Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The War Between The States...

...and the Federal Government of the United States of America.
That is what it should have been called instead of The Civil War (what the winners called it) or The War Between the States (which is how it is referred to in the South). 

New York City public schools have cast it as the war to free the slaves.  Although slaves were freed during the war, it was not the main point of the war as many would have you believe.  The war did end slavery and the slave trade in the South, but eventually, that was going to come to an end.  I understand that slavery (as practiced in the United States until the end of the 1870's) was a really bad thing because human beings were routinely mistreated and involuntarily denied their freedom.  The practice of slavery had to end for that reason.

Let us go back to the discussion of the war in the 1860's.  The reason for the war was that some states felt that the federal government had overreached its mandate and started to butt into the rights of the states.  The ugly practice of slavery was just one of the issues, but because it was really convienient and a despicable practice, it became the face of this war.  The South could not frame the war as a fight for the sovereignty of States and that is one of the reasons they lost the war.  If they had a better public relations machine, then they would have stood a chance. 

What was so important about States' rights?  The Constitution of the United States allots the Federal goverenment a certain degree of responsibility and it also leaves other responsibilities to the States.  The Bill of Rights, specifically the tenth Amendment, grants the States the rights that are not given to the Federal government and not prohibited by the US Constitution.  States are sovereign entities, although the exist within the context of the United States.  They are recognized for their individuality and entrepreneurship.  The States were not meant to be clones of each other.  When the Federal Government steps in and starts to regulate the States so that Vermont can be the same as Georgia, there is a problem.  The Federal goverenment has to recognize that the States have different economies, different resources and different needs and things that are good for Vermont are not necessarily good for the Georgia. 

The Civil War was much deeper than slavery, it was about the ability to decide one's own destiny (ironically for some Southerners, the ability to decide their own destiny depended on the suppression of that ability in other people).  A 'watered-down' presentation of the Civil War as the struggle to free the slaves is really a disservice to history.  It is a deep discussion on the resposibilities and roles of the many pieces of our government.  If it is simply presented as a war to end slavery, then where is the discussion of state sovereignty?  How will anyone learn about their rights and responsibilities?  By not delving further into the subject matter, all of us have become slaves of the federal government. 

All of us need to understand our system of government to become better citizens.  Following rules does not make us better citizens, it makes us slaves.  Being able to operate freely because of our deep understanding of our system of government makes us better citizens.  Better citizens make this country better.  The United States alows us to be free, but what does it really mean to be free in this country and what should we do with that freedom?

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