I am a son of the South, born in Louisville, Ky., some 70- plus years ago. My father was an unrelenting Texan” known as “Tex”. As a young man he eagerly joined the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He resigned after viewing the lynching of a black man. But to his death Dad believed, “Negroes needed to stay in their place.” I was raised in a racist milieu.
I am a son of the South, born in Louisville, Ky., some 70- plus years ago. My father was an unrelenting Texan” known as “Tex”. As a young man he eagerly joined the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He resigned after viewing the lynching of a black man. But to his death Dad believed, “Negroes needed to stay in their place.” I was raised in a racist milieu. I’ve served in the Senate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and I believe I’m the senior Kentucky Colonel in Kansas. I offer this background hoping to lend some authority to what I say.
It was 150 years ago that the United States was attacked at Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay, S.C. Fort Sumter was besieged by forces of a rebellious insurgency. This treasonous act led to the deadliest war our nation has ever suffered. To defend the State’s right to enslave fellow human beings, eleven States chose to sever their legal covenant with America. This seditious action resulted in 620,000 meaningless deaths, sacrificed to the cruel attempt to promote, preserve and perpetuate a great evil. This act can never be a source of pride or celebration. It can only be condemned and grieved.
Slavery must never be romanticized, glorified, or sanctified. Southern slavery was the cruelest slavery in history. Prior enslavements were the consequences of one man dominating and making another man chattel. Only in America was the supreme Law of the Land spawned by a declaration that “all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable right”. Only in America were men of color reduced by law to “3/5ths” of a man (Article 9, Section 2, U.S. Constitution). Slaves in America were not only denied their inalienable rights given by their Creator, but even the fullness of their humanity as men bestowed upon them by their Creator. Slavery in America mocked God and betrayed its own foundation. It was an evil that should only be remembered with revulsion. How can Americans today display the symbols of such heinous crimes against humanity?
The 258,000 insurgent deaths are a tragic testament to the insolence, arrogance and intransigence of the southern leadership. To retain some men in bondage, the south sacrificed thousands of its young who surely are to be grieved for uselessly giving their lives for a lie. These men should never be honored as heroes; they were traitors to America no matter their rationalizations. Grief and sadness, yes, for such sacrifice; but no honor. Thousands of dead affirm that the Confederacy was dead wrong
The ones to honor on this 150th Anniversary of the Civil War are those 360,000 northern troops who responded to the call to defend their country and to free the thousands who were enslaved. The Federal boys in blue gave the “last full measure of devotion” to God and to country. They truly did “die to make men free” and to insure that those “inalienable rights” endowed by the Creator could be lived by all Americans. Their memory must always be honored and revered.
Finally, we must always remember that the Civil War did not end at Appomattox Court House in 1865. The struggle continued for decades against vicious groups of racists with cowardly white hoods and burning crosses. Finally a diminutive black preacher offered his life demanding through peaceful means the fulfillment of the promises of America. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the last great Civil War leader, who energized the hope that finally all might be “free at last.” I was in the struggle in the south in late ’69 and ’70. It was only then that “public swimming pools” became public; that “public schools” became public; that “public accommodations” became public; and even churches became open to all.
There were others who gave their lives to set people free: Medgar Evars, Emmet Till, Jonathan Daniels, the four children killed in the Atlanta Church bombing. The hundreds of nameless persons murdered with a noose by a hate-filled mob must always be remembered in grief, horror and honor.
And we must always remember that the struggle goes on. If Senator McCain had been elected President no one would have questioned his eligibility for the office because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone and not on American soil.
But God is still marching on, and someday America will finally be in truth, “one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” Then the Civil War will end.