Framing the Dialogue

Stats Rhats

Many years ago I was fortunate to be invited on a school trip to Gettysburg National Military Park.  That trip sparked a love affair with the city and the Civil War.  If you are from below the Mason-Dixon line you would call it the War Between the States.  A favorite book about that era is The Killer Angels which was the basis of a favorite movie, Gettysburg.

One of ending scenes of the movie was an encounter between some captured Confederate soldiers and Union soldiers after the epic Picket/Pettigrew charge.  The southerners were resting on some fencing when one of the Union officers asked the prisoners why they were fighting this war.  One of the Confederates answered that they were fighting for “Stats Rhats.’ 

I tended to bristle at this characterization of the Civil War as it was my belief that the South was fighting for slavery.  Any attempt to slip in the “states’ rights” label tended to irritate me and once I even challenged that characterization after I heard a speaker mention this. 

I am starting to understand what the citizens of the Confederate States of America were thinking back then.  The trigger in my mind was still slavery, but they still fought for states’ rights.  Our Founders thought so much of states’ rights that they were quite clear on the point with the Tenth Amendment,

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The Founders had a healthy (and prescient) fear of a large centralized government.  The federal government is rapidly becoming the behemoth contemplated at the start of our republic.  The southern states again seem to be taking the lead in fighting for states’ rights.  Texas governor, Rick Perry, has been adamant about keeping the expansion of the federal government in check.  The folks in Texas are one of several groups to take the fight to EPA’s greenhouse gas rulemaking. 

One of the most successful campaigns during the Civil War was fought by the Army of Virginia.  Lead by General Robert E. Lee, this group of men battled valiantly.  Once again Virginians are taking on the fight for states’ rights.  Earlier this month the Virginia legislature took a preemptive measure to protect their rights by passing a law prohibiting the federal government from forcing Virginians to purchase health care.  This was passed by a senate with a Democrat majority. 

Newly sworn in Virginia Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, is a Republican who has been outspoken on the subject and seems ready to fight for the cause,

“I believe the individual mandate violates individual rights.  I do not believe the federal government has the legal authority in the [U.S.] Constitution to mandate that individual Americans purchase health insurance.  A corollary to that is that the [Senate] bill, as it is currently written, requires state governments to set up healthcare exchanges to facilitate individual mandates. I do not believe that under the Constitution the federal government has the authority to dictate or effectively force states into its bureaucracy,”

The war in the 1860s was important for the establishment of our strong nation and the current fight will be important to maintain freedom from an intrusive government.  This war for states’ rights will be fought on a different battlefield and its “Gettysburg” battle will likely end up in the Supreme Court and hopefully the Army of Virginia will fare better.

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