By Gerry Fischer
I have received a number of inquiries from friends and associates worried about the past weekend’s demonstrations. People from as far as Nashville, Tennessee and Chicago, Illinois have contacted me as well as local folks all concerned about the demonstrations. Two of these are women for whom I’ve the greatest respect. Neither of them, are favorable toward the Confederate monument, but that’s alright. Everyone has a right to like or dislike anything they choose. What is disturbing to them concerns the introduction of firearms by concerned citizens, and the sharp divide between groups like Black Lives Matter, Antifa on one side of the issue and armed citizens and sportsmen on the other. Maybe we can begin to understand each other if not agree.
The Confederate monument is a symbol of hate to some, and there is no doubt the negro population was treated badly, and there was nothing good about slavery. Although, it existed legally in four Union states, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri and Kentucky. The diet of the enslaved was poor. It was against the law for negros to read and write and on achieving freedom, without education, they became the lowest societal postwar class. It took the end of WW II before things really began to change, and change always comes slowly. A generation is not long, but in my 75 years, I have seen segregated water fountains, restrooms, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, subdivisions, rank in the military, the right to marry anyone you choose, as well as allowance on juries, and in hotels and public places. That lists 10 hurdles the black community overcame, equating to 7.5 years per item, if distributed evenly. But, most of those things occurred in the last 35 years. It may be too slow, but in terms of progress. It certainly is remarkable. We who feel differently about the Confederate monument must understand the reasons others see it differently.
Certain segments of our population look on the Confederate monument as a symbol of courage, honor, and family pride. Not because of slavery, 92% of those fighting for the Confederacy did not own slaves. They were too poor. That’s why the rank and file rebel soldier described it as a “rich man’s war, but a poor man’s fight.” The eight percent of the Confederate soldiers who owned slaves, were officers, plantation owners and rich politicians, profiting by the war. The courage felt by those who had rebel ancestors is no different that those on the other side. The first duty in those days was to one’s state, not the Federal government. General R. E. Lee was offered command of the Union Army, but stated, “I cannot not draw my sword against Virginia,” whereupon he took command of the Confederate Army in the east, and freed his slaves before the war was engaged. Union General, Ulysses S. Grant, one of my favorite Civil War generals, kept his slaves until after ratification of the 13th Amendment officially prohibiting slavery.
Family pride is something both sides should be able to understand equally. I had relatives who fought on either side, and none of my people owned slaves. They struggled to buy a mule. I am proud of the Koeth/Fischer side who fought for the Union and the Bryant side who fought for the Confederacy. The south fought against what they saw as the invading army of a tyrannical government, and the north initially fought to preserve the Union. Those folks who feel differently should try to understand the pride others see in the monument.
An old friend of mine a retired FBI, Special Agent, identified leftist terrorist organizations as the Symbionese Liberation Army, Black Panthers, Black Liberation Party, Weather Underground, and Students for a Democratic Society. Several of these including the last two were communist front organizations. The terrorists on the right, he listed as the Ku Klux Klan, Minutemen, Posse Comitatus, Skin Heads and Aryan Nation. I asked why they existed, and he explained they fight one another, and the FBI fights them both, keeping the American people safer. Now new groups have emerged as violent as the old ones, setting fires, shooting and beating people with sticks and stones and throw Molotov cocktail incendiaries. With mass media eager to sell time on Television news, Facebook, Twitter, and a myriad of other online sources, the violence sells and they profit. There are however unintended consequences, it scares people. When small town Kentucky citizens see violence spread from Minnesota to Louisville, they resort to arming themselves in order to protect their lives, family, homes, and livelihoods. Violence begets violence. The threat of terrorism gives rise to self-protection, which is allowed by law.
If we can respectfully agree to disagree but try to understand each other’s concerns, maybe we allay fear and move forward to a future less contentious. Maybe we can try.