I have read your statement concerning your removal of the portrait of General J. E. B. Stuart from the Patrick County Circuit Court's courtroom, and first, I have to ask ... are you saying that the entire time the portrait has been in the courtroom, trials there have been perceived by participants as unfair, non-neutral and prejudiced? The perception is that nobody has received a fair trial in that courtroom? I do not believe that, which means that your up and deciding to remove the portrait has no foundation in actual circumstances in the courtroom.
I am astounded by your baldfaced statement, "Confederate symbols are, simply put, offensive to African Americans." That means all of them -- or it certainly implies that -- and I believe that this is something you cannot know. There are approximately 41 million African Americans in the United States and I submit to you it is bigotry of the highest order to imagine they all think alike, and they all have the same beliefs -- about Gen. Stuart or anything else. Indeed, that statement is as bigoted as you claim the Confederacy's founding principles are.
You further state, "Black men and women have a bona fide, objective, fact-based, historically grounded reason to find Confederate glorification offensive, and almost all of them do in fact take offense."
I have never heard anyone who makes the claim that Confederate flags and symbols are offensive to black Americans offer the slightest objective, verifiable substantiation of it. The few who do attempt to prove the claim echo the young man several years ago whose proof to me was, "Well, duh! How would YOU feel?"
You offered no substantiation at all, but I can assure you, "almost all" of them do not take offense. In fact, according to a 2011 poll by Pew Research, there are more blacks (45%) who are indifferent to the Confederate flag, than those who are offended by it (41%); and since the flag is considered the epitome of Confederate symbology, presumably other Confederate symbols, including Gen. Stuart's portrait, would be considered even less offensive.
These numbers are not new or unusual. In 2000, a Scripps Howard poll in Texas included this agree-or-disagree statement: "The Confederate flag symbolizes racism and slavery." The poll found that 10% of whites agreed with that statement, and 40% of blacks agreed. What that means, sir, is that 60% of the blacks polled did NOT agree that the Confederate flag symbolized racism and slavery. Even today, after a ramped up culture-war crusade against Confederate history and symbols going back years, indeed, decades, a CNN poll taken after the Charleston tragedy found that almost 30% of blacks polled see the Confederate flag as more a symbol of Southern pride than racism. Overall, 57% of the respondents found the flag to be a symbol of Southern pride, and only 33% a symbol of racism.
Now permit me to address some of your comments about the Declarations of Causes. First, South Carolina was not the Confederacy; there were twelve other states in the CSA. Second, even Mississippi's document includes numerous other reasons for secession besides slavery. Were they not important? If not, why were they included? And since they were included, should we not conclude they were important to the people of that state? Third, only four states issued declarations of causes; but we do know that the states of the upper South did not secede with the first wave, but only after Lincoln attempted to force them to send troops to invade the seceded states. Besides, the secession declarations were by no means the only documents discussing the South's reasons for wanting separation from the union.
Alexander Stephens comments about negroes in the Cornerstone Speech is, frankly, less offensive than those of famous abolitionist Julia Ward Howe, who wrote, in A Trip To Cuba in 1860, "The negro of the North is the ideal negro; it is the negro refined by white culture, elevated by white blood, instructed even by white iniquity; -- the negro among negroes is a coarse, grinning, flat-footed, thick-skulled creature, ugly as Caliban, lazy as the laziest of brutes, chiefly ambitious to be of no use to any in the world. View him as you will, his stock in trade is small; -- he has but the tangible of instincts of all creatures, -- love of life, of ease and of offspring. For all else, he must go to school to the white race, and his discipline must be long and laborious. Nassau, and all that we saw of it, suggested to us the unwelcome question whether compulsory labor be not better than none...."
Compulsory labor? Is that not slavery? What kind of abolitionist supported slavery? And Howe's words imply that she was far from alone in these views. What this means, sir, is that belief in black inferiority was hardly confined to the Confederacy, and it did not end in the United States at Appomattox Courthouse. You may bring up the argument that the Confederacy was founded on that belief -- but what do you make of the fact that the nation that warred against the Confederacy, ostensibly founded on the self-evident truth that all men are created equal, then enabled and promoted slavery for eighty-nine years, and continued to Constitutionally recognize it while it was making war on the South, and did not remove that recognition until after the Confederacy ceased to exist? There is nothing in that for African Americans to be offended by?
Few if any Confederate heritage advocates celebrate the Confederacy because of its relationship to slavery. The celebration is for those men who made up the Confederate military, over 90% of whom owned no slaves and were not fighting to protect slavery. THIS is part of the history you are overlooking, and I will not mumble abstractions at you. Those men were fighting to protect homes, families and communities from an army superior in number and arms that was swarming across their land. A study of thousands of their letters by James McPherson, a historian by no means friendly to the Confederacy, confirms this.
Take a quick look at the enemy they were fighting -- an army that burned homes, barns, even whole towns, dozens of them, many of which had no military significance. What they couldn't steal, they burned ... stored food, farming implements so no more food could be grown, crops in the field. They shot pet dogs for sport; they killed livestock and threw carcasses into streams and wells to contaminate the water and create disease in civilians at at time when there was no medicine (because the great humanitarian Lincoln had blockaded medicine), stabled horses in church sanctuaries just for spite and dug up fresh corpses looking for valuables.
Let's not forget General Sherman's orders to kill civilians:
Hdqrs. Military Division of the Mississippi,The reply he received:
In the Field, Rome, Ga., October 29, 1864
Brigadier-General Watkins, Calhoun, Ga.:
Cannot you send over about Fairmount and Adairsville, burn ten or twelve houses of known secessionists, kill a few at random, and let them know that it will be repeated every time a train is fired on from Resaca to Kingston?
Calhoun, October 30, 1864Confederate symbols, particularly the flag, not only represent the courage and valor, grit, determination, endurance and nobility of the Confederate soldier, who fought against that barbarous enemy, but the unimaginable suffering and death they experienced, not only on the battlefield, but in the north's POW camps. At Hellmira, (Elmira NY) Confederate POWS were fed potato peels and had to drink water befouled with sewage. One doctor there bragged that he had killed more Rebs than any union soldier by withholding medicine and blankets (which there was plenty of). The yanks built "observation decks" above the camp and charged townspeople 15c to sit there and watch the suffering of Confederate POWS in a land of plenty. Some townspeople were moved to donate bankets and such to the care of the soldiers, but camp officials refused to distribute them. Hellmira's death rate was about the same as Andersonville's in the South, where there was no donations to withhold, little food for either guards or prisoners.
My men killed some of those fellows two or three days since, and I had their houses burned. Watkins is not here, but I will carry out your instructions thoroughly and leave the country east of the road uninhabitable, if necessary.
There was no deliberate torture at Andersonville. It was so horrific because there was no food, no medicine (again, thanks to Lincoln's blockade), and the union refused prisoner exchanges. The north had plenty of food, blankets and medicine but deliberately withheld them from Confederate POWS. All the POW camps were overcrowded, though the union could have built more accommodations. At Camp Douglas, overflow prisoners slept in tents during the Chicago winter, as at Hellmira. Well, they spent the night in the tents; but sleep? Guards fired guns through the tents and barracks throughout the night to create sleep deprivation. They made prisoners sit bare-bottomed on blocks of ice. Made them sit astride a narrow rail raised high in the air, with weights on their ankles, for hours, and when they were taken down, they couldn't walk.
Makes you proud to be an American, don't it?
I could go on and on -- there's LOTS more history like this, but you get the point, probably more than you want to.
The "American flag" you mentioned is more properly called the U.S. flag, because Confederate flags are American flags for the same reason the US flag is -- the CSA was "...of America." And the U.S. flag is far, far from untarnished.
Here's some more history you are overlooking. Whatever sins one believes are attached to Confederate flags and symbols, the same and worse are attached to those of the USA. The United States was born in treason and rebellion. Confederacy -- slavery for 4 years. Under the US flag -- slavery for 89 years... this in a country founded on "all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with ... liberty."
Northern states abolished slavery within their borders, (but sold rather than freed their slaves, mostly to reduce their states' black populations) but they were still armpit deep in slavery. Northern textile interests got rich processing slave-grown cotton in their mills. New England maritime interests got rich shipping slave-grown cotton to Europe. Northern banks got rich financing the purchase of plantations and slaves, and northern insurance companies got rich insuring slaves. Basically, the economies of both north and South rested on slavery; the main difference between the regions was that the slaves were domiciled in the South. If the north had really wanted to end slavery, they didn't have to send an army to kill Southerners. All they had to do was quit buying the cotton. Why do you suppose they didn't?
Lincoln had to sell the war to the north on "preserving the union" (which sounded like "keeping the cotton flowing northward unimpeded") because if he'd said he wanted soldiers to go south and free slaves, nobody would have volunteered.
If the South had truly cared only about slavery, they could have returned to the union at Lincoln's invitation and ratified the Corwin Amendment. But they preferred political independence to protected-forever slavery. This is also seen in the mission of Duncan Kenner to Europe late in the war, offering to emancipate the slaves in exchange for recognition of the Confederacy by Britain and France. Unfortunately, it occurred too late in the war to do any good, but it still stands as a historical fact that when push came to shove, the Confederates preferred political independence from D.C. to keeping slavery.
And after the war, it was official policy of the Grant Administration to kill off the buffalo to genocide the Plains Indians by starvation and take their land for white settlers. Under the US flag, southwestern Indians were imprisoned in concentration camps artfully called "reservations" in conditions worse than plantation slavery. Let's not forget the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during WWII. CIA mind control experiments on unsuspecting subjects, and its possible involvement in torture in Central America. My Lai. Kent State. Abu Ghraib.
THAT is just a few of the things that tarnish your U.S. Flag. Frankly, by comparison, the sins of the Confederacy don't look all that bad.
Everything you mentioned about the South in your last paragraph is emphatically NOT far, far distant from the battlefields of the 1860s. In fact, those aspects of Southern culture and heritage are irrevocably linked to the Confederacy, the war and its aftermath.
The flag that originally symbolized the soldiers who fought and died beneath it acquired more history and culture, and thus more meaning, with each generation. Thus, the five or six generations of Southerners following the civil war, and their culture, and the events they lived, contributed to the growing, deepening meaning of the flag.
Not everything that contributes meaning to the flag and the heritage it represents is positive and honor-worthy, but it is simply wrong to totally define it by the negatives, as you are attempting to do.
What contributes to the post-war symbolism of the flag most people are determined to ignore? Well, the seven decades or so of grinding poverty endured by huge numbers of Southerners, black and white, because northern money and industrialists deliberately prevented industry from developing in the South.
After the war, carpetbaggers came south and bought miles of virgin timber land and paid Southerners, black and white, slave wages to work in their sawmills, and kept them in perpetual debt with their "company stores." Discriminatory freight rates deliberately kept industry from developing in the South, and kept a huge percentage of the Southern population in poverty. For those who've never heard of discriminatory freight rates, or their impact on the South, here's an introduction.... http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cescott/freight.html
In any case, while Cornelius Vanderbilt II and other wealthy northern industrialists were building 100-room "cottages" in Newport, Southerners were dying in epidemics of pellagra and hookworm, thanks to their poverty diets of fatback and cornbread...
Our forebears' "grit and courage" you mentioned that got them through those hard times were the same grit and courage they showed on the battlefield and on the home front when the union army was laying waste to the South.
And it hasn't ended. The flag you honor is continually tarnished with the misbegotten deeds of the federal government and its decaying culture. The government has illegally run guns to barbarous Mexican drug cartels that got a U.S. border agent murdered, and to Islamic terrorists in Libya that got a U.S ambassador and four others murdered ... A medical "agency" that receives federal funds illegally (and horrifically) selling the body parts of aborted babies ... a president who has encouraged racial unrest resulting in riots, burning, looting and the murder of policemen... and that is just a small overview of what's happening in our rapidly deteriorating country.
The current war against Confederate heritage, which your action is a part of, is based on a lie -- the lie that results from focusing solely and totally on slavery, and blotting out everything else, from some misguided concern about black Americans that sees them as too immature and thin-skinned to deal with the misfortunes of the past. Just remember that their past also includes being sold into slavery by their own people back in west Africa.
Understand something. Southerners who love their heritage, including the Confederacy (which is under sustained attack from government, business and industry, the educational establishment and the popular culture), will no longer stand by and see it trashed and dishonored in preparation for its erasure.
My position, which is shared by a growing number of people, is that nothing -- not secession, not "preserving the union," not ending slavery, not anything -- justified the union's barbaric war on the South.
Put the portrait back where it belongs.