Friday, November 13, 2015

Who Writes History?

Walter Benjamin said history is written by the victors. I am not sure that holds true for the American Civil War. 

I read in a recent issue of The New Yorker reviews of several books describing the pervasive effects of slavery throughout the country before the Civil War and the pernicious influence of Jim Crow after the war. Today, the South extols with increased vigor the glories of its heritage and the bravery of its Civil War soldiers, with little regard to the fact that all was based on the evils of slavery. The North maintains that its hands are clean and it is therefore absolved from dealing with legacy problems.

But wait! The Civil War was not about slavery; it was about States' rights, as embodied by the Constitution. And the problems of Jim Crow have been largely solved, according to Chief Justice Roberts, as he and the conservative majority ripped out the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. 

In our perverse present, the South is not only rewriting history; it is turning back the clock on progress made in the last 50 years to ensure equal rights for the descendants of the human beings that it once held as chattel property. 

I am close to despair. 

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