A digital reminder that Capitol siege was an echo of Civil War

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Wayne Dawkins is a writer, and a professor of professional practice at Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication.

By Wayne Dawkins
Special to the AFRO

The nations’ Capitol was attacked and trashed by insurrectionists on Jan. 6. White supremacists and Confederates in the attic are still among us. Beliefs they have suppressed exploded this month.

Those marauders who trashed the Capitol were looking for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, a “traitor” they yelled because he was verifying Electoral College votes from the free, fair Nov. 3 election.

And what the deadly assault meant for Black folk? The 2020 election was called “stolen” by Donald John Trump’s supporters in part because African Americans showed up big, especially in electoral battlegrounds Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. Trump hack, Rudy Giuliani, snarled in unsubtle code: Those urban people in Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta stole the vote. 

Untrue, based on repeated recounts by the losing Republicans. Nevertheless, lying and refusal by many GOP leaders to immediately accept the win by Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris stoked the angry mob.

The 1860s explained what happened Nov. 3 and Jan. 6. We experienced a loud echo of the Civil War. Just days ago, my wife and I watched “Grant,” the three-part TV series on the History Channel. The Capitol assault was comparable to the secessionist Confederate states bombing, then capturing Fort Sumpter, S.C. one month after Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as president. 

After that April 1861 fortress attack, the bloodiest war in U.S. history ensued. Ulysses S. Grant was spotlighted on cable TV because he was the Union general who decisively shortened the war to four years instead of a probable decade. Grant’s army racked up daring victories in the deep South, while Union generals in Maryland and Virginia refused to seriously engage Gen. Robert E Lee’s Confederate army, frustrating Lincoln. The president brought Grant east to close the deal. 

Grant was decisive and resolute even though it meant tens of thousands of Union soldiers dying at the hands of southerners, who took devastating losses too. In the end, Grant’s forces surrounded Lee near Richmond, Va. and the Confederates surrendered. Grant’s terms included allowing southerners their dignity. They could keep their handguns and horses, but give up the long guns and enslaved Africans, who would be freed. It was time to reunite the broken country. 

But southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth had other ideas. He shot and killed Lincoln in D.C. only a week after the Civil War ended. Booth and accomplices attempted a coup. The secretary of state was stabbed during the mayhem. The attackers intended to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Grant, who happened to pass that night on socializing with Lincoln at Ford’s Theater.

Now compare the final months of the Civil War to last November through this month. In 1864 when Lincoln the Republican ran for re-election, his Democratic opponent was George McClellan, a Union general so reluctant to fight Lee, Lincoln famously said, “Allow me borrow your army for the weekend.” 

McClellan promised that if he won, he would sue for peace, unite the country and return Black folk to the southern plantations. Fortunately, Grant and wingman Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, who crippled the Confederacy across Georgia before the crucial November election, won their battles and secured Lincoln’s re-election. 

Similar to today, the losing side were fed lies that devastated them morale wise. “The South had gone to war without counting the cost,” said Confederate States President Jefferson Davis, the man who urged on White sons of the south to their deaths. 

Why didn’t Davis come clean and spell out the losing numbers game: In the 1860s, America was a nation of 30 million people. Twenty million of them in the north, 10 million of them in the south. Four million of those 10 million southerners were enslaved Africans. 

No wonder the drop-the-mic moment in the antebellum fantasy “Gone with the Wind” was Clark Gable as Rhett Butler warning White Southerners, “the only thing you have going for you is slaves, cotton and arrogance.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S72nI4Ex_E0 

Now consider Trump and friends’ arrogance. They told their people not to vote by mail or via absentee ballot, but instead wait until Nov. 3 to vote in person. Team Trump was surprised by opposing voters who went to the polls in record numbers early. 

And Team Trump downplayed, or ignored, the COVID-19 pandemic and probably wiped out some of their support unwittingly. Like the “Lost Cause” delusion, the traitors in gray spouted for generations, the 2020 sore losers thought they could violently overthrow a U.S. presidential election for the first time. Democracy and rule of law prevailed, and we must remain vigilant.

The writer is a professor professional practice at Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication.

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