The Atlantic Magazine has come out with a special issue to commemorate the 150 Anniversary of the Civil War. TNC has been working on a piece for that issue and it is up online. It is excellent, honest and challenging. Here is a taste:
The Civil War marks the first great defense of democracy and the modern West. Its legacy lies in everything from women’s suffrage to the revolutions now sweeping the Middle East. It was during the Civil War that the heady principles of the Enlightenment were first, and most spectacularly, called fully to account.
In our present time, to express the view of the enslaved—to say that the Civil War was a significant battle in the long war against bondage and for government by the people—is to compromise the comfortable narrative. It is to remind us that some of our own forefathers once explicitly rejected the republic to which they’d pledged themselves, and dreamed up another country, with slavery not merely as a bug, but as its very premise. It is to point out that at this late hour, the totems of the empire of slavery—chief among them, its flag—still enjoy an honored place in the homes, and public spaces, of self-professed patriots and vulgar lovers of “freedom.” It is to understand what it means to live in a country that will never apologize for slavery, but will not stop apologizing for the Civil War.
The journey that Ta-Nehisi Coates has been on to explore the Civil War has produced some exceptional work. This piece is another on that journey. It is one of the best things I’ve ever read on the reasons for–and the meaning of–the Civil War. I encourage you to take a moment and read it.