The election of Abraham Lincoln signaled to the slave-holding South that it could no longer stay in the Union and maintain its concepts of “States Rights” with its principle feature: slavery. When Southerners could no longer get their way over an abolutionist North they decided to withdraw their allegiance to the United States and the Constitution and declared themselves in rebellion.
The original covenant upon which a group of colonies created a nation on July 4, 1776 was ripped apart by violent White supremacy in a war from 1861 to 1865. The racial overtones of the fight between the North and South left consequences that endure and trouble the country to this day.
When President Lincoln came into power, his first instinctual gesture was to do every thing he could to preserve the Union. In doing so, he offered a variety of paths to peace and harmony including not going to war until the South took the first shot.
Once the dye was cast, it became a total war that involved both soldiers, civilians and tactics that allowed for technology to facilitate blood and death on the largest scale ever. It also became an industrial war where the greater arsenal of democracy took the advantage.
After winning the Civil War, Lincoln sought to forgive and forget the transgressions of the South in the name of “binding up the wounds” and reuniting a fractured country. His heroic humanity got him a bullet in the head shot by a true believer that wanted the South to rise again.
Because of his leniency and desire to normalize unity, the immediate benefit of freeing the slaves soon eroded and a system was instituted, mostly in the South, that deprived ethnic and racial minorities of their civil rights. It took over 100 additional years for America to again recognize that there was a serious lack of equality and justice in the treatment of its people of color.
The civil rights movements in the last half of the 20th Century, the insistence of the public that this is a nation of laws founded on a Constitution that requires honor and respect and a path to democracy based on demographics and the voting booth have slowly changed the landscape of political power. But like the events leading up to 1861 and their White supremacy themes, we are again defined as a divided nation fighting off another round of discontent centered in a South that has found help in the White House to lead a desperate struggle designed to maintain its racial superiority complex.
This time the issue is not slavery, but immigrants that represent a core concept of American values and traditions. The problem for the unhappy group is that the immigrants are mostly Latinos, a people of color whose place in this country was conceptually established over 500 years ago.
We could use another Lincoln and an original Republican Party that no longer exists. In the absence of that, we must find unity of purpose to preserve a country that represents our dreams, aspirations and a desire to build a better world.
We must rediscover within ourselves the strength and energy to continue to push America forward as a shinning light in the world. There is no substitute for our commitment to freedom, democracy and fair play for all in a country that deserves our best efforts.
The celebration of this July 4th can include a moment of reflection on the basic goodness of America. We must work to preserve it.