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There are Many Sides to any Story

 
 

One of the methods used in conflict resolution is to get each side involved in the conflict to be able to express the views of the other side. Once a person or group can see the validity in the needs or feelings of the other side they no longer have to see that side as wrong, or evil. Sometime they can acknowledge that they would have felt the same way in those circumstances. Sometimes they simply learn that there is more than one view, and we don't have to fight when our views are different.

I fully believe that major conflicts will not occur if opposing sides can so much as agree as to what it is they disagree about. I challenge all married readers to think of a tragic conflict that they had with their spouse. This will require you to see past the pain. If you think you understand the conflict now, what you will notice is at the worst part of the conflict your spouse was not arguing the opposite view. Your spouse was, in fact, viewing things in a manner you were not prepared to recognize. If you do not yet understand your spouse's side of the argument ask, "What other than the opposite of my view might she have been promoting?" One of you may have been arguing in favor of what is kind, while the other was arguing in favor of what is honest. One may have been yearning for what is beautiful while the other was promoting what is feasible. These are not opposites, but they do lead to different views. In the end, there were more than two views because your thinking was not Opposite.

 
 
Example: the Civil War

Part 1: Philosophical Views

The official view is that the war was about slavery. Thus the Northern victory promoted humanism. This claim is not unfounded, but neither is it "true."

To political theorists the Civil War was a war of states rights. The North was fighting for a stronger more powerful federal government, and the South was fighting for increased states rights. The South believed that the states should govern and tax their own citizens as they see fit, and even to cede from the union when the governing of the union becomes abhorrent to the citizens of that state. The North believed that the Federal government should make primary governing choices, including that of taxation over the citizens.

To Civil Libertarians the war was about individual rights. The South was fighting to preserve mandatory servitude, or slavery. In contrast the North was fighting to promote military draft, and the privilege of the industrialist to make critical decisions regarding the life of the workers, such as lay offs, working conditions, etc. From this view point, the military draft, along with the power of industrialists to make life choices for workers won over slavery.

To Economists the war was over whether the United States would continue to develop an agrarian economy, or an industrial economy. The south maintained policies beneficial to the culture of agriculture. The North promoted policies beneficial the the policies of industrialists. An industrial culture required paid workers who buy goods with their wages, who's lives and welfare may be sacrificed to save the industry. An agrarian culture may use slavery to produce the goods needed for everyone. The slaves benefit from the production of the plantation they work on.

So philosophically there are at least four sides to the story of the Civil War.

 
 
Part 2: Individual Views

A review of writings of the time, and the needs and goals of those alive at that time, shed some on the causes of the Civil War.

The Yankee Activists strongly opposed slavery. They made abolition part of the Republican Party platform in 1860. To them, abolition achieved by any means was a necessity. The writings of the time show a strong abolitionist movement. In one story towards the end of the war a group of Union soldiers captured a Rebel soldier. They started lecturing him about the evils of slavery. He replied, "I don't care about slavery." Baffled the Union soldiers asked, "Then why are you fighting?" He replied, "Because you are here!" To these Yankee soldiers the war was clearly about slavery, so clearly that even after four years of fighting they were not prepared to believe there could be another view.

But the Rebel expressed another view. He was fighting in defense of his homeland, the State of Virginia. In wars through out history there have always been those who were simply fighting in defense of their homeland. A short reading of the brutalities committed against the South by the North would show why so many Southerners would feel a need to fight in defense of their homelands. From this view, the war has been called "the war of Northern aggression."

Many of the leaders of the South expressed views of States rights. They wrote a new constitution for the South that put greater limits on the power of the Confederate government than the Northern constitution would maintain. They expressed a desire to keep the states autonomous.

Yes, of course, the Southern slave owners, who were a minority of the population, wanted to protect their investments. A sudden, legally imposed emancipation would undermine their lifestyles. This does not mean they were all opposed to the end of slavery. Many of them were preparing for the end. The Confederate constitution even placed greater limits on slavery than the United States constitution did. The slave owners who accepted abolition wanted a transitional means of ending slavery that would allow them recoup their investments in slaves and make the transition to non-slave farming in an economically feasible way.

The Yankee capitalists in contrast needed many things. They needed to secure the supply of raw materials, such as cotton, that they received from the South. They needed a paid work force to whom they could sell their goods. The desired a strong central government that would protect their corporations and promote their investments. And, in the end, they profited massively off the the war economy.

 
 
Part 3: Myths and false views

It is important to negative some common myths regarding the civil war.

[1] Like any other war, it was not a matter of good vs evil. Neither side was right. The north committed many atrocities against the South, including some actions that less than a century later would be defined as war crimes and lead to the death penalty or imprisonment of a nation's leaders. The military draft of the North was an evil akin to slavery. And Yankee industrialists did, and still do, use workers as pawns in their own power struggles, undermining the welfare of the worker for the profit of the CEO. In contrast the slave owner was expected to maintain the welfare of his slaves from birth to death, even during weak economies. Neither side was right.

[2] The North did not promote the rights of minorities. The Lincoln administration had strongly anti-Indian policies. Many Northern states did not allow blacks to have state citizenship or the right to vote until well after the war. In Northern states, blacks were barred from many jobs and labor unions for up to a century after the war. To this day, most northern neighborhoods and many northern schools remain segregated.

[3] It has been implied that the north did not profit off of slavery. But many of the slave traders were Yankees. Some of the greatest profits made off of cotton were made by Yankee textile mills that acquired cheap cotton from southern plantations. Before the Civil War, the Northern states gradually eliminated slavery. Rarely did they free their slaves. More often, they simply sold their slaves to slave holders in states that still had legal slavery. After they profited by selling their own slaves to southerners, then they asked those same southerners to give up their slaves that they had bought from Yankees at an economic loss. This tragic double standard contributed to the hostilities of the war.

 
  Above, we have used the Civil War as an example of how life does not divide along lines of right and wrong, or good and evil. -We hope this example does not appear misleadingly specific. The same lack of clear distinctions apply to all large scale human conflicts and most individual conflicts.  

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