One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, the United States was nine months into the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln was doing all he could to keep the Union together – and, if you believe current movie lore, he was also battling vampires.
Some observers think the U.S. is more polarized today politically than at any time since that conflict. That’s pretty hard to believe.Look no further than North Texas in 1862. Exactly 150 years ago last month more than 40 men were hung in Gainesville and Decatur for not reporting to the Confederate draft that day. Most of those hangings took place in Gainesville.
Wealthy slaveholders who didn’t have to fight anyway orchestrated the roundup of dozens of suspected Unionists or draft-dodgers. Many people in North Texas didn’t want to secede from the Union. Only a small percentage of people in this area even owned slaves.
On Oct. 12, based on flimsy evidence, and juries composed completely of slave owners, 14 of the men, chosen at random, were sentenced to death. The next day, on a cold October morning, they hung dead like strange, macabre holiday ornaments downtown. Nineteen more were hung in the coming days.
The violence spread down what is now Farm Road 51 in the days that followed. In our own Decatur, Capt. John Hill supervised the hanging of five more men.
Lincoln’s war was just – one of the few just wars in history.
Lincoln refused to allow secession because he didn’t want the U.S. to become another Europe. He knew if the U.S. splintered with a few Southern states at first, who would leave next? The Midwest? California? He feared it would eventually transform us into a hodge-podge of independent nations with different constitutions and forms of rule plagued by war just like Europe had been for ages.
He had a vision for a united, strong country that could flourish with a combination of the production of raw goods and the manufacturing of those goods, all pushed forward with the ingenuity of the world’s most hard-working and adaptive peoples flocking to our shores.
The problem with the two presidential candidates we vote for on Tuesday is that neither describes a clear vision of America’s future.
The biggest issue facing both is the economy, AKA job creation. Neither candidate has a realistic plan to address this issue.
Romney’s vision of the future is to keep taxes low as possible for the wealthiest Americans. If you do this they might float down some bread crumbs from velvet-lined pillows in heaven to the poor, huddled masses below. When they buy a second or third home this will create jobs because they’re going to need someone to walk the dog, fix espressos and handle the dry cleaning.
Obama’s is slightly better. He wants the nation to invest more in renewable energy sources and education, which will create some jobs for sure, but probably not enough to satisfy the tens of millions of Americans out of work.
One thing we can all be thankful for is that neither one has to deal with anything as major as a civil war, despite what Lubbock County Judge Tom Head said back in August.
And until I see people being hung for political views on the Decatur Square, it would probably be wise to not compare the political polarization of today to that which took place before and during the Civil War.
Today’s problems are challenging enough without the hype.