Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Lost Cause

It should, unfortunately, be obvious to all of us that, no matter what barbarities are perpetrated on us by out of control, violent haters with guns, the Republican party is so in thrall to their corporate masters that there is never, in the foreseeable future, going to be a chance to stop them from polluting our country with more and more guns, in the hands of people so out of control that they shouldn't be allowed to own a slingshot.  So, if we are to have any hope of a better society, we must turn to something different.  This is my suggestion for how to do it, or at least a necessary way to start.

We need to attack the grotesque irrationality that has allowed an endless succession of malicious  notions to flourish on the right.  They start with things like denying the existence climate change or Keynesian economics, subjects which require some degree of knowledge to understand, and are, consequently easy prey for liars. And once people get accustomed to believing the word of corporate shills, or just whatever they want to believe, it's only a short step to claiming that liberals are the real racists, in fact they are really Nazis, that people who actually know something are in a vast conspiracy to destroy freedom, that the world is 6,000  years old, that the twice-elected President is a Communist Muslim plant dedicated to crushing the country, that cutting taxes raises revenue, or any other evil, self serving thing they can think of.

I don't want to write about this in general here; we all know it is true.  I only want to talk about one particularly malicious specimen of this behavior; one that is not mentioned that much these days, but which, in its conception and its results, is one of the worst of all of these delusions: the notion of the "Lost Cause."  This is a horrible falsehood which has existed now for close to two hundred years, and which initially flourished in the aftermath of the (God, why do we still have to talk about this?) Civil War.  Here's a good brief description:

"In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, a number of white southern writers and political leaders worked to construct a favorable history of the old South and the Confederacy.  Seeking vindication of the white South in the wake of seemingly crushing defeat, they resurrected pro-white southern imagery and ideology of earlier years.  In doing so, these advocates for the white South constructed a “Lost Cause” mythology and memory of the Civil War and white southern history and culture.  Specifically, they celebrated the South’s natural beauty and idyllic plantations, supported a white supremacist racial hierarchy in southern society, claimed liberty as a southern principle and the American Revolution as southern heritage, wrapped their sectionalism in a constitutional theory of state sovereignty, and nostalgically glorified the southern past.  In pushing these ideas, these postwar “Lost Causers,” such as former Confederate president Jefferson Davis and the then-famous Virginia journalist Edward Pollard-whose 1866 book, The Lost Cause, probably coined the phrase with its title-picked up where earlier white southern advocates had left off, working to construct a public memory that would sustain earlier white southern advocates’ vision of an ideal South and white southerners."

And a little more:


"Many people have made the point that, for all their alleged disdain for “revisionist” history, those who hold to a “Southern” view of the war are themselves embracing an explicitly revisionist historical narrative. It’s a narrative that was carefully crafted in the decades following the Civil War to exonerate the Confederate cause, depict Southern leaders in the most flattering and noble way possible, and to undermine or denigrate the Union effort to highlight the contrast. This effort, which lies at the core of the Lost Cause, probably reached its zenith in the second decade of the 20th century. But with a few concessions to modern sensibilities — e.g., “faithful slaves” have now become “black Confederate soldiers” — the narrative remains largely as it was a century ago, and is held dear by many. But great longevity doesn’t make a revisionist narrative any less revisionist."

It is important to understand that the proliferation of this tendentious, nonsensical history, was a product of an implicit bargain:  In return for Southerners ceasing their treasonous, evil and murderous years-long rampage and returning to the role of decent citizens, the rest of us would agree to let them pretend that they were noble patriots struggling to preserve the natural order of things, rather than the killers and traitors they were.  So, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee were let go, their criminal followers were allowed to return to their former lives unpunished, and we all assumed that an end had come to that. 

Except, of course, for the inevitable fact that, being right wingers, they refused to keep their end of the deal.  The vicious abuse of former slaves continues to this day, fueled by an absolute refusal to accept the truth about what happened, and the demagogues who are so plentiful in their midst still insist on portraying them as the true victims of the era of slavery and the war that took 600,000 lives to end it.

So, we are not going to get reasonable restriction on guns any time soon, but at the very least, we can come down hard on the right wing liars who incite damaged creatures like Dylann Storm Root to carry out their terrorist acts.  This means that, from now on, none of us should ever let a reference to anything good that supposedly came out of Southern treason to go unanswered.  We must recognize the Confederate flag for what it is: the American swastika.  We must never tolerate again the supreme lie that the the Southern rebellion was about anything other than allowing the 1.2% of Southerners that owned slaves to continue living off the misery of others.  We must make it clear that all of them, including the supposedly saintly Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were deeply evil people who betrayed their country to maintain one of the greatest possible crimes against humanity- people who were granted their freedom in return for some sort of display of regret for their behavior- a display which never materialized.

And as a specific, many of us were forced to memorize the Gettysburg Address in school.  There is another document that needs equal exposure to that short speech: the so-called "Corner Stone Speech" delivered in 1861 by Alexander Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederacy, which lays out the true purpose of the Southern rebellion.  Here is a sample; the link will take you to the rest, if you can stand it:

"The new constitution (of the Confederacy) has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution...The prevailing ideas entertained by (Thomas Jefferson) and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away...Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."

There is the unvarnished, ugly truth, and it is time to cram it down the throats of Rush Limbaugh, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, Bill O'Reilly and every other right wing hater that denies this.  It is that denial that is currently able to hear the most clear statements from Dylann Storm Root himself about the racist, white supremacist nature of his cause, and invent any kind of utterly ludicrous lie that serves to deny the obvious truth.

We cannot afford that denial any more.  We cannot afford to leave unchallenged the disgusting, hateful beliefs that allow it to exist.  If we cannot stop miserable little worms like Dylann Storm Root from getting their hands on lethal weapons, we must at least deny right wing leaders our consent to spread their hatred without challenge, in a manner that will inevitably produce more Dyall Storm Roots.  At this point, we cannot live with the forebearance that led our ancestors to let the Southern traitors go home in peace, to believe anything they chose, if only they would stop murdering people in the name of one of the most hateful causes in human history.  It is the duty of every American with a decent heart to not shy away from confronting the evil that has infected our country.  Sorry, this is not a solution that promises any quick progress toward ending something that is clearly a monstrous evil in the eyes of any sane person, but I just can't think of anything else to do.

_______________________________________________________________________

A couple more sites about the Lost Cause, if you are interested:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Cause_of_the_Confederacy
http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Lost_Cause_of_the_South
http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/lost-cause-religion

I don't want anyone to think there is a bit of question about what happened here.  Offering this deal, in a spirit of magnanimity, was a tragic mistake.  We now see the tremendous damage that was done when we allowed the Southerners' hateful myth to outlive their treason; it is time to correct that error.

16 comments:

Infidel753 said...

Great post. You nailed it. The truth about history has to be put out there, forcefully and without equivocating, and the lies never left unchallenged.

Green Eagle said...

Thanks, Infidel. You know I have great respect for your knowledge and judgment, so your opinion means a lot to me.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful piece to be sure, but try to explain rational ideas about nearly anything to a person who has not been taught critical thinking sometime. It can be discouraging. They end up saying something about how much they love America and see anyone who is critical of it as "the enemy". When challenged they dig in their heels a little deeper while steadfastly sticking to their anti-intellectual and racist and self righteous position.

Magpie said...

Nothing so difficult to tackle as a myth that serves a worldview belonging to someone who has already decided reason, facts and decency are not for them.

Green Eagle said...

You know what, though? As amazed as I am to hear myself saying this, I think this Dylann asshole may have actually broken something in the right wing wall of lies. What he did, and the initial reaction to it by right wingers, may just be so out of joint with reality, that a lot of people just can't accept the lies any more. The way I feel is similar to how I remember feeling after the Watergate scandal broke, and it became more and more obvious that Nixon was through. It wasn't so monumental in itself, but it was so inconsistent with the Republican narrative that it actually shifted the whole American political zeitgeist away from the Republicans. Of course, they found a way to come back worse than ever, but maybe this time, before they regroup, some good things might happen. Just call me Pollyanna, I guess.

Anonymous said...

More people get killed daily from DWI's. How people still drive after they get caught?
My point being if someone has harming others in mind they will find a way.
Too bad the president doesn't have unifying words

Green Eagle said...

Screw you, Anonymous. There is nothing that Obama could ever say or do to make the collection of hate and greed filled scum who call themselves Conservatives join with anyone, or ever do a thing just because it is the right thing to do.

Magpie said...

I was going to reply to the second Anon's comment there yesterday but my local internet connectivity had issues... but I saved the draft:

“Too bad the president doesn't have unifying words”

You feel the need to have the president make you feel warm and fuzzy over 9 innocent people slaughtered for a lie?
That’s going to make the morning cornflakes go down a bit easier huh? For you. Just a warm voice next to a fireplace telling you how wonderful America is, really.

What words could he have that could possibly unify white supremacist assholes with gun fetishes... with reasonable and peaceful people?

What they want is never going to be possible in any decent advanced nation. Their seat at the table inevitably means blood all over the tablecloth.
150 fucking years of believing anything worthwhile was at stake fighting for traitors in the business of owning other human beings… has got to end.

The nauseating spectacle of gutless Republican crawlers do or not do everything they can to not alienate some of the most intellectually enfeebled twits in the country...

It’s not complicated – the people who incite people to kill for some dumbass Dixie fantasy are scum and need to be seen as such, and fuck their vote.

Dan said...

The south has never stopped fighting the Civil War. They are gradually turning the USA into the oligarchy that the old south functioned as. The Revolutionary War was also fought against an oligarchy type of system.
Conservatives who vote for the oligarchy promoters aren't all southern heritage people.
What I find frustrating is not just their lack of knowledge, but their refusal to even want to know. Indeed, many of them go out of their way to avoid knowing.
I get the they "love our country more" bit also. They claim to revere the founders, but support anti-democratic policies like voter suppression. They somehow missed out that the founders were mainly progressives
The misery inflicted by the 1.2% was not just on the slaves, there were indentured servants that were often treated worse than the slaves because they had no value (couldn't be sold) after their indenture term was over.

Ed said...

The Oxford English Dictionary (American) put it thus: A person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them. If you doubt in modern America, you are not a slave, be advised you are delusional.

The War of Northern Aggression was about tariffs and northern economic imperialism. The North was protectionist. The South was free trade. The North wanted to finance its economic development by forcing the South to pay higher prices for manufactured goods. The North passed the Morrill Tariff which more than doubled the tariff rate to 32.6% and provided for a further hike to 47%. The tariff diverted the South's profits on its agricultural exports to the coffers of Northern industrialists and manufacturers. The tariff was designed to redirect the South's expenditures on manufactured goods from England to the higher cost goods produced in the North.

This is why the South left the union, a right of self-determination under the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

Ed, did you even read what Stevens said? If it was all about economic self determination, and the South's economic system was founded on slavery, then what difference does it make how you phrase it? The South was fighting to keep slavery, and every single person who wore a Confederate uniform was a traitor to the United States.

Ed said...

@ Anonymous
No, I read what Stephens said. So what? Politicians are liars. Did you read what Dr. Paul Craig Roberts said?
Confederate Flag History Lesson

Green Eagle said...

Ed, if politicians are liars, then I guess you will admit that the politician who invented the bogus argument you summarize above, John C. Calhoun, was a liar too, leaving us with nothing.

In a sense, you are right: the Southern argument was economic, but only because its economy would be crushed without slave labor. Although it hasn't attracted as much attention as other things he said, I suggest you examine the analysis of the Northern and Southern U.S. economic situation in the period before the Civil War, contained in Thomas Piketty;s recent book. In fact,as he shows, the only thing that made the Southern economy work was the free labor provided by slaves. To make Calhoun's economic argument is really to accept slavery as legitimate; the two positions are actually one and the same.

Ed said...

@ Green Eagle
So by robbing the South, the North was forcing the South to use slavery to survive. Now I get it.
Look, slavery was becoming bad economics. It was on it's way out. A war to eliminate it was not necessary. The Truth About Slavery: Past, Present and Future

Green Eagle said...

What the hell are you talking about? Slavery is evil. You might as well say that people are forcing you to mug people in order to survive. The whole point is that it is wrong to have slaves, whether you survive or not. Can you be so morally degenerate that you don't understand that?

And just to set things straight, the notion that slavery was on the way out is totally false. From 1800 to 1860, the number of slaves in the South had continually increased from about 900,000 to over three million.

I am not going to comment further about this malicious falsehood, because I have become tired of wasting my time disproving the endless supply of contentious bunk that passes for history on the right. This is seemingly a (relatively new) deliberate tactic to muddy the waters on every issue, consequent on the fact that the Conservative position on practically everything is patently wrong.

It is obvious that the Southern slave owners were making so much money from slavery would never have voluntarily given up their slaves, any more than the Koch brothers are about to give up the income they make destroying the environment. To think otherwise is to display a complete ignorance of human nature.

Green Eagle said...

And by the way, may I add the observation that Ed's source for his claims is a video. I have noted a couple of times before that right wingers have seemingly lost the capacity to read, since they seem to always resort to these videos to make their point.