You may have noticed I’ve rarely written on many contentious topics, especially any dominating our news and social media. That is fully intentional on my part, but not out of concern that I might be ostracized by one group or another, nor through a desire to be praised. It’s always been my view that what most people become upset about and go to verbal war over is only a symptom of some underlying problem. Among nations and groups, wars are fought, and millions are killed for apparent reasons that hide the real cause of underlying strife.
Take our own country’s Civil War. For the Union, the conflict concerned slavery and the need to provide equal rights for all people, no matter their color. The Confederacy argued it was about the individual state’s right to govern themselves, without interference from the federal government, fully. Over a century later, the argument and bickering continues.
The actual underlying problem was labor. Crops grown in the South required thousands of humans to perform a great deal of manual labor, especially cotton, sugar cane, and large food crops. Plantation owners considered enslaving an imported population of Africans as a way to operate large parcels of land at a low cost. Along with their suppliers and agents, they promoted the idea to the white population of the South that black Africans were livestock, less than human, having no soul, to be bought and sold as such.
The majority of white southerners came to accept the idea of slavery as a natural condition of any people with darker skin. There is a principle that if a lie is repeated often enough, it can become a fact in the mind of the receiver. Northern abolitionists tried to reason with the South that slavery was wrong and that slaves must be freed, that it was morally wrong. Southerners responded, feeling that state’s rights were being trampled on by the federal government, which became a cause for rebellion.
For me, it’s obvious the underlying cause of our civil war was first an error in providing appropriate labor for growing and harvesting crops, especially cotton. Once the error was made, it snowballed and became irreversible in the minds of those who profited from it. There were other workable labor solutions, like immigrant labor or sharecropping, with a history of success that could have been acceptable to all. Unbridled greed motivated the decision to use slavery. Those with slaves considered Africans their best solution.
If I’d been alive then, would I have written about the evils of slavery or the right of the states to rule themselves? No, that would’ve fanned the flames toward war, which ended the lives of over 600 thousand Americans. I wouldn’t have directly taken a side to push against the other one but instead would have provided an opportunity to see a possible solution. I’d have written about other successful ways to provide labor. I could also have enumerated the problems of housing, feeding, and guarding slaves whose understandable reluctance was often “handled” by violence from overseers. Sharecroppers are motivated by their own profit. They feed and house themselves and work at no expense to the owner.
I mindfully choose not to take sides in arguments that lead to further division among friends and neighbors. I strive to write about any underlying problems, not the apparent symptoms. I fully believe that in many situations, there are far more than just the two choices being presented by opposing sides. If you look more closely at issues, I believe you, too, can see the deeper reasons for conflict.