On May 27 of this year, Americans around the globe celebrated Memorial Day and honored those of their countrymen who died in violent combat.
This is not merely for beer and barbecues. A decade ago I stood on Omaha Beach, early in the morning, watching the tide come in. An earlier walk had revealed one of the most determined and successful killing fields ever devised by the human mind. Still, despite these grand efforts of the German Army, American and Allied soldiers rose out of the sea and broke the Atlantic Wall, dying in large numbers to achieve this goal. As I looked over the English Channel, I contemplated what these sacrifices meant on my personal level, what would have happened to my parents, if I would even have been conceived and born, if valor had not carried the day, and if troops wearing the American flag on their shoulder had not triumphed. Those flags, in other words, not only at Normandy but for long generations before, and decades after, have great meaning.
Thus, it pains my soul when I hear how the sacrifices of our Civil War soldiers have been disabused. Memorial Day started as an honorable idea, to help heal the union, and to honor pain and sacrifice of all soldiers.
It was not meant, and should never mean, to honor those who took arms against this nation. The whole fact remains, that Confederate troops shot at the American flag, fired sickeningly effective volleys into ranks of soldiers who rallied under the Star Spangled Banner, the true forebears of the men who wore that same emblem just as proudly in 1944. All of those rounds fired in defense of slavery as well. As Jamie Malanowski masterfully put it, "Equivalence of experience" has been "stretched to impute an equivalency of legitimacy."
Yet, many still revere the flag's desecraters. The new head of the National Rifle Association, James Porter, does not like the way we refer to the great American conflict between 1861 and 1865, and feels it should be labeled "the War of Northern Aggression," an historically false term.
For myself, I prefer "the Civil War." It is more conservative, being in use for a century-and-a-half, and the traditional usage. There is also a gentleness to it, evoking a war that split one, whole nation in two. In some ways this is accurate as well, given how quickly the nation reconciled (at the cost of abandoning the freed slaves).
But Mr. Porter wants to get rid of that and move on. Since in his speeches he's opening this topic to national discussion, I make the following, much more historically accurate suggestions to rename this conflict:
-- the War of Southern Treason
-- the War of Southern Traitors
-- the South's War to Defend Slavery
Here's another historical thread:
-- the War Against the Republican Party
To personalize things
-- the War Against Abraham Lincoln
Or how about another renaming Mr. Porter is sure to endorse:
-- 1776: unappreciative colonists rebel against the true Motherland
Let us honor the American flag and the soldiers who fought for it, and keep our story honest.