Several years after the end of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee declined an invitation to attend a Gettysburg memorial service. He explained, “It is wiser not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife and commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.”
The South accepted his call for historical amnesia, not by forgetting the past, but by creating a memory of the war steeped in mythology.
A number of my ancestors served as Confederate soldiers. I cannot attest to their character. However, I choose to believe that they were good and decent men.
The nature of individual soldiers, whatever that may be, does not absolve the South of the horrific crime of slavery. I believe it is time, at last, for white Americans, wherever they might live, to accept the burden of history and acknowledge that much of our wealth and leisure has been gained through the pain and hardships of African Americans.
In his book, “A Primer for Forgetting,” historian Lewis Hyde writes, “America lives steeped in history but not in the past.”