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Friday, July 5, 2013

150 years on, America’s promise squandered by corrupt powerful

Post-Gettysburg Americans fail to seize progressive opportunity
Editing, added emphasis, comment by 
Carolyn Bennett

We cannot dedicate 
It is for us to dedicate ourselves to the great task before us

At the time of Gettysburg, says historian Allen Guelzo, “‘The entire future of democracy was hanging in the balance.’”

What of this Union 150 years from the Battle of Gettysburg? 

We cannot consecrate
World Socialist Web Site reports on the third day commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg that tens of thousands of visitors toured the battlefield along Cemetery Ridge where Confederate forces were defeated on July 3, 1863. Jerry White spoke with some of the visitors about contemporary U.S. democracy, slavery, and the state of the Union. This is some of what they had to say.

Lloyd Cavanaugh
Resident of Hartford City, Indiana
Veteran of 26 years U.S. military service

‘I came to Gettysburg because so many people died here fighting for basic rights.

… We cannot hallow this ground
‘Today the government is only for the rich, not the people.

‘It shouldn’t be that way.

‘The rich have to give up some but all they are doing is taking and taking.

‘It started with Reagan when he broke the unions. I lost my job then.

‘Something is going to give; things are going to break loose in this country.’

Aleixo Gomes
The brave who struggled here
have consecrated it
Leader of Civil War Club
Grand Valley State University
Near Grand Rapids, Michigan

‘It used to be a rich man’s war, a poor man’s fight;

‘Now war is a rich man’s hobby

‘Sometimes it is claimed that the South (in the 1800s) was fighting only for state’s rights — but it was the right to have slaves. Several states seceded, giving one of their reasons as the threat to slavery.’

Debt example of 21st century slavery: ‘The immense economic and political power slaveholders had in the 1860s has parallels to the power of the banks today.’

Instead of directly controlling humans as private property, banks control ‘financial property [and], for all practical purposes, [people are] enslaved when … indebted to them.’
… far above our poor power
to add or detract

Tyranny, shroud of secrecy: ‘…Slavery used to be defended by the law. What happens when the government breaks the law? The law doesn’t define our morality.’

Dave Gamble
Worker at the Homer Laughlin China Company
Resident of Newell, West Virginia

‘What Snowden did is great.

‘People have the right to know and nothing the government does should be kept secret.

‘When documents are released (e.g., those released by Snowden), there are usually blacked out parts.

‘This isn’t a free country.

‘People fought the South because they wanted rights for everyone.

‘They didn’t want anybody to be someone else’s property.’
Jim and Andy
Service workers

‘We are not fans of the government.

Illusion of liberty: ‘They’re supposed to be for the people but they are for a few rich men.

‘They give us the illusion of freedom.

Battle of Gettysburg Map
‘… Both political parties are controlled by Wall Street and the stock market. A few years ago Harley Davidson [maker of millions] told workers the company had no money to pay decent wages and cut the majority of jobs.

Indifference, dissent rising: ‘There are huge protests and revolutions in Egypt and other countries but we let the government get away with everything. … It’s coming here though. You can see it with the Occupy Wall Street movement but it got bought off and petered out.

‘The government is supposed to govern with the consent of the people—well, we’re going to have to have a different kind of government.’
n his New York Times opinion piece What Gettysburg proved,” American historian Allen Guelzo wrote of what was essential to Lincoln.

Union Flag
Stars and Stripes
Uppermost in Lincoln’s mind, Guelzo said, was that in 1863 “the American republic was … a dangerously isolated democratic flower in a garden full of aristocratic weeds, and if the Civil War succeeded in sundering the United States into two separate pieces ─

…it would be the final confirmation that democracies were unstable and unworkable pipe dreams.

In Lincoln’s view, expressed in 1861, the “central idea pervading this struggle,” Guelzo interpreted, “[was] the necessity … of proving that popular government is not an absurdity

…for ‘if we fail, it will go far to prove the incapability of the people to govern themselves.’

“That ‘proving’ was what Gettysburg – and its roll of dead – provided,” he said.

Confederate Flag
Stars and Bars
“In November, when Lincoln came to dedicate a national cemetery for over 3,500 of the battle’s Union dead, it seemed to him that the willingness to lay down life in such numbers simply to preserve a democracy was all the evidence needed to illustrate democracy’s transcendent value.

“In their sacrifice, ‘the brave men, living and dead, who struggled here’ ─

…had shown that democracy was something more than opportunities for self-interest and self-aggrandizement,

…something that spoke to the fundamental nature of human being itself,

…something that arched like a rainbow in the political sky.

Lincoln Memorial
Washington, D.C.
 Professor Guelzo suggests that, if there is a Gettysburg legacy, it reaches “beyond even the limits of the Civil War.” 

It is “a legacy for democracy itself [a war yet to be won]:  a ‘new birth of freedom.’”

May she forever wave
with honor and honesty
with justice for all
Excerpt LINCOLN’S words: “…The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here … It is rather for us to be …  dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation …  shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

founding settler-leaders and presidents did indeed leave a legacy of papers and principles, promise and potential. It is a shame that later Americans and the unchecked powerful and corrupt, in private and public sectors, are squandering America’s promise and potential.

Sources and notes

“Historian Allen Guelzo speaks on the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg … ‘The entire future of democracy was hanging in the balance’” (interview by Andre Damon: In an interview with World Socialist Web Site reporter Andre Damon, Dr. Guelzo contrasts the popular interest in the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg with the scant attention paid to it by establishment politicians and the media. He places the battle in its world historical context, explaining that the victory of the North was crucial for the success of democratic forms of rule in the United States and internationally,” July 4, 2013, http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/07/04/vide-j04.html

See also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9eK1YJqodQ&feature=player_embedded#at=13

“Third day of Gettysburg anniversary: Discussions on Snowden and the decay of democracy” (by Jerry White in Gettysburg), July 4, 2013, http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/07/04/gett-j04.html

“What Gettysburg Proved,” (by ALLEN C. GUELZO), Disunion July 1, 2013 ([published July 3), http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/01/what-gettysburg-proved/

Allen C. Guelzo is a professor of history at Gettysburg College and the author of Gettysburg: The Last Invasion.

The Gettysburg Address is a world-famous speech delivered by President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication (November. 19, 1863) of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the site of one of the decisive battles of the American Civil War (July 1–3, 1863).

Excerpt: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation … shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” American Rhetoric, Online Speech Bank, http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/gettysburgaddress.htm
See also: Gettysburg Address.  (2011). Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Deluxe Edition.  Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.


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