13 August 2017

Who is really rewriting history?

This issue regarding Charlottesville brings out the professor in me. As a professor, I want people to know the facts, be able to use reason to analyze the facts, and then arrive at their own decision. What I see going on regarding Charlottesville involves history being rewritten and "alternative" facts being promoted. The following is my analysis of the current underlying politics regarding the Charlottesville situation.

Defenders of Confederate monuments on government land have rewritten history, and believe in myths unsupported by facts. For example, an article from The Atlantic, "The Myth of the Kindly General Lee," documents some facts about Gen. Lee that reveal he was not a noble man. One fact that stands out to me is that Gen. Lee personally beat his slaves, or had them beat by others. So, where is the justice and nobility in such actions?! Likewise, I have found that Gen. Lee's supporters often ignore the fact that because he went into rebellion against the US Constitution, he broke a just body of law, and that made him a lawbreaker. Certainly, taking his monument down off of US government land is not a case of rewriting history. Such monuments belong in museums for public viewing.

I think it is interesting to compare Gen. Lee to Gen. Grant because as president, Grant was a strong supporter of civil rights and the United States Constitution. However, so-called constitutional conservatives rarely defend men like Grant or Lincoln. It is baffling to me how so many Southern Republicans admire men like Jefferson Davis and Robert E Lee, but ignore or oppose the policies of Pres. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president and, in my view, the greatest US president.

Where are the so-called "Constitutional conservatives" on this issue? I find they too often support states rights, which I conclude is a foundational issue underlying the protest about removing Gen. Lee's statue. Yet, "states rights" is a term NOT in the Constitution. The 10th Amendment addresses state powers, but rights are addressed in the 9th Amendment stating that people possess rights. From our US Constitution:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

States and the national government possess powers, but people possess rights (this goes back to ideas promoted by political theorists such as John Locke).

Also, states rights advocates prior to the Civil War argued that the Bill of Rights applied to the national government, not to the states. After the Civil War the 13th Amendment put this issue to rest:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

This means no state can deny its citizens their rights. Of course, this was not implemented throughout the South and in other states outside the South when it came to African-Americans and other people. In other words, these states continued to oppress their people. In contrast, states rights advocates during and prior to the Civil War believed states had rights over their people, including the right to abuse African-American people. In practice, the Confederacy wanted an oppressive government at the state level of government, but not at the national level.

Feeling empowered by Pres. Trump, those marching in Charlottesville march in support of racism. As racists, they understand that to enforce racism, they need an oppressive government at the state and local levels of government. The US Constitution, which includes the Bill of Rights, stands in their way.

So, who is rewriting history? Those who support states having rights over people, which includes racists and those who honor Confederates.