It’s Time To End The Civil War …

Among my favourite columnists is Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post … he always seems able to cut through the detritus and get to the heart of the matter, to make sense out of chaos.  His column yesterday is no exception and I thought very worthy of being shared here.  I also highly recommend you check out his link to the 1619 Project, an ongoing project developed by The New York Times Magazine in 2019 with the goal of re-examining the legacy of slavery in the United States and timed for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia.

Trump might go down in history as the last president of the Confederacy

Eugene-RobinsonBy Eugene Robinson 


June 11, 2020 at 4:27 p.m. EDT

It should have happened 155 years ago, when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, but maybe — just maybe — the Civil War is finally coming to an end. And perhaps Donald Trump, not Jefferson Davis, will go down in history as the last president of the Confederacy.

Symbols like flags and monuments matter, because what they symbolize is our vision of ourselves as a nation: the heroes, battles, movements, sacrifices and ideals we honor. So when I see multiracial crowds toppling the statues of Confederate soldiers and politicians, when I see respected military leaders arguing that Army posts should no longer bear the names of Confederate generals, when I see NASCAR banning displays of the Confederate battle flag at its races — witnessing all of this, I let hope triumph over experience and allow myself to imagine that this may indeed be a transformational moment.

Like the Civil War itself, “Lost Cause” symbology is simply and entirely about white supremacy. It has nothing to do with “heritage” or “tradition” or any such gauzy nonsense. The heavily armed “liberate Michigan” mob that invaded the statehouse in Lansing, egged on by President Trump, had no historical reason to be waving the Confederate flag. That banner represents the knee that has been kept on the necks of African Americans not just for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the time Derek Chauvin spent crushing the life out of George Floyd, but for 401 years

Lee’s surrender ended nothing, because the nation did not even begin to grapple with white supremacy. Reconstruction was strangled in its infancy; true racial reconciliation was never even attempted. The statue of Davis in Richmond, brought down by protesters Wednesday night, was not erected until 1907. Like almost all of the Lost Cause monuments, it was built during the revanchist era, when Southern whites were celebrating their reestablished dominance over African Americans via repressive Jim Crow laws and the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan.

Many recall that the Confederate flag at the South Carolina statehouse was taken down in 2015 following the massacre of nine African American worshipers by a white supremacist at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. Few realize that the racist flag had been installed at the statehouse not in 1861 but a century later, in 1961, when black South Carolinians like my parents were agitating for the right to vote.

The killing of Floyd has provoked a national moment of reckoning with police violence and white supremacy. But the position of the Trump administration is that systemic racism does not even exist — that our unexamined and unaddressed racial problems all come down to a few “bad apples” here and there.

Perhaps in an attempt to gain political advantage — and perhaps, as much evidence suggests, because it’s what he truly believes — Trump has used this moment to side with Lost Cause white supremacy. His all-caps tweets for “LAW & ORDER” sound like George Wallace when he was governor of Alabama; his demand for a militarized response to the protests reminds me of Bull Connor, the Birmingham commissioner of public safety who attacked nonviolent civil rights protesters with water hoses and vicious dogs.

When it was reported that high-ranking Army officials are open to stripping the names of Confederate generals from military posts such as Fort Bragg, Fort Benning and Fort Hood, Trump reacted instantly. He tweeted Wednesday that he “will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”

Trump claimed, ridiculously, that the names are somehow part of the nation’s “history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.” He may be historically ignorant enough not to know that the generals in question were traitors as famous for the battles they lost as for any of their triumphs; that ultimate victory went to the Union, not the Confederacy; and that the whole point of the rebellion was to deny freedom to African Americans. Or he may know these facts but believe his political base doesn’t.

Just hours later, however, NASCAR banned the Confederate flag. If there is one sporting venue that Trump might think of as a safe space, it would be a NASCAR race — until now. Heck, I might even go watch a race when the pandemic ends.

Trump must be bewildered. Unsubtle appeals to racial animus (remember his “birther” lies) have always worked for him in the past, but now he seems to be flailing. If it turns out that the Lost Cause is finally, truly lost, then so is the president who made himself its champion.

35 thoughts on “It’s Time To End The Civil War …

  1. Pingback: A Sorry Tale Of Two Men … | Filosofa's Word

  2. This is the very column that I would share with friends and family, indeed I have done just that! Somewhere along the way whilst reading the news from many sources, though I no longer recall exactly where, I came across these words that seem fitting to this post. Kehinde Andrews, a Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University recently said in an interview : “Statues are not about history; statues are about a certain version of history.” If we are at that “transformational moment”, then it is time to completely rid this country of the statues and other detritus of a certain version of history that glorified what the Confederacy stood for. Today, June 12th, being the birthday of Anne Frank and the fact that I am again reading “The Definitive Edition of The Diary of A Young Girl” gives me reason to share something that she wrote : “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne’s world did not improve in her lifetime but we can improve our part of the world for EVERYONE…starting right now! Thank-you!

    Liked by 3 people

    • And in fact it was the very column you did share with me! As I said in my email last night … great minds really do think alike! I absolutely agree with you about the statues … why do we even erect statues of people??? We can honour them in the history books if they were men of honour, but why a statue? I like that quote by Anne Frank … it reminds us to be the change we want to see. We can all do something, no matter how small, to make the world a better place.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jill, Robinson’s article uses an appropriate metaphor. It will and should be irritating to the president. But, rather than bring us together in quiet times or in times of crisis, he uses his worst instincts and placates a narrow part of his base. Whether it is his making a disproportionate issue out of Colin Kaepernack’s kneeling, giving creedence to white supremacists after Charlottesville, referring to s**thole countries, advocating sending four Congresswoman of color back to other countries or what has has done and said over the racial injustices the last few weeks, he has shown his racist bent. But, this precedes the White House.

    I take heart the Senate has gone against Trump’s wishes and voted to rename the military bases. Trump called the namesakes heroes, but Fort Bragg is named after Braxton Bragg called the worst general of the Confederacy, which means he was a bad commander on the side that rebelled against our country.

    Robinson’s point is well-taken. But, we should supplement it with the testimony of Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer who said “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist, and he is a cheat.” Why did he lead with racist?


    Liked by 3 people

    • I, too, was pleased to see the Senate stand up for the right thing instead of pandering to Trump’s wishes. It’s also time for the Confederate flag to come down … everywhere! Can you imagine Germany allowing the Nazi flag to be flown in public venues? I have a neighbor whose teenage boy is running around the neighborhood wearing a Confederate cap! In a predominantly African-American neighborhood! I know he’s old enough to realize how offensive it is, so I must assume he wants to make a statement … might as well wear a sign saying “I am a racist”. Yes, there can be no doubt that Cohen was right … after all, he was the one that had to go behind Trump cleaning up the messes he made.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Trump;s family would have all been in Germany at the time of the War between the North and South and he was only born about 1947 so he’s roughly on a par with me. I wonder what turned a privileged person into such a hater of certain people. Did his dad tell him they were only good as servants, or did his time at West Point turn him? The dreadful Bone spurs changing his life forever.

    Liked by 4 people

    • You’re right … his grandparents on his father’s side migrated to the U.S. during the war as best I recall. But he’s much older than we are … born in 1946, making him 5 years, or 60 months, or 1,825 days, or 43,800 hours (roughly) older than us. I don’t know the answer to your question, but I think it may be something missing in his character, some fatal flaw similar to what Charles Manson and others had. His father was also an arrogant, pompous ass, from all I’ve read, so presumably it was in the DNA. His mother should have drowned him at birth!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: The 1619 Project: another good start | ShiraDest: toward The Four Freedoms for All Human Beings

  6. Thanks for sharing this column, Jill, with its much-needed historical perspective. When his congressional enablers see Trump’s ship continue to sink as election day approaches, they will scurry away to dark corners like the vermin that they are!

    Liked by 6 people

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