Sunday, December 19, 2010

"The past isn't dead. It isn't even past." 150th Anniversary of Civil War Start, 20 Dec 2010

[But when it comes to the American Civil War, South Carolina is not ordinary. It was the state where passions ran highest then, and where the flame of the "Lost Cause" is most tenderly nourished now. The war was made inevitable by an act of defiance by South Carolina. How fitting, indeed how inevitable, that the 150th anniversary commemorations of the most traumatic and divisive event in the country's history should begin in similar vein, in the same state, tomorrow.

Whatever else the "Secession Ball" (tickets $100 apiece) at the handsome Gaillard Auditorium in downtown Charleston will be a colourful occasion. The programme kicks off with a 45-minute play re-enacting the signature of the Ordinance of Secession on 20 December 1860, by 170 delegates to a special convention set up by the South Carolina legislature as soon as news arrived of Abraham Lincoln's election victory on 6 November that year...

...Then there is the enduring fondness of the South for the death penalty, especially for African-Americans. Three-quarters of all executions in the US take place in the former Confederate states, a direct legacy of lynching and of slavery before that, when capital crimes were far more numerous for blacks than whites.

Most striking of all, perhaps, is the continuing debate over states' rights – the division of power between the centre and the 50 states. Then it was about slavery. But only last week the argument raised its head again, when a judge in Virginia ruled that with its requirement that every citizen purchase insurance coverage, Obama's new healthcare plan overstepped the power of central government. States' rights, too, are implicit in the platform of the Tea Party movement, with its hostility to "big government" from Washington...]

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