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:
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.