To the Editor:

I just finished reading a book about the Civil War and the people of the Ozark Mountains in southwest Missouri. There were numerous associations, allegiances, alliances, and rebel groups, including those who did not subscribe to slavery but were states’ righters and resented the conscription, taxing and confiscation rights of the federal government under martial law.

David Hackett Fischer in his book Albion’s Seed says of the people of the southern highlands, “They would become famous in the nineteenth century for the intensity of their xenophobia, and also for the violence of its expression.  

“In the early nineteenth century, they tended to detest the great plantation owners and abolitionists in equal measure. During the Civil War, some fought against both sides. In our own time, they are furiously hostile to both communists and capitalists. The people of the southern highlands have been remarkably evenhanded in their antipathies — which they have applied to all strangers without regard to race, religion or nationality.”

It strikes me how 150 years later, the same conditions of classism, plutocracy, poverty, and polarization and a waning or retrograde democracy has given rise to a similar hostile view of “us versus them.”  

That civilization is but a thin veneer over barbarism is common knowledge.   

“Civilization doesn’t just happen; we have to make it happen,” says Bill Moyers.

And as Mr. Harris urges in his editorial, “Pursuing the Promise,” we must reaffirm and re-dedicate ourselves to the values and principles upon which our democracy was formed.

Patti Nevins