History is personal. In the recent debate over the flag (that I will not name because no matter what I call it it will start a flame war) pictured to the right this point has been made especially clear. When the US Civil War was fought, my ancestors were living on Guam (under Spanish rule), Jamaica (or Africa — possibly as a slave under British rule) and China (during the Second Opium War.) So I really do not have a dog (dawg) in this fight. But I know how important and personal history can be. History, personal history, is in so many cases linked to our identity.
The English historian, Lord Acton said,
History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.
On my Facebook page, I posted a link (without comment) to an article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette with the headline Republican chairman upset by Confederate flags and started a flame war! [[N.B. I believe the Gazette online article has been edited several times during the day without noting the changes.]] The Marion County Republican Party towed their parade float in the Pella and Pleasantville 4th of July Parades in a truck with three Confederate Flags. The truck belongs to a couple who are members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and they displayed them to honor the three Confederate soldiers buried in Marion County.
In the article Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann did not mince any words in his response saying,
I’m very disappointed that a local central committee would engage in such juvenile and stupid demonstrations.
We are the party of Abraham Lincoln. We were the party that supported the Union army and we are still that party of Abraham Lincoln. I absolutely won’t tolerate it. We have no room in our party for people like that — none, I hope they toss those people out (of the local GOP) so fast, it’ll make your head swim. And, if they don’t, I’ll lead a party of 98 central committees.
An anonymous soldier wrote,
No war is really over until the last veteran is dead.
Well, the last veteran of the Civil War died in 1956, the last Civil War widow died in 2003 and by some accounts at least children of Civil War Veterans are still receiving pensions! In many ways, the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression) is still not over. The current debate over the flag (that I dare not name) is a prime example. Was the war fought over slavery? Freedom? States rights? Was the Union the aggressor? Was the South traitorous? Was Lincoln a hero? Was Lee?
I am not a Ph.D. historian like our party chairman so I will not pretend to be expert on these questions. But what I know for sure is that apologists on all sides pontificate on this issue with a fervor bordering on religious.
As I said, I do not have a dog (dawg) in this fight. History is personal. (Ask me sometime about the Pacific in WWII, where my grandfather was a Japanese POW and my mother spent her childhood under Japanese occupation!!!) Given the current state of affairs in our country and the level of emotion that this subject brings up, I find it unfortunate that our party chairman, when speaking on behalf of the party would add fuel to this particular fire.