Last week, I was pretty much focused on the situation in Cairo and the millions of people demonstrating for freedom. Ironically, it was also the 150 year anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. This was a time in the history of the United States when there was a war for freedom waged between the north and the south. Three days in July 1863 in rural Pennsylvania near the site of a small town Gettysburg became one of the most important battles of that war.
President Lincoln meeting with his generals.
Here is a photograph of a regiment of Confederate soldiers.
This is the first war documented with photography. The South had lead a ferocious war and if it had not been for several mistakes made by General Lee at Gettysburg, the outcome of the war might have been different. He let his men influence him against his better judgement not to pursue the Northern troops as they retreated, and he ordered the fateful Picket’s Charge on day 3 when 1/2 of Picket’s men of 12, 500 were either killed or wounded. Lee had to retreat and was never to invade the Northern territory again. Later, it was obvious that these three days of battle were the major turning point of the war.
What was the cause of the Civil War? President Lincoln said it was to preserve the Union of the United States after the Southern states succeeded. The South said the war was about their rights or States’ Rights to determine their own laws and way of life. The South was mostly agrarian with large plantations and many acres that were manned by slaves. The North was mainly urban and much more industrial. Well, the Southern way of life and livelihood would not survive without the slaves . Many plantation owners were unable to live within their means and if the “free” labor given by slaves was taken away, the Southern way of life would be over. This was the heart of the matter, the future of slavery in our country both in new territories and ultimately in the South. The question was the future of cheap or free labor in the South.
Jump ahead 150 years and guess what? In the United States the same question of cheap labor is taking place, but in the Capitol in Washington DC. This time , the question is not slavery but the cheap labor provided by immigrants from Mexico. Many of these people are so desperate for a better life that they risk life and limb to enter our country. At this very time, the House and Senate are presenting bills to determine the policy for these people who are already here,and came illegally. What should be done about them, their families and what is the policy for undocumented people in the future? It is a complicated, expensive, and difficult question but it all boils down to the question of providing the country with cheap labor for jobs Americans seem not to want to do.
Some tough questions stay the same in different context and time.
The desert in Southern Arizona littered by immigrants’ trash while entering the United States on foot.
Vans of workers who often pay their life’s savings to the “mule” or driver who brings them in hot paneled trucks into Arizona or Texas.
Mexican children celebrating Cinco de Mayo, their victory over the French.
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and “freedom and justice for all ” are very strong magnets pulling on the human spirit of slaves, Egyptians, Mexicans, or people everywhere.