A Confederate Memorial Day?

Jack Bernard, a retired SVP with a large national healthcare firm, has worked extensively with hospitals across the nation regarding cost containment and insurance. He was also the first Director of Health Planning for the state of Georgia.

Recently, the Fayette County Commission was asked to consider having a proclamation to honor the Confederate war dead. To far too many, this may have appeared as a reasonable request. It was not. It is way past time for us as white Southerners to recognize why the war was fought… slavery. In the past, recognition of the cause of the war has been ignored in favor of inaccurate “Gone with the Wind” nostalgia.
For example, the Augusta Confederate Monument should cause all of us, Southerners and non-Southerners, a lot of discomfort. It reads: “No nation rose so white and fair, none fell so pure of crime.” Is that truly how we Southerners remember the Confederate leaders who unsuccessfully attempted to break the USA apart?
For those Georgians who answer “yes,” would you approve of Germans saying something similar about the Nazis? How about the Russians saying Stalin’s butchery was well intentioned?
Poland recently made it illegal to state that any Pole had anything whatsoever to do with the holocaust. Tell that to the ashes of the millions of Jews murdered in Polish concentration camps, often with the help of Polish collaborators.
Likewise, having a Confederate Memorial Day (or building a Confederate monument with misleading captions) does not change history or the facts. Slavery and white supremacy were and still are 100 percent inexcusable evils. Human beings were murdered, tortured, and enslaved, treated as property to be bought and sold. If we are going to honor war dead, then let’s at least be honest about what they were fighting to preserve.
Despite recent attempts at revisionist history, the Civil War was fought over slavery, as was stated in the secession statements by many of the states in the confederacy. That does not mean that everyone who fought for the South was pro-slavery or owned slaves, but it does mean that Southerners should not be proud of what the Confederate flag stands for historically: human bondage. Establishing a Confederate Memorial Day is the exact opposite of being patriotic.
Yes, there were many men, including ancestors of my children, who honorably fought for the Confederacy to defend their homes. However, it is past time for white Southerners to finally accept the fact that the Confederate generals and politicians leading the revolt were by definition traitors, attempting to rip apart the nation and divide it in half over the issue of slavery.
The above is not to say that the Union was blameless. There were sins on all sides. Before the Civil War, my wife’s family was better off than most, but they were in the way of Sherman’s March to the Sea, a horrible event targeting innocent civilians that I believe was an inexcusable war crime.
Many of us have heard about how the Yankees stole the family silver, and the soldiers used the local church as a stable and burned down the courthouse. My father-in-law, the rare Georgia Republican in the 60s, made it sound like it happened yesterday.
These resentments still exist today, which leads me to the bottom line. We must all be aware of the sinister forces that today are once again working to divide our nation. Over the last 10 years, open racism has become much more acceptable, leading to the election of a President known for making numerous bigoted and divisive tweets and remarks. We must all strive to halt this self-destructive trend toward tribalism and bring the people of our nation together as one.
A good start towards true progress and reconciliation would be to reflect the heritage of all our citizens, not just the white ones, when we talk about Civil War memorials and Memorial Days. Acknowledging the inherent evils of slavery and its role in starting the war would be the correct first step.

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