I posted a tweet yesterday, signaling my dismay with the state of our union:
Is it worth preserving a union that was founded with protection of slavery at its core? Lincoln tried and look where it’s gotten us.
It was intended to be a little provocative. I have long believed that the assassination of Lincoln and the loss of his leadership at the end of the Civil War is why we never fully rid our nation of the cancer of slavery. I believe Lincoln could have guided the nation through a period of reconciliation and reconstruction that might have put the nation on a different course. But the white supremacist, John Wilkes Booth, robbed the nation of that possibility. We would no longer be led by “the better angels of our nature” as Lincoln had hoped.
The reconstruction of the South was, in retrospect, a failure. The northerners allowed the south to revise history, to recast the war as a war of Northern Aggression and to ignore the true cause, the rebuke of southern slavery. Under reconstruction, the south persisted with their white supremacist culture, writing Jim Crow laws and systematically discriminating against former slaves and their descendants. That systemic racism was not limited to the south — people of color have been victims of racial violence and hatred in every corner of this land. But the roots of the cancer lay in the slavery of the south. And Lincoln did not live to eradicate those roots.
So some guy (who shall remain nameless, because I sense that he has a good heart) told me I was stupid. It’s clear that the tweet wasn’t sufficiently contextualized to understand fully where I was coming from. But it was an interesting lesson. That he called me stupid and called my explanation “tautological blather” pissed me off. (I left off a couple of his more offensive tweets.)
I will share what I told him, because I know that the original tweet didn’t have enough context to help him (or my other twitter friends) understand what I meant:
Our union and the constitution were created at a time when the economy of the south was dependent on slavery. In order to bind the country together the northern states agreed that slavery would be allowed to continue in the south. Protections, like the electoral college were instituted in the constitution to protect the southern slave states from being politically overpowered by the northern states.
I believe this was an abomination. Slavery should have been abolished when the country was formed under the constitution. I believe southern states that depended on slavery should have been forced to release the slaves and pay restitution before joining the union. I believe that former slaves should have been granted a vote, and that there should never have been an electoral college that makes and individual’s vote in smaller states (initially the slave states) proportionally more valuable than a vote in the larger states. A democracy that does not provide for full, equitable voting rights is not really a democracy.
Lincoln tried to repair the error of the founders when he emancipated the slaves. The slave economy was wicked, cruel, immoral, and an abomination. The southerners who lost the Civil War tried to create a revisionist narrative that the war was not about slavery but about the aggression of the north on southern culture and way of life. I do not accept their revised narrative.
The assassination of Lincoln was the first in a series of acts by southerners to attempt to preserve their immorality. Jim Crow laws and the systemic racism in the United States (not limited to the south) fed a cancerous tumor in our nation that has never been fully treated.
The re-emergence of the white nationalist movement is just the latest echo of our failure to abolish slavery when the country was formed. The hatred and bigotry that was allowed to fester within our political institutions is erupting in today’s political and sociological landscape.
My point was: given the history of our nation’s relationship with slavery, bigotry, and white supremacy, is it really worth fighting to preserve our union? Or should we just let the south secede? There are many people living in the country who do not understand the basic concept that all are created equal, and that every human, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or faith is an equal rights-holder under our constitution. There are people in our nation who refuse to accept that black men have the right to be safe from murder by white police. If these maladjusted individuals want to cling to their bigotry, they should move to the states that were members of the confederacy and create a separate nation of hate where they can live together and in-breed until they die off. Of course this is facetious — it’s unlikely that such a nation would have any hope for economic viability.
Lincoln tried to repair the country, to bring it together, and to restore the ideals of democracy for all. I believe, if white supremacist bigots had not assassinated him, he may have succeeded. But he was cut down by hatred before he could make good on his attempt. I do not criticize Lincoln. I admire him. It’s not that Lincoln fell short, it’s that America fell short. We failed to live up to his dream that we could be cured of our cancer.
PS —The guy who responded to my tweet blocked me on Twitter. I guess he may not be interested in a conversation.
Update: It appears that the guy deleted the tweets referenced above. Here are the tweets I previously did not share — I’m hoping that posting them here might encourage him to delete these tweets, too.