Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Afternoon (Not) So Funny: Pat Buchanan Defends Confederate History Month

Lest you think I pick exclusively on bigoted old white men.

I offer little comment on Buchanan's predictable defense of Confederate history month. As the often told joke goes: how did Pat Buchanan's uncle break his neck? He fell out of a tower at Auschwitz. Easily importable back to the lost causers who support the "noble" cause of Secession and forward to their 21st century defenders.

In his own words--and what a perfectly ironic title for a column I must add:

The New Intolerance
by Pat Buchanan

"This was a recognition of American terrorists."

That is CNN's Roland Martin's summary judgment of the 258,000 men and boys who fell fighting for the Confederacy in a war that cost as many American lives as World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq combined.

Martin reflects the hysteria that seized Obamaville on hearing that Gov. Bob McDonnell had declared Confederate History Month in the Old Dominion. Virginia leads the nation in Civil War battlefields.

So loud was the howling that in 24 hours McDonnell had backpedaled and issued an apology that he had not mentioned slavery.

Unfortunately, the governor missed a teaching moment -- at the outset of the 150th anniversary of America's bloodiest war.

Slavery was indeed evil, but it existed in the Americas a century before the oldest of our founding fathers was even born. Five of our first seven presidents were slaveholders.

But Virginia did not secede in defense of slavery. Indeed, when Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated, March 4, 1861, Virginia was still in the Union. Only South Carolina, Georgia and the five Gulf states had seceded and created the Confederate States of America.

At the firing on Fort Sumter, April 12-13, 1865, the first shots of the Civil War, Virginia was still inside the Union. Indeed, there were more slave states in the Union than in the Confederacy. But, on April 15, Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteers from the state militias to march south and crush the new Confederacy.

Two days later, April 17, Virginia seceded rather than provide soldiers or militia to participate in a war on their brethren. North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas followed Virginia out over the same issue. They would not be a party to a war on their kinfolk.

Slavery was not the cause of this war. Secession was -- that and Lincoln's determination to drown the nation in blood if necessary to make the Union whole again.

Nor did Lincoln ever deny it.

In his first inaugural, Lincoln sought to appease the states that had seceded by endorsing a constitutional amendment to make slavery permanent in the 15 states where it then existed. He even offered to help the Southern states run down fugitive slaves.

In 1862, Lincoln wrote Horace Greeley that if he could restore the Union without freeing one slave he would do it. The Emancipation Proclamation of Jan. 1, 1863, freed only those slaves Lincoln had no power to free -- those still under Confederate rule. As for slaves in the Union states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, they remained the property of their owners.

As for "terrorists," no army fought more honorably than Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Few deny that.

The great terrorist in that war was William Tecumseh Sherman, who violated all the known rules of war by looting, burning and pillaging on his infamous March to the Sea from Atlanta to Savannah. Sherman would later be given command of the war against the Plains Indians and advocate extermination of the Sioux.

"The only good Indian is a dead Indian" is attributed both to Sherman and Gen. Phil Sheridan, who burned the Shenandoah and carried out Sherman's ruthless policy against the Indians. Both have statues and circles named for them in Washington, D.C.

If Martin thinks Sherman a hero, he might study what happened to the slave women of Columbia, S.C., when "Uncle Billy's" boys in blue arrived to burn the city.

What of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, at whose request McDonnell issued his proclamation? What racist deeds have they perpetrated of late?

They tend the graves of Confederate dead and place flags on Memorial Day. They contributed to the restoration of the home of Jefferson Davis, damaged by Hurricane Katrina. They publish the Confederate Veteran, a magazine that relates stories of the ancestors they love to remember. They join environmentalists in fighting to preserve Civil War battlefields. They do re-enactments of Civil War battles with men and boys whose ancestors fought for the Union. And they defend the monuments to their ancestors and the flag under which they fought.

Why are they vilified?

Because they are Southern white Christian men -- none of whom defends slavery, but all of whom are defiantly proud of the South, its ancient faith and their forefathers who fell in the Lost Cause.

Undeniably, the Civil War ended in the abolition of slavery and restoration of the Union. But the Southern states believed they had the same right to rid themselves of a government to which they no longer felt allegiance as did Washington, Jefferson and Madison, all slave-owners, who could no longer give loyalty to the king of England.

Consider closely this latest skirmish in a culture war that may yet make an end to any idea of nationhood, and you will see whence the real hate is coming. It is not from Gov. McDonnell or the Sons of Confederate Veterans.


Shady_Grady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shady_Grady said...

The problem is that the South never had to admit that it was wrong. It was beaten and whupped but not long enough. If more of the political/military leaders/prominent slaveowners who sought secession had wound up dancing at the end of a rope for treason at war's end, this sense of a Lost Cause might not still resonate so much.

In postwar Germany no one wanted to admit they had been a Nazi-it was always the other guy. That's what should have happened after the defeat of the Confederacy.

CNu said...

Consider closely this latest skirmish in a culture war that may yet make an end to any idea of nationhood, and you will see whence the real hate is coming.

sho's you right CD....,

and why these fools (and their ilk) don't get called out in the mainstream is utterly mystifying to me.

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

Living here in East Texas, I get tired of people defending the Confederate shit by talking about honoring their ancestors. My ancestors are German Catholics, so should I be out "honoring" the massacres of Protestants during the 30 Years War, anti-Semitism, and the Kaiser?

A colleague of mine who studies Southern history hit the nail on the head for me: the Lost Cause is white identity politics, plain and simple. Oh but wait, according to Pat Buchanan, identity politics is something that "other" people do!

jacked UP jazz said...

You know, every once in a while I try to honor my ancestors by going back to the place they called home. I visit their grave yards and try to make the connections between their existence and my own by reading their tomb stones and remembering their sacrifices which my children are now the most recent beneficiaries. I feel this type of activity is every person's right.

However, not once have I attempted to involve the government in this activity. I do not inject presidents, governors, senators, mailmen, dog catchers, celebrities, journalist or anyone not directly connected to my family. This should be a personal and private endeavor.

So when you cannot honor your heritage without government involvement I have to wonder just what is it that you are really up to.

Just sayin.

chaunceydevega said...

In thinking about this obsession with honoring the Confederacy--a group of traitors to the Constitution and the U.S. by the way. I always phrase it that way as I find it so fascinating that the Confederates are imagined as something noble and good...given that their intent was to sacrifice blood in the service of slavery (the basis of their economy).

Do any of you remember Lee Atwater? political genius of the Right and mentor to Karl Rove? He had a great quote where to paraphrase he said that the South was the only part of the U.S. to lose a war, they are hyper conscious of this fact, and you can use it to win elections by playing on white racial fear and anger.

He was so right.