Patriot is a word much abused in today's America. The simplest definition of patriot is one who vigorously supports his country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors. Yet, many who wave the flag, associate the nation with a superstition (one nation, under God), support every war, approve laws dubious at best if not unconstitutional (e.g., The Patriot Act) render patriotism unattractive. Today, many would say, If that's patriotism, count me out.
There are some things about this country that many of today's flag-waving, USA USA, We're # 1 patriots don't want to learn, think about or acknowledge. Many Americans, perhaps a majority, know little about some extraordinary realities of the nation's history. I'll give you one example. The example I have in mind reflects a fact about one entire section of the country, the Southern states. I believe the situation, what it reflects and how it is viewed today shows that there is profound ignorance about the evil nature of a good proportion of the American people who lived at that time.
Today, patriots in the south honor those who fought for slavery. There are parades in their honor. Statues line a main avenue in Richmond. Robert E. Lee, who turned against his country to lead a rebellion, is judged a hero by most people throughout the present souther states. It's mind-boggling and infamous.
Who better to put the nature of the southern (white) people then and their apologists today in perspective than Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), who fought valiantly as a Colonel in the Army of the Republic. In his Decoration Day Oration in 1882, he said:
... in the South, the negro toiled unpaid, and mothers wept while babes were sold, and at the auction-block husbands and wives speechlessly looked the last good-bye. Fugitives, lighted by the Northern Star, sought liberty on English soil, and were, by Northern men, thrust back to whip and chain. The great statesmen, the successful politicians, announced that law had compromised with crime, that justice had been bribed, and that time had barred appeal. A race was left without a right, without a hope. The future had no dawn, no star -- nothing but ignorance and fear, nothing but work and want. This was the conclusion of the statesmen, the philosophy of the politicians -- of constitutional expounders: -- this was decided by courts and ratified by the Nation...Ours appeared to be the most prosperous of Nations. But it was only appearance. The statesmen and the politicians were deceived. Real victories can be won only for the Right; The triumph of justice is the only Peace. Such is the nature of things. He who enslaves another cannot be free. He who attacks the right, assaults himself. The mistake our fathers made had not been corrected. The foundations of the Republic were insecure. The great dome of the temple was clad in the light of prosperity, but the corner-stones were crumbling. Four millions of human beings were enslaved. Party cries had been mistaken for principles -- partisanship for patriotism -- success for justice.
But Pity pointed to the scarred and bleeding backs of slaves; Mercy heard the sobs of mothers raft of babes, and justice held aloft the scales, in which one drop of blood shed by a master's lash, outweighed a Nation's gold. There were a few men, a few women, who had the courage to attack this monstrous crime. They found it entrenched in constitutions, statutes, and decisions -- barricaded and bastioned by every department and by every party. Politicians were its servants, statesmen its attorneys, judges its menials, presidents its puppets, and upon its cruel altar had been sacrificed our country's honor. It was the crime of the Nation -- of the whole country -- North and South responsible alike.
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