Recent letters-to-the-editor by Michael Mudge (See: “They stood against an invader,” June 19 Times-News) and Terry Klima (“Lincoln said it wasn’t about slavery,” June 23) entirely miss the point on why there are detractors of the Cumberland Historic Cemetery Organization (CHCO).
When you promote the Cult of the Lost Cause, citizens are once again asked to turn a blind eye to the abhorrent institution of slavery as the basic underpinning of the Civil War.
Yes, President Abraham Lincoln at the start of the war let it be known that the preservation of the Union was the casus belli. Yes, there was the issue of states’ rights. Yes, the entire economy of the South was at stake if slavery was abolished. Yes, a heritage, racist at its core, would be confronted.
But the fact remains that slavery was inextricably bound to all of these.
For many in our country, especially in 2019, the question remains whether it is appropriate to memorialize those who fought and died for the Confederacy without first and foremost owning up to the atrocities of slavery and the legacy of racism.
The Confederate flag and the Lost Cause are remnants of a past and present racism, and embracing them is hurtful and appalling to a large segment of our population.
There is no complaint about the efforts of CHCO to maintain graves and promote cemetery history. One can even make the argument that it is acceptable to remember with dignity those who fought on both sides of the civil war.
The crucial thing, however, is that this should be done without glorifying the cause of the Confederacy or defending a society founded on white supremacy that was predicated on the dehumanization of African-Americans.
The historical evidence for the centrality of slavery in the Civil War is both overwhelming and undeniable. Listen to the bigotry of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court:
in 1857: “An inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race...and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
But here is a proposal for Mudge, Klima and Edward Taylor and other members of the CHCO and any others who insist on preserving the parts of Southern heritage that are so objectionable:
I invite you to participate in projects that are planned over the next year to attempt an honest understanding of why so much of the mythology of the “gallant South” is so hurtful to so many.
Truth and reconciliation are a sequential process; in other words, the truth, warts and all, must first be reckoned with before there can be a healing process in our community and nation in order to atone for our racism.
The Allegany Truth and Reconciliation Committee is going to partner with the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose mandate of HB307 is to hold regional hearings where lynching occurred and to examine the legacy of racism that has been part of our social fabric.
Through the Equal Justice Initiative we will also participate in community remembrance projects involving soil collection from the site of the lynching in Cumberland, a historical marker, and a monument.
Please come join in a symposium that is planned for next spring. In the spirit of Allegany County’s “Choice Civility,” participate with others in our community in having an open discussion of our tarnished history that remains a stain on our national psyche.
Let us have a respectful conversation about the legacies of racism. Sitting down together and discussing divergent opinions can hopefully open a dialogue whereby we can make recommendations in how to bring about a sense of understanding and forgiveness.