Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This Weekend Marks The End and The Beginning of Another Era of Partisan Rancor

This weekend, at Bennett Place State Historic Site in Durham North Carolina, marks the end of of Civil War and the end of one era of partisan rancor and the beginning of another.


You see, the rancor too common today in the US Congress isn’t new.  What’s unusual have been the periods of non-partisan cooperation in our nation’s history.  Although, it is being portrayed by many in the news media as unusual and of course parlayed into millions by talk show host yanking people’s chains.

But it isn’t new at all.   Right here in Durham, 145 years ago, the War Between the States effectively ended.  What about Appomattox?  I guess the winners wanted to declare it prematurely “over” as President Bush did the Iraq War.

But General Lee was careful to only surrender his much smaller army at that Virginia Courthouse.  The war waged on until the largest surrender of the War in Durham between Generals Sherman and Johnston effectively ended it.

Per President Lincoln’s express wishes, Sherman had negotiated a surrender based on reconciliation and healing, not vindictiveness.  But in the midst of negotiations here in Durham, Lincoln was assassinated in Washington D.C.

And Radical Republicans (their term not mine for an extremely reactionary element of the President’s own party that took power) demanded the most vindictive settlement possible and the nation lived with the horrible after effects for fifty years and some say even today.  What a monumental missed opportunity.

Lincoln had to battle reactionary partisans his entire presidency.  In fact several states seceded when he was elected, paying no attention to his conciliatory words and the cost in life and limb and treasure was staggering.  Oh, and the news media also played a huge role getting people riled up, even without vitriolic talk show hosts.

Maybe the Republican strategy today of demonizing everything will give them the power they seek…but at what cost to the nation?

Have we really learned the lessons of 145 years ago?  It doesn’t seem we have.

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