Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Obama Honors Blacks as Well as Confederates

On Digby's Hullabaloo there's a post about the traditional ceremony which President Obama continued: placing a wreath on the Confederate Memorial as part of the Memorial Day Ceremony. Obama had been urged from some quarters to discontinue the recognition of the Confederate fallen. He decided to not only continue with that, but added something. USA Today has the story:

A solemn President Obama is at Arlington National Cemetery where he just laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, the resting place of unidentified servicemembers from World Wars I and II and the Korean War. (The remains of a Vietnam War casualty were exhumed in 1998 and identified through DNA testing as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down in 1972.)

In keeping with long-standing tradition, the president also sent wreaths to several other war memorials, including the Confederate War Memorial at Arlington Cemetery. Obama also sent a wreath to the African American Civil War Memorial across the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. He is the first president to pay such a tribute to the estimated 200,000 African Americans who died in the conflict that ended slavery.

The controversy stemmed from the fact that some people feel the Confederate fallen were traitors, enemies to the fatherland and to continue honoring them feeds into their descendents' racism, bigotry and divisiveness. What do you think? Is there anything to those claims, in your opinion? Is it normal for a country to honor and respect the fallen rebels who attempted to overthrow its government?

Obama's usual way of sidestepping these extremely emotional arguments was done, in this instance, very smoothly by adding the honoring of Black Civil War soldiers to the ceremony. Not only did that balance out in some way the honoring of the Confederates, but it took some of the focus off his decision to continue doing so. I say, well done, Barack.

What's your opinion?


  1. The Confederates did not see themselves as traitors at all but rather as patriots. Up until the Civil War, most understood the United States to be a collection of States and men's loyalty rested with the state rather than the nation. Confederates saw themselves as defending themselves against an invading federal force. In fact nearly half of the states in rebellion did not succeed until federal troops invaded the South.

    One of the most fascinating points to the American Civil War is that there were not strong hate and animosity between the combatants and families after the conflict was over. Most families welcomed their surviving children back in no matter what uniform they wore. Reunions at battlefields between both sides were common place and the Gettysburg reunion carried on until most of the veterans had died of old age. The feds recognized confederate pensions and service.

    My father's ancestors fought on the Union side. They were from Kentucky and no doubt had a lot of divided loyalties as both sides recruited units from their county.

    The whole Civil War was a giant political contest that began with the debates surrounding the ratification of the Constitution. States vs. Feds. The feds won so we have a strong federal government.

    In spite of what they started teaching in the school post WWII, the Civil War was not fought over slavery. Sure there were some abolitionist units raised but it was not a central theme of the war. There are no union recruiting posters urging enlistees to march South and save the black man. In fact, four of the slave states did not even succeed.

    The whole idea of the Confederate cause being some evil incarnate is a relatively new view that has formed in the last 20-25 years. Ironton, Ohio recently made the news because they banned a confederate reenactment unit from marching in the memorial day parade. That wouldn't have happened just 10 years ago.

    Obama made the right decision to carry on the tradition that all Presidents have done for over the last 100 years.

  2. WFM said,

    "In spite of what they started teaching in the school post WWII, the Civil War was not fought over slavery."

    While technically true, the fact that slave states wanted to maintain slavery surely compelled them to succeed from the Union.

    Those 'states' rights' folks maintained that their state laws trumped Federal laws. Apparently the South lacks constitutional lawyers.

    For the next 100 years, the states' rights junta challenged the Federal government over slavery and Jim Crow Laws necessitating several presidents to again sent Federal troops to the South.

    Texas governor Perry has been toying with succession lately. Apparently he and others like toying with the 10th Amendment, yet remain ignorant of/or dismiss the powers granted to the Federal government.

    Imagine if nuts like Perry actually promoted succession once again. I'd vote to allow them to leave the Union this time.

  3. God Muddy I LOVE when you use the word "Junta".

    It wasn't about slavery, it was about economics. If the South had to suddenly pay for their labor they would have suffered a massive economic collapse...kinda like the constuction era of the South.

    Doesn't make slavery right, but when one group of people had to choose to own another group of people who ALL WESTERNERS deemed subhuman (you of course recognise Jim Crow and segrigation, pointing out that even the people who "freed" the slaves didn't see them as exactly human) and going hungry, they chose to keep slaves.

    And when a part of the nation without the strong agricultural background of the South decided to outlaw the South's prime means of economic production, they chose to suceed.

    Honestly when you factor in the racist mindset held by all Americans at the time, I don't blame them.

    If you look at it through the rose-colored glasses that public schools in America teach about it, it does make the Confederates look like a bunch of racist assholes, and traitors.

    Hell people still call it a "Civil War" dispite it being little different from our "Revolutionary War" with England.

    The Confederate States of America simply had a failed revolution.

  4. Mudrake_
    "While technically true, the fact that slave states wanted to maintain slavery surely compelled them to succeed from the Union."

    No doubt those deep south states that first succeeded did so to protect slavery as much as they did to protest federal interference with their trade. However, the remaining Confederate states entered the war in the defense of the others.

    Also, Lincoln even ordered that slavery was not to be used as a recruiting tool or an official federal platform. To do so could jeopardize the remaining slave states that did not succeed.

    Today the federal government is very abusive of the 10th amendment as well as the commerce clause. If we ever get a truly honest SCOTUS and Congress, the abuses would fade. Not much chance in that happening I guess.

  5. FWM said, "If we ever get a truly honest SCOTUS and Congress, the abuses would fade."I was thinking about this very thing today while posting about the newest Supreme Court nominee.

    Being politicians beholden to their voters as well as susceptible to lobby influence, it's not likely that such a thing as a "truly honest" one is possible. But as a student at Princeton, the future Justice Sotomayer, was unshackled by all that jazz and free to be as honest as she could be. What do you think?