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Op-Ed: Trump re-writes the Civil War; presents alternative facts

BY STATE SENATOR JAMES SANDERS, JR.

Who’s smarter than a 5th grader? – Not President Donald Trump. The Commander-in-Chief made some very public gaffs last week when he questioned the cause or need for the Civil War. He also praised former President Andrew Jackson, stating that if Jackson had been President at the time, the war could have been avoided. That would have been quite an astonishing accomplishment indeed, since Jackson died 16 years before the war started.

Trump later clarified his statement by saying that Jackson, who passed away in 1845, saw the war coming. Therefore, if he had lived and still been in office, he could have turned the tide. Of course, many, from historic scholars to everyday citizens, scoffed at this notion, because most evidence suggests that this is not true. A battle over slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War, although there were also other factors including economic issues and battles over state rights.

Trump’s revisionist history is one that would have allowed the slavery to continue. Slavery was an abomination and not in the spirit of the constitution. It is likely that Jackson, who was a slaveholder himself, would have widened the rift between North and South, not brought people closer together.

Jackson owned approximately 150 slaves, according to the website for The Hermitage, his former plantation and occasional home in Tennessee. Jackson refused to take a moral position on the expansion of slavery. He also sent thousands of Native Americans down the Trail of Tears, forcing them to leave the homes of their ancestry in the Southeastern United States and settle west of the Mississippi River. Along the way, thousands died from exposure to the elements, starvation and disease.

Trump called Jackson a strong person with a good heart. When he visited the former president’s tomb in March, he referred to him as the “people’s president,” and said that the residents of Tennessee love Andrew Jackson. Indeed, there are those who have appreciated Jackson’s fighting spirit and ability to communicate with common folk. Some might say Trump also possess those very same characteristics and they are part of the billionaire businessman’s appeal.

Like most of the stuff that comes out of Trump’s mouth, his thoughts and beliefs about the Civil War are truly frightening because they signal either stupidity or ignorance in the leader of the free world. The causes of the Civil War are discussed in elementary schools, colleges and are the subjects of numerous books. Even immigrants, the so-called “bad hombres” that Trump wants to wall out of our country need to correctly name a cause of the Civil War in order to pass a citizenship test.

It is said that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.  I think it would do President Trump a lot of good to educate himself about his own country’s past before he speaks about its future.

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