Civil War News Review

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Out of Sight Is Not Out of Mind

Removing the swastika from German buildings and public display after World War II did not stop the rise of the neo-Nazis. The refusal of the Japanese to teach about World War II did not eradicate their war record from history. Crushing the German state and economy after World War I merely led to the rise of the Nazis. Removing all things Confederate from the U.S. culture will merely drive the studies and discussions of everything Confederate underground where it will fester and spawn more extremist Neo-Confederates, and more misguided hate.

The danger of suppressing symbols and memorials of the past, which offends us is a threat to the very freedoms we hold so dear – freedom of speech, freedom of discussion, freedom to express ideas both good and bad. Ideas and ideologies are like mercury – the more a person tries to destroy them, the further they disperse, only to coalesce again.

Maybe, instead of removing everything Confederate from our society, we should use this controversy to foster further research and discussion. Has anyone really done a quantitative study of Civil War letters, diaries, recollections, and reminiscences to find out why men from both side joined the respective armies? Has anyone really bothered to explore in depth the rampant divisiveness in our society before and during the war?

More importantly, as a nation, we need to teach history the way it was and not the way we want it to be. What would happen if we stopped viewing history as a thesis statement, which has to be proven? As an extended term paper where the author has a conclusion to prove? What if we had schools, which taught history without any objective other than to explore the past through the eyes of the participants rather than through a cookie cutter curriculum? What if history really were an important subject in this country? What would happen then?

I do not know. All I know is that when we as Americans refuse to listen to an opposing view, when we cover our eyes, mouths, and ears to block out those things, which offend us; when we surrender our right to exercise free speech because it is not politically correct to do so, we will succumb to tyranny and dictatorship. We will throw away the most precious liberty we have for which so many men, women, and children have laid down their lives.

There is nothing done in secret which will not be revealed. Driving our history underground will create a “new” history with no roots in the past or in the truth. A light hidden under a basket still burns and the flame will eventually light a fire with potential harm to the person holding it down. Freedom of speech does not mean only allowing the conversations with which we agree. If we muzzle the mouths of those we oppose and offend us, eventually those whom we have opposed and offended too shall eventually silence us. 


  1. I fully agree. As much as people dislike things (Ex. Confederate flag) it is a version of free speech. A recognition of cultural heritage in some ways, the expression of cultural dislike in others.

    People take that crap way out of context. Yes an idiot killed people. He used racist hate as his motive. Others like the IS use religion to justify their violence.

    It is better to educate than to just let people react with passion first. This is how Constitutional rights get violated and people continue to move forward as an ignorant mass. Everyone feels their perspective is correct. Like a kid in school giving their teacher an excuse for why something is late. The kid feels its a justifed reason and reality. Then feeling outraged that the teacher doesn't accept their excuse which is only justified in the kids mind.

    How dare someone disagree with them..don't you know because I believe it then it must be true...same thing above. Oh he was a racist...tear down the Confederate flag because that will stop racism from that context. Next do we ban the KKK and get sued for violating free speech? If we can ban the KKK can we sue Republican leaders who speak out against illegal immigration as being racist? Do we sue people for their confederate flag bumper sticker that says heritage not hate?

    It's part of democracy and I welcome the open forum of dialog. However people are unable to have a dialog in an grown up way about those types of passionate things. Too much emotion.

  2. I agree as well.

    I urge all historians who share your opinion to say so publicly. I am concerned that the eradication of Confederate symbols will run amok unless respected historians and National Park authorities who agree with you say, "Enough is enough. We do not need remove monuments to Southerners on the National Park battlefields. etc, etc."

  3. Take the flag down from statehouses and other government offices. The only flag that should be flying is the Stars and Stripes or the state banners. Don't ban the flag. Don't exhume bodies of Confederate soldiers or rob their graves of symbols of the Confederacy. We can't erase history, and those soldiers and their families were Americans too.

  4. Well stated Mike. As I have previously state, "Fear not words, ideas or images,
    fear ignorance and evil."

  5. On the whole, I agree with your rational essay regarding the telling of history. I do take umbrage with your comparison of Confederate heritage symbols and history with vile Nazi symbols and Japanese Imperial history.Your own ill informed prejudice is showing. If you really want a fair and illuminating telling of history, start with telling about war crimes committed against southern civilian non combatants. And then, tell what the Confederate soldier, using his own words, was really fighting to defend and preserve , rather than the usual single canard of fighting to defend slavery. Confederate soldiers were honorable men not traitors, and patriots to their respective countries or states. After the War for Southern Independence there were no convictions for treason for a reason, and there is also a reason why Congress, by official Act in 1958, gave Confederate veterans full rights and privileges given to all US vets who served honorably.The PC frenzy to destroy southern heritage symbols will most certainly backfire.There are some 60 million US citizens living today who are descendants of Confederate veterans. These people mostly sit on the fence neutral about their ancestry. But, to start a cultural ethnic cleansing of the south is going to backfire on those who are pushing this agenda.There are record numbers of Sons of Confederate Veterans applications and record Confederate Battle Flag sales going on right now.

  6. George, I believe John's point is that by vilifying the Confederate standard people are trying to group it with those areas you "take umbrage with".

    You misunderstood his main point.

    As for war crimes, that is a late 20th century notion. War is brutal. There are only war crimes post WWII, aybe post WWI in some aspect, for those nations who lose or are not powerful enough and get prosecuted. If you don't want to deal with the harsh problems that arise from war you shouldn't get into one. By war crimes we'd have to condemn Sherman, Napoleon, Louis 14th, and every other major military commander back through the Romans to the Persians and beyond. That isn't logical.

    But I digress away from the main point of John's post and I will not hijack his post any further. Sorry John.