Journalism In Verse


Schooling John Kelly: A Brief History of “Civil” Compromise

in Politics/U.S. by

Compromise means deciding a slave equals 3/5 of a person. Compromise means that for every free state that joins the union, you have to let a slave state in. Compromise means passing the Fugitive Slave Act so that masters can recapture their “runaway property.” Compromise means ending Radical Reconstruction. Radical means Mississippi has a black senator. Radical means arguing that slave owners shouldn’t receive reparations for the wartime loss of their “property.” Radical means passing the 14th Amendment. Radical means enforcing the 14th Amendment. Radical means black juries trying the KKK. Compromise means Reconstruction in moderation. Compromise means passing the Civil Rights Act of 1871, but not administering it for almost 100 years. Compromise means ending Reconstruction to win a presidential election. Compromise means letting southern whites have Jim Crow if they really want it. Compromise means fighting for change gradually. Compromise means a Separate but Equal for a century. Compromise means delaying progress for fear of government overreach. Compromise means using human rights as a bargaining chip when you’ve already got yours. Compromise means turning away refugees and then deciding later that mass murder was actually happening. Compromise means supporting DACA recipients while deporting their parents. Compromise means blaming “both sides” when one of the sides is advocating genocide. Compromise means saying “there are very fine people on both sides” when one of the sides contains Nazis. Compromise means building a border wall to save DACA recipients. Compromise means claiming we need to hear “both sides” as though white supremacists deserve equal time. As though they’ve never been able to speak. As though we’ve never heard their positions. As though free speech means unlimited hate speech without opposition. As though protesting white supremacy equals oppression. As though men and women of the Confederacy could simultaneously defend slavery and be people of “good faith.” As though telling us we need to compromise hasn’t always been part of maintaining the status quo. As though the Devil hasn’t always had an advocate.


White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly Coming Under Criticism For Recent Remarks [ NPR ]

John Kelly is wrong: Slavery, not lack of compromise, caused the Civil War [ The Washington Post ]

John Kelly’s Bizarre Mythology of the Civil War [ The New Yorker ]

Abigail Carl-Klassen has been published in ZYZZYVA, Cimarron Review, Guernica, Aster(ix) and Post Road. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets 2015. She earned an MFA from the University of Texas El Paso’s Bilingual Creative Writing Program and taught at El Paso Community College and the University of Texas El Paso.

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