[February 17, 2021] One of the best things about being a military veteran is having plenty of experience with bureaucracies and the concept of compromise. My favorite subject in Grade School was American history. And, I remember studying how leaders compromise themselves and their principles by kicking the can down the road. I had a great teacher.
Decision-making is not easy, especially in the political sphere, where any decision will be aggressively challenged and criticized. I have found that we can see cultural differences and biases drifting into how we carry out our official leadership duties.
Growing up in the Deep South during the 1950s, I had a pretty good education in American history. But there was a bias that distorted my view of the U.S. Civil War and the history of this time. See an earlier article here.
For example, I learned that the 1820 Missouri Compromise was the South’s way to stop interference from those “Damn Yankees” up north. There is an old joke among those of us raised in the South that we didn’t know that Damn Yankee was two words until we were voting age. And, we learned nothing about the abolitionist anti-slavery movement.
In the decades following the American Revolution, there was a growing consensus that slavery was immoral and that federal law should prohibit it. Strong opinions were on both sides of the issue, and many would resort to violence to keep their way of life. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was about preventing war between slave states and free states.
As the expansion into the West continued, the desire to keep these potential states free became an obsession. This “compromise” (which wasn’t a real compromise but an abdication of the moral case against slavery) only kicked the slavery issue down the road. A generation later, the most destructive war ever fought in the U.S. was the result.
Delaying the decision on slavery cost the lives of more than 750,000 soldiers and civilians in the U.S. Civil War; nearly all whites. And the war impoverished millions for generations. It was by far the nation’s bloodiest war, best remembered, and still holds sway of decedents of Civil War soldiers.