Jul 10th 2014

Oh Mercy Me, I Do Declare, I Have the Vapors

by Jeff Schweitzer

Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology

Excuse me, for I thought when I woke up this morning the year was 2014. Yet a headline today reads "University Plans to Finally Remove Confederate Flags From Campus." In the article we learn that Washington and Lee University is leaving the age of muskets to join the rest of the world.

That a confederate flag is flying anywhere is an affront to all Americans, at least those who live in the 21st century. Southerners claim a deep national pride in the good old United States of America but ironically celebrate their ancestors' efforts to dissolve the very union of states whose flag they now so proudly fly. They honor a campaign to dissolve our country but claim the mantle of patriot, wrapping themselves in the very Stars and Stripes the South sought to leave behind. That makes no sense. The contradiction is always swept under the rug, but that must stop. Now is a good time to close this chapter of hypocrisy and inconsistency. A southern loyalist cannot be a patriot; the two ideals are mutually incompatible. You cannot simultaneously love the United States and love the idea of dissolving the bond between states that constitute the country. To claim both is insane, the equivalent of declaring that you love all Chinese food but hate chow mein. The claims are each exclusive of the other and therefore by definition both cannot be true. You can't be proud to be among those who wanted to secede from America while claiming to be proud to be American. That is crazy.

Few things could be more absurd than simultaneously flying Old Glory and a flag of the Confederacy. Forget not that when a state seceded from the Union one of the first acts was to destroy the Union flag, that is, the flag of the United States, atop the state capitol building. The moniker Old Glory comes from 1831 when Captain William Driver, a shipmaster in Salem, Massachusetts, unfurled on his ship a brand new banner with 24 stars prior to embarking on a voyage that would eventually lead to the rescue of the mutineers of the Bounty. He was so taken by the magnificent flag waving to the ocean breeze that he yelled "Old Glory." He took the flag with him when he retired to Nashville. When Tennessee seceded from the Union, Rebels were determined to find and destroy this flag. So let us not romanticize what secession meant; it was anti-American by every definition; Rebels were set on destroying the symbol that represented the union they sought to dissolve. That is the very same Stars and Stripes that they now so proudly wave as patriots. The inconsistency and hypocrisy are horribly ignorant of our history. Flying a Confederate flag with the American flag is no less absurd than if Japan flew the Stars and Strips next to the flag of the Rising Sun.


Let us take one issue off the table immediately. Certainly one can rightly honor the bravery of fallen soldiers no matter whether they wore blue or grey. We can appreciate the rare military genius of Robert E. Lee, and the loyalty and dedication of Stonewall Jackson, George Pickett and Nathan Forrest. These generals and the men they led fought valiantly, with integrity, with honor, for a cause in which they believed passionately even if we despise that cause.

But honoring the man's bravery or military insights is not equivalent to honoring the cause for which he fought. The cause championed by the South should cover every American with shame. Have no doubt that the South was at war to dismantle our nation, to dissolve our Union. Some southern loyalists try to skirt this historic reality by claiming they did not seek to harm the United States, only secede from it. But that is patently absurd because with the ability to secede comes disunion as an inevitable consequence. Proof is seen not only in the number of confederate states who left the union, but in that later in the war states even tried to secede from the Confederacy.

For this goal of secession, of which nobody should be proud, more than 630,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in four years of hellish war. To put this in perspective consider that the entire population of the United States at war's end was 35 million, putting war casualties at nearly 2 percent of the total populace. Equivalent rates of casualties today would result in 5 million dead or wounded, dwarfing our losses in World War II, or any other war.

Why did 2 percent of our population suffer death or maiming? Over the issue of state sovereignty and the interpretation of the 10th Amendment (ratified in 1791). The text is simple enough: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." But we also have the Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the Constitution, which say,

"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

Simply put, 11 southern states seceded from the Union in protest against federal legislation that limited the expansion of slavery claiming that such legislation violated the tenth amendment, which they argued trumped the Supremacy Clause. The war was indeed about protecting the institution of slavery, but only as a specific case of a state's right to declare a federal law null and void.

The inherent tension between Article VI and the 10th Amendment of the Constitution has kept lawyers busy and wealthy since our founding, and the argument goes on today. But the South went a significant step further than arguing a case. In seceding from the Union those states declared the U.S. Constitution void. The president of the United States, sworn to uphold the Constitution, had no choice but to take whatever measures were necessary to fulfill his commitment. So war came.

So what exactly about that sordid history would lead one to fly a Confederate flag over a state capitol building, or paste one on a F150 bumper or wear one on a T-shirt, or unfurl one over a campus quad? Is the South proud of its efforts to protect slavery? Or attempting to ruin the United States through dissolution? For starting a war in which 2 percent of the population died? For losing the war? These are odd banners to carry around for nearly 150 years.

Perhaps the pride comes from the fact that the South stood up to a greater power, at least checking or slowing the pace of an expanding federalism. But even that does not pass the smell test; by starting but then losing the war the South created the exact opposite effect, solidifying federal power like never before.

But damn if the South does not hold on to the war as if they never actually lost, fighting incongruously for a hopeless cause of questionable value while simultaneously wrapping themselves in the American flag! So we get oddities like universities still flying a Confederate flag; or in 2010 then-Governor Robert McDonnell of Virginia proclaiming April "Confederate History Month" without ever mentioning slavery. When questioned about this curious oversight, McDonnell lamely explained that "there were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia." Really? If slavery was not among the most "significant" issues for Virginia, exactly what other state right was being violated by federal law leading to the Civil War? Does McDonnell even know the history of the war? Sadly, McDonnell was the not the first governor of his state to explicitly omit slavery from lofty declarations. Former Republican Virginia Governor Republican George Allen also failed to recognize slavery when making a similar proclamation. Seems to be a disease of Republican governors, a historic irony given the role of the young Republican Party in the war.

The South started and lost a war that nearly destroyed the United States in pursuit of a terrible cause. Let it go. Let. It. Go. LET. IT. GO. You fought well but lost decisively. Your cause was unjust. Your actions were treasonous. There is no part of the Confederate cause of which to be proud. There is no moral high ground here. Waving the American flag while fiercely defending the effort to destroy what that flag represents is untenable. Make a choice; be a proud American or a proud Confederate. You cannot possibly be both. Washington and Lee University has come very, very late to this party.




  

 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Sep 30th 2020
EXTRACT: "With the US presidential election barely a month away, former Vice President Joe Biden and his advisers are devising his national-security policy and creating shortlists to fill the cabinet’s ranking positions in the event that he defeats President Donald Trump. But while presidential hopefuls traditionally have focused first on contenders to run the state, defense, and treasury departments, this time is different. With the intelligence community in an increasingly perilous state, Biden should choose a top spymaster before making any other personnel decisions."
Sep 29th 2020
While today's mounting global disruptions have accelerated an ongoing shift in global power dynamics, neither China's rise nor the emergence of COVID-19 can be blamed for the West's lost primacy. The United States and the United Kingdom took care of that on their own, with a complacent Europe watching it happen.
Sep 28th 2020
EXTRACT: "One thing is clear: the world cannot trust Xi’s dictatorship. The sooner we recognize this and act together, the sooner the Beijing bullies will have to behave better. The world will be safer and more prosperous for it."
Sep 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "Four years of political turmoil under Trump may well end with massive violence akin to a civil war. Trump is priming his base to act violently, and with over 390 million firearms in the hands of Americans, one can only imagine the calamitous consequences if violence is to erupt between his supporters and those who oppose him..... The Republican leadership in every state and every municipality are the prime body that can stop this potential calamity from occurring. Time is of the essence. Should the Republican Party as a whole fall short of taking a stand against Trump at this juncture, they will subject the nation to turmoil unseen since the Civil War. Not a single Republican leader will be able to claim that he or she were not warned."
Sep 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "I continue to expect this broad dollar index to plunge by as much as 35% by the end of 2021. This reflects three considerations: rapid deterioration in US macroeconomic imbalances, the ascendancy of the euro and the renminbi as viable alternatives, and the end of that special aura of American exceptionalism that has given the dollar Teflon-like resilience for most of the post-World War II era."
Sep 26th 2020
EXTRACT: "Covid-19 essentially hit the “fast forward” button on emerging trends in a variety of sectors of national economies, hastening the demise of the shopping mall, laying bare how unnecessary being physically located in commercial work spaces is, and sounding the death knell for numerous 100+ year-old brands that had failed to adapt to the blistering pace of change in the digital economy. Failure to contemplate and embrace the future is leaving carnage in its wake.......The onslaught of dramatic change that has accompanied Covid-19 reminds us that fragile systems crack when exposed to unexpected events while antifragile systems have the ability to resist shocks."
Sep 24th 2020
EXTRACT: "China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, recently declared that aggression and expansionism have never been in the Chinese nation’s “genes.” It is almost astonishing that he managed to say it with a straight face. Aggression and expansionism obviously are not genetic traits, but they have defined President Xi Jinping’s tenure. Xi, who in some ways has taken up the expansionist mantle of Mao Zedong, is attempting to implement a modern version of the tributary system that Chinese emperors used to establish authority over vassal states: submit to the emperor, and reap the benefits of peace and trade with the empire."
Sep 16th 2020
EXTRACT: "Seventy-five years ago, the prestige of the United States and the United Kingdom could not have been higher. They had defeated imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, and they did so in the name of freedom and democracy. True, their ally, Stalin’s Soviet Union, had different ideas about these fine ideals, and did most of the fighting against Hitler’s Wehrmacht. Still, the English-speaking victors shaped the post-war order in large parts of the world. The basic principles of this order had been laid down in the Atlantic Charter, drawn up in 1941 by Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt on a battleship off the coast of Newfoundland."
Sep 14th 2020
EXTRACT: "After Trump’s inauguration in January of 2017, millions demonstrated their disapproval. We can expect the same, no matter how this election turns out. With both sides framing this election in “end of the world” terms; with the president calling into question the legitimacy of the vote, even before it happens; and with the president warning his supporters that they may have to take up arms to defend him – we have a recipe for disaster that may occur in the days that follow this election. This may very well be the Armageddon election of our lifetime."
Sep 8th 2020
EXTRACT: "The Huawei case is a harbinger of a world in which national security, privacy, and economics will interact in complicated ways. Global governance and multilateralism will often fail, for both good and bad reasons. The best we can expect is a regulatory patchwork, based on clear ground rules that help empower countries to pursue their core national interests without exporting their problems to others. Either we design this patchwork ourselves, or we will end up, willy-nilly, with a messy, less efficient, and more dangerous version."
Sep 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "China’s footprint in global foreign direct investment (FDI) has increased notably since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013. That served to bring Chinese overseas FDI closer to a level that one would expect, based on the country’s weight in the global economy. China accounted for about 12% of global cross-border mergers and acquisitions and 9% of announced greenfield FDI projects between 2013 and 2018. Chinese overseas FDI rose from $10 billion in 2005 (0.5% of Chinese GDP) to nearly $180 billion in 2017 (1.5% of GDP). Likewise, annual construction contracts awarded to Chinese companies increased from $10 billion in 2005 to more than $100 billion in 2017."
Sep 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Emergence and spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 have created and still creating health issues, economic challenges, political crises and social conflicts around the world. These challenges and conflicts lead the international community to re-evaluate global governance and international structures, which is based on the second world-war and post-cold war. The pandemic will emerge a new era of international society that will not be similar to the pre-Corona world."
Aug 28th 2020
EXTRACT: "Russia has changed, and has been changing, since its beginnings in ancient Muscovy to its current condition as Putin’s realm. Some general features appear in much of Russian history. Most of its rulers have been authoritarian—but so, too, were most of England’s, France’s, and Germany’s. Many of its political and intellectual elites have considered Russia a special civilization deserving a place in the sun—but just as many have not, wanting to transform Russia into a Western state with Western values. Many Russians have been enamored of their country, but even more have probably damned it for destroying them and their children. What, then, is Russia? It is, and has always been, many, oftentimes contradictory, things—sometimes coexisting, sometimes getting the upper hand, always shifting, always eluding simplistic analysis. But, and this needs to be emphasized, the same holds true for every other country in the world."
Aug 26th 2020
EXTRACTS: "Double dips – defined simply as a decline in quarterly real GDP following a temporary rebound – have occurred in eight of the 11 recessions since the end of World War II. .............Financial markets aren’t the least bit worried about a relapse, owing largely to unprecedented monetary easing, which has evoked the time-honored maxim: “don’t fight the Fed.” Added comfort comes from equally unprecedented fiscal relief aimed at mitigating the pandemic-related shock to businesses and households.......This could be wishful thinking."
Aug 26th 2020
EXTRACTS: "There is no question that the re-election of President Donald Trump would endanger both the US and the world. Moreover, there is ample reason to fear that a close election could drive the US into a deep, prolonged constitutional crisis, and perhaps into civil violence.........One can only hope that the election will produce a decisive winner both in the Electoral College and in the popular vote. Yet, even then, tallying the final result may take time, owing to the massive increase in mail-in voting that is expected. Every ballot that has a postmark of November 2 or 3 (depending on the state) will be considered valid, which means that the final result will not be known until after Election Day. During that window of uncertainty, either or both campaigns may try to claim victory based on the current vote count. In any case, there is no chance that Trump will wait graciously in the Oval Office for days or weeks to receive the final tally. In interviews, he has already issued vague statements suggesting that he will not leave the White House if he loses; indeed, he seems to be actively preparing for such a scenario. If he follows through, the world’s leading superpower will find itself facing a protracted – and perhaps intractable – constitutional crisis.
Aug 26th 2020
EXTRACT: "the European Union is a community of values as much as an economic and trade bloc. But the behavior of member states such as Poland and Hungary has called into question their commitment to liberal democracy. Above all, in the US, President Donald Trump is widely criticized, even by lifelong Republicans, for not respecting or understanding the US constitution and the separation of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Does Trump even believe in democracy? Does he want all Americans to vote in November, regardless of race or party affiliation, or only those who will support him? And will he accept the election result if it goes against him? "
Aug 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "The fundamental difference in values between the West and China will remain indefinitely, and it is here that the West must draw the line. Any concession that entails a sacrifice of fundamental principles, for example in cultural matters, must be rejected. If this values-based approach results in economic disadvantages, so be it. By the same token, the West should abandon the conceit that it can push, force, or cajole China to become a democracy wrought in its own image. "
Aug 16th 2020
EXTRACT: "China is light years ahead of most of the rest of the world in deploying digital payment technology. Alipay or WeChat Pay apps are all that is necessary to accomplish almost anything that requires a payment in China; the country is largely already making paper money obsolete. "
Aug 15th 2020
EXTRACT: "Seven hundred fifty billion euros is less than 5% of the stock of US government debt held by the public. It’s a drop in the bucket, in other words. And a drop does not a liquid market in safe assets make. Even if this really is Europe’s “Hamiltonian moment,” ramping up EU issuance by a factor of 20 will take decades. "
Aug 14th 2020
EXTRACT: "But the race is not over. In the 2016 election, prices moved the most in the two months just before the election. Trump trailed Hillary Clinton in prediction markets throughout the campaign and was seen as favourite only on election day – showing that the underdog can recover. So despite Trump’s poor position now, he might still regain some ground."