Remembering Appomattox

Here in Australia and also in New Zealand, there have been a lot of memorials commemorating the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli where many Australian & New Zealand soldiers died and where Australian and New Zealand identity within the commonwealth was strengthened.

In the US, April 9th commemorates an important anniversary (although the date is not so widely remembered), the surrender of the Confederate troops at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

The Last Salute

This year marks 150 years since that surrender and its lasting effect on national identity. No longer was the USA, a collection of states, but rather a unified country.

Despite all of our many regional differences, there are some core beliefs that Americans hold true which are that everyone is equal and has a right to pursue their dreams.

It is somewhat of a shame that April 9th is not as widely commemorated as other dates in US history, however you could easily say that is a reflection of the overall legacy of the Civil War itself. CNN posted this article 4 years ago (on the anniversary of the start of the Civil War) about “4 Ways We’re Still Fighting The Civil War,” and this article from Time asks the same question.

Yet, what I find rather fascinating is while there was a rush of articles to commemorate the anniversary of the start of the Civil War, there’s not so many about the end of it, and about the healing and successes since then, which undoubtedly there have been. (Frankly, myself and my whole family are a testament to that.)

The N Word and The F Word

It seems that we are marching towards a new age of tolerance and acceptance. It’s an age where if someone uses the word “fag” as a pejorative then they lose job opportunities (like Brett Ratner losing the chance to produce the Oscars for saying “Rehearsal is for fags.”)

I think it’s a great thing that he lost the job. Now, the question is: who gets to say “fag?” My opinion: No one. There is, in my view, no reclamation by gays being able to say it, just a change in who is doing the repressing.

For the past year, I have run a management consultancy which deals exclusively with workplace discrimination. I would maintain that an uncomfortable work environment is created by the use of the word “fag[got]” no matter the orientation of the speaker. The English language is a living language and one that has history. You do not erase years of discrimination in one fell swoop because who is saying it.

I still bristle at the use of the word “Nigg[-er/-a] in popular culture. It is still used as derogatory language and the more often people cite blacks using it amongst themselves as a reason to use it, the longer it will take for us to be seen as moving forward from our past.

I wonder that by allowing ourselves to still use the language of bigots, are we saying that we aren’t smart enough to find our own ways to describe ourselves? Or are we still in many ways eager to join the majority by dividing and conquering our own brethren?

I’m not a nigger. I’m not a faggot. I’m a person that deserves respect.