Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Death of the Confederacy

Watching the video of the bereaved relatives' statements at Dylann Roof's bail hearing is almost unbearably wrenching.  And yet, it was a supreme teaching moment for all of us.  I doubt that I could pass the test the bereaved endured here.  Instead of calling for vengeance and despite their grief and anger, they asked for mercy upon the very person who killed their loved ones and wrecked their lives and those of so many more.  The violence and destructive passions end with them, so they each and all publicly declared.  This was an act worthy of the very good and conscientious people murdered so pointlessly at Emanuel AME Church that evening, and of the faith that they professed.  As I say, I very much doubt that I could pass a similar test.

Dylann Roof killed nine people in cold blood after enjoying the welcome and hospitality that they offered.  He killed the members of a small Bible study group in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC after sitting with them for about an hour.  He killed them for no other reason than that they were Black and that they were in front of him at that moment.  Even in a brutal age of suicide bombers, videoed beheadings, and a grade school gun massacre, this act was exceptional in its coldness and obscenity.

In that horrible act, Dylann Roof may well have dealt the coup de grace to the very cause he espoused, the cult of the Confederacy.  Confederate flags are coming down all over the South and citizens groups and city councils are arguing over what to do with Confederate war memorials on courthouse squares in all the states of the former Confederacy and in the old Border States.

My dad hated the old Confederacy.  He was no liberal and agreed with the idea of states' rights, but he agreed with Sam Houston on the issue of the Noble Cause.  My dad like Houston believed that Texas should have stayed in the Union, that slavery and supremacy were not worth the price of treason.  He never thought that the Confederate Cause was noble.  For this reason, he hated having to travel in East Texas where the joke is that Texas was once part of the original Confederacy and most of East Texas still is.  We kept a photo of Lincoln hanging in our house in dear old Texas.

The Confederacy was a kind of cult for white Southerners.  For them the Noble Cause was about freedom, independence, and a "way of life" unique to the Southern USA which always seemed to be under threat.  White Southerners persuaded themselves that slavery was a kind of benevolent paternalism, that they even "spoiled" their slaves.  The South lost not because of a lack of will or virtue, but because of the superior numbers and industrial might of the North, so they believed (impoverished rural New Englanders from that time might not agree).  The tremendous bloodshed of the Civil War transformed the defeat into a kind of sacred martyrdom for Southern whites.  We should also remember that the South is the only part of the USA to experience military occupation.  Those memories had a powerful influence on subsequent history down to the present day.  Every reform, every effort to modernize was seen as another intrusion by outsiders.  The partisans of the Old South kept a hammerlock on Southern politics, intimidating into silence all who might disagree with their reading of history and of the present day.

Just a few days ago, Paul Thurmond, the son of  Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond, called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol, and even more so, publicly rejected the heritage for which it stands for so many Southerners.  "I am not proud of this heritage.  These practices were inhumane and wrong, wrong, wrong!" he declared from the floor of the state senate.  It is hard to imagine anything more powerfully symbolic coming from the state where the Confederacy began.  The Confederacy stood for slavery and against the idea of common humanity.  It deserved to lose, and was not worth the fight.  Poor men fought a war and died in the thousands for the interests of a few wealthy plantation owners getting rich off supplying cotton at little cost to textile manufacturers in Britain and France.  That wealth was built on backs of enslaved Africans and protected by poor whites who shared in none of it.

What an irony that a Confederate zealot with a cold blooded massacre of people in church probably drove the last nail into the coffin of the cult of the Confederacy after 150 years.

Richard Norris Brookes' painting of the memory of the Noble Cause

Dylann Roof's self portrait showing its current reality

Liberals and the Left have always had their national loyalties questioned.  Their internationalism and cosmopolitanism caused people to question their patriotism.

And yet, it's only the ultra-nationalist very far right that resorted to sedition and treason time and time again.  I'm thinking of the French generals who decided that they would rather live under Hitler than take orders from all those Jews in the Third Republic, and so opened up the gates of Paris for the Germans in 1940.

Those folks calling for Texas to secede are hardly a cross section of the population of that state.  Nor do they have any intention of sharing Texas with people who do not look like them, talk like them, and believe like they do.  They would rather betray and leave the USA than be part of an America where they are no longer in charge and deferred to.

And there is always this:

No tree-hugging politically correct libturd here.

1 comment:

JCF said...

The ability of the wingnut Right to be simultaneously 1) the ONLY TRUE American Patriots, and 2) threatening to secede from the U.S. if they don't get their way never ceases to amuse (by which I mean annoy, by which I mean disgust).

NPR had a story about the Mennonites (a particular Mennonite denomination whose name escapes me) today. Stop me if you've heard this before: a college-town congregation has decided to welcome LGBT members . . . and now another congregation (not far away: I know this area, having lived smack dab in the middle of it, in Central PA) wants to BREAK AWAY from the denomination, because they think the denomination's gone soft on Teh Gays. No, seriously, stop me if you've heard this before: says the threatening-to-schism pastor, "We're not leaving them, they left us!" Saints preserve me...