Sunday, May 02, 2010

I Am Opposed to Celebrating Independence Day: A Response to the Furor Over Confederate History Month

Since I did not  support Confederate History Month (though a southerner), I am opposed to celebrating  the Fourth of July. This is a nation whose original constitution regarded enslaved black people  as 3/5 of a person, a nation that committed near genocide against Native Americans. Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. Only property owning white males voted. The vote was not given to women until 1922. Women still do not have equal rights in all areas of life. Many churches deny them ordination to the ministry; their pay  in many jobs still lags behind that of men. Homosexuals have been and still are treated badly and often are subject to violence and cruelty, denied basic rights, e. g., to marry.

We are still a racist county in many ways. Theologians both North and South defended slavery on the basis of Scripture and natural law well into the middle of the 19th century.  Slavery existed in both North and South.  Especially New England, but also  New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, got wealthy in the slave trade. 
To this day, it's difficult to find an old North institution of any antiquity that isn't tainted by slavery. Ezra Stiles imported slaves while president of Yale. Six slave merchants served as mayor of Philadelphia. Even a liberal bastion like Brown University has the shameful blot on its escutcheon. It is named for the Brown brothers, Nicholas, John, Joseph, and Moses, manufacturers and traders who shipped salt, lumber, meat -- and slaves.
Soil, climate, and the invention of the cotton gin, not moral superiority, accounted for the persistence of slavery longer in the South than in the North. When the state of Georgia was founded, slavery was prohibited, but envy of wealth in  slave states led to its legalization.
The treatment of laboring people has been ghastly and often violent. Wage workers were left in their old age to fend for themselves. Sometimes their economic status and quality of life were no better than that of some Southern black slaves, whose masters provided for them until they died.
I will mention our imperialism only in passing but will point out that we have participated in the overthrow of democratically elected governments. Especially notable was the  deposing  of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh by the United States' Central Intelligence Agency, leading to the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the threat we now face regarding nuclear weapons in Iran.

Let us move on to the  unnecessary and profoundly tragic wars in Vietnam and Iraq. We are the only country to use a nuclear weapon against another, though that was probably no worse than the Allied and US bombing of Dresden in WWII. How does the honoring of Confederate soldiers differ from honoring those who fought in Vietnam and Iraq?

On second thought I will gladly celebrate Confederate Day and the Fourth of July  if they are set aside as a time for confession of sin and commitment to fruits meet unto repentance.

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