Our country today, April 12, marks the 150th anniversary of the official start of the Civil War with the firing on Fort Sumter.
And so began the war to end slavery in the United States of America, and to keep the promise declared in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
One hundred fifty years later our country has the proud distinction of having elected its first African American president in a clear and unmistakable indication of how far this nation has come since the days when men, women and children were sold as chattel on the “free market.”
For anyone with lingering doubts, President Obama’s victories in North Carolina and Virginia, the home state of Jefferson Davis and the capital of the Confederacy, were firm indications that the South and indeed the country has changed perhaps forever.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the forces of ruling-class racism, however, did not take these victories lying down, and with a scarcely concealed “rebel yell” organized a hate-filled Republican/tea party revolt to undo this great victory for democracy.
Having won a partial victory by re-taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives, they have now unleashed a many-sided assault on labor, women, and all minorities, with a particularly sharp edge directed at African Americans, the likes of which has not been seen in decades.
A refined racism has been a central element of this campaign. It’s a sad commentary on the current state of affairs that when a fundraising executive at National Public Radio was “caught” saying the tea party was racist, not only he, but the head of NPR was forced to resign.
Yet just a few weeks later, after a campaign and boycott led by colorofchange.org and other civil rights groups, came the news that Glenn Beck’s vitriol will soon be off the air at Fox News. Change is still alive and well in America.
In response to the Republican assault, a new moment is beginning in U.S. politics. It is ironic that on the 150th anniversary of a bloody battle over the form of labor, a new battle over labor, civil and human rights has begun. The stakes are no less high. Only unity and massive democratic struggle will guarantee that the cost to the nation will not be as great.