Black people who were never slaves, are fighting white people who were never Nazis, over a confederate statue erected by Democrats, because Democrats can’t stand their own history anymore… yet, somehow it’s Trump’s fault.” — Jeff Laffite Jones

Apologies to Thomas Paine, but these are the times that try our understanding of who we really are and what we stand for. We’re all looking for the right quotation or pithy observation, all rolled up in a neat little package, so we can point to it and say, “That’s what I’m talking about!” The observation at the start of this column has been the most recent quote of the week, maybe even month, on social media.

One link that is clearly accurate about this chain of observations is “Democrats can’t stand their own history anymore.” That’s because the Democratic Party that had a lock on Southern voters before the civil rights movement that started almost 70 years ago have morphed into the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Jeff Laffite Jones, who is credited with this quotation, resides in that wing.

The top 10 list of most politically conservative states, according to a recent Gallup Poll, includes six Southern states that had been proudly Democratic between the 1860’s and 1950’s. Part of that was because of a continuing resentment against a Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves. Before that, Lincoln’s liberal views, convinced them to, state by state, secede from the union.

Those six in the top 10 all seceded starting in December of 1860 and through the spring of 1861. They include the first to secede, South Carolina, and the three states rated the most conservative— Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. The other two are Arkansas and Tennessee. Eleven states left the Union to ignite the American Civil War, and only three of them— Florida, North Carolina and Virginia—aren’t listed among the 20 most politically conservative in the Gallup poll.

Nobody is more conservative than Glenn Beck, and he offers why these former Democratic bastions are Tea Party faithful:

“My theory on this is, the way the parties have moved.  The Democratic Party has become so liberal, that people that are part of it are embarrassed about being Democrats…”

And today’s Democrats might feel the same way about being affiliated with these Southern states. Things change— even the basic tenets of a political party.

It is a fact that Lyndon Johnson in 1964 was the last Democrat to win the white vote nationwide and much of what has happened since can be credited to the bright red states of the South.

Democrats of the post-Civil War South have become today’s most conservative Republicans.

Secondly, to insinuate that the so-called institution of slavery is a nonfactor today, is diminishing its evils. Slavery was still in force, followed by lynching and other horrors of Jim Crow, for the parents and grandparents of many African Americans my age. You were never a slave! C’mon, get over it!

The most deceptive link in this misguided chain of logic is describing the haters who came to Charlottesville with KKK slogans, swastika symbolism and weapons of violence as “white people who were never Nazis.” The point is that many of them are Nazis. They sow and nourish the same prejudices, promoting violence and the eradication of the opposition, as those who followed Adolf Hitler in Germany. Nazi is not a group of people in a different country at a different time. It is a system of beliefs known as Nazism and, even seven decades after Hitler, it will not go away.

“The irony should be obvious to all: the values of today’s Tea Party faction-led Republican Party — very conservative, against helping the poor, the oppressed, and those in society who have been marginalized, against federal solutions to national problems — are diametrically opposed to the values of Lincoln.,” wrote Joseph Lazzaro for International Business Times three weeks before Charlottesvile.

Nazism is merely a form of fascism, defined by The Free Dictionary as:  A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, a capitalist economy subject to stringent governmental controls, violent suppression of the opposition, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

I think kids in the South, North, West and East of these United States should grow up learning about the Civil War and those who fought for the cause on both sides. Robert E. Lee was a great general. The soldiers who fought under him were, in many ways, dedicated to the values of the antebellum south, and, though outnumbered both in manpower and technology, came amazingly close to winning the war. We need to learn from our past, and how we came so close to losing the battle against slavery. That won’t happen by getting rid of our history, whether it is toppling statues or burning books.

When does a statue, a monument or even a Confederate flag become a tribute to bigotry, even slavery, and not just an acknowledgement of history? I’m trying to work this out myself, but it’s going to take serious self-examination by all of us, not simplistic quotes.