Are we still fighting Civil War 150 years later?
Willis Webb

Recently, we marked the 150th anniversary of the beg inning of t he Civ il War, known in some quarters as the American War Between the States. The Civil War resulted in more American deaths than any other war in our history.

That milestone’s date is near another: the diamond jubilee (75 years) of the book Gone With The Wind.

Even a cursory knowledge of the two topics leaves no doubt regarding relativity.

Gone With The Wind romanticized the time. More and more, history depicts a devastating conflict brought about by the evil of slavery. Modern Southerners are seeing the war for what it was, a grossly divisive event springing falsely from the idea that one person can own another.

There are still residents below the Mason-Dixon Line who cling to the notion that the Civil War was about states’ rights. The states’ rights explanation was most widely used immediately after the conflict. Some still cling to that contention. That’s dodging the truth. Make no mistake about it — the Civil War was about slavery, about one man owning another and about having classes of people with some not having as many rights as another.

About 20 years ago, in the course of running a community newspaper, I came to know a man who promoted the Sons of Confederate Veterans and whose wife helped with the allied Daughters of the Confederacy. They came to the newspaper to run announcements of meetings and activities by the two organizations.

The Sons promoter drove a big luxury car. Nothing wrong with driving a nice car. However, I could never find any connection to any income producing activity for this man, who was still young enough it was unlikely that he had gained full retirement from any venture. Some investigation found no means of financial support and no connection to any known business nor to any wealthy family to whom he could be related. His time seemed altogether consumed with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

It could all be legitimate, you say. The Sons can be a group strictly interested in marking and observing the history of the South. Yes, it could. But, at least in that case, it wasn’t.

What disturbed me about this man more than anything was what you saw, if you looked closely at all, in his eyes and on his face.

His slits of eyes were steel blue and reflected his feelings for those who didn’t agree with him and for people of color, who he considered to be second class citizens at best but chattel to be owned was his avowed preference. His smile was more of a sneer than a cordial expression. Unfortunately, his hatred showed and, I feel, made him very angry, volatile and probably dangerous.

This type of person believes in a history based entirely on selective memory. This group feels memory is what people believe about the past and what affects them. It’s different from cold factfinding.

It is not altogether incongruous to be a proud Southerner. There is much more good about the South than residents of other parts of the country are aware of or want to admit.

Basically, Southerners are happy, cordial, caring people. Most of the last couple of generations of Southerners want nothing to do with racism, bigotry and hatred. And, despite what non-Southerners think about us slow-talking folks, there is as much intelligence in the South, in all races, as anywhere else in the world.

Of course, the South has much geographic beauty and, generally, a climate that’s more conducive to great living than most of the rest of the nation.

It’s time for all Southerners to embrace the New South, to believe in what the region is and that its potential is limited only by our imaginations.

There is no need to fight an ancient war long ago reduced to meaninglessness.

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2011-05-12 digital edition

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