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Monday, April 06, 2015

A superb idea

Although I rarely care much about what The New Republic has to say, one of their writers, Brian Beutler, has had a marvelous idea: We should celebrate April 9 as a national holiday. April 9 is the day of Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, thereby ending the south's war for slavery.
But 150 years on, we know that subjugation is a moral obscenity, and that there's no valid modern argument for spitshining the Confederacy.

Today, the South is home to innumerable counties, schools, and other monuments named in honor of Confederate men, or established to celebrate the Confederacy itself. The federal government can’t change that on its own, but it can refuse to participate in the celebration. It could rename these 10 army installations after Union fighters. It could remove monuments to the Confederacy (as opposed to museums and landmarks) from the National Register of Historic Places, and disclaim any obligation to finance their maintenance. It could stop producing headstones for Confederate graves—as Steven I. Weiss documented in The Atlantic, the feds process nearly 2,000 of these a year, at a cost of half a million dollars, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for maintaining more Confederate graves and monuments than Union ones. It could remove the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery and place it in the custody of the Smithsonian—or at least end the spectacle of the president of the United States bestowing it with a wreath every Memorial Day. We aren’t being polite to anyone worthy of politeness, or advancing any noble end, by continuing to honor traitors in this way.

I am particularly glad that Beutler used the T word -- traitor -- to describe the secessionists. The Confederacy was the first attempt to create a modern fascist state, and everyone who reveres that flag should be categorized alongside those who wear the swastika.

Today's Republican party hosts many "secession-flirters" such as Ron Paul and Rick Perry -- yet these would-be traitors speak as though they have a hammerlock on patriotism. They wave the flag and wear tricorner hats and make frequent reference to the founding fathers.

This situation is infuriating. These "patriots" despise American values and long to live in a fascist theocracy, yet they would question my right to call myself an American.

As Ed Kilgore writes:
I’m all for any measures that improve our memories of the racial history of the South, 200 years ago, 150 years ago, 100 years ago and last week. The most important reason for doing so is that the same horrific ideas—-the inferiority of people of color, the power of states to nullify and secede, the unconstitutional nature of democracy—keep coming back over and over again.
But on the other hand, there’s considerable value in reminding us all that armed rebellion against the United States was an act of treason, not of “honor” or some sort of higher patriotism. Certainly the blood of all those killed or maimed in the years before Appomattox, and the grinding poverty to which southerners of both races were consigned for a century afterwards, are squarely on the heads of those who decided they could not tolerate even the possibility of slavery being restricted or prohibited in the country’s new western territories. The defeat of these people was indeed a huge turning point for the United States, and the fact that it was not made more permanent is one of our enduring tragedies.
I'll go further.

We need to remind the Southern-fried Jesusmaniacs of one simple fact: They are evil and we are good.

Everyone else on the planet laughs at Pat Robertson and those who are like him. Ask a European to name ten great Americans: The only southerner on the list will be Dr. King.

Southerners produce no great art or truly noble music. They don't even produce first-rank writers anymore: Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner are long dead. Can you name a great southern scientist? (TV's Sheldon Cooper doesn't count. His mom is more representative of that part of the country.) Instead, redneck culture emits maniac preachers, UFO-spotters and Honey Boo-Boo. The Monster of the Id wears no leash on that side of the Mason-Dixon line.

Southern culture is, in a word, inferior. Let us not be afraid to use that term. Refusing to identify inferior values for what they are will only perpetuate those evils.

(I would also add that many who live in the north may be considered southerners in spirit. Sarah Palin comes to mind.)

We liberals are often faulted and foolish. We, too, continually struggle with the bestial sides of our natures. We cannot claim to live up to our ideals. Yet the best of us have taken the necessary first step of choosing the right values -- the values of the Age of Enlightenment. I freely admit that blue state liberals are often as brutish as southerners -- but at least liberal thinkers and writers understand that our lapses into brutishness are a cause for shame. Southerners are proud to be primitive.

Southern fundamentalist "Christians" consider the very word enlightenment to be odious. That foundational bigotry explains why so many of them believe in mythical conspiracies involving the Illuminati and the Freemasons, who were the vanguard of the Enlightenment.

The ideals of the south -- unbridled neoliberalism, militarism, religious fundamentalism, racism, antipathy for science, hatred of reason, the primacy of the Id -- have brought this country (and perhaps the world) to the brink of ruin.

I suggest that we celebrate April 9 as Enlightenment Day. On that day, let us invite those trapped in southern culture to rejoin humanity. Let us not just commemorate our victory in a necessary war; let us celebrate the ideals of Voltaire, Montesquieu and Thomas Paine. Let us celebrate the glorious Ninth.

Here's one way to do so: Listen to to the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven, the ultimate expression of freemasonic ideals.

Perhaps we should call it Illuminati Day. That'd really tweak the noses of those superstitious ninnies.
Don't forget that at the time of the American Revolution the conservatives of the time (called themselves Tory's then as now in UK)supported good King George III and many had to flee to Canada when hostilities ended to avoid persecution or prosecution so all that was left were the liberals or progressives to develop the constitution. No wonder it is such a liberal document...By the time the Tory's could return to the US, the constitution was in place. They haave been fighting against the freedoms embodied in that document ever since.

Also don't forget Elvis was from the south.
Jesus Christ, I did not expect to read this nonsense here.

The fact that slavery is morally indefensible, is/was virtually irrelevant to the war.

The confederacy was smashed because it had the audacity to suggest that you can just up and leave the union. "Fighting slavery" is indisputably a good PR, and was the cause of the secession, but that's not why the north went to war.

You need to put in more effort in earning that CIA psy-op paycheck.
Looks like someone has spent too long on the wrong side of the Mason Dixon Line. I was the same way about the Midwest--its conformity, its cultural pretenses, its celebration of its own lack of wit and imagination--after I let a woman lure me to Chicago. Sandburg moved to North Carolina, I'd point out, Edgar Rice Burroughs moved to California, and Hemingway moved everywhere.

You sneer at the South because none of its current writers are equal to Faulkner or O'Connor. Can you name a current northern writer who is their equal?

Slavery is in fact why the North fought the war -- and why the confederacy had to be, if not re-assimilated, then utterly destroyed. This nonsense about the "real" causes of the war being something else is revisionist crap promulgated by racists. Professor James Loewen is your best guide here.

The question is not whether I can name any northern writer who is the equal of O'Connor. The question is whether you can name any southern writer who is the equal of...oh, hell, I dunno. Aaron Sorkin. Not that he's the new Shakespeare or anything, but I was watching an old episode of "The West Wing" just now. And I don't think that there is anyone in the south who can write snappy dialogue like that. Maybe someone BORN in the south who has lived for years in L.A....

Actually, the one really,really good southern writer I can think of is fellow blogger Dakinikat. But I don't think she was born there, and she is certainly not of the Jesusmaniac culture.

Elvis? I could not give even half a shit about these caterwauling purveyors of popular detritus.
I'm from the South. I had relatives fight on both sides-- as did many people in the South. I usually agree with what you post but you have failed here. Poor whites by the thousands were dragged off (drafted) by the plantation owners to fight. They had no choice, else they would lose their properties and perhaps their families. I don't appreciate being tarred with the same brush as the idiot slave owners and fyi-- quite a few of the crazies you rightly scorn are from the North (my county is now dominated by them)and they are often the loudest voices. These modern day carpetbaggers have turned many blue states red. I've had this conversation a few times so let's get to the bottom line-- do you want to kill all Southerners for the sins of some of their fathers?
I will confess, Bob, that the culture whose defeat I will celebrate on April is no longer defined by geography.
Yes, from the standpoint of the Union, the Confederates were traitors.

From the standpoint of King George III and Parliament, the Continental Patriots were traitors.

It seems to me that whether Mr. X or Ms. Y is a traitor or a hero(ine) depends entirely on to which side one belongs.

Now, what moral claim does a nation-state have on the loyalty of an individual human being, and why?
The resurgence of the Neo Confederacy appalls and frustrates me. So does the refusal of most Americans to see it for the fascist movement it is. But you are right, it is no longer confined by region. If I had known how much Neo Confederate sentiment there was in California, I'd never have let myself be persuaded to leave the green forests of Washington! Alice Walker, Dorothy Allison, Toni Morrison, there are great Southern writers. And blues. And Jazz. Also there are some great Southern food traditions. And Michael Twitty writes beautifully about them and more:
True how true. Sorry to say, the South's shortcoming's, with reguards to their culture, is spreading.
Culture isn't just writers, and Elvis trumps Sorkin.

Masons are involved in many conspiracies, the Porn Squad conspiracy, for example.

War memorials should be left no matter who they are memorialising, as the dead are all victims.

The American civil war was caused by the Union insisting the states weren't free to leave. They insisted on leaving because they thought slavery might be abolished.

The Tories who left America for Canada after the revolution never returned to America and are unrelated to modern American conservatives. Indeed the traitors Americans call patriots were a majority among slaveowners, who thought their slave might be taken away by the British government, in light of the then-recent Somersett decision which abolished slavery in England.
New Orleans.
FWIW: "As a result of Unionist sentiment—or, at least, anti-Confederate views—an estimated 75,000 (perhaps as many as 100,000) southern white men from Confederate states served in the U.S. military during the war. Many hailed from Appalachia and other highland regions. East Tennessee supplied the lion’s share of these recruits, but every Confederate state—except South Carolina—raised regiments of white Union soldiers. The First Alabama Cavalry, for instance, was one of the toughest units in General William Sherman’s Union army that marched through Georgia and the Carolinas in 1864-65.

Southern Unionists in the Civil War - Inside Chico State - CSU, Chico
“Southerners produce no great art or truly noble music.”

LOL! You’re a brave one, Mr. C., to make a statement like that!

Willie Hugh Nelson, even when he is stoned, is one of the best artists the world has ever known. Beethoven was also one of the best, in my opinion. Although I don’t know if Beethoven would have improved his art if Willie had been his best token friend. ;) j
I agree with the way you started, but by condemning the entire South and all its culture, you WAAAYYY overreached.

Here are some excellent writers, artists, musicians, etc. who are from the South and whose work is reflective of that fact:

Richard Linklater
Louis Armstrong
The Marsalis family
Molly Ivins
Carl Hiassen
Matthew McConaughey
Chet Atkins
Will Oldham
Robert Kirkman (creator of The Walking Dead)
Tennessee Williams
Robert Johnson
Big Freedia
Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs

I mean, you could go on for days. It's simply ignorant to call Southern culture "inferior".
Pointing that the ultimate trigger of the war was secession, rather than any "unbearable" moral indignation about the slavery has nothing to do with "spit shining the South". In fact, it is about NOT spit-shining the North - ultimately, the motives were economic expansion, and conserving the national markets. Glorifying the defeat of the admittedly backward confederacy simply whitewashes the equally ruthless, though endowed with more foresight, northern elites.

Wage work is NOT an improvement over slavery (as the southern sharecroppers quickly found out), and it is in many ways demonstrably worse than slavery (at a minimum, a slave owner felt some responsibility for their 'livestock', an idea entirely alien to any capitalist)
And the present day Southern racism, I would argue is no racism at all: poor southern whites have borne disproportionately high share of the cost of integration. E.g. their poorly paying precarious jobs and shitty schools necessarily had to become even more poorly paid and precarious with the influx of new, equal to them, and even more desperate workforce.

The same is true for the hostility to present day undocumented workers from Mexico in texas. It has hardly anything to do with the fact that they are "brown". But I can understand, if not excuse, the rage the already poor texas redneck feels when looking at people even more desperate than himself happily taking his job for half the wage. It takes a lot of faith not to get mad, and more education than these people have access to, to get mad at the real reasons for this.
William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Lewis Shiner (whose 'Glimpses' is a joy), Marisha Pessl (born in the Nawth but lived in North Carolina through high school), Donna Tartt, John Varley, Donald Justice -- and, of course Mojo Nixon.
Yeah, I have to agree with many of the other posters. The south produced blues, jazz, and was really the birthplace of Rock and Roll for that matter. I realize these are not things that mean a lot to you personally Joseph, but as a nation, they are integral to who we are and to what we have given to the world as a whole, culturally.
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