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No compromise on freedom

Gen. John Kelly’s remarks on Civil War distort history

Melvin B. Miller
No compromise on freedom
“Well I guess Kelly misread Trump’s book, ‘The Art of the Deal.’”

Political pundits have cautioned citizens about Trump having so many generals in key positions in his administration. Top military personnel are often the perpetrators of coups in politically unstable countries. However, African Americans have expressed little criticism of the policy until the recent dissatisfaction with Trump’s chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly.

Perhaps the reason for the acceptance of the generals by blacks is that racial diversity in the military has become a national standard. In 1948, three years after the end of World War II, President Harry S. Truman issued the now historic Executive Order 9981 stating that “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons of the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”

As a consequence, the military became the nation’s largest equal opportunity employer. While the national policy did not immediately cure every bigot suffering from ingrained racial discrimination who entered military service, it certainly limited the opportunities to be openly hostile.

There was some hope that Gen. Kelly would mollify Trump’s racial attitudes, but it seems that Kelly has become an enabler. In response to journalists seeking clarity on the administration’s racial opinions, Kelly seems to support the Alt-right.

Trump generated considerable opposition when he allowed that there was a substantial number of honorable people marching in support of the racially inspired Charlottesville demonstration on Aug. 12. The demonstrators were openly hostile to blacks, Jews and immigrants.

Kelly confirmed that it was reasonable to conclude bigots were acceptable when he stated on a Fox News TV program that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was “an honorable man who gave up his country to fight for his state.” Kelly went on to state further that “men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.” He concluded that the “lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”

What an erroneous and insensitive remark, especially from a person raised in Boston, the capitol of the anti-slavery movement. In 1820, Massachusetts allowed the independence of its territory now known as the State of Maine as part of the Missouri Compromise. The notion was to maintain the balance of slave and free states in the U.S. Congress. The loss of Maine was a concession of the people of Massachusetts.

Even before that, Article I of the U.S. Constitution permitted slave states to include three-fifths of the number of slaves in the enumeration of Congressmen to the House of Representatives. This is another concession to slave states since slaves are essentially property and have no political persona. The compromise to eliminate slavery in Washington, D.C. in 1850 established that slaves are mere chattel. It required slave owners to be financially compensated for the loss of their property.

The fundamental question, however, is whether or not the nation will allow slavery. There is no room for compromise on the status. In 1865, the United States ratified the 13th Amendment that confirms “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Kelly has to understand that there can be no compromise on the fundamental issue of freedom.