Friday, May 16, 2008

Memorial Day, Ignorance and the Election

Over the last several days, I have been working on a Memorial Day story for the newspaper for which I freelance. Here in northwestern Pennsylvania there are a lot of story angles – a lot of material.
In almost every cemetery, large and small, literally thousands of flags mark the graves of Civil War veterans, along with those who have served this country ever since and even before the bloody north-south encounter. There are a lot of stories buried. Tragically, from the Civil War, there are many graves of young men in their late teens and early twenties, who fought for the Union.
This section of Pennsylvania was very much anti-slavery and there are numerous stories about the Underground Railroad. A more in depth look about that era shows that the churches were actively involved in the fight to free a people from the bondage and horrors of slavery.
Perhaps, one of the lesser known places around is the old John Brown farm in New Richmond Center (near Meadville,PA) where events are still held commemorating some of the events of that historic struggle against man's inhumanity to fellow men. Brown was eventually hung along with several others following the ill-fated raid on Harper's Ferry.
He was a deeply religious person who firmly believed that slavery was a scourge on America and was against all principles of Christianity. His intentions at Harper's Ferry was to free the slaves in the region in the hopes that the action would stir a general uprising throughout the south.
The freed slaves would be taken to safe houses scattered throughout Appalachia, a region deeply opposed to the rich landowners who used their wealth against the economically hard pressed mountain people.
The raid, in terms of today, would be considered homegrown terrorism and judged on more current values. However, it remains a poignant historical marker when taken into current context.
There is an unsettling and tragic ignorance among many in these regions today as the 2008 presidential race gets into full swing. The ugly face of racism against Barack Obama is showing it's stench. Pat Buchanan's column of March 21, 2008 is just one clear example, where he indicates the white race did the former slaves a tremendous favor against their own free will (among all sorts of other crazy and stupid claims).
What a total lack of historical or scholarly perspective. What a total disservice to this great nation. What a sacrilege against our veterans! Beware of false prophets dressed in sheepskin.
Yes, in the current context we need to support our troops; white black, brown, all colors and all genders. We don't have a “white” army.
And yes, Memorial Day, a national holiday created after that bloody conflict, is set aside as the official remembrance for those who sacrificed for our freedoms. Yes, it is a good time to re-examine the racial divides in this great country, to become more educated about our history and the forces that helped forge the greatest nation on earth. It is time to stop the bigotry.
On Memorial Day, it is time to stop the ignorant judgments based on “color” and examine a person's stand on issues facing the nation. There are those in this nation who need to change their attitudes and become Americans once again - every day. We need to do more than give lip service and send emails about supporting our veterans.