Memorial Day started out as a way to commemorate those who had lost their lives during the American Civil War. After World War I, this day of remembrance was expanded to honor all individuals who had served and died in American wars. Individuals in the South — the place I myself call home — like to claim that they began the tradition of Memorial Day after the “War of Northern Aggression.” But while it may not be the most popular opinion on Memorial Day, I literally couldn’t care less about the Confederate soldiers who lost their lives over 150 years ago.
Confederate Veterans On Memorial Day?
To the areas that were once Confederate states, Memorial Day served as a time to remember deceased soldiers of the Confederate States of America. The day would eventually become a time of reflection for soldiers on both sides, and a few kind ladies from Mississippi undoubtedly had a role in this tradition by placing flowers on the bare graves of Union soldiers in 1866.
In all honesty, though, I simply cannot force myself to reflect kindly or even remember fondly those who fell in service to the Confederacy. Now, don’t think that this is some sort of outrageous statement trying to get attention. There are actually several reasons I don’t care about the Confederate fallen. In fact, here they are.
1. They were fighting for slavery: You may find this hard to believe, but there are actually people out there who deny that the Civil War was over slavery. In fact, a 2011 Pew Research poll found that 48 percent of Americans believed the war was over states’ rights. Yeah… states’ rights to own slaves.
There is undeniable proof the Civil War was about slavery, so even discussing this is pointless. In the words of the Confederacy itself, the war was over slavery. I’m sorry, but I find it difficult to honor anyone who was fighting to keep humans as property.
2. Memorial Day is for American military: It’s funny to hear some southerners call the Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression.” It’s almost as if they think the Confederacy was a legitimate country whose rights were trampled upon by the United States. You know what? Okay, let’s give that to them.
If the Confederate States of America was a real country, that means that its soldiers were not American citizens. If the Confederacy remained a country until their surrender, it means that every man who died for the south did so while the Confederacy was a separate entity from the U.S.. This means that not a single soldier in the South was an American citizen when they died.
If that’s the case, then Memorial Day isn’t for them. After all, we don’t remember the fallen Revolutionary-era British on Memorial Day. We don’t honor Al-Qaeda just because they’re involved in battles with us. Heck, we don’t even mention the Native Americans we fought for land so many years ago, and they were actually the good guys.
We honor Americans on Memorial Day — except for fallen Native Americans defending their land, of course — and if you think the Confederacy was its own nation, then your guys don’t count. You don’t get to retroactively rejoin the party just because your party sucked. These men were just another series of unlucky souls who took on #TeamAmerica.
3. We don’t honor traitors: For Reason 2, we played out a fairy tale in which southerners got to imagine that the Confederacy was a legitimate country, but now we have to but on our “big boy pants” and come back to the real world. The simple fact of the matter is that every single soldier who fought for the Confederacy was a traitor.
There’s no doubt that there were southern soldiers fighting for something other than slavery. General Lee simply stood by what he viewed as his homeland. Some soldiers undoubtedly fought with the idea that they were protecting their families. Whatever their reasoning, though, they were willfully taking up arms against the United States of America.
As it turns out, treason is the only crime that the United States Constitution specifically defines, like this:
“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort…”
Additionally, Chapter 115 of Title 18 of the United States Code further states:
“Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason…”
These men, who were American citizens by birth or naturalization, picked up arms and levied war against America. This is the very definition of treason. When Memorial Day rolls around, we don’t celebrate or commemorate Benedict Arnold or the Americans who fought for the Nazis in World War II, so why on earth should we do this for our homegrown traitors?
4. They weren’t war casualties: One of the main reasons I don’t honor or respect fallen Confederate soldiers is again related to the very definition of treason. I left out a key part earlier: the punishment for levying war against the United States. If you are guilty of treason, the law says that you
“shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000.”
The traitorous soldiers who survived got lucky. The war lasted 4 years, 3 weeks, and 6 days. This means that a Confederate soldier could have been captured and imprisoned on the first day of the war and still not have served the minimum sentence that modern-day traitors serve. In case you missed the first part of that punishment, though, take another look. They actually wrote it down a few times:
“such person or persons shall be adjudged guilty of treason against the United States, and shall suffer death.”
That’s right: death. There’s no doubt that every soldier in the Confederacy was committing treason, and if they were killed during the conflict, we shouldn’t consider this a military or war-related death. We should consider it a lawful execution. Moses Dunbar was executed for high treason against America, and you don’t see us celebrating him during Memorial Day.
Wait, do you not recognize the name of Moses Dunbar? There’s a very good reason behind that: traitors aren’t meant to be remembered. Traitors are meant to disappear into the fabric of time. Every soldier who went into battle under the Confederate flag was a traitor, and thus, they have no right to be remembered on OUR Memorial Day.
5. Because the South will “rise again”: Let’s pretend I could forgive the treason. Let’s just say I could forgive the fighting for the right to own other human beings. Let’s even pretend that I could forgive the hubris that led these individuals to think that they could just form their own country because they didn’t like perfectly reasonable laws.
Even if I could forgive ALL of that, I simply couldn’t forgive these individuals for spawning generations of people who blame the North for the war and throw out inept statements like “The South will rise again!” Had southerners of the time simply said “Okay, you’re probably right. We shouldn’t own people,” there would be no Confederate pride or rebel flags waving on the back of giant pickup trucks.
Because of the Confederacy, I have to deal with this stupidity on a nearly daily basis, simply because they instilled this idea of the south as a rebel who will rise to the occasion and break free from the yoke of Northern tyranny. Remember last time they tried that? Between 600,000 and 800,000 Americans lost their lives, and that I can never forgive them for. The south will rise again? All right, y’all have fun with that. I’m moving to New York.