Monday, September 17, 2012

150 years isn't that long ...

Think about it this way: Morgan Freeman was born in 1937; later that year Edith Wharton, who was born in January of 1862, died. I know you know Morgan Freeman. If you didn't read Wharton's Ethan Frome in high school English class, you may have seen the film version of The Age of Innoncence. That's all it takes in overlapping lifetimes to get us back to Antietam.

from the Antietam National Battlefield flickr page
Lincoln meets with McClellan after the battle.
Five days after the battle, Lincoln delivered the preliminary Emancipation Declaration.

Only 150 years ago!

Freedom and American democracy are newer than we often acknowledge. Only 150 years since that crucible of savagery, after which three more years of war followed. And how free was every American at the end of the Civil War? Think about how long after that before the Civil Rights movement the 1960s galvanized people of conscience against Jim Crow. And it's not just a history of black and white, it's also a history filled with labor strife ... the progressive movement fighting for the rights of laborers -- hard fought battle after battle against oligarchy. The end of slavery, the long march to relative economic equality of opportunity for all Americans, it's all so recent!

And, make no mistake, it's still fragile. It can still go back to the way it was. Unions are reeling, schools are re-segregating, economic inequality is on the rise, and even voting rights are being attacked.

We've come a long way in a short time; but, history has not ended and the matter is by no means settled.

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