Thursday, December 02, 2010
On this day in history...
On this day in 1859 the abolitionist John Brown was hanged in Charles Town VA (now WV) for leading a raid on the Federal Arsenal at Harper's Ferry. Brown's brazen act was just one of the highly controversial actions which ultimately contributed to the onset of the American Civil War. I visited Harper's Ferry last June and took this photo of the fort John Brown used during his raid, now a part of the Harper's Ferry National Historic Park. Located at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers near where the states of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland meet, Harper's Ferry was a critical point of crossing from Washington, DC to the Western United States and an important focal point at various times during the Civil War. Now a scenic and serene place except when the trains come roaring through, Harper's Ferry serves as a tangible reminder of the conflicts of our past.
Over the next few weeks and months we as Americans will be given the opportunity to pause and remember the events that transpired as we commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. It started with the succession of South Carolina on Dec 20th,1860and was followed by the attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. The Stars and Stripes didn't fly over Fort Sumter again until April 14, 1865, more than four long years later. The Civil War marks a horrific period in our country's history. It's history is multifaceted, the originating conflicts complex. Too many of today's history books portray slavery as the salient issue behind the war. The reality is that slavery had little to do with the onset of Civil War, becoming an issue only after the war had started. While important, the Civil War was about much more than just slavery. It was about regional differences, about state's rights, and about westward expansion. It was about humble farmers and hunters and owners of large plantations. It was about large factories and big cities and taxes and tariffs. It was about the powerful few and the humble majority. It was about one group and ideology trying to impose their will and power over others of different values and circumstances. It was also about ignorance, miscommunication, and misunderstandings. Most of all, it was sad that so many felt that war was the only answer to the problem.
As we look back 150 years I can't help but wonder what could have been done to prevent such an atrocity from happening. Perhaps if the citizens of that time had been less concerned with power, pride, ignorance, & greed and more concerned with mutual respect and understanding this ugly war could have been avoided. Perhaps if those with political clout had been more willing to listen with open hearts and work to find an acceptable middle ground and had been less concerned with self & party-focused wants, maybe war could have been avoided. I also wonder about what is happening in our country today. While we are not involved in a civil war per se, deep divides once again exist in the USA. Politics and parties, pride and prejudices continue. The power struggle is as fierce as ever and it is ugly. Can we not learn from the bloodstains of our past? Can we not learn to work together to truly be "One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all?" Surely we can find a better way if we try hard enough. Let's not repeat the same mistakes that ultimately led to the Civil War. America can be better. Americans can do better. Our very lives and liberties depend on it. God Bless the USA!