A Party of Division

Posted By Elgin Hushbeck

Whatever they may have been in the past, it is becoming increasingly clear that the current Democratic party is a party of division and even hate. This attitude is clear in a provision of H.R. 7608 recently passed in the house which says,

Sec. 442. Notwithstanding any other provision of law or policy to the contrary, within 180 days of enactment of this Act, the National Park Service shall remove from display all physical Confederate commemorative works, such as statues, monuments, sculptures, memorials, and plaques, as defined by NPS, Management Policies 2006, §9.6.1.

In 2017 I wrote an article on, History, The Confederacy, and Monuments,  where I wrote,

 “when it comes to monuments in cemeteries or places like Gettysburg, I would be very strongly opposed to their removal. As for the others, I see them as much more problematic.” 

I see history as both interesting and important. It is hard to imagine what Civil War battlefields would be like without all the “statues, monuments, sculptures, memorials, and plaques” for the Confederate troops.  

I have been to Gettysburg several times. It is always a moving experience. I have stood where the southern troop massed for Pickett’s Charge and looked across the fields to the stonewall where Handcocks troops waited for them.  I have stood at the angle and looked in the opposite direction. There are monuments there, and throughout the battlefield to commemorate, the units on both sides. To remove all the monuments for the confederate troops would be a desecration and an act of hate.  

As I said in my 2017 article, “I view the Civil War as two things: A victory, and over.” Yet now Democrats seem to want to light the conflict anew and divide the country once again.  Yet this time, it will not be over those who support slavery and those who oppose it. This time the conflict will be over those who value history and those who want to erase it.

Another key factor is that the meaning of symbols shifts over time. Those wanting to erase the Confederate flag from memory see it as a symbol of the racist past.  For some, it is. But for many others, it is something else. It is important to note that what we call the Confederate Flag is not the flag of the Confederacy. Rather it is the Confederate Battle Flag. For many, this flag is a symbol of regional pride, valor, and honor. It says one is a bit of a rebel, a theme that runs strongly throughout America, not just the South.

Yet, Democrats ignore all this. They say the flag is a symbol of racism and want it erased completely. Yet, how is removing battlefield memorials any different than the Taliban destroying statues with which they disagreed? With the Taliban’ destruction,

Political and religious leaders, as well as preservationists and museum directors from around the world, have expressed fury and sadness over the actions of the Islamic extremists

There is an old Soviet joke: The future is certain; it is that past that is unpredictable. This joke seems to be the motto of the modern Democratic party. They are always predicting a glorious future of peace, prosperity, and harmony.  Yet if one looks at their record, they would see something quite different.

I can understand why Democrats want to erase the history of the Confederacy, for it is their history. The Democrats were the party of slavery. They now want to shift the blame to America and see this as America’s great sin. While that is partially correct, it was not all Americans. Many Americans opposed slavery and fought and died to abolish it. The Democratic party wanted slavery, argued for it, and then fought the Civil War to preserve it.  It is an ugly part of Democrat history, so it is understandable why they want to erase it. If we insist on getting rid of the Confederate Flag because of slavery, why don’t we get rid of the party that pushed for slavery, argued for slavery, and fought for slavery?

In my earlier article, I talked about the experience of two combatants, Corporal Charles H McConnell of the 24th Michigan and Colonel John R Lane, of the 26th North Carolina.  While it is unlikely that McConnell was the soldier who shot and seriously wounded Lane, he believed he had. Despite that, the two became great friends. A 1903 photograph shows them together near the spot McConnell believed he had shot Lane. Nor is this is the only story of soldiers from the North and South, putting past animosity behind them and seeking peace and friendship.

The existence of the battlefield monuments is not a glorification of the Confederacy in its struggle to preserve slavery. The war is over.  They lost.  It is an acknowledgment of history, of what happened, and who fought. It is a sign of reconciliation and resolution. That what was once a place of war is now a place of peace.

Some likened this to pulling down statues of Lenin, following the collapse of the Soviet rule, or Sadam, following his defeat in Iraq. However, there is a key difference. Pulling down a symbol of a ruler when overthrown is one thing. It is something entirely different to do so 155 years later, and well over 120 years since the combatants themselves reconciled and became friends.  

In the immediate aftermath of the war, it was bad enough when the more radical Republicans sought to punish the South.  Lincoln has sought a policy of quick reconciliation and forgiveness, but his assassination ended that possibility. It is sad to think that 155 years later, some still harbor the old divisions.

Though perhaps, the motive is not division, but simply virtue signaling. “See how virtuous I am? I want to remove confederate monuments.”  I am not sure this would be a better explanation. It would mean they are willing to stir up old animosities and strife, for personal gain, and that is hardly a sign of virtue.  

Aug 18th, 2020

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