The History News Network has posted Ron Maxwell’s recent address at the Confederate cemetery at Arlington. He starts off with the right tone, but unfortunately, toward the end he was much too distracted by the Sebesta-Loewen petition. If you are going to honor soldiers than honor soldiers. That’s the purpose of Memorial Day. It just seemed to me to be out of place. Even more interesting is Maxwell’s theme: “The history of America is liberation.”
In the 19th century the work of liberation would continue, slowly, falteringly, but steadily. Before slavery could be ended by law a transformation of the hearts and minds of Americans had to take place. Mammon is a heavy shackle on the soul. When profits are fused with prejudice change is even harder to accomplish. It is argued that the liberation of America from the nightmare of slavery would have happened in time, as it did throughout the rest of the Western Hemisphere, without a savage Civil War. Alternate histories and speculations of paths not taken are of endless interest, but the facts of history cannot be undone. We did have a brutal Civil War. And the work of liberation continued.
Are we to understand that the Confederate soldiers being commemorated by Maxwell contributed to the liberation of slaves and beyond?
These graves stand as monuments not just to the slain – but to remind us of a world that could have been, but for their sacrifice. A world of oppression, a world of ignorance, a world of conformity. One need only look at the images from Pyong Yang in North Korea – the regimented masses offering homage to their supreme leader – to catch a glimpse of the prison camp that could have been our destiny as well.
Now this is what I call historical revisionism. Well done, Ron.