Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"A Question Of Compromise (Cont'd)

At the Eleventh Hour of History, two high-ranking representatives, one from the North, the other from the South, have come together to negotiate a way to avert the Civil War.  As a nod towards compromise, the Representative from the South has proposed what he views as a breakthrough concerning the insurmountable issue of slavery – The South will free its slaves for one day a week.  Upon hearing this proposal, the Representative from the North was reported to have snorted Bourbon out of his nose.

We return now to their deliberations, in a colloquy only recently discovered in the remote recesses of a writer’s imagination.

NORTHERN REPRESENTATIVE:  This is totally outrageous!

SOUTHERN REPRESENTATIVE:  “A reasonable proposal”, outrageous?  I am not following you, suh.

N:  You are suggesting as an effort to turn the heat down on the most contentious issue dividing the two regions of our country that you will free your slaves for one day a week?

S:  Precisely.  A good faith proposal to help defuse our current difficulties.  And may I say, this was no easily surrendered concession.  Our discussions opened with the suggestion of  “an extended lunch break” and gradually, through a debate process that was frankly not always civil in nature, advanced to our current position – a full day of emanicipation, one day a week. 

N:  And then what?

S:  (WITH A SHRUG)  Back to business as usual.

N:  And how exactly would that work?

S:  The slaves would rise on that day, and rather than heading out to the fields or working in the house, they could instead do whatever they wanted. 

N:  Including running away?

S:  If they came back the next morning.  Emancipation has its limits.

N:  No, it doesn’t.

S:  It does in this proposal.

N:  That’s not exactly “freedom.”

S:  For one day it is.  We are not offering to abandon indentured servitude, just the “full time” version of it, which I suggest is a major adjustment in our position.  Till now, and for centuries past, our slavery arrangement has been “wall-to-wall.”  You must acknowledge, from the way you view things, this is unquestionably a step in the right direction.

N:  And this is your side’s idea for averting a civil war?

S:  Partly. 

N:  You mean there is more to your proposal?

S:  No, that’s all there is.

N:  Then what are we talking about?

S:  What we are talking about is not only a demonstration of the willingness of our side to bend, but also a one-day-per-week “Laboratory of Adjustment.”   Our unpaid employees get their feet wet concerning what this “freedom thing” is all about, and the people of my station get a preliminary taste of a future in which we’d be entirely without them. 

N:  Which would be when?

S:  We’ll get back to you on that point.  The point here is, our proposal comes in the service of not just compromise, but also practice.

N:  Mr. Southern Representative, acknowledging our side’s appreciation of an accommodation I am sure was not easy for you to arrive at, your proposal, with respect, sir, is eminently ridiculous.

S:  Not to the people most directly involved.  I canvassed my workforce, and to a man, they overwhelmingly preferred six days or backbreaking effort to seven.             

N:  Did you canvas them about backbreaking effort for which they’d be paid?

S:  Why is it always “all or nothing” with you people?

N:  Because slavery, an institution that you are currently not offering to abandon, is an indelible blot on this nation’s history, and an unholy abomination.

S:  On that point, I shall respectfully and understandably, considering my circumstances, abstain.  However, following your argument, would it not be a decidedly positive move to have one day less of that “unholy abomination” per week?  I mean, who's being uncompromising on this matter – us or you?

N:  Compromise is not always an option.

S:  It is if we want it to be.  Did we not once hammer out an agreement by which the Negro was deemed to be three-fifths of a person? 

N:  I voted against that.

S:  Point taken, but it passed.

N:  It’s still crazy.  You insist on a slave being considered property.  And then, in an argument for a greater Southern representation in Congress, that “property” is suddenly a person. 

S:  Not a whole person.

N:  No, three-fifth’s of a person.  Which is even crazier!

S:  It was a compromise. 

N:  An unfathomable one!  How can a slave in one context, be property, and in another – when it suits your side’s purposes – a human being?  In what way does that make any sense?

S:  Legislatively.

N:  Let me be clear on the matter.  Our position is that slavery is unacceptable.  And a “One-day furlough” is nowhere close to the answer.

S:  I have been authorized to go “a day-and-a-half.”  Though not consecutively.

N:  The institution of slavery must be abolished in its entirety. 

S:  But, suh, you are being unreasonable.

N:  There are limits to reason.  And, when it comes to deeply held principles, limits to compromise.     

S:  Does that cut both ways?  Or is it exclusively your deeply held principles?

N:  In all fairness, I would have to admit it’s both.

S:  Then, suh, I have just one thing to say to you.

N:  What’s that?


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