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What the Reaction to John Kelly?s Civil War Remarks Says About Our Culture

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Unread 11.01.17, 02:15 PM
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What the Reaction to John Kelly?s Civil War Remarks Says About Our Culture

On 11.01.17 01:36 PM posted by Jarrett Stepman

Jesus famously said that no prophet is accepted in his hometown.

It turns out the Father of Our Country isn’t accepted in his home church.

Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia stepped into the larger debate over statues and history this week when it decided to remove plaques of President George Washington and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee because they might make attendees feel “unsafe or unwelcome.”

But a cursory glance at history shows the foolishness of treating Washington this way.

During the Civil War, when Americans were killing each other by the hundreds of thousands, Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon was used as neutral ground by both sides to treat their wounded.

Washington’s appeal was universal even as the country was falling apart.

It may be a sign of the times that the most singularly unifying individual in our nation’s history is now considered an unwelcoming figure at the historic church he attended for much of his life.

But in the rapidly moving crusade against the sins of America’s past, Confederates are seamlessly lumped in with Founders.

In the Slip N’ Slide of slippery slopes, the movement that began by going after Lee and Jefferson Davis has now devolved to the point of expunging Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and now Washington.

All of these men have simply become stand-ins for the sins of modern America.

Reasonable people can debate the comparative merit of figures like Washington and Lee, but the rampant attacks on statues, plaques, and history itself should tell us that we are hardly engaged in a rational national discussion.

If you make a single, politically incorrect misstep in this debate, you will get swept up in the crusade along with the statues.

Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, learned this the hard way.

Kelly weighed in on the Christ Church decision in an interview with Laura Ingraham and defended Lee, in particular, from attacks. Kelly said that he thought Lee was “honorable” and that a “lack of compromise” ultimately led to the Civil War.

At one time, these statements may have been met with polite rebuttals or sparked a debate on the legacy of a war that took the lives of over half a million Americans.

Not in 2017. Kelly was immediately labeled ignorant, a defender of the Confederacy, and guilty of perpetuating racism.
Black people who are as nutty as Kelly and Trump are generally marginalized. Kelly and Trump ended up in the White House.

— Ta-Nehisi Coates (@tanehisicoates) October 31, 2017

Wow. Gen. John Kelly just said “the lack of ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”

Compromise on what, exactly?

— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) October 31, 2017

Gen. Kelly there can be no compromise on slavery and there is no honor in fighting to preserve racism. #RobertELee #ImpeachTrumpAndKellyGoes

— Congressman Al Green (@RepAlGreen) October 31, 2017

That would make Robert E. Lee a traitor to the United States and John Kelly a defender of said traitor. https://t.co/V3UxC6Wz9B

— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) October 31, 2017

The Civil War wasn’t caused by a "lack of ability to compromise.” It was caused by slavery. https://t.co/OvhDAlINKv pic.twitter.com/jjgZc0AAeQ

— Yoni Appelbaum (@YAppelbaum) October 31, 2017

CNN contributor April Ryan on Tuesday and Wednesday actually asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders if the administration thought “slavery was wrong.”
April Ryan Asks White House if Trump Administration Believes ‘Slavery Is Wrong’https://t.co/OBmJDVpxZX pic.twitter.com/mgJndDEE0e

— David Rutz (@DavidRutz) October 31, 2017

It must be noted that Kelly’s opinion of Lee isn’t far removed from that of President Dwight Eisenhower, who kept a portrait of Lee (and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant) in his office.

Ike was no “Lost Cause” supporter, and in fact played a vital role in desegregating Southern schools. Yet, he wrote that Americans could continue to learn something from the Confederate general because “a nation of men of Lee’s calibre would be unconquerable in spirit and soul.”

It took a monumental effort to rebuild this country after the cataclysmic Civil War tore it into piece and nearly destroyed it. It is a testament to the enduring greatness of the United States that we picked up the pieces and made it even greater than before in the century that followed.

Lee, like Lincoln, became a uniting figure for Americans–of many political persuasions–who represented the restoration of the union and rebirth of freedom under a single banner, no longer plagued by the cancer of slavery.

Kelly’s other statement about the lack of compromise leading to war, though disputable, would have been met with little opposition even just a few decades ago.

Shelby Foote, the famed historian who headlined the Ken Burns Civil War documentary in the 1990s, used those words, almost verbatim, in the series’ opening episode. Burns is certainly no right-winger.

The series of compromises made over the decades before the war may have both delayed the violence, but also made it inevitable. Ultimately, the slave states’ inability to compromise and accept the election of Lincoln sparked the war.

Again, there is much to debate about the Civil War, which, as Kelly’s detractors are so keen to scream out over and over again, was undoubtedly caused by the slavery issue.

However, the overreaction to the remarks shows why this country can’t have a healthy debate about statues and history. The ferocity and hysteria of ideological combat against the current administration is now being directed at complex eras, far removed from our own modern debates.

We have reached a sad, final moment in which the most unifying symbols of who we are as a people are considered “unwelcoming.”

Men like Washington, Lincoln, Lee, Christopher Columbus, and so many others have simply been recast as villains for the contemporary crusaders, whose attacks are becoming indiscriminate and whose aims could not be more petulant.

The post What the Reaction to John Kelly’s Civil War Remarks Says About Our Culture appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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