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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rest In Peace


Have you ever considered that Confederate Flag waving may be more of a symbol of reconciliation than succession? Or that many southerners, and their northern kinfolk, still feel perpetually slighted by the United States Government? Well consider the fact that in the 1860's, after the Civil War, Congress enacted legislation that authorized the President to purchase "cemetery grounds" to be used as national cemeteries for soldiers who died in the service of the country. By "soldiers" it meant Union soldiers, not Confederate soldiers. Confederate soldiers could not be buried in national cemeteries, nor were they afforded any benefits from the United States Government. So those aren't Confederate soldier names engraved on Veteran's Memorials or Confederate soldiers being memorialized on Veteran's Day -a National Holiday. When the remains of Confederate soldiers were found on the battlefield lying near those of Union soldiers, the Union soldiers were removed, buried with honor and they'd leave the Confederates’ bodies rotting in field. It was only because of the fear of disease spreading were their bodies put in temporary shallow graves and marked with wooden headboards for identification. And it wasn't until private women organizations, such as the Wake County Ladies Memorial Association in North Carolina, assumed the initial financial responsibility to remove these Confederates' and bury them in southern cemeteries. Keep in mind that because the Federal Government administrated this construction of these National Cemeteries, former Confederate States also paid for this. Between 1898 and 1968, the government added sections to the national cemetery to accommodate the graves of veterans from the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The cemetery’s annex is located due north of the historic original 17-acre property. Today, more than 6,000 veterans lay at rest in the national cemetery and there are almost 4 million people, "non-Confederate" Veterans of every war and conflict, buried with honor in 147 national cemeteries on about 20,000 acres of land. 

So here it is, after the Civil War ended, the United States Government buried and memorialized their own union soldiers, symbolically spit on the unmarked graves of their southern kinfolk, and then made them financially responsible for a large part of constructing national cemeteries they could not be buried in and monuments they couldn't be memorialized on. And to add further insult to injury, black veterans earned a place in the ground and name on these same memorial monuments. Some present day American patriots would simply say, "That's what rebels get!" Yeah, well do you really think that's fair and reconciliatory? What about the noble American idea of being charitable to the opposition? It's not like every Confederate soldier was a slaver, they fully understood what they were fighting for and they were unrelated to anyone up north; the Civil War was like the Hatfields and McCoy's. The McCoy's won and made the Hatfields pay for a large part of the clean-up, an elaborate cemetery and monuments for the McCoy veterans for generations. Rescue me if I'm wrong but that doesn't seem like the best way to heal open wounds and every year during Memorial Day, Veteran's Day and etc. this history is indirectly, or maybe directly, thrown in people's faces. Also, I'm sure some of you are aware that there are soldiers in ALL WARS, including the Civil War, who fought and died for a cause they didn't fully understand or oftentimes didn't agree with. Armies need bodies and sometimes that's exactly what people were. One of the biggest tragedies is to see people overlook, minimize or trivialize that fact. Just because one of these soldiers died on what may be considered a losing side doesn't personally make such a soldier and/or their family treacherous traitors or losers. It also doesn't make the same kind of soldiers who survived on the other side winners. These soldiers who sacrifice[d] their life for a cause they don't/didn't understand or agree with reflects the same marginalized groups in America that have been historically losing lives regardless who is declared a winner in war. THAT lost of life should always be acknowledged.



In this respect, one of the reasons historical wounds remain open in America is its perpetual disrespect and lack of acknowledge for the dead. From those who have died from the genocide of our Indigenous People, Blacks who were brought here and enslaved [Maafa], Interment Camps of the Japanese, southern Americans after the Civil War, Immigrants in the 1900's and of course present day Middle Easterners/Muslims and Southeast Asians. I recently attended a viewing/discussion of the documentary Fire in the Heartland at Niagara University by its BSU. Fire in the Heartland is about the National Guard's murder/wounding of Kent State students [May 4 Massacre] and the history of student protests in America. One of the most reprehensible parts of this story was how Kent State and United State Government disrespectfully handling the deaths of the fours students and nine who were wounded -one who suffered permanent paralysis. President Nixon issued a statement which read in part, "This should remind us all once again that when dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy." The problem with his statement was that the protest on that day on May 4th was peaceful and there are images and file footage to prove that. It took nearly twenty years, the 1990's, to even erect some sort of Kent State Memorial in remembrance of this horrible incident and even then there was controversy. This, including the Jackson State Murders; where two students were shot and twelve wounded by the police as they peacefully protested the Vietnam War and United States invasion of Cambodia reflect a systemic attitude in America about death. The death of those who are not viewed as Americans. Fast forward to the incidents of violence by local/state/federal law enforcement agencies against protesters and the handling of the dead surrounding the Occupy Wall Street, Ferguson, Baltimore and etc. and you'll see this clear pattern.

150 years after the Civil War, there are some people who use the Confederate Flag as a symbol of hate and white supremacy. That is wrong and unfair. There are others who honestly look at this same flag as a symbolic reminder of their ancestors; some who died in a war they didn't fully understand or agree with, and others who use it a symbol of this country's lack of reconciliation/respect for the dead. Knowing this, it is likewise wrong and unfair to simply designate ALL Confederate soldiers, and their progeny, as treacherous traitors and losers. The Indigenous people, Africans, Immigrants, Women and the LGBT community are not the only people with an American Horror Story; some Southern Whites have one too. Lastly, the Confederate Flag, or any non-American flag be it the Rainbow, Jolly Roger, Pan-African, Christian, Nation of Islam or etc.., should not be flown over any city, county, state, government agency or public institution such as a public park, library or school. None of those flags represent this nation, the United States of America, and should only be flown on/over one's private property or worn on their person. All of this begs the questions we can only answer for ourselves: When there is clear disrespect for the dead, how can there be respect for the living? If our ancestors are not buried [resting] in peace, how can we live in peace? All of us have family and friends who have passed away. Some of us may still be grieving behind their passing and how their burial was handled. Healing those wounds and bringing closure may require us to invest in a reinterment process; beginning with openly talking about that grief or feelings of disrespect and working together to strive to reconcile those issues. 

Peace,

Saladin
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