Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Bad Case of Historical Ignorance

A disturbing trend of late is a meme and a set of beliefs promoted by many Trump supporters regarding the 13th, 14th, and 15th Constitutional Amendments. They use this meme to attack Liberals and apparently, to further their belief that their side is right, and the hated Liberals are wrong. The problem with this meme, is that although the premise is correct, conservatives misunderstand and/or refuse to believe the underlying reason – a bad case of historical ignorance.

This may come as a shock to many readers, however, the statements in the meme are true.

"What?" you say, shaking your head. "This can't be."

Yes, those assertions are true, but not in the way that most conservatives think. Conservatives (aka, Trump supporters) have taken up this rallying cry and posted this meme, and others like it all over social media. Although at face value the meme is true (Republicans did end slavery), conservatives are oblivious as to why. It is sad that so many Americans are willfully ignorant of the political history of their own country.

Since the meme indicates that Republicans ended slavery, these Trumpers – Republicans of the 21st century - latch onto the literal reading, and take it to mean that 1860's slave owning southern landowners, i.e. conservatives, ended slavery and gave them the same rights of citizenship enjoyed by white Americans. To read the meme in that false light leads some in this country to believe that 1860's conservatives took the high road, admitted they were wrong, and fixed it.

No, sorry. The historical facts of the situation are that the South fought a war against having to do all of those things. It was called The Civil War, for the benefit of the historically challenged. Although the South lost that war, many in the region believe to this day that owning slaves was their birthright, and the Confederacy will rise again. It appears that many of our conservative "friends", reading the meme literally, ignore the lunacy of the suggestion that Southern white slave owners willingly freed their slaves and granted them citizenship.

Obviously, there is a reasonable explanation for why the meme is true. Unfortunately, many of our conservative "friends" are not the least bit interested in learning or believing the reasons. As I mentioned, Republicans did free the slaves in the 1860's, as anyone with knowledge of American history can tell you.

The modern bellowing conservative "friends" fail to understand that those southern slave owners were not Republican. No, sorry, Trump supporters, very few Republicans lived in the Confederate States of America. Those Southern slave owners were Democrats – 1860's Democrats, aka, conservatives. It follows logically that the Republicans of the time were mostly Liberal (many moderate, for sure, but decidedly anti-slavery).

This means that Republicans and Democrats of today are not the same ideological groups as those of Civil War America. I'm guessing that most of those who really need to know this have already stopped reading; they're the ones who at this point are shouting the time worn, ignorant but favorite phrase: "fake news!"

For those interested in real American history, read on.

The first clue is that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, hence the phrase "the Party of Lincoln." He freed the slaves in the Confederate South in January 1863 by Executive Order – The Emancipation Proclamation. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution followed in 1864, abolishing slavery, then the 14th and 15th, covering citizenship for freed slaves, and the right to vote.

The next clue is that Jefferson Davis, who became President of the Confederacy, was a Democrat, i.e., a conservative. His Vice-President, Alexander H. Stephens, a staunch proponent of slavery, became a Democrat in 1861.

Are you still with me, non-believers? Are you catching the drift?

Further clues include the makeup of the 36th U.S. Congress, in session from March 1859 to March 1861. At the time, the U.S. Senate included from the eleven Southern States that eventually seceded, twenty-two Democratic Senators, and more than sixty U.S. Representatives, mostly Democrats, with a smattering of other parties, all variously conservative. Virtually all eighty Senators and Representatives were pro-slavery.

At the same time, the majority of U.S. Congressmen from Northern States were Republican, anti-slavery. After Lincoln was elected President in November 1860, seven Southern states seceded from the U.S., followed in April 1861 by four more. All eighty Southern States Senators and Representatives withdrew or resigned from the U.S. Congress in support of their various states seceding and forming the Confederacy.

Let's repeat the major points: Abraham Lincoln was Republican. Jefferson Davis, Alexander Stephens, along with the former U.S. Senators and Representatives from all eleven Confederate states, as well as most residents of those Southern states, were Democrats – conservatives.

Does this not give a concrete clue that the Republican and Democratic Parties of the 1860's are not the same as the modern parties? Yes, it means is that the two major U.S. political parties switched ideologies and are now opposite of what they were in Lincoln's time. If you don't believe me, check for yourself. Many Internet and print sources in libraries and book stores corroborate this. No, this is not a Liberal conspiracy; it is absolute fact. Unfortunately, often when I point this out to Trump supporters, I hear the bellowing of ignorant deniers.

Actually, one Trump supporter had a moment of clarity. He considered my historical points, and he conceded. But this guy was pretty much alone in his clarity of thought and realization. The majority of conservatives who latch onto that meme are not going to admit that it does not mean what they want it to mean.

We're back to the meme which, as shown, is literally true for the reasons stated, yet otherwise, meaningless for conservative attacking purposes. No, bubbas of the Trump movement – your famous conservative, slave owning landowners were not Republican, and they did not free the slaves. They did not support the 13th, 14th, or 15th Amendments, because they were conservatives - they were Democrats.

What we're left with is a large group of modern Republicans who sadly, know nothing of American political history. Those people would do well to do some simple research, educate themselves, and be cured of this bad case of historical ignorance.

Larry Manch is an author, teacher, guitar player, freelance writer, and columnist. His books include: 'Twisted Logic: 50 Edgy Flash Fiction Stories', 'The Toughest Hundred Dollars & Other Rock & Roll Stories', 'A Sports Junkie', 'The Avery Appointment', 'Between the Fuzzy Parts'. His books are available in paperback and e-book.

He also writes about sports for Season Tickets, food and travel on Miles & Meals, and music/guitars on The Backbeat.

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