Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The ‘war’ without end

The Civil War is still being fought. Americans continue to argue about why the Union and the Confederate states went to war 150 years ago.

More than 600,000 died in battle or from disease and brutal imprisonment.

Today's disputes are not all scholarly. In some quarters, especially Southern states, bitterness approaches rancor.

Before the war, the right to own slaves was depicted as a matter of states' rights, not as a moral issue.

Time hasn't overcome racism.

A recent poll found that 46 percent of Mississippians want to ban interracial marriage, though the U.S. Supreme Court overturned anti-miscegenation laws in 1967. Some Southern states have instituted controversial laws requiring voters to show IDs on Election Day, a move criticized by civil rights groups as a way to discourage black voters. Worse, the KKK continues to exist.

Major barriers to black Americans, however, have been broken down. The most eloquent evidence is America's first black president, Barack Obama, and others who hold elective office from city halls to Congress, White House cabinet posts, corporate CEOs and high military posts.

To many with a less belligerent view of the Civil War, it remains iconically romantic, influenced by novels and film ("Gone With the Wind," most prominently), by anniversary reenactments of battles, by tales of idyllic Southern plantations, by images of colorfully uniformed noble, underdog Southerners going off to battle to protect honor and a way of life. A CNN poll found that 4 in 10 Southerners side with the Confederacy.

Better that today's Civil War debate is with words, not guns.

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