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The Foundation of Freedom is the Courage of Ordinary People


(One earlier essay: Surrender of Greatness)

In the insanity of our Civil War, the Northern States invaded the Southern States, to "Preserve The Union".

Both groups had previously United to win Independence from Great Britain, but the Southern States no longer felt a cutural identity with the North. Believing it as much their right to leave the Union as it had been to join it, the Southern States were attempting to form a group with which they could identify, a Confederacy.

The South met the invading Northern troops head-on with military force. Hundreds of thousands of the South's finest young men were slaughtered. Most of the cream of two full generations were wounded, maimed or slain. The Southern States were ravaged. Their homelands were empoverished. Ultimately, they were totally subjugated. The survivors had no choice but to accept "Reconstruction" and "Rejoin" the Union.

The proud ante-bellum Southern culture had been destroyed. After Reconstruction, Southerners fought gallantly for the Union in all their subsequent wars, but were second-class citizens economically for about seventy years. Still, Southerners were always proud to be Americans and of the Constitution which unites us all. By World War II, the Stars And Bars remained a symbol of sacrifice and valor of which all Americans might justly be proud but Southern loyalties had long returned to the Stars And Stripes, for which generations of Southerners fought bravely and well.

Slavery fared worse. Though free, segregation In both North and South made their descendents third-class citizens for almost a hundred years, a bitter and humiliating experience they may never completely rise above. The self-reliance destroying pressure of a pseudo-welfare-state has led generations of African Americans to dependency and a conscience-destroying feeling of victimization which has become largely cultural. Today, though entertainment, athletics and politics have brought many great wealth and power, they seem to fill our prisons and Welfare rolls.

Rather than Seceding, had the Southern states used the tactics of today's Cultural Elite and hate-groups they might have made the centralized Union ineffective at the State level by perverting the National Political Process. The Union might not have been able to goad them into open military resistance. Lacking that, Mr. Lincoln could not have simply used overwhelming numbers and industrial might to crush their will by fire, rapine and death.

He might have had to give them the only thing they asked, freedom to govern themselves.

There might have been no War Between the States, with its hideous bloodshed, suffering, and legacy of cultural hatreds.

One basic issue between North and South was States' Rights vs those of a Central Goverment. The allegiance of each citizen to a State vs the allegiance of everyone to the government in Washington. The Southern economy and culture was based on agriculture, and they mostly identified with the diverse towns and small communities where they lived. They did not relate to the teeming Northern cities or a single political center like Washington.

The other basic cultural issue was Slavery.

Slavery had ended naturally in most of the world before the War, for social and economic reasons. These would likely have ended it naturally in the South as well. Only a small percentage of Southerners actually owned slaves. Many enlightened Southerners had already freed theirs. Social support for such cruel injustice was certainly eroding.

In any case, the economics of industrialization would soon have made slavery impractical. A Northern trade embargo could have ended it even faster. Merging former slaves into general society would still have presented major problems but, without the hatreds bred in the agonies of warfare, it would have been far easier. Greater Southern problems might have been combining an agricultural economic base with industry, and voter envy as the Union legally absorbed the Territories.

Today, the value of "Preserving the Union" is debatable. Once, we had a Melting-Pot culture. The accomplishments we made together gave us a sense of national unity, and our strong middle class gave each of us a confidence that industry and responsible behavior offered every citizen unlimited possibilites. We once felt in control of our destiny. Today, we are divided politically, philosophically, and economically. Our destinies are in the hands of others. Today, cultural power groups use the central government to control us all.

Today, Family values are disappearing. Morality, virtue and ethical principles are mocked, even punished when not "politically correct." Initiative and responsibility are suffocating under group entitlements. Immigrant children in Public Schools won't stand for our Pledge of Allegiance. Burning "Old Glory" is considered freedom of expression.

Today, our cultural elite and economic upper class regard the rest of us with amused contempt. The governments they and their media induce us to elect show little evidence of being either competent or trustworthy. Much of our disappearing middle class is barely above the economic top of the low income groups, differing from them mainly by continuing to work and pay taxes to support those who can't, or won't, do either. This is the true outcome of that horrible war.

What might we have become, had Mr. Lincoln chosen to let the South secede from the Union in peace?

Today, the South would probably be a wealthy aristocracy with about a fifth of our population. Their women would still be beautiful and pampered. Black musicians would always have enriched the world's entertainment, and Black athletes would have dominated sports everywhere years before Jackie Robinson was born. A Condoleezza Rice would have crushed some Bush the Younger for each of our Presidencies at least fifty years ago. Political success would depend on beneficial government for all our peoples rather than feeding hatreds. In both North and South, Racial Demagogues would have to work for their living.

We both would probably have still been on the winning side in any World Wars, but maybe not. Maybe we would even have let Europe and Asia settle their own affairs and just stayed neutral. In that case, our Political and Educational Institutions and our Media might not now be controlled by a tiny group of cultural Elitists and radical liberals. Probably neither of us would be sure where Afghanistan is.

Of course, if the Southern States had fought their war by sabotaging effective central government, the North might have defeated them a different way, albeit a way that would have destroyed the basis for our government. A hundred and fifty years ago the Supreme Court might have begun "interpreting" our Constitution for political motives, instead of defending it for us all. As it is, our remarkable Constitution continues to shelter us from our worst instincts, and may be today's best hope for some day restoring a national sense of unity.

Bert Kortegaard:   The Confederate States of America, 3/1861 - 4/1865

Youth consumed by war and pride
Children never young
Not wise not strong not right not wrong
Yet brave your song was sung


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