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FORT SUMTER REDUX
August 7, 2011 - Ray Hall (Archive)
Well, it has finally happened, for the first time in history Standard and Poors downgraded the bond rating for the United States. Curiously, that downgrade wasn’t because the United States couldn’t pay it debts including interest; the downgrade resulted from the willingness of a minority of a minority to plunge this country into a deep, dark depression.
Last year and even during the Health Care debate I was angry with President Obama. I wanted him to take a stand; to draw a line in the sand for the public option. He didn’t and I became even more angry with him. I was pleased, however, during this most recent crisis manufactured entirely by the Tea Party and their Republican companions, that President Obama drew a line in the sand. He said he would not approve a deal that wasn’t balanced; balanced with expenditures and increases in revenues.
We know what happened; the President blinked. This time I am not angry, I am puzzled. Why when 80% of the American people believed in President Obama’s approach did he step aside? Isn’t he a student of history? Doesn’t he understand the Tea Party’s motives?
Michael Lind recently wrote in Salon that the Tea Party movement is “the latest of a series of attacks on American democracy by the white southern minority which for more than two centuries has not hesitated to paralyze, sabotage, or in the case of the Civil War, destroy American democracy in order to get their way.”
The article concludes that the Tea Party is “overwhelmingly Southern in it origins.” Thirty-nine or sixty-three percent are southerners, twelve are from the mid-west, ten from the west and one from the northeast. While New England was front an center in the original Tea Party there is not a single Tea party member of this Congress from New England. Lind maintains the Tea Party movement is analogous to the Southern attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina in 1861 that started the Civil War. The similarities are striking. When Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington amid secrecy and under tight security in February, 1861 the United States was in a mess. Seven southern states had seceded from the Union and despite that setback, he was determined to hold the Union together.
Although the new President was engaged in a struggle to preserve the Union and rally the North he was beset with foreign policy matters of the most urgent kind. Two major world powers, France and England, were inclined to form an alliance with the Confederacy. President Lincoln had to weigh every word lest an artless comment or a thoughtless deed fall in favor of international recognition for the Southern Confederacy.
Against all odds this gangly, untested statesman saved a nation that had unraveled and became a legendary leader. He understood that civil war was imminent, but he was resolute that it would not be the Federal Government that fired the first shot.
That happened at Fort Sumter. On Friday, April 12th the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter and by April 14th the garrison fell. Although the stars and stripes flew in defiance it was repeatedly hit by enemy shells. On Saturday the flag pole took a direct hit and the flag fell but the beleaguered Union troops snatched it from the ground and hoisted it for the last time. The next day, Sunday, April 14th, out of ammunition and exhausted, the small Union detachment saluted the flag as it was lowered and surrendered to an overwhelming Confederate force.
Separated by 150 years President Obama found that Washington and the United States faced a similar threat. This great nation, these United States was being held hostage by a minority of ardent Tea Party Republicans in Congress who threatened to plunge the country into economic ruin. Despite compelling public support and compromise by President Obama the Tea Party, dominated by southerners as unyielding as those responsible for the fall of Fort Sumter, found concession and compromise impossible.
The President postponed the inevitable and yielded to an emboldened minority of ruffians willing to lay this country to waste and end all compromise. Tuesday, August 2, 2011 will long be remembered as the day the Tea Party got away with firing on the American Flag by threatening to wreck our nation’s economy. The Tea Party has been given a free pass, not to build and create, but to destroy.
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Firing on Ft. Sumter (Click to enlarge)