Expecting an apology for the Civil War

These events raise a question.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The statue of Confederate fighter Nathan Bedford Forrest astride a horse towers above the Memphis park bearing his name. It’s a larger-than-life tribute to the warrior still admired by many for fiercely defending the South in the Civil War — and scorned by others for a slave-trading past and ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

Though the bloodiest war on American soil was fought 150 years ago, racially tinged discord flared before its City Council voted this week to strip Forrest’s name from the downtown park and call it Health Sciences Park. It also voted to rename Confederate Park as Memphis Park and Jefferson Davis Park as Mississippi River Park.

Thanks, Memphis. It’s decades overdue, but bravo anyway.

Really, those Nathan Bedford Forrest parks and schools and streets that dot the Southern states should no longer be tolerated. Forrest owned and traded slaves, and he served as the inaugural Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. That’s more than enough to erase the accolades from the civic modern day.

But here’s a wider truth. He pledged his life to defend evil. He believed in slavery enough for him to kill over it. That’s why he ended the lives of dozens of good men. It’s not fashionable to point this out, but that’s the cold hard truth. All of these insults you can append to his crime of treason, as you know.

Which brings me to the question: When will the South apologize for the Civil War? That’s a query for our time, finally, and long overdue. We’re all grown-ups now, we can agree that saying “I’m Sorry” for firing on Fort Sumter and precipitating the deaths of 600,000 citizens is warranted. So we’ll be waiting.

BTW, I ask this question of people. How do they respond? They break out in laughter, like hyenas. That’s not because the country doesn’t deserve an apology, we do. It’s because we know what the South is still like. Too many think of the Confederate flag as a “Fuck You” to the rest of us when it’s a hackneyed dunce cap.

So I doubt it will be soon before the sons and daughters of the Confederacy confront civility. No less than another half century for that, I’d bet (tick tock, tick tock . .). On behalf of Elihu, my great great grandfather who fought in a West Virginia regiment, my family will accept the apology after I’m dead.

Share