“A Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.” (Robert E. Lee)
Is the current state of political disharmony existing among Democrats/Republicans in the United States heading us toward another Civil War? What lessons from this tragic period of American History appear relevant to our present day conflict? In the months leading up to the Civil War in 1861, our country was deeply embroiled in a North/South sectional dispute over the issues of slavery and related states rights/powers. The inability of the two sides to settle on peaceful terms would ultimately lead to eleven southern states seceding from the union as well as a destructive bloodbath where over 620, 000 soldiers would ultimately lose their life in the ensuing four years.
Major political change in Washington further fueled this conflict. The rise of the Republican Party with Abraham Lincoln’s two term victory as anti- slavery President spread deep seated anger among slaveholders in the Confederate states. Yet through his determined leadership to preserve our nationwide unity, our country survived.
Being curious to find authentic evidence of the political tone that prevailed in the pre-Civil War era, I discovered some revealing letters in my research of the “Online Internet Archive”. Common threads of Southern discontent expressed in these anonymously signed letters showed radical opposition to a “spirit of a country united “ and in particular President Abraham Lincoln’s Presidency at the time. It seemed true to me that our country today faces a similar set of extreme circumstances characterized by a rapidly escalating divide of friend and foe on a wide reaching, national scale. These letters thus showcased below illustrate that these toxic atmosphere elements again threatens to cause nationwide war.
1. The God’s Will Crisis – “The South”
Notice in this letter that holy “Godliness” appeared as a protector of “noble right” for Rebel insurrection. Southern devotion to his “holiness”, in this view, justified this cause is justification to slaughter their Union opponents in the future. With comparable religious passion, some “Christian Right” believers today provide strong support for our President in hope that he will return our country to the strict moral teachings of the Bible. In the meantime, religiously conscious issues like women’s rights suppression, white supremacy, and xenophobia are targeted in a politically toxic way.
2.Patriotism Gone Haywire – “ Southern Song of Liberty”
To defend our homeland” reveals as a strong theme in this letter, implying that Confederates would fight against the enemy who they feel shamed the country’s greatness. The desire to retain a pro-slavery culture, as a patriotic duty , however, appeared treasonous in the North, inevitably providing heavy justification for war. In today’s times, our country equally seems under patriotic attack. Our President angrily exhorts to his followers that (1) Democrat political opponents threaten our country’s greatness, (2) NFL players who do not stand at attention during the National Anthem are treasonous, and (3) strict enforcement of anti- immigration policies restores the right path to American greatness. Unsurprisingly, however, his questioning of one’s loyalty to citizenship, has exacerbated bitter disunity and political alienation for political gain, ultimately weakening our country spirit.
3. Charismatic Leader Myth – “Country,Home, and Liberty”
A leader who expects blind obedience to his/her cause can dangerously manipulate the minds of avid followers. In this letter, the reference to Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States provided strong reasoning that a state of Southern rebellion existed to justify calls for warlike action. Many thus would see little wrong in Davis’ appeal for such endless bloodshed. Our “reality star” President today, likewise, propagandizes to his Republican base that “Making America Great Again” is his greatest priority. Yet his angry tweets, pathological lying , and “witch hunt” denials of the Robert Mueller Investigation make greater headlines for him in his crisis ridden Presidency.
4.Lunacy of Violent Redemption – “Liberty or Death”
This letter vividly points out the “win at all costs”theory that Confederate should commit intimidation and violent action against enemy as a noble cause. Revengeful attacks to save their Southern homelands from enemy invasion seemed preeminent in their minds. Little attention was given in this letter, however to the moral implications of their mass killings. Enter today a raucous political rally for Donald Trump today and you might not feel safe if you work for CNN or have left wing, political leanings. If your child feels traumatized about a recent school shooting at a local high school, don’t expect talk of gun control from the President as a way to solve the problem. If you are a female activist exercising your free speech right to have an abortion in protest, you might consider the emotionally driven tactics from your pro-life enemies that await you .
The letters I presented in this blog fuel a bloodthirsty war and senseless road to our country’s destruction. A much different path seems critical now to transcend religious differences, embrace country over self, present honesty by leadership example, and embrace non- violent action. We all may not agree but at least let’s try to consider voting for those who care in the above stated ways to make our country better.