The Civil War has been over for 146 years but its legacy lingers in the countrys conscious, most blatantly as the catalyst to slaverys end. Its appropriate and necessary to celebrate the gains of the great war, but it is also reasonable to commemorate the loss of life on both sides.
The divisive symbol of the Rebel flag is sometimes seen flying around Alexandria, particularly now, in the midst of the wars sesquicentennial. It makes some people squeamish, and rightfully so; it is a symbol of hatred to many that has been, and is still used, as a racist prop.
But to others, it is a symbol of their heritage. The flag represents the bloodshed of their dead ancestors and a dont tread on me attitude. To blame a person in 2011 for their great, great, great grandfathers actions is anachronistic and unfair.
Those commemorating their Rebel ancestors have the right to do so, but they should remember the war holistically; slavery has to be a part of the dialogue for descendents of the North and South alike.
There is no doubt that bias exists in Alexandria, a Southern town during the war despite its proximity to Washington. The plaque at the site of the Morrison House, ostensibly the locale of the first Union and Confederate deaths of the war, fails to mention the Northern side of things. Referring to James Jackson, the Southern hotel owner, it says: He was the first Martyr to the cause of Southern Independence. The Justice of History does not allow his name to be forgotten. Real historical justice would have mentioned Elmer Ellsworth, the Union officer killed in the scruff. However, the plaques sentiment is not indicative of Alexandria as a whole.
The kick-off to the citys commemoration of Alexandrias role in the war did a superb job of including the plurality of historical experiences. From the white Confederate boy soldier to Hallie Quinn Brown, a black abolitionist during the era, all sides seemed covered. And this is how it has to be done without picking and choosing which history Alexandria espouses, 150 years later. There is one history, however various its characters.
No one can be blamed for feeling uncomfortable around symbols of the Confederacy, just as descendents of the failed movement often feel persecuted for celebrating their heritage. The reconciling factor is that these issues can be discussed in the open, civilly.