Tragically, we all recall the gut-wrenching day in our history when rogue enemies of the United States attacked the sacred soil of this nation. In planned action, American citizens were killed on their very homeland by trained operatives who had one goal in mind, to bring down the government of the United States, a terrorist aim to break the fabric of our way of life. It was the action of zealotry, fighting only for their self-proclaimed cause, with the hope that others be subjugated to their close-minded will. Extremists unrecognized by any nation of the world, they were not governed by the laws of the civilized world. What may be disagreed upon is how such enemy combatants should be treated - imprisoned without the protection of society's laws because they acted outside of society, or given the protections of American justice because it is what we stand for as a nation. What we all can agree on, however, is that thought of the villainy against the United States of America makes us recoil to this day, and the craven attack will be remembered forever.
I am speaking, of course, of...
Oh, wait, sorry, did you think I meant 9/11? No, no, my apologies. I was referring to the rebel forces of the Confederacy.
Okay, yes, sure, I was being a bit glib there. But only a bit. After all, glib is often in the eyes of the beholder. One man's glib is another man's Declaration of Independence. Nothing I wrote was inaccurate.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that the Confederacy was the same as the 9/11 terrorists. It wasn't.
To be equally clear, I am not suggesting that Confederate leaders and fighters should have been arrested without warrant and sent to a prison island without counsel, forever. Abraham Lincoln was right to enfold the South back into the nation with full rights of citizenship.
(It should be noted, of course, that President Lincoln did suspend habeas corpus, like George Bush, in part to offset an effort by Lincoln's generals to create military courts against traitors.)
But nothing I wrote was inaccurate.
The Confederacy was an enemy of the United States of America.
It attacked the United States. Made the first strike. Killed American citizens.
Its actions against the United States were carefully planned; its combatants carefully trained.
The Confederacy fought for the right to keep human beings in slavery.
The Confederacy was not a recognized nation by other countries of the world. It was a well-armed, rogue organization.
None of this in inaccurate. Nor in dispute.
And this is what Virginia wants to commemorate with a Confederate History Month. This is what South Carolina honored when it flew the Confederate flag. This is what Georgia, Texas and Mississippi celebrate with their Confederate History Month. This is what its defenders keep trying to justify.
It is clear the Confederacy considered its cause just. It is clear Confederates deeply loved their home and dearly wanted to preserve it. It is clear there was much in antebellum South that was glorious.
And it is clear that the Confederates committed treason against their country. Clear they were trying to preserve enslaving an entire race of people, who were Americans.
And this is what Virginia wants to commemorate with a Confederate History Month. What Georgia, Texas and Mississippi celebrate with their Confederate History Month. What South Carolina honored flying the Confederate flag. This is what its defenders keep trying to justify. Keep trying to justify. Keep trying to justify.
No amount of rebel yells can drown on the reality of the past.
Confederate soldiers died trying to protect the Confederacy.
Union soldiers died trying to protect the United States of America.
No matter how resplendent parts of the Old South were - no matter how noble is the concept of fighting for what you believe in - no matter how great the song "Dixie" is - no matter how deeply tragic the loss of life -
We must have an honest, open view of who we are. Our strengths and our flaws. We must accept responsibility for our actions. We must not defend the indefensible.
If you want to recognize the past, recognize it, but for what it is. Not for what you wish it was. Only this past Sunday, Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS) called the omission of mentioning slavery in Confederacy History Month "something that doesn't matter for diddly."
It matters. Enslaving human beings matters. Treason matters.
It matters so that people understand and learn never to do it again.
In Germany, the swastika was made illegal. You know what they call those Germans who fondly remember the happy memories of World War II? They call them Neo-Nazis.
The point is, people can get past what they did wrong. Blindly celebrating our errors doesn't make them go away. We are better than this.
Perhaps there are some who feel otherwise. Fair enough, let's carry this to it logical conclusion, then.
We know that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. To proudly celebrate the Confederacy means that, in nature, fairness can only dictate that others equally celebrate and honor the Union patriots.
So, how say we have Union History Month?! That's only fair, right? People could dress up in Northern blue soldier uniforms - all month. All month, everyone could fly the same Stars-and-Stripes flag that Union soldiers carried when saving America. For the entire month, we could all sing out, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." And the "Star Spangled Banner." And all month, we would have civic presentations throughout the land teaching the glory of what Union forces of the Civil War fought for to protect and keep the United States of America as great as nation as it is. And of course, since we are all Americans, it would be celebrated through all of America. North and South.
How about we just celebrate America for its diversity and unity and its protections to all, for its freedom to everyone, whatever their creed or religious belief. For its beauty, its grace and its very foundation of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That all men are created equal. Even those we disagree with.
America shall rise again.
All America. The United States of America.
How about that? We're all for celebrating protecting America!
Follow Robert J. Elisberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/relisberg