A Debt of Gratitude for the South

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July 29, 2011 by David Gillaspie


After 150 years we know why the Civil War happened, don’t we?

The answer is slavery. Other answers are states rights, states self-determination, and anything that isn’t slavery.

But it’s slavery, and it’ll never be a convenient truth.

This level of discomfort is on view at the LSU Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge.

When asked by a northwesterner why the outdoor exhibits of the Rural Life Museum have never been burned down, a local patron said, “It’s all out here in the open. Why would anyone try and deny history? You don’t change the past by destroying artifacts.

“This sounds like a question the rest of America asks about the South. We know our history. We know our heritage. No one here is proud of slavery, but it is a fact of life from times gone by.”

During those times gone by, African-American slaves worked in fields of tobacco, sugar cane, cotton; worked in plantation houses and towns.

The guide continued, “The South had slaves. So did the North, but they did away with slavery earlier than we did and pretend it never happened. America had a slave economy, whether it was farm crops, or the actual marketing of slaves, but here in the South we get the blame for all slavery.

“I have no excuses for it, but look, who built Athens and Rome and Egypt and the Great Wall of China? Were they all volunteers? I don’t think so. The greatest civilizations on earth got that way through slavery. Call it man’s inhumanity to his fellow man and no one disagrees.

“But hardly anyone says the building blocks of Western Civilization should be ignored because of slavery. We don’t say that here in the South. We know the atrocities we’ll never make right, and the debt early America owes to slavery. We’re still learning from it. The rest of the country ought to pay as close attention as we do. Instead, they point toward us on all slavery questions. We are still ‘those people’ in many circles.

“It’s an irony today, isn’t it, with the ugly debate on the debt ceiling. that the man most responsible, a Texan, skates as if he didn’t play a part in it.

“Is it really that shocking to run up a debt with two wars and tax cuts as icing on the cake? The cost was always there, just not in the sort of writing everyone got a look at, or wanted to look at.

“Who trusts a man who goes live on world news and calls out enemies of America as the Axis of Evil? Who zips into a flight suit so he can land on an aircraft carrier and say the war is over? Who gets elected twice, both times with voter fraud issues?

“This is a modern Southerner with a response to his actions like a Northerner talking about slavery. Complicity is all over the place. If there’s a leader from the right who can’t answer the question about the national debt without bashing President Obama, he’s showing his shame for being a blind follower.

“When America pulls together, the world changes. When America puts it’s shoulder to the wheel, things move. The rich guys need to see where they can make a difference. The poor guys need shake themselves and find the opportunities in front of them. Everyone in the middle needs to take stock and move America away from the edge.

“What did we learn from the ‘trickle down’ theory, except that evaporation is an important part of economics.

“But no one’s looking that far back.

“If we can do better, start now by owning the past. Do that and future generations won’t be enslaved to those holding our national debt.

“Do that and you’re climbing the hill to the big house; ignore it and fall into the outhouse.”

What can you say?


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