed six ways from Alabama to either fight for the Confederacy or face the dire consequences. As Cold Mountain showed, many were forced into serving as well. And they were killed for deserting. Free State of Jones also showed that many in the South pushed back. So it was a civil war inside of a Civil War.
The education books were written by those who were favoring the South to present one history while we are having to rely on Hollywood to give us the real history. How many people up until Watchmen aired on HBO in the Fall of 2019 knew about the Tulsa Race Massacre? People are still trying to cover up the May 13, 1985 firebombing of a neighborhood in Philadelphia. That was less than 40 years ago, yet you still hear people jump up and down about the Waco Siege.
I wonder why?
It probably has nothing to do with the facts that those mainly killed at Waco were white, while only black people were killed in Philadelphia, I’m sure.
As someone who grew up in Georgia, I didn’t really care for the Civil War. Why were we romanticizing something that lasted four years. The sitcom According to Jim lasted eight years, twice as long, and it’s considered one of the worst sitcoms ever. Now, I fucking hate The Civil War and all this romanticisim more and more. I wouldn’t even bother to run a picture of those idiotic re-enactors firing off their rifles much the less drive out and spend time for them to deliver some speech about honoring those who died in the Civil War.
I hate to say this but I’m sure Ken Burns’ epic Civil War documentary series did more to revive this romance of this awful period. I know Burns didn’t have the intentions that D.W. Griffiths did when he made The Birth of a Nation, but people are stupid, especially those idiots who do these re-enactments. They see only what they want to see. They’re like Hank Hill when someone mentions propane.
It’s been reported that 620,000 died during the Civil War, some just from bad medical and sanitary procedures. There was a reported 57,000 people who died of dysentery alone. So, they’re remembering people who died of that. And speaking of Andersonville, it was the site of one of the worst atrocities of prisoners of war in world history. And these idiots in south Georgia are making a Saturday get-together out of it with concession stands and live music entertainment.
We need to stop lying to ourselves. If bad things happen, we need to address them. But we’ve been a society that will deny that children were sexually assaulted by family members much less admit to being bigots and racists. And I seriously think even those who aren’t racists have been conditioned to believe that “we’re doing everything for the black people.”
It’s a holiday to remember a period in our life that we’ve overcome and continuing to this day. We believe in American exceptionalism, so why don’t we acknowledge we were wrong about slavery and learned for it? Because then we have to acknowledge a lot of other bad things happened since 1492 and a lot of bad things still continue to happen following 1865. Yes, maybe your ancestors weren’tthe perpetrators. But if they stood around and did nothing, they were just as guilty.
Teaching people history, real history, is the key. Let’s stop lying to another generation. It’s going to be kinda harder now that everything is a click away, which is both good and bad. Just as easy as we can open people’s eyes to something they may not have known, we can easily tell them some fake story to get back at a politician, an organization or a political party. People still believe that the Presidency has something to do with gas prices and that the Keystone Pipeline would drop gasoline prices down to a buck and a quarter. (And even then, it wouldn’t be cheap enough for some people.)
I’m just a white person with a small smidge of Cherokee ancestry. My grandkids are part black. But just because I have a personal connection isn’t the only reason I’m involved. The reason people are wanting to suppress Juneteenth and the true cause of the Civil War is because the people who threw rotten fruit at young black children going to school are very old or very dead. They don’t want to see their relatives in a bad light. But we have to admit they did it, even if they later resented it.
We’re no longer be able to excuse racism and bigotry in this country by saying, “That’s just the era in which they were raised.” Well, I was raised about bigots, racists, sexists and misogynists. You can learn to unlearn. Step one is admitting there is a problem and the calls are coming from inside the house. It’s 2022. By 2050, some people believe that white people will be in the minority. White people need this dominance because it’s the only thing they have left.
What do you think? Please comment.