Last week the venerable New York Times weighed in on the Ground Zero Mosque controversy (it favors its construction) oddly enough by invoking the spirit of reconciliation between North and South after the Late Unpleasantness.
The country often has had the wisdom to choose graciousness and reconciliation over triumphalism, as is plain from the many monuments to Confederate soldiers in northern states, including the battlefield at Gettysburg.
Blogger John Rosenberg fact checks the Gray Lady and doesn’t like what he sees. Reconciliation came late to Gettysburg (and to the nation as a whole).
The editors of the Times are obviously unaware of the history of placing Confederate monuments at Gettysburg. The first monument to any Confederates did not appear there until 21 years after the battle (honoring the 1st Maryland Battalion), “after a great deal of resistance from the battlefield commission authorities,” and “[i]t took years for the next to follow,” in large part because “the battlefield commission was controlled by Union veterans whose rules discouraged the meaningful placement of Confederate monuments.” With that first monument (and subsequently) there were fierce debates over placement.
Most of the rest of the monuments had to wait until the next century and even then there were squabbles about placement, composition, and language deemed “un-reconstructed.” As far as Confederate monuments in Northern states other than Pennsylvania, I can’t think of any (nor could Rosenberg find any) unless you mean border states like Kentucky, Missouri, or Maryland (all of which were pro-Southern). He also cites a number of articles in the Times with some less than charitable language about the display of the Confederate flag and symbols, even in areas where the vast majority of the population approve (as they do not in New York City, 60% in the Times own poll thought a mosque at Ground Zero was a bad idea). Today the Times predictably condemns a proposed Koran burning by a Florida pastor but is silent about Burn the Confederate Flag Day scheduled for tomorrow (no link, find it yourself).
I might also add that reconciliation and those monuments came only after the end of the war, the defeat of the Confederacy and the reintegration of the South into the United States. It’s hard to imagine that happening during the conflict, as is now the case with radical Islam. There is also quite a difference in the two “battles.” At Gettysburg both sides wore uniforms, followed the laws of war, and even though a substantial part of the battle took place in town tried scrupulously to avoid civilian casualties. In fact there is only one recorded civilian casualty, the unfortunate Jenny Wade, who was killed by accident. Quite a difference between that and 9/11, which was perpetrated by men in civilian clothes who deliberately tried to cause the maximum number of civilian casualties by attacking a target with no military value.
Personally I am against the Ground Zero Mosque, not because I am anti-Islam or mosques in general, but because it’s just the wrong thing in the wrong place and the wrong time. I’m not against casinos per se either, but I am against the one at Gettysburg for many of the same reasons—it’s just the wrong thing to put there.
How would the Times feel about a Confederate memorial in Manhattan? I think I can guess, but it’s ironic in view of the fact that the current publisher’s great-grandmother, Bertha Levy Ochs, was a Confederate partisan who was once arrested for smuggling quinine in future Times publisher Adolph Ochs’ baby carriage. She was a charter member of the UDC and was buried draped in a Confederate flag.
One wag suggested that the best solution was, in the true spirit of tolerance, to build the mosque at Ground Zero and let it fly the Confederate flag.