The next battle of the Civil War commenced on Monday in Charleston when the NAACP protests a $100-per-ticket "secession ball" being co-sponsored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The Citadel students who attacked the Fort Sumter federal installation a century and a half ago never imagined they were firing the first shots in a war that would stretch from April 1861 into 2011. About 620,000 Americans were killed on American soil between 1861 and 1865. Other non-violent skirmishes are planned for the next four years in observance of the 150th anniversary of that war.
Sunday's protest and ball are the warm up acts for next year's events, which likely will continue a century-long tradition of Southern apologists rewriting the reasons why the South took up arms, pretending as though slavery was a minor reason (if one at all) even though the 170 men who made the decision in Charleston 150 years wrote in the state's official secession document that it was primarily about preserving slavery. They said they felt the nation's compact was broken by non-slaveholding states who wouldn't help relocate and return runaway slaves.
But not everyone sympathetic to the Southern cause engages in mental gymnastics to deny the obvious.
Archie Biggs of Murrells Inlet doesn't. He understands the war's causes, but he doesn't feel ashamed of his ancestors. He shouldn't.
"I do not think my ancestors, who owned a few slaves, thought that they were on the moral high ground but it was more of a fear of the end of an economic system that caused them to leave the union," he said. "Of course this is a very sad commentary on the ethics of the time."
His great-grandfather was a farmer who owned slaves. He was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg and eventually lost a leg during the war, Biggs said.
"One thing I do earnestly believe is that only by mutual understanding and yes, love, can we hope to bridge these gaps," he said. "Knowing the fellow white Southerners of my age, I can pretty much tell you that the harder the NAACP pushes, the more the resistance they will face. I wish it were not so, but I believe that it is."
I wish he wasn't right but know he is. I wish we could unite on the large expanse of common ground available to us.
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