Eds. note: On the 150th anniversary of The Civil War, that chapter in the countryâ€™s history remains a controversial one. To gain perspective, we turn to the worldâ€™s oldest man, former Alabama slave, Olâ€™ Clementine. At 236 years old, he participated in some of the key battles of the Civil War.
Everybody keep talking about the â€˜Civil War.â€™ â€˜Civil Warâ€™ this.Â â€˜Civil Warâ€™ that. All I hear nowadays. Who want to keep talking about that? Sound like a bunch of damn fools. I guess itâ€™s an anniversary so that make sense, but itâ€™s bunch of nonsense mostly. I guess I gotta forgive folks; they wasnâ€™t around when that war began. I was. Clementine gonâ€™ tell you how it really got started.
It was back on April 12, 1861, a Tuesday if I remember correctly. I was 86 years old and mostly retired from my days on Master-whatâ€™s-his-nameâ€™s (forgive me, itâ€™s been so long) farm. He dead now like everybody else. Though I was retired, I used to still wake up before 4-a.m.-oâ€™clock-in-the-morning five days out the week just to work them fields and show those young boys how to do it. Would go late into the night. Died three times â€˜neath the Alabama sun and each time, after some minutes, got right back to work. Thatâ€™s how much I loved it out there.Â And thatâ€™s what makes me special. I seen folks die out in them fields and Iâ€™m always like, why that fool donâ€™t get back up? Die on your own time. I works down here in a factory in Alabama to this day, for no pay of course, and I die about four times a week. Donâ€™t see me whining about it.
Anyway, I was talking about how that Yankee Aggressive War got start. It was one of them special days. We call â€˜em cartoons cause they had cartoon birds and bees and butterflies just flying round our heads like in Song of the South, that old Disney movie they try to pretend donâ€™t exist, but I seen it on the Youtubes. Yep, olâ€™ Clementine know how to work the internet. Iâ€™m the only former slave that got a Myspace page.
On that day, them cartoon bees was buzzing around my head and I didnâ€™t near find them as amusing as Uncle Remus. Cartoon bees got them cartoon stingers. So I was swatting â€˜em and shooing them little smiling blue birds because they kept shitting all over my head. Theyâ€™d shit and then smile and circle my head and shit some more. I was usually a-zip-a-dee-doo-dahing it up like the rest of my folks in the fields, but them cartoon animals was annoying. We sure did love to be out there. While I was wiping some of that cartoon crap from my head, this one guy come running up. He say them Yankees starting to get â€˜ggressive. I was like, â€œWhatâ€™s ‘â€˜ggressive?â€™â€ He say, â€˜You know when someone want to start fighting.â€™â€ I stood there scratching my head because Olâ€™ Clementine know a lot of words, but I ainâ€™t know that one. We went inside and found a dictionary and you know what, turns out this fool meant â€˜aggressive,’ with an â€˜a.â€™
So theys all like, â€œWhat we gonna do?â€ One negro was like, â€œLetâ€™s get some weapons and go fight for the Yankees and then we can be free.â€ I popped that boy in the mouth. We was treated so good. Only some fool tricked by them white abolitionists want to be â€˜free.â€™ I said: â€œFool, this ainâ€™t about no slavery. This here aggression is about Stateâ€™s Rights. We donâ€™t win this war the Supreme Court say we gotta kill unborn babies and then one day maybe we have ourselves one of those negro Asalamalakum negroes from Kenya as president. You want that?â€
Well, my folks get to gasping and grumbling and even the guy I popped come around.
First, we went to olâ€™ Master-whatâ€™s-his-name. He start equivocating and mumbling. Say he got to talk to some other white folks. We waiting around half a day and donâ€™t hear nothing from him. Iâ€™m getting itchy to solve this situation and them folks is just talking and them Yankees are getting more and more aggressive. Only a matter of time before they get to this plantation and seize the place and tell us weâ€™s free. Who want that? Eventually, I gathered up my folks and we got some weapons and we found them Yankees and got mighty aggressive with them.
After that battle, we started calling it â€œThe War of Yankee Aggression.â€ The name caught on, but then ran outta steam after we lost the war and them Yanks came and told me I was out of a job. Saddest day of my life.
Always liked “The War of Yankee Aggressionâ€ better than any of the other names they gave it. “Civil War” donâ€™t make no sense that I can figure. How a war gonâ€™ be civil? A war start by someone being aggressive and another someone being aggressive right back. Like remember how on 9/11/01 Saddam Hussein got aggressive with us and we turned right round and got aggressive with him?
Yeah, me neither.