Where America reunited? Not really

The sign on Virginia Route 24 heading into Appomattox County proclaims “where a nation reunited.”

Even for a nation founded on dreams, that claim seems a bit far fetched.

I wheeled my Harley-Davidson into the lot of the Appomattox County Courthouse National Park — one of two places in Virginia where wars fought over freedom ended. The Revolutionary War ended in Yorktown, further to the East.

As happens often on my motorcycle rides, I ended up in Appomattox by accident. After breakfast with biker friends in Roanoke, I headed East on Route 24 with no particular destination in mind. Sunday dawned gorgeous and I wasn’t about to let a rare, warm November day pass without getting in some seat time.

111609appamattox_0.jpgSo I stopped at Appomattox and took some time to walk around the old courthouse area where Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant in 1865, a surrender that one historical marker claimed, “brought America back together.”

History is still debating whether or not America was all that together in either the days following the Civil War or anytime since.

The end of what my grandfather always called “the war of Northern aggression” may have brought an end to slavery but it did not end racism in this nation. If anything, it deepened some white hatred towards blacks and, sadly, that hatred lives on today, rekindled somewhat by the election of Barack Obama as President.

Since Obama’s election, membership in white supremacist groups has surged. Even the Ku Klux Klan is back with all its white sheeted cowardice.

Ethnic jokes about blacks can be heard more frequently in restaurants, bars and other social gathering places.

But racism is only part of today’s divided America. We are a nation divided by race, creed, religion, social status and philosophical extremes. We are a nation that thrives on hate, stereotypes and fear. Its not just blacks that scare the ignorant of America: They have plenty of fear and hate left over for gays, Jews, Muslims, Mexicans and anyone who isn’t part of their narrow-focus beliefs.

America may have been founded on the principle that “all men are created equal” but — at the time — that principle was limited to all white men of privilege who owned property. Blacks, women and others need not apply for freedom in the America of 1776.

Amendments to the Constitution corrected some of the short sightedness of our nation’s founders, giving women and blacks the same rights but some would like to also use the constitution to limit freedom by denying marriage rights to gays or women the right to choose.

Once again, abortion has become a defining issue in America, driving changes to health care reform to deny coverage of abortions under a public option plan.

Once again, religion drives decisive issues like abortion and gay rights. Somewhere along the line, this nation also forgot the founding principle that called for a separation of church and state.

Yes, America today is far from united. Deep differences driven by partisanship and extremism divide this nation as never before.

The Civil War may have ended in 1865.

But an uncivil war rages on and it may do more to destroy America than all the carnage from the American Revolution and the Civil War.


  1. Sandra Price

    CHB is a political site that tries to unite all of us to focus on repairing the damage done by the two parties. There is a difference between political discussions and partisan fights. We discuss the news brought here by Doug and his staff and we all should be focused on the facts not the labels.

    We all have our own reasons for the problems and sharing these reasons is exactly the correct way to solving them. This has nothing to do without our own personal and private decisions. There is no reason to hold old vendettas and anger here.

    Several here at CHB want a free for all approach to expressing themselves. I went through it and faced terrible consequences. I will not street fight with anyone here. I got into it with a member of CHB elsewhere and the dirty tricks have spread over many forums. These tricks do nothing but hurt the site.

    How can we unite and get to the source of our problems? The whole damn government is corrupt and needs to be forced into obeying their own laws. This will take some work. If I’m out of line, pull my plug.

  2. Lcoast

    As usual, you’ve hit it right on the head, Doug. I was at a town hall meeting yesterday here in Southern California–first one I’ve attended. It was as ugly a confrontation as I’ve seen without blood on the floor. And it’s not the people who come to “participate” in their government. It’s a tiny minority of mostly white men in their 50s, pissed off because they didn’t cut it and think that blacks, jews, (especially illegals here in SoCal) get everything that they’re entitled to. It’s pure hatred and fear at a level I’ve never seen. And it’s ironic: These are the people who would most directly benefit from everything progressives are talking about–competitive health care, green jobs, improved pubic education, financial regulation. It’s amazing and sad..

  3. Carl Nemo

    Yo Lcoast,

    Does this “tiny minority of mostly white men in their 50’s” provide a semi literate, questioning counterbalance to these highly educated, leftist, “progressives” who’s ideas are leading us to destruction have “any” merit…?! / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  4. almandine

    Lcoast –

    Most of the benefit from “competitive” health care, “green” jobs, improved “public” education, and “more” financial regulation will go to white males in their 50s? Riiggghhhhttttt…

    That kind of dissembling rhetoric is what’s making them angry and fearful. What those folks want is to have their jobs back, have their retirement funds returned by the bankers and secured, have the promise of social security fulfilled as they were told all their working lives it would be, and have the money they still have maintain its value until they die.

    Those are the promises progressives cannot make, as all their healthcare initiatives, cap-and-tax schemes, and green-living edicts for the future are budget-busting in the worst way. This country CAN be taken down by profligacy… bankruptcy IS an option.

    The older generations remember America as the land of liberty, the home of private property rights, and not the land of govt-forced redistribution. They aren’t ready to roll over just so all those groups you say they are pissed off at can be given what they worked so hard to achieve.

    It’s bad enough the govt has allowed the oligarchs to steal the country blind, now progressives want to seize the rest of what’s not been nailed down, no matter who it belongs to.

    My advice? Underestimate those old white boys at your own peril.

  5. woody188

    I can’t say that I’ve noticed any more racism than usual in America. The Klan hasn’t even protested here at The Ohio Statehouse and Capitol Square for many years.

    What I have noticed is there is no tolerance for jokes even if they are not inflammatory or derogatory. That is unless you are white. There seems to be no end to the redneck, Irish, Polish, Italian, Czech, and other white stereotypes but there is never any prosecution or even social dogma for picking on white people.

    Even on this site people are allowed to call others “rednecks” just because they believe in the Second Amendment. What’s that all about?

    And how about those calling any criticism of Israel anti-semitism?

    Jimmy Carter called critizism of Obama racism. As if black Americans were for world government ruled by bankers.

    No, what I’ve seen is that people that don’t want a fair and reasonable discussion tend to pull the “race card” when they can’t defend their position. See the Israeli reaction to the Goldstone report on Gaza if you need an example. Or Germany’s laws on discussing what happened in Nazi Germany during the 1940’s. Or more recently dissent against Obamacare was labeled racist radicalism.

    So are you seeing more racism, or more people claiming things are racist to stifle debate about our out of control system of government?

    Remember it isn’t about our differences, but the separation within that will be our demise. George Carlin and Bill Hicks had it right despite being entertainers.

  6. Kent.Shaw

    Carlin and Hicks nailed it. Anyone who hasn’t clicked Woody’s link is missing the real story.

    Kent Shaw

  7. issodhos

    Well, it is said that the winning side writes the history of a conflict. Wanting to justify the war while consolidating their gains, the winners who wrote the text books and placed historical markers would surely have wanted to propagate the idea that there was a mindset prior to the Northern Industrialist Aggressions of 1861-1865 of Virginians, New Yorkers, Georgians, Vermonters (…ites? …ians?) etc, all viewing the United States as a union of socio-politically same-thinking people rather than a confederation or union of states that only partially subordinated their sovereignty — primarily for political and economic purposes. Even at the eve of the Northern Aggression we see a man like Robert E. Lee resigning his commission in the U.S. Army because he considered himself a Virginian first, a U.S. citizen second.

    It would be my thought that we were not united as a ‘people’ before the war, thus we could not have been “re-united” after the war. Indeed, our dis-unitedness (if it is not a word, it should be:-)) as a ‘people’ was probably a recognized characteristic of America and is still reflected today — though probably not based on the same set of criteria.

    So, I would think that Appomattox County, far from being a place of re-unification, was rather where the remaining sovereignty of the several states was transferred to the Federal government, thus removing a major check against the re-consolidation of power back to the State. Of course, its just a sign along the roadside.:-)

  8. almandine

    Interesting points, especially given the socio-geographic layout of the states. Ethnic clusters still exist to this day based on the early dispersal patterns of immigrants from across Europe… Germans here, Brits and Scots there, French to the north, Italians to the west, etc. Those folks fought amongst themselves for centuries before America was even dreamed of. The large US cities evolved to become microcosms of this cultural antithesis to diaspora, as witnessed in tightknit ethnic inner-city communities bearing names such as Little Italy, etc.

    Is not blood thicker than water?

  9. Carl Nemo

    America’s early psyops included stigmatizing the blacks post emancipation and the “Great War”.

    Average, to less than so white Southerners who were grossly disenfranchised post the Civil War needed something to project their hatreds upon other than the victorious north. So the idea was conceived to demonize black people. It was a handy, ever so easy propagandist idea with which “infect” the Southland for the benefit of Northern post war exploitation.

    Emancipated blacks were no different than if you took your pampered housecats of many years, then decided to take the for a ride in the country one night dropping them wherever to survive on their own.

    They were victims as slaves and soon to be victims post emancipation.

    But this deflected the aims of restructionists and “carpetbaggers” who were feasting on the rich agricultural Southland that had now gone bust post the Civil War.

    This is a fact and not fiction.

    White men seem to only feel good about themselves when they have an underdog, a cur, a pariah on which to project their impotence and failures. Whether its the color of a man’s skin or simply ideas they don’t need to “cotton to”; little do they realize they’ve met the enemy and “he is them”… / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  10. Sandra Price

    Everything I read within in these replies are true and I can add one more problem. In my community of retired seniors, we have become autistic. This is not a community of retired corporate owners but simple workmen who delivered mail, trucking goods, and some merchants. At 65 they retired to play golf, cheat on their wives, drink too much, and get all the medical drugs they want.

    They will not attend town hall meetings unless the subject is death with dignity. They will not discuss politics nor the influence religion has on the government. They feel they have done their duty in their WW2, Korean, Vietnam wars and they don’t give a damn if their grandkids can read or their own kids are jobless and homeless. This is a restricted development and the doors are slammed shut to anyone in need.

  11. Kent.Shaw

    “We are a nation that thrives on hate, stereotypes and fear.”

    As Joe Bageant wrote recently, there seems to be a general lack of compassion in this country. That’s putting it mildly. I call it just plain meanness.

    Kent Shaw

  12. Sandra Price

    Is there anything we can do to stop the hate, stereotyping and fear? If we were never united then what brought out the obvious problems? Surely I am not the only one who has been shocked at the “politics” of today.

    What triggered the hate/love affair with Rush, Beck and even Palin? Do we sit back and pretend this problem does not exist or do we hit it head on and ask for particulars?

    What did Doug expect from us when he wrote his Rant?

  13. griff

    Ah yes, where is that fabled unity? Not to be found here, nor will it ever be, as much as we’re addicted to chasing that elusive rainbow.

    And oh how we love to puff up our own sense of moral superiority by casting stones in all directions but toward our own glass houses.

    Certainly thousands of years of tribal instinct – necessary for and responsible for the very fact that we still walk this earth at all – can be suppressed and denied because we’re such an advanced and righteous civilization.

    It is a natural thing to harbor prejudices. To deny that basic truth of human nature is to deny that the sun will rise in the morning and set in the evening.

    But what of government’s role in perpetuating these divisions? Forced desegregation, Affirmative Action, and other forms of forced morality only serve to increase class and racial tensions. For it isn’t the job of government to legislate morality, especially considering that particular virtue is about as common as a unicorn in modern American politics.

    And of course it’s only whites that are racist. If you’re opposed to illegal immigration you’re racist. If you oppose Obama or his policies you’re racist. If you opposed the confirmation of Sotomayor you’re racist, even though she is a member of a racist organization (La Raza – the Race) herself.

    Government needs division in order to maintain its control. As H.L. Mencken once wrote, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed – and hence clamorous to be led to safety – and menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

    Our Declaration of Independence does state that “All men are created equal,” but that only means that we are equal under the law, not equal in abilities or intellect. Affirmative Action, for example, goes against that very ideal.

    The issue of slavery was debated thoroughly during our country’s founding, and the hypocrisy of it was not ignored or lost to many of the Founders, to include Abigail Adams. In a letter to husband John in 1774, she wrote, “You know my mind upon the subject. I wish most sincerely there was not a slave in the province. It allways appeared a most iniquitous Scheme to me – fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have.”

    In 1775 Samuel Johnson had this to say, “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”

    And Benjamin Rush…”Ye men of sense and virtue – Ye advocates for American liberty, rouse up and espouse the cause of humanity and general liberty. Bear a testimony against a vice which degrades human nature, and dissolves that universal tie of benevolence which should connect all the children of man together in one great family – The plant of liberty is of so tender a nature, that it cannot thrive long in the neighbourhood of slavery.”

    On reading the Founders’ thoughts concernig slavery, I find that the issue at that time threatened to derail the tenuous union. The issue of slavery would have to wait until the country was on firmer ground, lest all that they sacrificed be torn asunder. As we witnessed with the Civil War, it merely delayed the inevitable.

    “The abolition of slavery must be gradual, and accomplished with much caution and circumspection.” – John Adams

    “It is much to be wished that slavery may be abolished. The honouor of the States, as well as justice and humanity, in my opinion, loudly call upon them to emancipate these unhappy people. To contend for our own liberty, and to deny that blessing to others, involves an inconsistency not to be excused.” – James Madison, 1786

  14. Lcoast

    It’s no dialogue Nemo, that’s for sure. If screaming Rush platitudes over a speaking congressman qualifies as a counterbalance, then I don’t know what you’re talking about. Besides I don’t know how real progressive ideas are leading us to destruction when Obama hasn’t enacted any real progressive ideas. So far he’s mostly been Bush-lite, the one who can complete a sentence.

  15. Kent.Shaw

    Uh-huh. Left. Right. Republican. Democrat. Divide, divide, divide.

    “However, the American left is void of compassion, the thing that is at the very heart of the true left the world round. And by true left I mean the people dying for the cause in places we never heard of and never will.”

    “It took a lifetime to recognize the lack of compassion in American society. Hell, I was raised there too. And it took the raw obscenity of George Bush for me to realize that ideology had taken over the political and civic arenas, the only venues where a society can exercise compassion collectively and by force of legislation and law demonstrate its humanity and evolution.”

    “It was the snuffing out of what compassion remained in the Democratic Party that ceded the political stage to hard rightist forces. The Democratic leadership, fickle spineless cunts that they are, let the rightists reduce everything to ideological warfare, handing the rightists the field of play.”

    “You cannot backtrack on pure meanness once it is unleashed, because if you quit playing the game, soften up and exhibit compassion, the opposition eats you alive next election. Calls you the kumbaya crowd and mocks you mercilessly through its extensive network of media puppets, a la Beck, Limbaugh. The crowd loves mockery. Meanwhile the nation continues to rot under a soulless ideological sun. Perishing for want of a drink from compassion’s cup.”

    “I think many Americans voted for Obama because in their minds he represented the promise of a more compassionate America. They forgot, or chose to forget, that the promise was a political promise. Which is to say it was all either just smoke, or unfulfillable by even the best intended mortal in such a heavily armed high stakes whorehouse. Some of the best among us have thrown in the towel, lost all faith in the political process. Frankly, in my 63 years as an American I’ve never seen more hearts broken nor more bitter people created by a single event. And that includes the Vietnam War.”

    See the complete (long) article at:


    Myself? I still call it just plain meanness.

    Kent Shaw

  16. bryan mcclellan

    You are tearing my heart out so that I may see it for what it is, a cat house.
    Blue, with Red and White stripes.
    Thanks for the re-edit enforcement.

  17. Kent.Shaw

    “Deerhunting With Jesus” by Joe Bageant is a must read. If your library doesn’t have a copy I’ll send you mine if you promise to send it back.

    Kent Shaw

  18. bryan mcclellan

    Is this where Jesus said, we’re deep into the subject?
    I’ve been hunting with God, he’s not the least bit elusive, by Joe.

  19. issodhos

    And yet, in my lifetime — to date, anyway — I have seem much compassion in the people who make up American society.

  20. DejaVuAllOver

    Griff, it IS government’s FIRST and FOREMOST job to legislate morality. It’s called a LEGAL SYSTEM. A body of laws is precisely a culture’s (always imperfect) answer to the question of what is and is not moral behavior. While I’m sure it can be improved, every time I hear that moronic cliche “it’s not government’s job to legislate morality” I want to puke. Only government-hating right-wing morons, anarchists and/or people desperate for an argument are stupid enough to think the rest of us will swallow that trite little sound-bite and jingoistic propaganda slogan. You don’t have to like all our laws, but you DO have to accept that no culture, in any time or place, ever survived very long without a legal code.

  21. griff

    Sorry chief, we’re having an adult conversation here. Playground’s down the hall and through the double doors. Don’t let it hit ya…

    I won’t attempt to decipher the meaning of my comments for you or the relationship between laws and personal morality. Based on your comment I fear it a waste of time.

    I especially like the ALL CAPS! It really accentuates the strong, well thought out response.

  22. Lcoast

    Boy, I must have missed the Leave to Beaver episodes you saw, Almandine. What they’re pissed off about is that they’ve been had, you’re right about that–but their anger needs to be turned 180 degrees. It wasn’t the gubmint that did ’em, it is corporate America.

    Do you really think they really want to go back to that that time you’re talking about so fondly? Really? Taxes, yes taxes were sky high–double what they are now. Top tax bracket was 90% under Eisenhower and 70% until Reagan gave the country to the corporate elite. Look it up. If we proposed sending them back to the 50s and 60s with the way things really were, taxes and all, they’d burn down the house.

  23. almandine

    Your 50s boys were born in the 50s. What they remember were Reagan’s tax rates. Bill Clinton was mostly responsible for the banks-turned-casinos, NAFTA, etc.

    In response to “globalization”, corporations moved offshore to turn better profits. We all hate it, asking how did they let OUR corporations take OUR jobs offshore? Funny though how those are private businesses that could set up shop anywhere in the world they pleased. And they have, because the business climate in the US no longer works for them or for us… and it’s getting worse as we speak.

    It has been the banks and pols who have had us the most, though, not corporations. The Big Money oligarchics – the too big to fails – the Goldman Sachs insider politicians – the Ponzi financiers – aided and abetted by our politicians – have been and are stealing us blind… bankrupting US.

    Gerald Celente does a good job addressing our plight:


    Yes, the old boys would go back to earlier times, especially since the high tax rates, etc, you decry are upon us again as we speak. But, taxes are the least of our worries… until the politicians finish the theft they and the bankers have started.