Monday, September 12, 2011

The truth will make us free

... but facing it can be extremely painful. After World War II, many Germans realized that they could not move on until they accepted responsibility for having made possible the Nazi regime. They made a special effort to educate themselves on the truth of what happened, and became a strong nation again -- this time a positive force for freedom in Europe. This is not a common accomplishment. The Japanese continue to struggle with the same war; and Americans remain in denial about atrocities committed by our own troops in any war.

One of the truths about the War between the States that is particularly painful for me as an Ohioan is the character of Gen. William Tecumsah Sherman, a native of Lancaster who, by embracing the concept of "total war" made himself a mass murderer -- not only of Southerners, but also of Plains Indians after the war. He was ably aided in this effort by another Ohio-born general, Philip Sheridan (from Somerset in Perry County), who wrought vast destruction in the Shendandoah Valley of Virginia, and in the West. To justify these acts as "military necessity" is to say that the end justifies the means, a position that is never morally defensible.

"These are My Jewels," The lady on top is Cornelia, representing Ohio

Evidence that we are in denial? Statues of both men appear in the monument "These Are My Jewels" in the Ohio Statehouse lawn, along with that of Edwin Stanton (from Steubenville), who acted as a virtual dictator of the United States with Congressional support. President Andrew Johnson was little more than a figurehead. [The other four figures on the statue are Gens. Ulysses S. Grant (from Point Pleasant and Georgetown), Rutherford B. Hayes (native of Delaware, Ohio, later of Fremont) and James A. Garfield (from Mentor), all later to become President of the United States; and Ohio Governor, Secretary of the Treasury, and later Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, a resident of Cincinnati prior to entering Lincoln's cabinet.]

Detail. Left to right: Gens. William T. Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, and Philip Sheridan

No one wants to face the shameful acts of one's own people; but until we do, we will not embrace truth. As long as we choose to live in lies, we will find ourselves enslaved by them.

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