A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
I recently had a “commenter” question my loyalty to America as a result of my hypothesizing that we, as a nation, may be headed for another civil war. It was an honest appraisal of our current situation, as I see it, and one at which I gingerly arrived with a great deal of uncertainty and tentativeness.
The commenter was from a northern state, which lies on the US/Canadian border. So far as I am able to determine, his state has never been invaded, conquered, and occupied by a foreign power. Mine has.
Now let’s be clear: We southerners still, to this day, bear the scars of that conflagration. A hundred and fifty years is but as a moment in time here in the South.
On May tenth, we Tar Heels will celebrate Confederate Memorial Day. The National Flag of the Confederacy will fly over our State Capitol Building. Celebrations will be held all over the state as well as memorial services to honor our Confederate ancestors.
We lost – yet – we celebrate the effort, the fight for “The Cause.”
Now, maybe it is because it is a part of who we are as southerners, that the past remains so alive, so vibrant here. Maybe it is because so many of us have bothered to look at what actually caused the break-up of the Union in the first place.
When one’s ancestors are referred to as “traitors” one is often compelled to investigate in an attempt to learn WHY.
We quickly learn the accusation is a lie. But -- we also learn of the circumstances in the United States in the 1800’s that practically insured the southern people would have to separate from the US in order to preserve the form of government given us by the Founding Fathers.
The result of the war would -- and did -- insure that the United States would have a STRONG CENTRAL GOVERNMENT and NOT a government answerable to the states and subject to the states as the Founders intended.
The original Constitution of the United States of America died at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, on the afternoon of April 9th, 1865 when Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s home.
When one lends oneself to a study of the period one cannot help but see the similarities of the relationship between the US government and the people of the US – especially the people of the southern states -- then and now. I must tell you it is chilling!
It was the study of the circumstances leading up to the "War for Southern Independence," as we southerners like to call it, that prompted me to point out that the US finds itself, today, in similar circumstances that might lead to another civil war in the country.
At CNSNEWS.COM on May 2nd, 2013, there is an article entitled: "Poll: 29% of Registered Voters Believe Armed Revolution Might Be Necessary in Next Few Years." The article was written by Gregory Gwyn-Williams, Jr. The lead-off paragraph says: "Twenty-nine percent of registered voters think that an armed revolution might be necessary in the next few years in order to protect liberties, according to a Public Mind poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University." SOURCE: http://cnsnews.com/blog/gregory-gwyn-williams-jr/poll-29-registered-voters-believe-armed-revolution-might-be-necessary
(Fairleigh Dickinson University is the largest (12000+ students) independent university in New Jersey. Source: http://www.fdu.edu/ )
So, it would seem this old scribe isn't alone in worrying about the possibility that the nation may go to war with itself in the near future.
Here in the southeast, it is likely we recognize the signs far more quickly that folks from other regions of this great country. If so, then it is simply because we have been there (here?) before.
In my home state of South Carolina cannon balls from Sherman's artillery can still be seen embedded in the walls of the State Capitol Building.
As I write, I sit a few minutes drive from the last Confederate fort to fall to the Union, Fort Fisher. It was the death knell for the Confederacy. Resupply for the Confederacy was ended. The Union siege of Fort Fisher, especially the ship to shore bombardment, was not equaled until the Second World War.
On a drive through the American Southeast you will see multiple flagpoles in the front yards of many homes flying Old Glory from high atop the pole. Granted, you may see a state flag, or even one or more of the Confederate national flags, or even the Confederate Battle Flag or the famous Gadsden Flag (The “Don’t Tread On me Flag) flying BELOW Old Glory… on the same pole. To a Southerner that is not the least bit confusing. We are proud Americans, Southern Americans, to be sure, proud of our heritage. But our allegiance, first and foremost, is to the United States.
Yes. We DO worry that it could all happen again. And I remain convinced that the possibility grows greater every time the federal government accrues more power to itself.
Sort of like the canary in the mine shaft, we southerners might be a bit more sensitive to overbearing government simply because our region has experienced it before. For instance, it can be argued that "Reconstruction" of the South, after the war, actually did MORE harm to the South than the war itself. (The US sucked at nation building even then!)
I'm not sure, exactly, what it says about a nation, when the direct descendent of a host of Confederate soldiers steps forward to warn America against making the same mistakes America made in the mid 1800's (which led to a civil war) and he is denigrated for having the audacity to draw attention to obvious preparations being made by both citizens and government for just such an horrendous event.
Seems to me, we should be able to analyze what went wrong then and, at least, make an attempt to avoid making the very same mistakes. We already know where that road leads. If we can't do that, then we are already lost.
© J. D. Longstreet