Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I was reading something a while ago about a folk who identified with the Southerners in the Civil War, identified with just wanting the opportunity to govern themselves and choose what was right.

My writing student’s younger siblings are studying the civil war. A short while ago, when taking with them, I asked them what they had learned that day. They replied that they learned the civil war was about slavery.

Something clicked within me and I launched into a mini-lecture about how the civil war was really about state’s rights. I talked about how some states felt the federal government had no right to tell them what they could and could not do. I talked about the role of a common government and some current day examples of where the Federal government makes the rules and where things are left up to states.

Now, I explained that the main issue being debated under States rights was the right to own slaves. But to say the Civil War was fought over slavery is to diminish the deep divide that existed at the time. [Some would probably say that divide is wider than ever.]

Any how, in reading the comparison, I immediately was offended by how such a statement belittled the enormity and seriousness of slavery. It was no simple rights issue that was unfairly decided by a central government that cared only for the advancement of its highest citizens. The southerners were not oppressed individuals living in a corrupt society who wished only to live their lives out apart from all the standards, and yes hardships, inflicted by those who wished to have just one standard of life. The southerners were denying life itself to human beings. This was not a matter of who could marry or not, who would pay taxes or not. This was a matter of life and death and unspeakable cruelty.

The irony of my reaction was not lost on me in that moment. I practically shoved the fact that the Civil War was not just about slavery down the throats of a 6-, 9-, and 12-year-old. Yet, here I was, horrified, that slavery was not front and center as the reason for the Civil War in the piece I read.

P.S. Happy B-day to my sister!

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