Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Truly Divided Nation in More Ways than One

The events at Mizzou over the past few weeks have revealed many different issues in our nation. On one hand, it would appear to be just more examples of racism in action. On the other hand it appears that other problems are revealing themselves as well. All taken together, it shows not just the State of Missouri, but the nation are truly divided in ways no one may have imagined.

This all started with a purported racial slur being thrown off campus in Columbia, Missouri, home of the main campus in the University of Missouri system at an African American student. The student was Payton Head, the Student Body president at Mizzou. Later, others had claimed racial slurs were said to them on campus. A swastika drawn in poop was found in the men's bathroom of one of the university's residence halls although photo or video evidence does not seem to exist. It all seems to have snowballed from there until it accumulated in this week's protests. In the weeks leading up to the protests, MU student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike demanding the president of the university, Tim Wolfe resign for not acting on taking care of instances of racism at the University. Members of the football team then went on strike with the same demand. Wolfe resigned this week as did Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.

Taken together it would all seem to be some sort of victory for those fighting racism. Attention had been brought to acts of racism in Columbia, Missouri, and administrators of MU whom people had thought had done little about them had resigned. That acts of racism had taken place at Mizzou cannot be questioned as there are as many cases that can be documented as  those that cannot. In March 2010 cotton balls were placed in front of Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center on the Mizzou campus. In February 2011 racist graffiti was written on a residence hall. At the Homecoming Parade on October 10th of this year folks chanted "Mizzou" to drown out chants done by protesters. Therefore, Wolfe's resignation seemed a great victory.

Then, stories of actions by the protesters begin to come out in a big way. The media was blocked from the group Concerned Student 1950's protest on public property, property on which everyone so long as they are not doing something illegal are permitted, Student reporter Tim Tai, himself a minority, was even harassed by student protesters and threatened by two university professors who were also protesting. Most of the students harassing him were white, as were both professors, and all of it was caught on video. Then Student Body President Payton Head falsely reported the KKK was on the university campus on social media. People have begun to question whether racial slurs were even yelled at African Americans in and around the university campus. All folks had to go on was the word of those claiming the slurs were ever said. Even the existence of the swastika drawn in poop is being questioned as no photo evidence seems to exists. What now amounts to what seems to be race baiting in reverse has put a different spin on the issue for many Missourians.

Missouri is a state suffering from the events at Ferguson, Missouri. There were actions at Ferguson, Missouri, and in the protests that followed that were clear cut acts of racism. A march for justice organized by the NAACP going from Ferguson to the state capitol in Jefferson City was met on the way with displays of Confederate flags, water melons, and fried chicken. Racial slurs were yelled at the marchers, and at one point a bullet went through the back of the window of one of the buses. All of this was documented by the media with photos and video. Racism is alive and well it would appear in Missouri, and Missourians like myself were ashamed of some citizens of our state. It is no doubt then that the national media would home in on the protests at the University of Missouri. Missouri after all had revealed itself to be a racist state.

The problem now is that the protesters at Mizzou themselves have shown themselves to be intolerant. First, they excluded the media from the protests, and then they organized a "black only healing space"  where whites were not allowed. This vagrant act of segregation along with the actions against a student reporter who is himself a minority has liberal Missourians perplexed. Until now it had been felt that to fight racism, we must be all inclusive. We cannot afford to segregate ourselves, What has liberal Missourians even more perplexed is how all of this could take place in what is admittedly the most liberal city in the state on a college campus whose Student Body President is a gay black man. If racism existed in Missouri, certainly Columbia would be a bastion of anti-racism, a safe zone  for those of all races. Two men, Connor Stottlemyre and Hunter Park were arrested for making threats of violence against blacks protesting on the MU campus. Even then, neither of the men lived in Columbia or had any real connection to the University campus in Columbia. Yes, racist incidents had taken place on the UMC campus, but just exactly is going on now?

All of this has left Missourians confused. Were the events this year leading up to the protests a sham? Did two high ranking university administrators resign for what amounted to incidents that did not take place? Or did these incidents actually take place, but were isolated ones? And what about the student protest group Concerned Student 1950's own acts of intolerance with the harassment of a minority student reporter and the deliberate segregation of protesters? It has us confused and perplexed. I, for one do not know what to think. In many ways, one has to wonder if the protests have not actually set the state back 40 years on the issue of civil rights instead of making progress. Instead of the protests uniting us, in my opinion, they have served to divide us further, and racists will no doubt argue that events at the protests justify their position.

This is not the end of it though. Columbia, Missouri is being tagged as a racist town, a place where minorities live in fear for their lives. Even if racial slurs were hurtled at black men, even if a poop swastika was drawn in a university bathroom, are these examples of racism being rampant in Columbia? Is Columbia just as racist as the rest of  the state? Or are these the acts of outsiders, people not from Columbia, perhaps not even the State of Missouri? Are these merely isolated incidents in a city that is truly all inclusive? Is there just some group of rednecks out there wanting to stir up racial tensions? Or is MU a cesspool of racists and closet racists? Missourians are now faced with almost too many questions to be answered, and no dialogue has been started to answer them. We cannot at this point get answers, and will not until a dialogue is started that includes people of all the races.

This would not be so hurtful to Missourians though if  clear cut acts of racism elsewhere were being ignored. Women at the door of a Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat party at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut were told, “No, we’re only looking for white girls,” Headlines about the incident begin with words like, "purported," or contained words like, "accused." The stories on the incident contained words like, "claimed" in relation to the women's testimony about the incident. There were questions even in liberal media whether the incidents really happened despite many women testifying to them.

Unlike the incidents at Mizzou which were immediately reported as fact, and no one doubted the accusations of racism, the accusations of a "white women only" party at Yale University were cast as being doubtful. It was like folks were stating, "There is no way something like this could happen in a Northern state at a prestigious school like Yale." Meanwhile, no one doubted the accusations of racism at the University of Missouri. Somehow, it is easy to believe a Midwestern university with Southern roots consisting of Middle Class students could be a haven of racism, but almost impossible to believe the same of a New England school that caters to the Upper Class. It threw us back to the '70s when the Boston public schools were desegregated and a myriad excuses were given for white parents' outrage, none of them dealing with race. Somehow, the narrative was white parents were upset that their children were being sent to schools in poor neighborhoods. No one wanted to state the truth that Boston is known as one of the most racist cities in the United States, and the riots over desegregation in Boston had everything to do with race.

It all comes down to this, this is not just Missouri's problem. It is a problem for the entire nation. We cannot ignore instances of racism in northern universities based on the false idea that the North is not racist. We cannot automatically assume isolated incidents at a Southern or Midwestern university makes it a haven for racism. I am ashamed of our nation's media for making the events at Mizzou a top of the page headline, while sweeping events at Yale under the rug and putting stories about it on page two. I resent supposed incidents at the University of Missouri being passed off as fact while incidents at Yale University are reported with words like, "purported," "accused," and "claimed." Yes, a racist culture probably does exist at University of Missouri Columbia, but I am betting one exists at Yale University too. Regardless of what really happened at Mizzou or Yale, and no one seems to be able to get to the truth, it has been shown not just racism divides this nation, but also classism and regionalism. How else would you explain the difference in coverage between incidents at Mizzou and those at Yale? And  acts of classism and regionalism need to be acted on just as much as racism. This nation has no room for bigotry of any kind. As of now we are truly a nation divided in more ways than one.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Respecting Each Others' Rights

The past couple of years have seen protests the likes that have not been seen since the 1960s. They are happening for good reasons. This nation has big issues with equal rights for all.  People wanting to keep gays from marrying, African Americans not wanting to be harassed and killed by law enforcement, and countless other issues have shown this nation has some serious issues. And with the protests our deep seated self interests have reared their ugly heads. Many feel because their rights have been violated that gives them the right to get their message out by any means possible even if that means violating the rights of others. This attitude cuts across the political spectrum both right and left. Many Conservatives feel county clerks should have the right to violate the right of gay couples to be married because, well, it violates their religious freedom. More liberal protesters feel they have the right to violate the rights of commuters to get to work on time by blocking highways to highlight how African American men are being killed by police. There are numerous examples of how people have in trying to get the point across their "rights" are being violated by violating the rights of others. And the media is not innocent either. Reporters get pushy in trying to cover protests. They refuse to respect people's right not to talk to them.

Recently a video surfaced on YouTube of student protesters and a professor trying to block a student journalist's access to a protest on the University of Missouri campus. You can watch it below:


The protesters had declared the area a safe zone were no media was allowed. They wanted to control the narrative of the protest and not have the media twisting what they wanted said. There was one problem with this. This protest was on public property owned by the people of the State of Missouri. Everyone has a right to be there. No one has a right to exclude others from being on that piece of land. They had no right to try to take over what is owned by every citizen of the State of Missouri. It would be like me, going to our courthouse square where I live, and trying to dictate who could and could not walk across the lawn. This is basically what the group Concerned Student 1950 did to the point of student reporter Tim Tai being threatened by Professor Melissa Click. In essence, while protesting to point out how the rights of minorities are being violated at the University of Missouri, they violated the rights of a student reporter (who happens to be a minority himself) to be present, and all other members of the media. The actions of the protest group Concerned Student 1950 showed they were just as intolerant as the actions of the people they were protesting.I am not saying this to detract from their message that there is racial bigotry at the University of Missouri, but to point out that we as Americans place our own self interests above those of others.  In essence, what Concerned Student 1950 was saying is, "People's rights have been violated so we have a right to violate your rights to get our point across."

At the same time Concerned Student 1950 was protesting, many members of the media did not respect the personal space of members of Concerned Student 1950. They felt that they were protected by freedom of the press and therefore did not have to respect the privacy of the protesters. There were instances of reporters trying to get in areas where people were changing clothes, and reporters not respecting people's right to say no to interviews. Again, this is a case of people thinking their rights are more important than the rights of someone else. We think our rights should supersede the rights of everyone else. In essence, what what was being said by the media was, "We have a right to do this so that gives us a right to violate your rights to exercise our rights."

The cases above are a prime example of one group thinking their "rights" trump the rights of others. There are other examples. And of course, when there is outrage over these violation of rights by protesters we are told people are trying to detract from the protesters' messages. In truth, it is not the people's outrage over the protesters' violating the rights of others that is detracting from the message people are trying to get across by protesting, but the very actions of the protesters themselves. Had members of the group Concerned Student 1950 respected the rights of others, they may have gotten their message across, but by trying to dismiss the rights of others, by saying their rights are more important, their messages are seen as just another example of intolerance.

The same is true of the media. When the media refuses to respect people's personal space, they are violating others' rights, and seen not as reporters of the news, but as bullies just out to get a story. While the media has freedom of the press on their side, that does not give them the right to demand people talk to them, or to intrude in areas where they clearly are not wanted. Getting in protesters' way, pushing people aside to get a shot with a camera, arguing with people that do not want to be interviewed, all these things violate the rights of others.

Until we, as Americans can learn to respect the rights of others we will not heal this nation. Until we realize my rights, or your rights, or his rights, or her rights are no more important than the rights of others we will get nowhere. Simply because I have a right to do something, simply because my rights are protected by the Constitution does not give me a right to violate the rights of others to exercise my rights.

When I was a youth and a protester, we tried to respect the rights of others. We did not exclude the media. We even allowed counter protests to take place. And we knew there was a place and time to protest. We did not disrupt public ceremonies, block traffic, barge in on private meetings, or do any other stunts to attract attention. We merely gathered together, chanted, sang, displayed our signs, and talked to anyone willing to hear our message. We tried to be respectful of others' rights because we felt if we were not, it would take away from what we were trying to accomplish. Our aim was equal rights for all, and that is how it should be. I should not violate your rights just to point out how mine have been violated.

At the same time, I have been on the media's side too. And I have seen how some reporters can be pushy and overbearing. Myself when I was a student reporter, I tried to respect people's boundaries. You have to. You are not going to get a story by trying to force people to talk to you. There was bad behavior both from the media and the protesters, and it could all have been avoided had they respected each others' rights. No one's rights ever trump those of another despite whatever wrongs may have been done. And I feel we need to learn that as a nation if we want to move forward.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Common Courtesy: A Way to Prevent Mass Shootings?

With latest mass shooting, the one that happened in Oregon yesterday, the two usual solutions were proposed:
  • better gun control laws. 
  • better mental healthcare.
However, something different was brought up by people this time. It is not that this topic had not come up before, but that people had not really discussed it at length before. At least that was the case with my social circles. The conclusion was that better gun control is unrealistic. Most of these mass shooters have a mental illness, and while it is easy to say background checks should screen for mental illnesses, screening gun applicants for mental illnesses is not that simple. Mental health records are like all medical records, private and confidential. There is no way for the government to even be aware mental health records exist, much less be able to check them if a person has never committed a serious crime. Personal interviews by a law enforcement officer would not even help in screening for mental illnesses. Many with illnesses as serious as paranoid schizophrenia. can pass as "normal" when on medication.  So that leaves us with two options. First, make all medical records public, and second create a database of all individuals that have suffered a mental illness even if is something as common as depression. Privacy advocates are going to balk at the first, and rightly so. No one wants to be passed up for a job because he or she seriously hurt his or her right knee in third grade, and the potential employer assumes that he or she is a medical risk. The second one, privacy advocates are going to balk at more. The idea of collecting any database of individuals that could be used against them is unappealing as we are not but 70 years from Nazi Germany when Jews and other minorities were collected in concentration camps and killed.

As for better mental healthcare, few would argue against that. But in order for people to get better mental health care would mean a total overhaul of our healthcare system. People would have to be taught to spot mental illnesses, and how to convince mentally ill individuals to seek treatment. Even then we could not use any sort of "force" to make people seek treatment. If we start making people seek treatment against their will, esp. if they have committed no crime, it is going to be decried as a human rights violation. Then medical costs such as therapy, doctor visits, and medication would have to be kept cheap enough that all individuals be able to afford them. Improving ways of spotting mental illness will do no good if one does not have a way to afford treatment. Short of going to a one payer system or price controls or something else that will not happen. The American healthcare system is a capitalist system made for profit by corporations. Without some sort of intervention they will  not lower their goods and services even for the benefit of society. This means many Americans with mental illnesses even if they want treatment, may go untreated because they cannot afford it.

Therefore, gun control and better mental healthcare are not as simple as they may seem. And besides, focusing on those two things is overlooking the bigger problem in my opinion. Other countries have guns, a lot of guns, maybe not as many as the United States, but they do not have the gun crime we do. It is true they may have better gun control laws, but we all know if someone is willing to kill people they will obtain a gun illegally regardless of the country they are in. Similarly, other countries have the same percentage of mentally ill individuals in their population. Yet those mentally ill individuals do not go out and shoot a room full of people. Yes, they may have a better healthcare system, but even then that would not explain why people with mental illnesses that have gotten treatment in the USA are killing people. No there is a deeper problem than guns and mental illness at work in the United States of America when it comes to these mass shootings.

People in the United States of America, in general, do not view other individuals as humans. Instead they view them as objects. This lack of empathy towards other humans, the ability to understand their feelings, to share in their joys and sorrows has lead to a lack of compassion on the part of the American citizen. Perhaps, this is a gross generalization, and the majority of individuals are not that way, but I feel enough are that it is showing an impact on our society, and has for many years. Add to this inability to have compassion for others the excessive self-centeredness of many Americans and you have a society that is bound to have a great deal of crime. After all if one views other humans as mere objects to be used, and places his or her own well being over that of all others, what is to keep him or her from killing just to have his or her way?

This lack of empathy and compassion is even reflected in our politics. The Republican Party regularly complains about money spent on social programs such as food stamps, and even cut aid to military veterans that served in wars they started to make profits for their friends. The Democratic Party is no better focusing on such liberal issues as helping illegal aliens while largely ignoring the plight of American citizens in just as much need. But again our politics are symptomatic of our entire culture. People are only there to be used to further our own means. For the Republican Party opposing social programs gains them support from Americans who being self-centered do not want their tax money spent on anything that does not benefit themselves personally. For the Democrats helping illegal aliens allows them to feel good about themselves without ever having to put a bigger investment in the much larger population of American citizens who are in need of better roads and schools. 

It all goes deeper than just attitudes though, and it can be seen in the everyday interactions of people in America. How often do you hear, "please" and "thank you" anymore? When was the last time you saw someone allow an elderly person to go ahead of him or her in line at the store so the elderly person would not have to wait as long on his or her feet? How often have you seen a pregnant lady be forced to stand because no one will offer her a seat on the train? We have forgotten common courtesy, and I think therein rests the sickness of America. We are not taught to be kind to other people. Somewhere after preschool we cease being taught to be loving and caring. Instead we are taught to do for ourselves in accordance with whatever the establishment tells us we should be doing, and we expect others to do the same. Somewhere after preschool we forget how to share, how to say "please" and "thank you," to wait our turn in line. 

I think the way to prevent more mass shootings and killings is to again ingrain in Americans so it is second nature the ideas of courtesy and politeness. Teach people to be kind to other people, to do acts of kindness. Perhaps, in time folks could learn to love their fellow man, Being kind, doing the right thing, helping others is so unusual that it sometimes makes national news. Recently, some college football players came into a store that unbeknowst to them was closed. The system that locked the place up and turned off the lights had failed. They shouted for a worker, and looked for them, and finding none they got the items they needed, walked to the counter, waved at the security camera, and left the exact amount of money on the counter including the tax for the items they purchased. Had this happened 70 years ago no one would have thought it an unusual occurrence. Now it makes national news. 

Our country's citizens have become so used to people doing the wrong thing that doing the right thing is unusual. And how we treat people is no different. It is little wonder then that mass shooters feel misunderstood, lonely, and under appreciated. The latest shooter in his manifesto complained about having no friends, and having no girl friend. These shooters have, as all of us in America have, been met with unkindness at every turn. People cut us off in traffic, people butt in line at the convenience store, someone forgets to say "thank you," the cashier at the store ignores us. Each one of these things can make us angry. Now imagine you had a mental illness and had no way to shut that anger off, and it built up and built up with no relief. That exactly is how mass shooters are created. No one has been kind to them. No one has given them a way to feel good about themselves. No one has given them a way to let go of that anger. But if we dismissed no one's feelings of loneliness, if we sought to help even a little those in a bad situation, perhaps then that person who has a mental illness will not become the next mass shooter.

Research shows random acts of kindness improves one's mental and physical health as well as the health of the person one is being kind to. The only way to end these mass shootings is to change the entire mindset of our culture, to make Americans value the lives of others. It will take years to do so, but if we start today, encouraging folks to be kind to others, to place others above oneself, then perhaps there will be a day in America when mass shootings are as rare as they are in Europe or other places in the world. There is no short term solution to the problem. If guns were banned tomorrow and as many confiscated as possible there would probably be another mass shooting. If every person with a mental illness got treatment in America there would still be one that went rogue and shoots up a school because they feel lonely and unappreciated. No, we need a long term solution, and that solution is in how we view and treat other human beings. The solution to me is for people to treat each other with kindness, to show common courtesy, and go even beyond that to greater acts of kindness.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Promoting Central Missouri Events

One of the problems in promoting a fair or festival or any local event these days is where to publicize it. Most groups cannot afford TV and radio ads, and even promoting a post on Facebook or other social media does not mean one will get wide coverage. Even posters are expensive, and then there comes the problem of where to post them. It is no longer as simple as making press releases to the newspaper or radio.  Where once that is all one had to do, many folks no longer listen to the radio or subscribe to a newspaper. People now get their news and information from a wide variety of sources, and while one information source will reach one person, it may not reach another. Too, people often plan which events they plan to attend well in advance which means event planners must get information out early. This is not always easy to do with newspapers, radio, and TV as those news sources may not see the event as being relevant until only a few weeks before it takes place.

This is where Event Calendars come in. An event can generally be posted on these calendars months in advance. There are those that are in print and on the internet, and then those that are just on the internet. The ones in print often will not come out until the month or week of the event, but the ones on the internet may have listings as far out as a year before. The following list was made specifically for Central Missouri and is focused on Randolph County. Some are statewide however. If you are in another area of Missouri it is a simple matter of doing a Google search for the name of your town, county or region, and "event calendar." Most all of these listings are free. Perhaps the most important one is the Missouri Division of Tourism's Travel Guide as your listing will be both in print and on the internet months in advance of the event.

Print and Internet

Missouri Division of Tourism Travel Guide:
Missouri Life:
Moberly Chamber of Commerce Calendar of Events:

Internet and/or Other

Columbia Daily Tribune Events Calendar:
KMIZ Event Calendar:
KOMU Community Calendar:
KWIX/KRES Event Calendar:
VOX Magazine Events Calendar:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Follies of Burning the American Flag to Protest the American Government

You are disenchanted. You are tired of a government whose police beat and shoot people in the street at the slightest provocation. You are tired of a government that taxes the Middle Class to the breaking point. You are tired of a government that allows itself to be bought by corporations and billionaires. So what do you do? How do you show your anger? What symbolizes the government? What governmental emblem or symbol you can take out your frustrations on? Well, the American flag of course. It makes perfect sense. It is the symbol of the government that has maltreated you. Sound thinking, right? There is a problem with this. Not everyone sees the American flag as symbolizing just the government.

You see many people see the American flag as not being the flag of the government of the United States of America, but as being a symbol of the people of the United States. So when you burn it you are not just attacking the government, but attacking the American people as a whole. That makes you a traitor in many people's eyes. It goes further than that. Many see the American flag as symbolizing a certain set of ideas espoused during the American Revolutionary War. They link it to ideas as justice, freedom, human rights, and such documents as the Declaration of Independence and the United States of America Constitution. It is in the original Pledge of Allegiance:
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
 It does not say "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the Government of the United States of America..." but "to the Flag of the United States of America" i.e. all of us that are American citizens, to all of us that are a part of this country. Further, it says "with liberty and justice  for all." So there in the very pledge it says the flag represents the people and stands for certain ideas. If the government no longer represents the people, or no longer represents the ideas that this country was founded on, then the government's flag is no longer the American flag. The American flag, I feel represents the American people, human rights, freedom, and justice.

So next time you decide to destroy a symbol of a government you see as repressing you, do not choose the American flag. Instead, loudly proclaim that the American flag does not represent tyrants, bigots, or oppressors. State that it is your symbol, and you plan to take it back from those whose ideas conflict with those the American flag represents. Find another symbol of the government to take your frustrations out on. Burn politicians in effigy, but I beg you do not desecrate the our flag, the flag of the American people.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Marriage Equality, Oaths to Uphold the Constitution, and Public Officials

I have been seeing a lot on the gay marriage issue or the marriage equality issue (whatever phrase you prefer). Most are speaking from a viewpoint of a) "Christian" values or b) gender equality. I plan to address neither. What I plan to address is the fact public officials made oaths to perform their duties.

Every public official in Missouri takes an oath to "support the Constitution of the United States and of the state of Missouri, and demean himself faithfully in office." This can be seen under Chapter 51 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. And like it or not The Supreme Court of the United States of America has deemed according to the Constitution that people of the same gender can marry each other. It does not matter what you or I think. All that matters is what the Supreme Court thinks the Constitution says. When county clerks refuse to issue marriage licenses to people of the same gender or county judges refuse to perform weddings they are not supporting the Constitution. Indeed, they are acting against it. As such they are breaking their oaths, and perhaps should be forced from office because of that.

The issue I find really scary is that such public officials are refusing to do their duties which under their oaths they must perform based on their own personal beliefs. This is very dangerous ground. If we allow public officials to violate their oaths based on religious beliefs then we open doors for all kinds of mischief. What happens If I am elected County Clerk, and decide I won't issue marriage licenses to Jews or Mormons because they do not believe as I do? What if I decide laws not allowing people of different races to marry from 100 years ago were right and just and refuse to issue any marriage license to any couple not of the same race? I would be booted out without a moment's notice, and for good cause. Like it or not the issue with people of the same gender marrying each other is no different. The Supreme Court has said they can marry. So every public official, at least in Missouri must abide by that fact and perform their duties thanks to the oath they gave. If they cannot do that due to their personal religious beliefs they should have never taken an oath to support the Constitution. Myself, I could care less who marries who. The only marriage I was ever concerned with was the one I was in.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Some Thoughts on Slavery, Racism, and the American Civil War

The American Civil War is a very complex issue especially for states like Missouri where sympathies were very much divided. Here in my part of Missouri (which is called LIttle Dixie by the way) many wealthy slave holders were Union men. Meanwhile, many that did not even own slaves fought for the Confederacy. The Confederate Bushwhacker "Bloody Bill" Anderson who grew up in my hometown never owned slaves, nor did his father, or his father's father. Meanwhile, wealthy slave holders like Benjamin Lewis of Glasgow, Missouri were Union men. He was beaten nearly to death by Anderson for that very reason. This was very, very common during the war. Wealthy slave holders often were pro-Union while those that owned no slaves served the Confederacy. This was largely due to the propaganda of the time. Wealthy slave holders in states like Missouri were under the impressionism they could keep their slaves after the war. Meanwhile, many felt the war was being fought for states rights, and that the Union Army were nothing more than Northern invaders. The North had similar issues. People there were often under the impression the war was being fought to "preserve the Union." It never occurred to many on both sides that the issue at heart was slavery. Even the issue of slavery is not as simple as it seems. For example, I often recommend people read the slave narrative "The New Man: Twenty-Nine Years a Slave, Twenty-Nine Years a Free Man" by Henry Clay Bruce. The picture of slavery its author paints is neither consistent with the Antebellum white literature, nor that of today, or even the Northern literature following the war. It paints a picture of good and bad inconsistent with white American literature of any era. It is in stark contrast with the Southern Antebellum literature about the "happy slave" and the Abolitionist literature about the cruelty of slavery. The issue for folks like Mr. Bruce pure and simple was freedom. Still, even with the simple idea of freedom being the main concern, post-war society was very complex. For example. what is surprising about what is talked about in this narrative is the author himself is guilty of prejudice against darker skinned African Americans, as well as what he calls "poor white trash." Mr. Bruce is sometimes more sympathetic to former slaver holders than he is his fellow African Americans and whites living in poverty. As much as racism was an issue in the South, classism was as well. I know this complex situation concerning slavery and race issues firsthand. My Great Grandfather Towles' three slaves begged not to leave him. The fear of being on their own with no money, and having to seek jobs terrified them. My great grandfather was sympathetic, but being a Middle Class farmer and carpenter he could not afford to pay them. He had fed and clothed them from goods produced on his farm, not profits from his business. And unlike the image of the racist former slave holder, he taught his children, "Never mistreat the colored people." This flies in the face of the PC view of the cruel slave master quick with the whip. My Great Grandfather Canote and one of his brothers fought for the Union. And while Southerners intermingled with freemen following the war. Two of my Great Uncles on my mothers side fought for the Confederacy. You even had Southern sympathizers drafted into the Union army. While the war may have been fought over slavery, the personal views of many then were often contradictory in the State of Missouri, or not what we would expect. One fact remains, the Southern States seceded over slavery. There was no other reason. Even the argument they seceded over states' rights holds no water as the "right" they were wanting to preserve was to own slaves. What bothers me most in all this though is the North seems ignorant of its own racism and prejudice. When desegregation of schools is brought up, it is always Little Rock that is mentioned first. They ignore the riots in Boston in the '70s over "busing" that were racially motivated. In fact the issue of desegregation in what is sometimes called the "most racist city in America" is almost never mentioned. The Boston desegregation race issues have been in my opinion swept under the rug. People also ignore the fact that the draft riots in New York City during the Civil War were in part racially motivated. During the riots blacks were attacked in the streets mostly by Irish immigrants upset that wealthy men could buy their way out of the draft. Even the treatment of the Irish and other immigrants in the North is a lesson in the prejudice of Northern Anglo-Americans. Lynchings were not unheard of in states like Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In some areas of the North African Americans were restricted to living in only certain neighborhoods. Racism to many only exists in the South though. However, it can be seen in the North as well. Meanwhile, there were areas in the South like mine where the KKK was driven out with guns and baseball bats. Yet it still flourishes in Northern States like Indiana where one sees the Confederate Battle Flag much more often. I will concede that racism was more prevalent in the South esp. in places like Mississippi and Georgia, but the North is not without its own sins in that area. The issues of the American Civil War, slavery, racism, general prejudice, even classism are in many ways as complex now as they have ever been. And I think instead of focusing on one part of the country we need to look at all of it. I often have to wonder if all this hoopla in the media over the Confederate Battle Flag is smoke and mirrors to take our minds over the treatment of blacks by the police in places like New York City and Chicago. One thing is clear though, things must change.