On this sesquicentennial of the greatest battle of the Civil War — the Battle of Gettysburg — present-day circumstances and situations have caused me to ponder: Are we as a nation fighting the war again?
Looking at the present national terrain, it is obvious that we are a sharply divided nation with red states representing the Old South and blue states representing the rest of the nation. It also seems that the lessons from one of the costliest battles of all time, where more than 50,000 men were lost, have not been learned.
It was George Santayana who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
A case in point. Recently, I was talking with a Central Florida caucasian personality, and our talk turned to race. He gave me the spiel that he was a “son of the South” and that he took great pride in being one of the descendants of the Confederate army.
What really disturbed me was his calling the Civil War “the war of Northern aggression.”
When he finished, I took my turn to upbraid and give him a history lesson. I said I, too, was a son of the South, having been born and reared in Florida. The difference was that I could trace my heritage directly to slavery; my ancestors were brought to this country in bondage from the mother country Africa in 1619.
I also told him about the Dred Scott decision, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Dred Scott, a Negro, had no rights whatsoever. He was property, not a person or a citizen. He had no right to sue in federal court.
Further, the court ruled that the federal government had no legal right to interfere with the institution of slavery. Finally, I recommended to him that he read Frederick Douglass’ speech, “What to the slave is the Fourth of July?”
Now fast-forward to the present day. Even though the battle has taken a much different form than 150 years ago, much remains the same.
Look at the open defiance of nullification by the Southern states in rejecting the Affordable Care Act. Look again at the recent ruling by the Supreme Court on voting rights, especially in its impact on the 15th Amendment of the Constitution, which guaranteed blacks the right to vote.
From where I sit, it appears that we are fighting the Civil War all over again.
The Rev. Randolph Bracy Jr. is former president of the Orange County branch of the NAACP.