By Ben Tanosborn
Sixty-five years past the Korean conflict, Americans are reminded that there was no end to the Korean War only a cease of hostilities which in 2017 can turn into a holocaust as two unstable leaders keep their fidgety fingers over the buttons that can ignite a nuclear war. And of the two, I worry more about Donald Trump than I do Kim Jong Un, for it seems to me that the latter has far more to lose. We are waking up to the reality that an armistice is not something that can stay swept under the rug forever; that eventually the rug will wear out or require that it be cleaned. North Korea just reminded us of it.
But if we think that the Korean Armistice is the longest in our US history, we need to be reminded of another armistice, a far more important one; one we are presently living that is more than twice as old and far more pernicious to our civic health; our existence as a nation, a people with common goals… one that dates back to 1865 and what is presumed to be the end of America’s Civil War.
Like it or not, the American Civil War did not end with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox in April 1865; or the Battle of Palmito Ranch a month later; or the formal declaration by President Andrew Johnson on August 20, 1866. The war never really ended because Americans never made peace with each other adopting, or willing to adopt, a uniform vision on slavery – later, of racial equality… or even states’ rights. A century and a half later we continue to live an undeclared, swept-under-the rug, racial armistice that too many white Americans stubbornly fail to admit. Not just a seemingly insignificant number of vociferous bigopats (pseudo-patriotic bigots) that openly adhere to supremacist cults (KKK, neo-Nazis, militias, et al) but their thousand-fold followers in the population who for social, economic or racial reasons see a fit in camaraderie or find personal refuge against real or perceived menaces.
Contrary to what most of us may think, the nation, the people, the human rights before the law, did not gradually and positively evolve past the proclaimed end of the American Civil War; and 40-50-60 years later, monuments and statues were still being erected commemorating the valor of treasonous leading insurgents; however, none that I have seen to honor the Johnny Rebel duped into a war to defend an ignoble cause: slavery. It took a century past the cease of Civil War hostilities – and the semi-consensual, and unwritten, start of a de facto American Racial Armistice – for another President Johnson (LBJ this time) to sign legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, finally outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
However, that legislation of five decades ago did not convert the racial armistice into permanent peace; rather, in its implementation it renewed the conflict which eventually became a “new and improved” unwritten Racial Armistice under which we now operate. This current domestic armistice braids the many shades of unacknowledged bigotry with the ever-increasing economic inequality keeping the nation divided. And we, the people, are herded into two political tents, where the two political parties’ leaderships have alternatively misguided us with little wisdom and a total lack of moral compass.
Perhaps President Trump’s unhinged behavior and misdeeds can offer us the needed opportunity to confront our domestic civic demons and once and for all face the reality of bigotry in the all-important realm of racial discrimination, letting the armistice of political correctness be replaced by an honest, in (all) conscience peace. If and when we do establish domestic peace and tranquility on the racial front, it will be easier to replace other armistices (geopolitical, social and economic) both domestically and internationally. At present, we do not have… even if we keep telling ourselves that we do… the moral high ground to stand on, either domestically or in judgment to the world.
Our unstable Narcissist-in-Chief, Donald J. Trump, is not the cause of all our problems, only the aggravator of some. He is simply a harbinger foreshadowing what is to come if we remain intent in continuing to create never-to-face armistices… yes, sweeping all our domestic and foreign problems under the always available rug.
Can we, once and for all, lift up the Civil War rug and civically, not politically, confront our racial issues, work out solutions, and convert a 15-decade unwritten but very real armistice into a permanent, lasting peace?