Taking Down and Re-writing History

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

by Daniel Nardini

Personally, the removal of Confederate statues is a truly sad event of our times. It says more about our era of divided and hateful politics than what happened just after the Civil War. The U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) was the single bloodiest conflict in American history in the sheer terms of how many Americans died (and yes, I include the war dead from the Confederacy). One of the more remarkable things about the post-war period and for the next ten years was that both Union and Confederate soldiers tried to work together to heal the wounds of war. It was a complicated process—there were northerners who wanted to radically remake the defeated former Confederacy and those former Confederate soldiers who despised the Union. And in the middle of all this were the African Americans who may may have been freed from slavery but who were far from being considered equal by either the southerners or the northerners.

This was the true situation of what the Era of Reconstruction was—trying to heal the wounds of war while at the same time completely change the governmental structure of every single southern state and even southern society itself. In the end, changing the governmental and social structure of southern society failed because many southerners from the time period (and for that matter many northerners too) may have been defeated, but they did not like Washington, D.C. telling them how to run their affairs and they did not see the African American as equal. President Ulysses S. Grant tried to enforce Republican-type governments down the throats of southerners, and in this he failed. The only thing he succeeded in doing was suppress the southern rebel factions and the Ku Klux Klan who created shadow governments against U.S. government rule. Later presidents allowed the southerners (in this case white southerners) to elect their own officials and create their own self-rule at the expense of the African American minority who would not be treated equal until the civil rights movement of the 1950’s.

What both the southerners and northerners tried to do was heal the wounds of the civil war. The statues dedicated to all the war dead from both the Union and the Confederacy was one example. Another were the large cemeteries honoring both the Confederate and Union war dead. Another were acts of Congress of the post-civil war period acknowledging that Confederate soldiers should be honored and share the same benefits as Union soldiers and that former Confederate soldiers were allowed to rejoin the U.S. armed forces (which many did). Further, former Confederate General Robert E. Lee did his best to heal the wounds of war between the North and the South. He became president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Virginia, and he taught the young men of that college to try and rebuild their state and dedicate themselves to the United States. Lee also remained a good friend to Grant until Lee’s death in 1870. It took decades for the wounds between the South and the North to heal, but heal they did. Over the years, both former Union and Confederate soldiers would gather to celebrate the end of the civil war and the reunification of the country.

How different it is today. The removal of the Confederate statues and the revision of history that the Confederacy and those who fought for it were nothing but racists, bigots and disloyal terrorists demeans and belittles the history of what the civil war and post-civil war periods were. In too many ways I see it as a left wing, a leftist radical revision of what the history was and how we have remembered the civil war and post-civil war time periods. I am finding it scary that there seems to be a rise in a socialist interpretation of American history that at best only half-understands American history and is trying to vilify certain parts of American history for a cause, and goal to change all of American history. Today it is taking down, smashing and re-writing the history of the Confederacy. Tomorrow it can be the destruction of Union statues and even statues of Abraham Lincoln who led the United States in the civil war (and that is happening too. a Lincoln statue in Chicago and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. were also vandalized). As I condemn the neo-nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, I equally condemn the Antifa movement and all those radical, violent left groups who believe that America has gone fascist and that violence is justified. Where does it all end?

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