The swirling controversy over whether the Georgia band “Confederate Railroad” should play at the Ulster County Fair resulted in 190 comments posted on the New Paltz Times Facebook thread. Arguments from opposing perspectives made sense. I surprised myself alternately agreeing and not agreeing about whether canceling the Confederate Railroad band was the right decision. I will not reiterate each side’s best arguments, but I encourage readers to peruse the site and make up their own minds.
Never before in my lifetime, even in the 1960’s, when Margaret Mead said, “was the worst division between Americans we will ever see,” has there been so much divisiveness coming from all sides on so many issues affecting life here.
The 190 comments reflect the larger society and can be divided into two categories: issue based and identity based. The issue-based arguments are bolstered by someone’s interpretation of “historical facts” and therefore “seem” less emotional and more objective, such as “The Civil War was more about states’ rights than slavery,” to which someone replied, “States’ rights were to own slaves!”
This identity-based argument side-stepped the issue, “The first slave owner was a black man among many other black slave owners.
Muslims still engage in the slave trade, as well as female genital mutilation. Where is the outrage?” And this assumptive comment, “They will still get paid because the gig was booked, but they just won’t have to play for bigots,” have an underlying meaning most often lost in the minutiae of disagreement.
A Stanford University political science study examined division from a different angle; not from how Americans stand on policy issues, but from the perspective of how they feel about those on the other side. The study found “feelings” have become predominant over issues and are increasingly “more negative, even hateful.”
From the Facebook thread, “So a few people decide they don’t like the name of the band? So they are blocked to play there? Who are these pansy asses who made that decision? Put their names out there.”
When did a person with a difference of opinion become the object of anger and personal insults? When? Now!
Recently on the cruise ship Queen Mary 2, I was seated for dinner at a table with a geographically diverse group of older Americans representing the north, south, east and west. I said, “We could have an interesting lively political discussion coming from so many different states.”
“If you so much as mention politics,” the stranger said, “I will gouge out both your eyes with my steak knife!” Since we were on a “patriotic cruise,” arriving at the Boston Harbor on July fourth to wave some plastic mini-flags and watch the fireworks, I certainly was in no position to risk my eyesight.
I have opinions. Don’t hate me. It’s my right.
Katie Porter isn’t part of “The Squad,” the four-women group of freshmen progressives of color. I think she should be. Her beliefs line up, even if her color doesn’t. We have to unite over our need to heal the world, not our individual identities.
There is a controversy raging on Facebook about the right or not to invoke the Holocaust when describing what is going on at the boarder and with the round-up of immigrants by ICE.
I believe it was Elie Weisel’s intention when he coined the phase: “never again” that the word “Holocaust” could be used to describe all systematic oppression of one group against another. Misery is not a competition. If one child is separated from their parent at the border and dies caged in a detention camp, I believe in these words from the Jewish Talmud which states, “Whoever destroys one soul, it is as if he destroyed the entire world.”
We humans have more in common than differences. Remember this from high school, which many of us could once recite?
“I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions, fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?” Shylock’s speech from The Merchant of Venice.
I believe most people truly do not understand the scourge of slavery from which our country has not nearly recovered, symbolized for many by the Confederate flag. Understanding slavery takes time, interest and depth of study.
I believe in reparations as long as places like Baltimore, Brooklyn, The South Side of Chicago, prisons and the unfair racist judicial system dismantled are the recipients.
If I had to pick a side, regardless of all the arguments, I believe the banned band should perform next year with a new name if only to bring people out of their prison of opinion. I’ll go then. Will you?
Editor’s note: The Felice Brothers will perform at the Ulster County Fair on August 1 at 8 p.m., replacing Confederate Railroad. The Ulster County Fair returns to the fairgrounds in New Paltz from July 30 to August 4. For full County Fair schedules and much more info, visit http://ulstercountyfair.com.