Few things in American history confuse me like the U.S. Civil War. I have spent time surrounded by its monuments, memorials, and museums, living for a few years outside Gettysburg, PA. What I can't quite work out is why...? Why would Northern brother, cousin, uncle be so willing to fight to their death against their Southern brother, cousin, uncle just to keep the United States of America as one nation? So many questions...
Why is the right to secede not a right core to a democracy? If a state feels so at odds and unrepresented by their parent nation why should they not be able to withdraw from it? Is this freedom not one that should be most sacredly preserved when a nation is formed from many states?
In the Civil War the Northerners were certainly not primarily fighting for the freedom of African Americans. That I could have understood as a reason to go to war, to liberate an oppressed people. Giving your life for that sort of a cause makes sense to this modern, arguably enlightened man. But while the North was somewhat more enlightened than the South on this issue, they certainly did not see African Americans as equals and it would be a rare Northerner willing to die for that particular cause.
Why could the North not just let the South go? I vaguely understand the Northern industrial and free farming folks were in an economic battle with the almost wholly agrarian South and its plantation and cheaper slave labor. But that's enough for a war, and not just a civilized parting of the union with peacefully signed free trade agreements?
What would it take for me now to be willing to take up arms against my cousin, uncle, or brother? I can imagine nothing, certainly not a mere secession. But 750,000 dead soldiers can't be wrong, they must have deeply felt their reasons were the right ones. I just wish I understood them.