Monday, April 12, 2010

"The past isn't dead..."

Walter Russell Mead, a son of the South, reflects on the significance of the Civil War [War of the Rebellion?] still today:
It was 149 years ago today that deeply misguided Confederate hotheads rejoiced as they began the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. The Confederate cabinet in Montgomery had determined on the attack, overriding the prescient advice of Secretary of State Robert Toombs that to fire the first shot “will lose us every friend at the North. You will wantonly strike a hornet’s nest…. Legions now quiet will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary. It puts us in the wrong. It is fatal.” ....

...[T]he catastrophe unleashed by the attack on Fort Sumter still reverberates through American life today; its consequences, good and bad, are still shaping our politics and perceptions.

The latest sign that the guns still echo came last week as the governor of Virginia failed to include any reference to slavery while proclaiming April “Confederate History Month” in the state. A minor league brouhaha ensued; Governor Bob McDonald industriously backpedaled. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour couldn’t let bad enough alone, confiding to the nation that the whole flap was “a nit, it’s not significant“.

Governor Barbour is, of course, wrong. The failure to handle the memory of the most tragic and transformative event in American history with due diligence and care is a significant failure. Whatever the political consequences, serious politicians still need to approach anything having to do with the Civil War with a sensitivity and intelligence that shows they understand and respect this ordeal in its many dimensions.

The past isn’t dead, Faulkner once wrote. It isn’t even past. .... [more]
The Guns of the Civil War Still Echo In Our Heads - Walter Russell Mead's Blog - The American Interest