Independence Day, coming up on Saturday, used to be my favorite holiday. This year I’m not so sure I love it. As always with so-called holy-days, commercial exploitation is an annoyance. A Yahoo News headline this morning jumped out at me: “Where to Find a New Car Bargain on the Fourth of July.” Forget shopping. Go eat some potato salad and think patriotic thoughts.
I had a patriotic upbringing. My father had been a naval officer, serving in the Pacific on a baby aircraft carrier. After the war, he taught high school. He was also the high school music director. Every Fourth he would dress up in his handsome uniform and take me and my brother John with him to the cemetery. After the designated minister had conducted a brief memorial service for local men killed in the world wars and Korea, my father took out his silver trumpet and played Taps. When I think of patriotism I think of Dad and his trumpet. The ship he served on was built in the town I now live in, down on the Columbia River. It was hit by a kamikaze.
This year I am looking at a Fourth of July in which patriotic southerners are going to rally in defense of the Confederate battle flag, the flag of the army of Northern Virginia. Excuse me, did I miss something here? Some years back, 1861 I believe, a war broke out in this country. According to the media, some folks down below the Mason Dixon Line are now calling it the War of Northern Aggression. It was called the War between the States too, for a while, back about the time references to slavery and Jim Crow were being removed from high school textbooks so the books could be sold in Texas.
The war with three names was, in fact, a civil war, “where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.” It was fought between people who wanted to abolish slavery in the United States and people who wanted to continue to buy and sell human beings, specifically African-American human beings. The”aggression” occurred when South Carolina troops fired on Fort Sumpter, a federal fort. And the war was not between states, not Louisiana versus Kentucky, for example. It was between the government of the United States and states that seceded from the Union in order to be able to continue practicing slavery.
This was partly a straightforward economic issue. Southern plantation owners were not paying their workers, so they could undersell farmers in the north who did pay their workers. However, it was also a moral issue. Many people in the northern and western states thought that slavery was wrong. “John Brown’s body lies a-moldering in the grave,” but the truth he died for goes marching on.
I am glad southerners like their states. I’m glad they like their barbecue and their churches. But I think it’s time and past time to point out that the Civil War is a done deed, that the north won, and that honoring the battle flag of the Ku Klux Klan is just plain despicable, especially on the Fourth of July.
Whew! I’m glad that’s over. We have a lot to be glad about right now, including Pope Francis. The Supreme Court (of the United States) has upheld marriage equality and medical coverage for millions. We’re doing a lot of things right, even down south. And, while I’m not going to whistle “Dixie,” I won’t sing “Marching through Georgia,” either.