Several days ago, Speaker Pelosi announced that she supported a bill that would study the issue of reparations to the African-American community for the crime of slavery.
Before I continue, let’s have an understanding that this is never going to happen. Speaker Pelosi and many others paying lip service to the concept of reparations know that it’s never going to be a reality. They know it just as surely as they know that Mexico is never going to pay for the border wall that is never going to be built. The only difference between Pelosi and Trump is that Pelosi understands the nature of the game she’s playing, whereas I’m not convinced that Trump does.
Having said that, the issue of reparations is worth discussing. As you can guess, I am not in favor of reparations for slavery. This is due to the fact that I am a racist. I hate blacks. I don’t care that they were enslaved. Let them eat dirt for all I care!
I don’t mean what I just said, of course, but I just wrote what those of a certain political persuasion are going to read and/or hear once they get to this portion of my entry. No matter what I say, people have a remarkable ability to hear only what they want to hear and make up the rest.
The real reason I oppose reparations has nothing to do with race itself; at least, not race as we understand it today. We can take all of the well-founded conservative arguments against reparations made by Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and others and put them aside, if we focus only on one issue. History.
In short, we shouldn’t pay reparations because America has already paid them. Not in government checks delivered to every descendant of a slave, but by the most valuable treasure any country has to offer. Blood.
The blood that served as compensation drenched the soil at the Battle of Bull Run, at the Battle of Antietam, at Chancellorsville, Shiloh, Gettysburg, Richmond, Vicksburg, Wilson’s Creek, Glorieta Pass and Atlanta. It ran in many rivers, from the Mississippi to the Ohio to the Potomac.
These were only the major battles. These were the names that we all memorized long enough to pass a test in a classroom somewhere, then promptly forgot. These names of combat sites don’t account for the thousands of people lost in minor skirmishes and encounters throughout the theater of the war. They do not account for those who died as prisoners of war. Nor do they account for the thousands more civilians who died when cities, towns, farms and plantations were overrun and destroyed by enemy forces. Nor do they account for the deaths not incurred in battle; disease, starvation, riots and general unrest in the wake of various occupations.
Not all of the blood spilled during the Civil War was life blood. Much of it gushed from wounds that resulted in loss of limbs, of dignity and morale. Many soldiers who were wounded continued fighting. Medical discharges were unheard of during that period, particularly in the Confederacy. Every lash of the evil whip of slavery was answered by a bayonet in the stomach, a musket ball splattering blood and brains upon the ground, of dead and drowning men leaping from a ship torn by cannonballs, and by the silent, agonized gasps of those dying in makeshift hospitals, bedrooms and barns all across the war-torn country. Every black family torn apart by cruel slave owners was answered by a white family being torn apart by the ravages of war. And for those who survived, there were the ghosts of four years that would go down in history as the most bloody conflict America ever endured.
And finally, America paid with it’s dearest blood when it’s president was assassinated on April 14, 1865 by a Confederate sympathizer as the war was drawing to its conclusion.
According to the National Park Service, the final estimated casualty total of the American Civil War was 1,030,000 dead. It is impossible for us to begin to grasp that number. To break it down into something more comprehensible, that figure represented about three percent of the population of the United States at the time. Both sides of the conflict suffered tremendous losses. The Union lost an estimated 853,838 souls. That number alone is staggering, particularly when you realize that they were fighting on the right side of history. The Confederacy paid even more dearly, losing an estimated 914,660 souls.
Today, the Civil War is merely a story to us. We can read it about it in books, watch it in movies, see it recreated in videogames or in some town squares in the South. But we can never really understand it. If we could, we would have no talk of reparations to a people who have already been compensated. Nor would we tolerate the emotional tantrums of a juvenile political movement that seeks short term gratification by toppling statues that represent America at its best and worst.
Perhaps the argument will perseverate past my initial premise. Maybe the opportunists, glad-handers and political parasites would not view the idea of bloodshed in war as satiation for their greed. I can already hear the greedy cries of, “It’s not enough!” I can anticipate one argument. “Ryan, what about reconstruction? What about Jim Crow? What about 20th century segregation?” Should we not offer reparations to African-Americans for that?
My reply is simple. If so, let the Democratic Party pay the bill. When it comes to the issue of slavery and post slavery racism against blacks, the Republicans are, and have always been on the right side of history.
Nancy and Chuck can sign the first check.