Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Celebrating the Confederacy is like Germans Celebrating Hitler's Birthday

So, I was looking at the new video recommendations on my YouTube account, and one of the videos was Southern Secession and the Liberal Mind by a writer I've sometimes agreed with named The Southern Avenger. Whereas I've agreed many times with him in the past on his analysis of various political issues, this video blog of his could not be more wrong, more ugly, and just so full of the ignorance of the American Civil War, that it's just not funny.

In his video, he explains that northerners who criticize southern celebrations of confederate heroes, or loving remembrances of the Confederacy are ignorant of the "heritage" of the country, and do not appreciate how Southerners feel about their history. My brief description won't do justice to the full video, but in essence, he defends people who have "confederate pride" as simply historically informed individuals who don't want us to forget our history.

That is why he is wrong. Every argument with people who celebrate the south's part in the civil war eventually gets to the mention of slavery. If you argue the civil war with any of these confederate pride types, one of the first arguments that you will hear is that "Slavery wasn't quite as nasty as it was made out to be... You need to realize that the winners of the war got to write the history... The war was about unfair taxes, not about slavery..."

All of these arguments were promoted in the above video, but I've heard them before from other people. The people who make these arguments are just wrong, and they are wrong because they are not informed by history. The irony is that the very writings of Jefferson Davis betray the notion that the war wasn't about slavery. The Confederate papers, The Constitution of the Confederacy, and the writings of the leaders of the confederacy are very weak on taxes and economic issues, and verbose on slavery and abolitionists.

The reason that the people who celebrate the confederacy always have to avoid the issue of Slavery, and try to downplay it by lying about it's role in the war is simple. If it were not for slavery, there would never have been a civil war, and in order to make the confederacy more palatable to people who actually appreciate freedom, the ugly side of the confederacy has to be covered up, and more emphasis must me made on the alleged conservative and family values of the people who were called Confederates. Unfortunately, in doing this, historical facts are forgotten, propaganda is used, and the Southerners showing pride in their beloved history end up being more like Germans who try to celebrate the Nazis as a cherished part of their national heritage.

Yeah, I used the N word. Tough! I know that it's usually the death knell for an argument, but hear me out, because it will all make sense when my article is complete.

The writings of the Confederacy

Take the address to the confederacy that Jefferson Davis gave at Montgomery on April 29, 1861. You will note that the words, "Tax" and "Tariff" do not appear at all, nor does any language pertaining to money or finance. What does appear frequently, however, is "slavery". The entire speech is all about slavery and it's preservation. The rest of the speech concerns preparing for war against the north, which destroys the idea that the Confederacy was seeking peaceful coexistence, and trying to avoid war.

If Secession was not about racism or slavery, then why would Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens have written "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."? (From his Cornerstone speech, March 21, 1861)

If Secession was not about Slavery, then why would the constitution of the Confederacy, as well as the constitutions of Confederate states like Alabama, look pretty much just like the Constitution of the United States, with the only real differences being sections that protect slavery, and prohibit emancipation of slaves by the government?

The reality of "State's Rights"

To really grasp the utter idiocy of modern people defending the honor of the south and the Confederacy, let's look at the reality behind the so-called "State's Rights". As we know, State's Rights was the argument that the south used as a reason for breaking away from the Union. We also heard this "State's Rights" argument rear itself during the civil rights era, personified in the likes of former Alabama Governor George Wallace. Modern supporters of the confederacy will often still refer to States Rights when arguing for more respect for southern pride and the preservation of southern heritage (respecting the confederacy).

What kind of things constituted the rights that states were asking for? Essentially, the reality of state's rights seems to be that a state should be allowed to violate the rights of minorities and people whose views are less popular than the views of white protestant conservative Christians. I reach this conclusion by simply looking at the things that the south has traditionally done in defiance of the north.

  • When your state wants to allow guys in white sheets to murder black people or white people who help them, and not prosecute any of them, that's your state's right.
  • When your state wants to allow lynchings, and willfully obstructs the federal government from conducting a criminal investigation of a lynching, that's your state's right.
  • When your state wants to prevent black people from enrolling in college to get an education, and your governor personally blocks the way to the admissions office to stop black people from enrolling in a state college, which their family's tax dollars paid for, that's your state's right.
  • When your state wants to segregate black people and white people the way that Saudi Arabia and Iran segregate men and women in their society, that's your state's right.
  • When your state's public buildings and many businesses have 3 types of restrooms -- men, women and "black", which both black men and women have to share, that's your state's right.
  • When your state gerrymanders voting districts so that black neighborhoods deliberately have poorer representation (or no representation), that's your state's right.
  • When your state actively prevents black voters from voting, by having different standards that apply only to black voters, that's your state's right.
  • When your state allows a 14-year-old black boy to be abducted in broad daylight with plenty of eyewitnesses, then be beaten to death beyond recognition by his well-known abductors, and the trial of his killers is manipulated so that they not only get away with it, but boast of their guilt afterward, and still go unpunished, that's your state's right.
  • When your state allows a church to be bombed, which kills four young children, and local law enforcement doesn't cooperate with the FBI's investigation, and it takes decades for the killers to be arrested and prosecuted, that's your state's right.

That's the stark reality of so-called state's rights. It's just a smokescreen for saying what, in plain English, would be too ugly to admit -- that you want states to be allowed to violate the constitutional rights of certain groups of citizens, plain and simple. Whenever you hear the phrase "state's rights" being bandied about by the jokers who are arguing for revision on the civil war, or trying to white-wash the racist history of America, just tell them that you understand, and fling a few of the above bullet-points at them. If it doesn't leave them speechless, it will certainly provoke their anger, and soon enough, their inner Klansman will become too obvious.