States’ Rights

My father liked history, especially family histories, and he wrote several books.  My mother wanted him to write about her family and he gave it some effort but abandoned the endeavor after claiming there wasn’t enough information available to write an entire book.  He did some research, though, and did document the genealogy of her ancestors in White County, Georgia.

The material is dry reading—mostly just names and dates—but I was bored enough one day to read a little of it, particularly the portion coinciding with the Civil War.  It turns out that several of my relatives served on the side of the Confederacy.  Two or three died during the conflict.  More than two or three deserted, returning to Mossy Creek and other communities in White or Hall counties, Georgia.  My kinfolk deserted?  Some left after just one year or less.  Were they cowards?

In Pickens County where I live, the courthouse flew the Union flag.  Union County to the north of here was named Union for a reason: people in the mountains didn’t have slaves.  They worked like dogs trying to keep small farms going on rough, rocky clay soil, often until the crickets chirped at night.  They resented the fact that they were fighting to secede from the Union to protect the rights of rich slave owners.  So maybe my ancestors weren’t yellow by any means; just class-conscious.

The Civil War’s outcome underscores an implicit fact: states don’t have the right to enact laws contrary to those of the federal government.  Well, what happened to that idea?

Today the Supreme Court is considering voting laws.  Why aren’t voting laws the same in every state?   There are some laws that should be universal to the entire country and voting should be one.  Roe vs. Wade was decided years ago, but now certain states have made it difficult or nearly impossible for a woman to get an abortion.  This was a decision made by the Supreme Court of the United States, not the state of Mississippi.

Marijuana guidelines: how can California, Washington, Colorado, others, have marijuana laws that are at odds with federal statutes?  You can light up on one step inside the pro-pot state but take a step into an anti-pot state with a spliff and you’re a criminal.

Certain laws that apply to inherent problems of individual states are certainly needed, but there’s something very wrong when individual states deny rights or legalize what is contraband elsewhere, or when the same laws are enforced differently across state lines.  My Civil War-fighting ancestors understood this, and so should we. 

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