Wednesday, December 23, 2009

History hurts

Youngsters usually see history as a boring exercise in the irrelevant. What does history have to do with what's on You Tube or the latest text message?

But for me, history hurts. As a case in point, thinking about John Calhoun (middle name Caldwell!), and about Abe Lincoln (did he have a middle name?) has led inevitably to the travesty called reconstruction, and the racist Supreme Court's decisions gutting constitutional amendments and new laws designed to protect the right of freed slaves to equal citizenship.

I knew it was coming, (not to mention all that 20th and 21st Century stuff, God help us), but I hate what happened in the decades following the Civil War, especially in terms of the court.

Following the war, Republicans (not to be confused with the current variety) pushed through the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments - prohibiting slavery, guaranteeing equal protection, and mandating voting rights for all citizens, especially including blacks - and giving Congress the authority to enforce the amendments. The Civil rights Act of 1875, among earlier laws, was based on these amendments.

But such laws weren't to last very long. Former slaves had to kept in their place. The high court eviscerated the idea that the federal government could require that the states truely respect the Declaration of Independence's assertion that all men are created equal - and ushered in another 100 years of legally approved Jim Crow racism.

I can hardly wait to move on to Teddy Roosevelt and the progressives. Unfortunately, I fear I'd like to stay there. Beyond that, the future really gets bleak.

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