Thursday, November 11, 2004

A "Civil" Civil War


The election ended more than a week ago, but we are still a divided country, almost as divided as we were before our Civil War of the nineteenth century, as pundit after pundit points out. Tom Brokaw, in an interview shortly after the election, bragged about virtuous America, which can hold an election, be deeply divided, but install the winner without tanks or fighting in the streets. I would call Mr. Brokaw an ideologue, but the word has been so perverted in recent months that I’m afraid he would be insulted, and that would not be my intent. There isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with ideology, which is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary as: “the body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture.” Our Constitution is nothing but ideology. Nevertheless, the losing side of the last election persists in using it as a dirty epithet, even days after the results when we should be working side-by-side on another ideological concept – the United States.

It would be nice to think we are accepting the results and going on with our business, but there is still radical talk of people leaving the country, and even a suggestion that secession is a possibility – a silly notion proposed only by those who do not remember the full consequences of the Civil War. The media persists in asking the defeated candidate his opinion on events as if it mattered, and sometimes it seems the lamentations will never end. It is remarkably similar to the reaction of the press upon the election of Abraham Lincoln, as when the Richmond Whig responded by saying it was “‘undoubtedly the greatest evil that has ever befallen this country.’” (Ward, p.26).

What were the full consequences of the United States Civil War, the bloody conflict that parallels today’s more “civil” civil war? What divided our nation when, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln won the Presidency with only 40% of the popular vote? What grave moral issue was at hand that caused the schism? Shortly after the declaration of the war, at a special church service in Auburn, New York, the pastor’s wife wrote: “The sermon was a radical discourse, and recognized slavery as the underlying cause” (Ward, p. 49).

Historians like to look back on events with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, and there are scores of books written on the causes of the Civil War. There were many factors that could be identified, states’ rights vs. the federal government, etc. These make good reading, and there isn’t room to evaluate them here. But one historical fact cannot be changed by any number of suppositions and political theories. When the Civil War started, slavery was legal in some of the United States. When the war ended, it was not. President Lincoln was elected by the free states of America – he won them all, and lost all of the slave-holding states. It is safe to say he won that heatedly close election on the basis of moral values.

Would anyone today argue that slavery was not a moral and social evil? Unfortunately, there are still bigoted extremists in our society who would agree with the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens, who wrote: “Our new government [the Confederacy]…rests upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man…the first in the history of the world, based upon this great physical and moral truth,” (Ward, p. 30). Slavery, a moral truth? It is no more absurd than John Kerry’s remark that abortion is a “…constitutional amendment I will always fight to protect,” (Columbia University, On the Issues,

Did I miss something? Did we vote and pass a Constitutional Amendment to legalize abortion? No, I didn’t miss anything, but I believe Senator Kerry and the Democratic Party have missed many things – or they would not have lost this election. Even if such an amendment were proposed, it would fail for lack of support, because the truth is that a little more than half of this country is fighting to keep morality in government, while the other side of the conflict is fighting to protect its own interests, in the same way that slave-holders and others who were economically dependent upon slavery fought to keep it “safe.” They were divided in greater numbers then than they are now, as reflected in the popular vote Mr. Lincoln received. Since the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement of the last century that finally brought its fruits to bear, we don’t hear any defense of slavery because those who are still morally deluded have dwindled in numbers. Interestingly enough, they were made to accept the morality imposed on them by the members of their government, and our society is inarguably better for it.

Senator Kerry believes he can stand apart from morality and admire it, as if it is merely a nice jacket or tie, something to put on and off. When asked during one of the debates whether it wouldn’t be wise to obtain stem cells without the destruction of embryos, Kerry responded “I really respect the feeling that's in your question. I understand it. I know the morality that's prompting that question, and I respect it enormously,” (ibid). He affirmed again and again throughout the campaign that he would not impose his values on others by bringing his morality into government on the issue of abortion. What if the politicians of the Northern states of the Union had held that position?

There’s a serious misconception here. Government doesn’t really exist. It is not a thing we can see or touch. It is not a person to whom we can appeal. It has no body, no physical substance, no conscience and no soul of its own. It is an idea, created by ideologues. Because it has no form of its own, it can only be defined as the total ideology of its members. Its members, of course, are our elected and appointed officials. If these members, the only visible and viable parts, do not bring morality into government, government has no morality. How, then, can it fulfill its social responsibilities within moral constructs? What happens to a society when its government is not just immoral, but amoral?

Just as government is a moral reflection of its members, society becomes a moral reflection of its government. Our founding fathers decided to do nothing about slavery, and by 1860, the last year of peace before the war, one of every seven Americans would belong to another (Ward, p. 12). According to President Lincoln, “…we began by declaring that all men are created equal, but now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is ‘a sacred right of self-government.’” (Ward, p. 21). If this sounds familiar, it should. The right of self-government is euphemistically referred to by pro-abortionists as the right to “choose.” In 1860, it was legal to “choose” to enslave human beings. Today, one in every four pregnancies will be terminated by abortion, because it is legal to “choose” to kill an inconvenient child in the womb.

How pervasive was the moral evil of slavery in 19th century America? Well, it had been legally sanctioned by that revered body, the Supreme Court. In 1857, Dred Scott, a former slave, sued for his freedom on the basis of his residency in a “free state.” The Supreme Court rejected his suit. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote the majority opinion: “…neither slaves nor their descendants could ever have standing in court, could ever be American citizens.” (Ward, p. 24). If you who read this are descended from American slaves, it should make your blood run cold. Had the ideologues of this country not fought that morally myopic Supreme Court, and fought hard, you would not be equal citizens today.

A government without moral structure is not compelled to provide for its people, yet government has no useful function unless it does just that: government exists to provide to the people those services that are not practicably obtained by individuals. A government trying to operate without moral structure does not care about the people it is sworn to serve. The compulsion to help the disadvantaged and protect citizens is a call from our social consciences – whether the call stems from compassion for the less fortunate, or from the ideal that society is only as healthy as the majority of its individual members, that call from the consciences can only come from the members of government who have them.

The straw polls of the 2004 Presidential election are revealing. 47% of the electorate asked to identify a single-issue that decided their votes chose social issues, areas in which government must reflect the compassion of its citizens: education, war, financial security, and health care. These voters favored John Kerry by a wide margin – 73% to 80%. But when it came to those who considered moral values the single most important issue (22% of the electorate), 80% voted overwhelmingly in favor of George Bush ( There was only one fundamentally moral issue at hand in this election on which the candidates differed greatly, and that was the protection of life from conception through natural death. All of the social issues named above are marred by discrimination and oppression if government is not first required to extend its protection to all of its citizens.

The Democratic Party is considered by some to be the party of social responsibility, although the evidence to support that opinion is weak. It was the Democratic Party that led the South into secession in 1860 in order to preserve the immoral institution of slavery. It is the Democratic Party today that marches to preserve the immoral act of legal infanticide, even the barbarism of partial birth abortion, which makes the beheading of civilians look like a mere slap in the face. Jim VandeHei, in the Washington Post, wrote, “The abortion issue that has Democrats the most concerned -- a ban on the procedure critics call partial-birth abortion -- is resurfacing after a federal judge in San Francisco ruled on Tuesday that the ban is unconstitutional.” (

The Democratic Party is most concerned with protecting a procedure that is performed solely to take the life of the child who would otherwise become a U.S. Citizen. There need be no provision for protecting the life of the mother, as it is never medically necessary. It flies in the face of reason to imagine there are people who really don’t see anything wrong with partial birth abortion, as hard as it is to imagine anyone successfully arguing today in favor of enslaving another human being. If you don’t know what this procedure entails, you should, because while this war may be civil, it is not un-bloody as some claim. Just as Harriet Beecher-Stowe awoke a nation to the suffering of slaves in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, so should all Americans be alerted to the suffering of infants, legally, at the hands of someone who was originally trained to heal, not to kill. Labor is induced in a woman who is say, seven months pregnant, eight, nine – all the way to full-term. She could be scheduled to deliver her child alive the next day, and choose not to. The abortionist stops labor’s progress while the child’s head is still in the womb. He or she inserts a scalpel at the base of the baby’s skull. The child’s feet are seen moving outside the womb as it feels the birth struggle (and the child feels, as we can see in its neurological development by 12 weeks of gestation). After the scalpel, the abortionist inserts a suction tube into the hole he made, and he sucks the child’s brains out. The feet eventually stop moving.

Defense of this grotesque and barbaric behavior is every bit as bad as the worst pro-slavery rhetoric ever battered about before the Civil War and “…its great ennobling outcome – the freeing of four million black people and their descendants from bondage.” (Ward, XVI). Yet the Democratic Party and its representatives will fight every bit as hard as the slavery supporters to keep it legal, if we are to believe John Kerry: “I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade” (Columbia University).

He may as well say he supports the Dred Scott decision, because it was made in the same manner as Roe v. Wade, and he calls that a Constitutional Amendment (after thirty years in the Senate, I would expect him to know the correct terminology, so I can only assume he truly believes the Supreme Court alone can amend the Constitution, a dangerous supposition that leaves all of us at the mercy of an unelected body that has a history of making mistakes). The descendants of slaves live on in freedom because of ideology and ideologues who would not give up fighting for that free existence. We must not give up fighting for the free existence of all Americans ourselves. We must begin by listening to the moral consciences of our citizens, because they have been right before, and they are in the right today. We must not give in to those who believe not in the separation of church and state, but in the separation of morality and government that more closely resembles fascism than democracy.

We must ask ourselves why the majority of Americans voted for George Bush, just as Don Fehrenbacher asked of our ancestors: “Why did so many northerners vote for Lincoln, knowing that his election would be disturbing the peace of the nation?” (Fehrenbacher, p. 84). Slaves could not vote, and were almost as voiceless as the unborn but for brave former slaves like Frederick Douglass. The moral conscience of the United States’ government, as defined by its individual members and our citizens, won out and changed the very construct of our society for the better. It was a noble purpose based on high ideals and aspirations. What great ennobling outcome will there be to our current divide, this “civil” Civil War?

Sources in addition to those cited above include:

Fehrenbacher, Don E. “Why The War Came,” The Civil War, 1990. Alfred A Knopf, Inc., pp. 84-87.

Ward, Geoffrey C. The Civil War, 1990. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.


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