Thursday, May 28, 2009

Obama Honors Confederate Soldiers: But, If America Has Changed, Then Some Traditions Should Too

Should the President of the United States honor Confederate soldiers who, among other things, fought to keep slavery a way of life in the South?

President Barack Obama sought to avoid racial controversy on his first Memorial Day in office by sending wreaths to a monument for Confederate soldiers and a memorial honoring more than 200,000 blacks who fought for the Union during the Civil War. However, a group of African-American academicians petitioned the President not to do so asking President Obama not to honor the Confederate soldiers.

The professor’s felt, "The Arlington Confederate Monument is a denial of the wrong committed against African-Americans by slave owners, Confederates and neo-Confederates, through the monument's denial of slavery as the cause of secession and its holding up of Confederates as heroes," the petitioners said. "This implies that the humanity of Africans and African-Americans is of no significance."

So, given this argument; why would President Obama honor Confederate soldiers? Conventional wisdom would say that traditionally, Presidents visit Arlington personally to leave a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Presidential aides then deliver wreaths to other memorials or monuments, generally including the Confederate memorial.

But are there other reasons?

For instance, did you know that the South is overrepresented among military recruits? That’s right. Southern states provided 42.2 percent of 1999 recruits and 41.0 percent of 2003 recruits but contained just 35.6 percent of the population of 18-year-olds. Could it be that President Obama didn’t want alienate Southerners and possibly hurt recruiting numbers?
According to Wikipedia political centrism refers to the political idea of promoting moderate policies which land in the middle between different political extremes. I think this definition fits President Obama to a “T”. He’s not going to go too far out on a limb on any position. This was noted by many African-Americans when he took the helm of “The Harvard Review,” by Tavis Smiley during his campaign, and now in his presidency. Hey, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. For sure, with Rush Limbaugh on the Right and Reverend Right on the Left, the last thing this country needs is more political demagoguery. However, when you’re a leader you sometimes have to make decisions that some folk just aren’t going to agree with—you can’t always go down the middle.

So, you decide. Did President Obama do the right thing in sending a wreath to the monument for Confederate soldiers? Should there even be such a monument? Or, in light of the pain, suffering and loss of life that slavery, segregation, and racism have caused (even to this day) he should have cut with (White American) tradition and just said no.

Let me know what you think…and say somethin’ that makes sense!


SweetIceT said...

I think President Obama did the right thing. Suppose the issue was about Vietnam (or even Iraq/Afghan) vets instead of Confederate vets? Many people disagreed vehemently with the government's position on the Vietnam War (and many agree now that this was a senseless war), but would we not pay a disservice to those veterans who served this country - with many giving the ultimate sacrifice? As with any other Soldider, the Confederate soldiers were just carrying out the edicts of the superiors. Do not punish the Soldiers, but rather the bad decision-makers in put them in hard's way for an unjust cause!!

Iam Robert said...


While your train of thought has merit academically, the Vietnam War vets were supposedly fighting for all Americans.

Chris said...

I don't think we should honor Confederate soldiers at all on memorial day - the day is set aside for American soldiers and the CSA was at the time a foreign country. To honor them isn't like honoring Vietnam vets or other unpopular war veterans - those people fought for our country under our presidents. The Confederates fought for a different country under their own constitution and government - to honor them would be like honoring the Viet Cong or any other enemy. I think we forget that, but to remember them as American soldiers is inaccurate because they simply were not Americans.

Iam Robert said...


Welcome to the discussion and thanks so much for commenting! You make a great point here that I had forgotten: the South was fighting, in part, to succeed from the Union. And I wholeheartedly agree with your point that we should not honor those who don't want to recognize a race's manifest dignity to the extent that they would want to leave the country.

Speaking of, what do you think about the shooting at the Holocaust Museum in D.C.?