restricted access 4. Reconciliation: An End to Civil War?
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4 Reconciliation An End to Civil War? Unless justice is done, it’s difficult for any person to think about forgiving. Churchill Mxenge, brother of a murdered anti-apartheid lawyer Personal bitterness is irrelevant. It is a luxury that we, as individuals and as a country, cannot afford. . . . Instead we must insist with quiet resolve on a firm policy of undoing the continuing effects of the past. Nelson Mandela Memory is shaped by our changing surroundings and the way we interpret them. Michael Richards,“From War Culture to Civil Society,” 94. When emotions have subsided, it is easy to see warfare as a great human and societal failure. This especially is true of internecine conflicts such as those that occurred in Spain and the United States. The destruction in both civil wars was appalling, as hundreds of thousands of the young men and productive male adults lost their lives. Many women and children also died, families were devastated, and farms and factories were destroyed. Both nations squandered immense amounts of their economic resources on killing, an activity that produced only hostility and bitterness. In every war each side demonizes its opponent,but this process is exaggerated in internecine conflicts.“The more the victim resembles the murderer,”observes Ian Buruma,“in culture and background, the greater the need for degradation , hence, possibly, the peculiar cruelty of civil wars.”1 Before such facts, one is driven to ask, What did these wars settle? Did they resolve anything? Or did they merely create more problems? In the case of Spain a related question is,What did the Transition settle or determine for the post-Franco future? Was the Transition flawed? This chapter 164 · Uncommonly Savage first will examine the kind of settlement that came out of the civil wars in Spain and the United States,what was sought and understood as reconciliation , and why it was inadequate. Then, in a more abstract or theoretical vein, it will turn to questions such as what reconciliation means, what kind of reconciliation is possible in any large and divided society, and in what way Spain and the United States may hope,eventually,to leave the wounds of history behind. * * * For both countries the resolution purchased by violence was limited. In the United States the Civil War made one thing clear: the Union would endure; the United States would be a single country, including both North and South. That, of course, had been the goal for which the states of the North and the government of Abraham Lincoln went to war. The South’s goal—to protect slavery and create an independent slaveholding nation— was lost,and the institution of legally established racial bondage perished as a result of the military conflict.There were other important and unplanned effects. The size of the federal government remained permanently larger than ever before, with veterans’ benefits and debt service commanding a sizable portion of the budget for decades to come—as much as 20 percent and 40 percent, respectively, in the 1880s. A national banking system and a single federal currency both came out of the war. These monetary changes, along with a series of other measures—higher tariffs, the transcontinental railroad, land grants to states for new colleges and universities—helped to push the North and West toward an industrializing, urbanizing future. But as we have seen, the question that was at the root of the conflict— what Alexander Stephens called“the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization”—was avoided. The fundamental clash between racism and the founding ideals of the United States received, at best, only a partial answer. Both southerners like Stephens and northern Republicans like Abraham Lincoln knew that the“irrepressible conflict” arose from that issue , which could not be submerged or compromised away. Both the war and Reconstruction failed to create an answer consonant with the ideals of human liberty set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Hostile and embittered white southerners resisted northern legislation and then resorted to terrorism to enforce white supremacy. Reconciliation: An End to Civil War? · 165 After Reconstruction, racial equality under the law existed only on paper . More than two years of southern intransigence had forced the northern Congress to adopt new rules for the South’s reunion, including black suffrage. Lawmakers wrote the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments into the Constitution. Along with the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, these texts and black male suffrage seemed to confirm a national commitment to the belief that...