celebrating "Treason in Defense of Slavery" month

| 2 Comments | No TrackBacks

Today is the anniversary of the start of the Civil War, when Confederate forces began firing on Fort Sumter. Last Wednesday, Governor Rob McDonnell declared April "Confederate History Month" in Virginia, and did so without even mentioning slavery. Outrage was immediate and widespread; for example, Robert McCartney's WaPo op-ed expressed astonishment at McDonnell's "effective endorsement" of the Confederate cause, noting the following:

The first paragraph said "the people of Virginia" joined the Confederacy in a war "for independence." It said they "fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth." It urged reflection on their "sacrifices." It implied it was too bad they were "ultimately overwhelmed" by the North's "insurmountable" resources.

Nowhere did the original statement condemn or even acknowledge the fact that the South was fighting primarily to defend a society based on slavery, as the Confederacy's own leaders said at the time. It neglected to mention that the state joined the Lost Cause without consulting the one-fourth of Virginians in bondage because of their race.

Bowing to the intense criticism, McDonnell added a paragraph about slavery. Ed Kilgore suggests at TNR that "Neo-Confederate History Month could remind us of the last great effusion of enthusiasm for Davis and Lee and Jackson and all the other avatars of the Confederacy: the white southern fight to maintain racial segregation in the 1950s and 1960s:"

That's when "Dixie" was played as often as the national anthem at most white high school football games in the South; when Confederate regalia were attached to state flags across the region; and when the vast constitutional and political edifice of pre-secession agitprop was brought back to life in the last-ditch effort to make the Second Reconstruction fail like the first.

The NYT overview from Jon Meacham dispenses with reverential rhetoric about Southern culture, issuing a challenge that "If neo-Confederates are interested in history, let's talk history:"

Since Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Confederate symbols have tended to be more about white resistance to black advances than about commemoration. In the 1880s and 1890s, after fighting Reconstruction with terrorism and after the Supreme Court struck down the 1875 Civil Rights Act, states began to legalize segregation. For white supremacists, iconography of the "Lost Cause" was central to their fight; Mississippi even grafted the Confederate battle emblem onto its state flag.

But after the Supreme Court allowed segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, Jim Crow was basically secure. There was less need to rally the troops, and Confederate imagery became associated with the most extreme of the extreme: the Ku Klux Klan.

In the aftermath of World War II, however, the rebel flag and other Confederate symbolism resurfaced as the civil rights movement spread. In 1948, supporters of Strom Thurmond's pro-segregation Dixiecrat ticket waved the battle flag at campaign stops.

Then came the school-integration rulings of the 1950s. Georgia changed its flag to include the battle emblem in 1956, and South Carolina hoisted the colors over its Capitol in 1962 as part of its centennial celebrations of the war.

As the sesquicentennial of Fort Sumter approaches in 2011, the enduring problem for neo-Confederates endures: anyone who seeks an Edenic Southern past in which the war was principally about states' rights and not slavery is searching in vain, for the Confederacy and slavery are inextricably and forever linked.

Matthew Yglesias discusses "Neo-Confederate History" at ThinkProgress, decrying "the white southern political tradition's very partial and selective embrace of majoritarian democracy:"

As long as national institutions are substantially controlled by white southerners, the white south is a hotbed of patriotism. But as soon as an non-southern political coalition manages to win an election--as we saw in 1860 and in 2008--then suddenly the symbols of national authority become symbols of tyranny and the constitution is construed as granting conservative areas all kinds of alleged abilities to opt out of national political decisions. Even if you think opposition to the Affordable Care Act has nothing whatsoever to do with race, the underlying political philosophy by which a George W Bush or James Buchanan is a national president but an Abraham Lincoln or a Barack Obama merely a sectional one remains incoherent and pernicious.

Writing at FDL, Blue Texan not only notes that McDonnell is "Tied to White Supremacists," but makes the brilliant suggestion that the proclamation should really be called "Treason in Defense of Slavery" month. Adele Stan suggests that we should "think again" about the Civil War actually being over, observing that "It's easy to make fun of the wing-nuts. But there's a storm brewing, egged on by the veneration of the Confederacy." We can update the flag so beloved by both neo-Confederates and neo-Nazis by combining the stars-and-bars with the swastika to create a Confederate Swastika:


The far right fringe can have their religion and racism in one ugly package, and we can see what they really stand for.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://www.cognitivedissident.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/2187


A bundle of hilarious things - or depressing things - at Crooked Timber right now.

Start here and then there are a buncha follow-up posts. Turns out 1880 was The Golden Age of Freedom.


Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on April 12, 2010 10:55 PM.

beneath contempt, not above the law was the previous entry in this blog.

Christian terrorism is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives


  • About
  • Contact
OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.031