Treason : honorable :: burglary : trustworthy

In seventh grade, I had the misfortune to share a gym class with a redneck bully whose name I have forgotten. But I have never forgotten his evil, shaggy face, nor his favorite T-shirt, which featured the Confederate battle flag and the slogan, “The South Shall Rise Again.” One day early in the school year, while the teacher was distracted, this latter-day secessionist began interrogating each of us in turn.

“Are you a rebel or a yankee?” he would snarl.

Answering, “Rebel,” earned you a hearty slap on the back. If you said, “Yankee,” he punched you in the stomach. Naturally, he punched the lone black classmate without asking the question.

I was lucky that day. I answered, “I’m an American,” and it confounded him. The bell rang, and I escaped the punch that would surely have come.

The bully’s T-shirt was right, though: the South did rise again. Admiration for the Confederacy now issues not from the fringes of political debate, but from the Republican Party leadership, right up to the White House itself. The Civil War was due to lack of willingness to compromise, say both the Press Secretary and the Chief of Staff. The latter praises Robert E. Lee as an “honorable man.”

Abraham Lincoln debunked the compromise argument in 1860 in his Cooper Union address. The only compromise the secessionists would accept was no compromise at all. Only capitulation would do.

As to Robert E. Lee, he was a traitor, and should have been hanged for it. The man took an oath to defend the United States, then violated that oath and took up arms against the government he’d sworn to protect.

No American should sympathize with the Confederacy. Treason, especially in defense of slavery, is not a virtue.