We aren’t done yet


I don’t feel much of a call to celebrate the Fourth of July. That first attempt at writing a bold statement about liberty in 1776 was 90% hogwash, undermined by the hypocrisy of supporting slavery, and in fact, eventually jiggering together a federal government that was designed to prop up slave states and give them enduring power.

The rationale behind the Fourth of July was seared away in the bloody Civil War. That war staggered us a few steps closer to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people — slaves were nominally freed, at least — but it left in place the political structures that were built to benefit wealthy slave owners. We’re still saddled with an electoral college and an unrepresentative senate, and we’ve added more biases that cripple our politics, such as laws that have turned elections into competitions in burning money, with corporations chortling as they contribute to the bonfire.

The date is still a good marker, though. In that Civil War, the climactic battle that broke the slave-owner army was the battle of Gettysburg, fought on July 1-3, 1863. We staved off the threat of total capitulation to an unmistakably authoritarian, aristocratic oligarchy at that time, although the failure to address the shortcomings of American government has crept back strongly. At least we had that moment in 1863, though. We here in Minnesota hold a relic of that war. That Virginia battle flag above.

Marshall Sherman was a 40-year-old house painter in St. Paul when he joined the 1st Minnesota Infantry as a private in the Union army. Described as a soft-spoken gentleman in historical accounts, Sherman fought in the Battle of Gettysburg alongside the rest of the 1st Minnesota.

This brutal confrontation became the site of the highest number of casualties of the Civil War. One Union soldier from Minnesota described the Battle of Gettysburg as such:

“If men ever become devils that was one of the times. We were crazy with the excitement of the fight. We just rushed in like wild beasts. Men swore and cursed and struggled and fought, grappled in hand-to-hand fight, threw stones, clubbed their muskets, kicked, yelled, and hurrahed.”

On the third and final day of fighting at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, Pvt Marshall Sherman took the Confederate battle flag belonging to 28th Virginia Infantry. After Pickett’s Charge, a massive turning point that led the Union to victory, Sherman emerged with the tattered flag. It was one of 25 Confederate flags captured by the Union Army that day.

We’ve still got it. The traitors who revere their ancestors role in the rebellion have begged for it back. They aren’t getting it.

Many Virginians became upset that Minnesota held on to one of their Confederate battle flags from the Civil War.

Roanoke Civil War reenactors who represented the 28th Virginia Infantry Regiment officially asked for the return of the flag in 1998. They appealed directly to the Minnesota Historical Society, who then asked the state attorney general office for help.

Minnesota’s assistant attorney general denied the Virginians’ request, but the word was out. Now, Virginia’s state lawmakers wanted to get involved.

In 2000, both the Virginia House and Senate passed a resolution that formally requested Minnesota return the flag. Again, the Minnesota Historical Society refused.

On February 29, 2000, Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura answered questions about the controversy concerning 28th Virginia’s battle flag. When asked if he would consider giving Sherman’s captured Confederate flag to Virginia, Ventura replied:

“Absolutely not. Why? I mean, we won.”

Ahead of the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg in 2013, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell requested the flag be loaned to his state to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton denied that request, saying that returning the battle flag would be “sacrilege” to Union soldiers who died in the Civil War.

“It was something that was earned through the incredible courage and valor of men who gave their lives and risked their lives to obtain it,” Dayton said. “And as far as I’m concerned, it’s a closed subject.”

To this day, the Confederate battle flag that Union soldier Marshall Sherman captured more than 150 years ago remains in Minnesota’s possession.

That’s the right idea, but we’ve got to do more. It’s nice that we’re hanging on to a symbol, but people are still flying confederate flags. Tear them down and take them home as spoils of war. Let’s move beyond symbols and tear down more relics of the 18th century, starting with our corrupt and antiquated system of government. No more electoral college, no more privileged Senate, no more lobbyists, no more corporate buyouts, no more celebrations of our deep flaws. Tear them all down.

That battle flag is just a token and an unfulfilled promise. Finish the job. If you want to keep a few souvenirs of the old wickedness, I think there is a museum in Minnesota where they could be stored, next to a shameful old flag.

Comments

  1. birgerjohansson says

    Re-establishing the rule of law is a good starting point.
    The yellow senators have never impeached a supreme court judge before, but if they want votes they should be required to impeach Clarence Thomas for his failure to recuse himself as his wife is implicated in the efforts to steal the election.
    .
    Farron Cousins at Youtube has pointed out newspapers reported 1993 how C.T. promised to make life hell for liberals. This is NOT acceptable for a federal judge.
    During these 29 years Democrats have had majority in both chambers several times and could have held C.T. to account. Now the same people expect their voters to reward them with donations. Primary the lazy buggers!

  2. weylguy says

    Could the early white colonists have somehow sensed unconsciously the vast resources, opportunities and profits that awaited them, tempered only by a relatively small population that needed slavery to take full advantage of those resources? And was it this same unconsciousness that motivated them to write hypocritical propaganda like “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”?

  3. christoph says

    “Ahead of the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg in 2013, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell requested the flag be loaned to his state to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg.”

    I doubt they’d give it back if it was loaned to them.

  4. Paul K says

    christoph #3: My thought, exactly. If you are proud of your ‘heritage’ as slave-holding traitors, what’s a little duplicity and theft to get back a symbol of that pride?

  5. christoph says

    @ Paul K, # 4: Yes, it’s a stunt government officials have pulled before. “Hey, can we look at that for a minute?… Oops, sorry, it’s government property now.”

  6. christoph says

    Almost forgot to wish everyone a happy Getting-Drunk-and-Blowing-Shit-Up day!

  7. Rich Woods says

    Tear them all down.

    The people who have all the money aren’t going to let you do that. If they can’t spend it on a key senator here and there, what else would they spend it on? Even some billionaires draw the line at just the two luxury yachts.

  8. John Harshman says

    So here’s a thought: rather than change the number of senators, why not change the voting rules in the senate so that each senator has a number of votes proportional to the population of his/her state? Wyoming senator: 1 vote; California senator: 80 votes. Suddenly the senate is more representative of the people.

  9. wzrd1 says

    “Ahead of the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg in 2013, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell requested the flag be loaned to his state to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg.”

    I remember that one. Pennsylvanians offered for them to come back to Gettysburg with live rounds to reenact the battle, but no farmer will be allowed to bury them afterward.
    They wisely declined.
    Pity, an unused MLRS system would’ve taken care of the problem pretty much instantly.

    @christoph, thanks, although I really do prefer if everyone would use Nitrowhisperin. I really think they were onto something there in Get Smart… ;)
    I’m actually quite proficient at explosive demolitions, that said, I’m also adverse to loud noises.

    More seriously though, reforms after the civil war halted, as an unconditional surrender became a conditional one, due to a lack of political will to ensure freed slaves were treated as peers and citizens. Reconstruction was unpopular and at times, I suspect it should be resumed, so it was quietly abandoned, along with those expecting freedom. The best I’ve saw in our entertainment was reflected in “Free State of Jones”.
    And that war started over a presidential vote being rejected by the south.

  10. consciousness razor says

    So here’s a thought: rather than change the number of senators, why not change the voting rules in the senate so that each senator has a number of votes proportional to the population of his/her state? Wyoming senator: 1 vote; California senator: 80 votes. Suddenly the senate is more representative of the people.

    If we made 79 clones of Dianne Feinstein instead, it would be harder to bribe them all.

  11. consciousness razor says

    Today is just about independence from Britain, its monarch, and so on.

    March 4, 1789 is the day our Constitution came into effect, and the Bill of Rights wasn’t ratified until December 15, 1791. Those have to do with the actual founding of our miserable country.

  12. says

    “So here’s a thought: rather than change the number of senators, why not change the voting rules in the senate so that each senator has a number of votes proportional to the population of his/her state? Wyoming senator: 1 vote; California senator: 80 votes. Suddenly the senate is more representative of the people.”

    You go right ahead and do that.

    (Fuck but people are stupid.)

  13. drew says

    Well if we’re suddenly concerned with justice instead of laws, the laundry list is a lot longer.

    I’ll add unelected life-termed judges, Constitutional protections for armed militias to keep slave rebellions down, special treatment of married people, and the existence of any exemptions (tax or otherwise) because of religion. They should all be removed and their stains cleaned up.

  14. simplicio says

    I’ll bet that Marshall Sherman didn’t even get a Congressional Medal of Honor for it. Thomas Ward Custer (yes, George Armtrong’s little brother) did — twice. What was his incredible act of gallantry? How many lives did he save?

    The first time was at the ferocious battle at Namozine Church where the Confederate troops were retreating and he bravely captured their battle flag. Although he may not have saved any lives, his did manage to get his horse shot.

    His second medal came from the Battle of Sailor’s Creek where Custer grabbed the flag from a soldier who had just been shot through the heart. This time someone missed hitting his horse and got Custer instead. Even though he forgot to save any lives, he did get the flag.

    Of course, it’s unlikely that either medal had anything to do with his brother, George, being his commanding officer who reported his actions. It seems obvious that that Sherman wasn’t gallant or brave in capturing his flag.

  15. simplicio says

    P.S. To be fair, I did leave out the amazing descriptions of Custer’s gallantry.

  16. Rob Grigjanis says

    Just alternate-timeline curious; I wonder how many Americans these days wish they’d lost the Revolutionary War.

  17. nomdeplume says

    I bet a lot of American soldiers captured Nazi flags in World War II. Should they return them to Germany…?

  18. Erp says

    I would also note that the southern army during the Gettysburg campaign seized and enslaved any Blacks they came across in Pennsylvania as ‘contraband’.

    On another note where else are captured confederate battle flags currently kept? Apparently in 1905 the ones directly held by the federal government were given to their respective original states by Teddy Roosevelt so it is probable that the Minnesota flag is the only one still held by the north (a few might be filed somewhere and forgotten). It is unclear why Minnesota had the flag rather than the federal government; however, hold it until it until at least the day when the overwhelming majority of Virginians admit that and are ashamed of their state going to war to preserve slavery.

    I don’t believe the UK has for the most part returned captured 1812 flags (and vice versa).

  19. Tethys says

    erp “ It is unclear why Minnesota had the flag rather than the federal government

    Because it was taken at extreme bloody cost to the 1st Minnesota regiment. We are keeping it in honor of their valor. 82% didn’t live through the battle, but they did take the flag and hold the line.

    The second day of fighting had been brutal, with the Confederacy looking to end the war once and for all by overrunning the Union line. As the Union troops were trying desperately to hold the hill, a major hole opened up and nearly 1,200 Confederate troops marched forward. The only unit that could stop them was the grossly outnumbered 1st Minnesota. They had 262 men.

    They never hesitated. The 1st Minnesota charged into the fray. The chaos and insanity that unfolded in the next few minutes is hard to comprehend. Within five minutes, 215 of the 262 men of the 1st Minnesota fell. When the soldier carrying the Minnesota colors was killed, another dropped their weapon and grabbed the flag. Five times that happened IN FIVE MINUTES. Minnesota’s brave, courageous and desperate sacrifice held until reinforcements arrived. The 82% casualty rate still stands as the U.S. Army’s largest loss of life of any unit which still stood at the end of the battle. Minnesota’s colors never were captured, and are on display at the Capitol in the rotunda. Most important, the Union line held for the day.

  20. DanDare says

    “So here’s a thought: rather than change the number of senators, why not change the voting rules in the senate so that each senator has a number of votes proportional to the population of his/her state? Wyoming senator: 1 vote; California senator: 80 votes. Suddenly the senate is more representative of the people.”

    No. No. No.

    That is as much gerrymandering as the current system.

    To get one person one vote each representative must represent roughly the same population as any other.

    Set up an independant electoral commission, like in Australia. Have no wiggle room rules about setting and reviewing electoral boundaries every so many years to ensure each set represents the same populations within about 5% give or take of a true division of the population.

  21. silvrhalide says

    @17 NONE.
    The American colonies were the functional equivalent of working in a company town. Colonists had to send raw materials to England and were forced to buy manufactured goods from England, rather than manufacturing them in the colonies. Needless to say, the cost of transport and the markup of manufactured goods made buying manufactured goods exorbitantly expensive. Needless to say, resentment built up. Also, being a colonist entailed debt (usually–lots of colonists came as indentured servants) and a not-insignificant amount of danger and death (the Caribbean islands were known as death traps due to the high rate of death from malaria). Also, most of the indentured servants were male and between half to two thirds of all colonists were indentured servants.
    So:
    No wages until your bond was paid off
    Everything is expensive and you have no money.
    Chances are that as a colonist, you are 15-25 years old, male and there are no women. And you have no money.

    The ostensible reason for rebellion was all the taxes raised to pay off the crown debts incurred for the French & Indian War (against English colonists). English colonists had no lord to (theoretically) represent them in Parliament. Fun fact: Colonists were actually taxed at a lower rate than the English living in England. BUT… you basically had 13 colonies largely made up of actual incels (in the sense of that 3:1 male to female ratio) who couldn’t afford most things and then you jacked up taxes.
    The surprising thing would have been if there WASN’T a rebellion.

    Keep in mind that there were a number of failed colonies (Roanoke, anyone?) and Jamestown nearly failed as a colony (something like 75% of the colonists died the first year, mostly because they were too busy planting and smoking tobacco and looking for gold to do anything as useful and sensible as planting food crops AND the colony was basically replenished by a fresh influx of new colonists two years after the initial founding). Jamestown colonists were sort of the early version of the dot.com investors–get rich quick dreamers.

  22. Kagehi says

    Had the thought, and its horrible – I have for a while considered if losing “badly enough” might be a way to wake people up and get us to vote against tyranny in our own government. The terrible thing is that this was SUPPOSED TO also wake up Democrats to the reality that they have to do something to fix things. Instead, it literally appears that the current “party”, including some semi-progressives, have taken this same idea, utterly and totally failed to understand the moral implications of doing so, and decided to, “Make this happen, so that if it gets bad enough, people will vote more liberals into office.”

    They, in other words, utterly fail, again, to comprehend that there is a cost in lives, and prosperity, which, if they help it happen, makes them traitors to their own supposed cause, and as, if not more, culpable in every single act of depravity that falls from “helping it” take place.

    The idea is that they would learn from the lesson of losing badly enough too, not just, “the people”, but, once again, they have shown themselves to be disconnected from the rest of the citizenry and placing themselves on some high throne, separate from the victims of this madness, and thus somehow not responsible for anything that happened. No, instead, like some cartoon villain, who stages a disaster, so they can run in to save people from it, they actually think they are being heroic.

  23. pacal says

    Actually July 4th is a pretty good date to celebrate the defeat of the Confederacy in that on July 4th 1863 Vicksburg surrendered to Grant’s Army this helping to cut the Confederacy in two and open up te entire Mississippi river to Union river traffic. (The surrender of Port Hudson a few weeks later would complete the process of opening up the Mississippi river.)

    An entire Conferate Army, c. 30,000 men was captured along with Vicksburg when the town surrendered. In all I would rate the Seige of Vicksburg hasa much more important than the battle of Gettysburg.

  24. KG says

    Could the early white colonists have somehow sensed unconsciously the vast resources, opportunities and profits that awaited them – weylguy@2

    There was nothing unconscious about it. A major cause of the war was the colonists’ determination to continue stealing Indian land as fast as possible. The British government, both to save money and to keep control of the colonists, wanted a temporary halt.

    silverhalide@22,
    This really is a load of ahistorical tosh.

    Chances are that as a colonist, you are 15-25 years old, male and there are no women.

    That was true in the 17th century. It’s simply ludicrous as a picture of the colonies at the time of the Revolution. All the colonies grew mostly by natural growth, with foreign born populations rarely exceeding 10%. The last significant colonies to be settled mainly by immigrants were Pennsylvania in the early 18th century and Georgia and the Borderlands in the late 18th century, as internal migration (not immigration) continued to provide nearly all the settlers for each new colony or state.

    Also, being a colonist entailed debt (usually–lots of colonists came as indentured servants) and a not-insignificant amount of danger and death (the Caribbean islands were known as death traps due to the high rate of death from malaria). Also, most of the indentured servants were male and between half to two thirds of all colonists were indentured servants.

    In most of the mainland colonies, land and food were more readily available than in Britain (although obtaining the land often did mean acquiring debt – to one of the rich colonists (such as Benjamin Franklin), to whom the colonial governments sold land for cash (often before the Indian owners had been killed or driven out), and visitors from Britain remarked on how well-fed the (white) colonists were. There was a high death rate in the Caribbean colonies among white settlers as well as (of course) the slaves, but those colonies did not join the revolution. Birth rates in the colonies that did were considerably higher than in Britain – simply impossible if there had been anything like a 3:1 sex ratio – and the numbers of indentured servants being transported by the 1770s was a tiny proportion of the total population.
    Read American Colonies and American Revolutions by Alan Taylor, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia, to clear those ridiculous myths out of your head.

  25. KG says

    Further to my #25, I should acknowledge that as silverhalide@22 says, the colonists were not represented in the British Parliament (although no-one in Britain was represented by a lord – representation of the small minority of men who had the vote was in the House of Commons), and that there were onerous restrictions on the colonists’ trade – although ironically, the Revolution didn’t make much difference to trading patterns initially: Britain remained much the cheapest source of manufactured goods for decades afterwards, and Britain and its Caribbean colonies remained major markets for American exports.

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