Daily Planet, August 2018
When now is history, I’ll be dead and gone.
And, man, I’d really love to know what’s going to be said and written, say, 50 years from now about the days we’re in now. Things happen every day that have never happened before.
Superficially, history tells us how things turned out. Richard Nixon resigned August 9, 1974. But with the passage of time, historians have described the details that brought him down.
Our own superficial history begins on November 8, 2016, and every day we strain to try and figure how things will turn out.
North Carolina in the spring of 1861 was like our time today. Several southern states had seceded from the Union but not North Carolina. Our General Assembly was opposed to secession. A referendum to hold a convention to consider secession was voted down. Only plantation centers in Eastern Carolina were in favor. A Wilmington newspaper editorialized that “South Carolina has been nothing but trouble from the beginning. We must not follow them.”
But when President Lincoln called for North Carolina to give troops to help put down the rebellion in other Southern states, everything changed. The North Carolina History Project tells of Zebulon Vance at the moment he heard about Lincoln’s troop request: “With arms upraised, (Vance) was pleading for the preservation of the Union: ‘When my hand came down from that impassioned gesticulation,’ he said, ‘it fell slowly and sadly by the side of a secessionist.’”
North Carolina, and WNC in particular, had no enthusiasm for secession. And many who voted for secession in the convention knew the Confederacy would destroy the South. And it’s telling that after the vote for secession, the convention also voted not to put the question to the people in another referendum.
It all came down to decisions. When leaders make decisions, they bring good or ill for their people. Our state’s leaders’ decision to go with Southern neighbors over the Union (for reasons I can’t understand) was terrible. In the end, reluctant North Carolina contributed more men and supplies to the Confederacy than any other state, and we suffered more casualties.
If we put ourselves back in 1861, reading a newspaper, we can feel their anger, their fears, their bewilderment. What’s wrong with those people we sent to Raleigh?
Almost precisely what we feel right now about our government in Washington.
One-third of Americans are so loyal to President Trump that they support him even when he says and does things that are not in our national interest. They believe his obvious lies. They trust him when corruption is all around him. And their devotion scares Republican lawmakers out of their wits – and their Constitutional responsibilities.
We’re bewildered. Like our forefathers in 1861, we’re angry and often pessimistic. We think of great nations that have fallen from within.
People in 1861 were right to worry. Their leaders would make the horrendous decision to secede. And we are right to worry about the decision that Republicans have made not to check President Trump. Their timidity is shameful by any measure.
We look with hope to November and a possible Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives. If they control House committees, they can call for answers. They can change Washington.
The Mueller Report will tell us a lot about criminals and traitors. History will tell us everything. Is Republican silence and inaction out of fear of their constituents, as supposed, or are they really hoping that Russian interference will rescue them in November? Historians will find out. Is President Trump’s irrationality from senility? Or will they find he has no American patriotism, only his self-interest?
Will spineless D.C. Republicans be consigned to the same rubbish heap as those who didn’t confront slavery in the Nineteenth Century? Will Limbaugh and Fox News be a laughing stock? Will Trump’s one-third stay with him if thick turns to thin? Who will be seen as heroes of our democracy?
I’d love to know. My grandchildren will.