Apr 23rd 2015

Confederate History Month: An Embarrassing Abomination

by Jeff Schweitzer

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

Extract:

"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..."

Many of us think of April as the heart of spring, when life renews with a comforting exuberance and riot of color. Some think of Earth Day, a celebration to protect the little blue dot we call home. But others have a different, more sinister celebration in mind.

Seven state governments have designated April as Confederate History Month. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia all participate in this misguided paean to a troubling past. No, this is not the continuation of some long-standing tradition, but amazingly a creature of modern politics starting in 1994.

After some waning enthusiasm, in 2010 then-Governor Robert McDonnell of Virginia resurrected April as the month to commemorate Confederate history. In doing so, he never mentioned 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? Under pressure, he later apologized for the omission. 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. But I get ahead of myself. Let's start, logically enough, at the beginning.

Fort Sumter and a Terrible Cause

With a volley of artillery fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861, the South started a war that nearly destroyed the United States in pursuit of a terrible cause. In that conflict more than 630,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in four years of hellish war. To place this in perspective consider that the entire population of the United States at war's end was 35 million, putting war casualties at nearly two percent of the total populace. Equivalent rates of casualties today would result in five million dead or wounded, dwarfing our losses in World War II, or any other war.

Two percent of our population suffered death or maiming over the issue of state sovereignty and the interpretation of the Tenth 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 states,

"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."

That "terrible cause" of the South is usually thought of as the defense of slavery. This is what we are all taught in school; and the idea is strongly entrenched today. In the April 10, 2011, Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. defined the Civil War as a conflict over property rights, the property being of course four million slaves living in the South at the time. He concludes that the "Civil War was about slavery, nothing more."

He is wrong; we just have to look at the tension between these two sections of our Constitution. To place this in contact, I urge all to read Shelby Foote's award-winning treatise on the Civil War. Yes, stating the terribly obvious, slavery was of course the central point of contention, but as an example of state sovereignty versus federal authority. The war was fought over state's rights and the limits of federal power in a union of states. The perceived threat to state autonomy became an existential one through the specific dispute over slavery. The issue was not slavery per se, but who decided whether slavery was acceptable, local institutions or a distant central government power. That distinction is not one of semantics: this question of local or federal control to permit or prohibit slavery as the country expanded west became increasingly acute in new states, eventually leading to that fateful artillery volley at Fort Sumter.

Specifically, eleven 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 in Article VI of the Constitution. 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. Southern states sought to secede because they believed that the federal government had no authority to tell them how to run their affairs. The most obvious and precipitating example was the North's views on slavery. So yes, the South clearly fought to defend slavery as a means of protecting their sordid economic system and way of life, but they did so with slavery serving as the most glaring example of federal usurpation of state powers of self-determination. The war would be fought to prevent those states from seceding, not to destroy the institution of slavery. The war would be fought over different interpretations of our founding document.

The inherent repelling forces between Article VI and the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution have kept lawyers busy and wealthy from the day the words were penned, 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 dead. 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. Cleary if any state could withdraw from the Union whenever that state disagreed with others, the Union over which Lincoln presided would not last long. So war came.

But freedom for slaves did not. President Lincoln did not issue the Emancipation Proclamation until January 1, 1863, more than one and a half years after the war started. His goal was initially to preserve the Union, and he only issued that proclamation when he felt doing so would promote that objective. One could argue that if the primary cause of the war was slavery then Lincoln's first act would have been to free them. Historians have written many volumes on Lincoln's timing and motivation, but one thing is clear: slavery was not his first priority.

To support the idea that the war was only about slavery, Mr. Pitts cites newspaper quotes from 1860 that note the grave threat to the economic value of slaves if the North prevailed politically; and Mr. Pitt provides quotes from a few articles of separation from states that specifically reference slavery as a cause for seceding. But that just proves what we already know: the South wanted to defend slavery and their cotton economy. We understandably focus on this specific while ignoring the broader issue in contest. But a subset of a set is not the set. An example of an issue is not the issue. Slavery was a specific issue of a perceived violation of a state's rights, over which the country went to war. Claiming the Civil War was about slavery alone is like saying that the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt was about unseating Mubarak and nothing else. That conclusion misses the more important point that the real issue was self-determination and the right to a representative government. Mubarak was not the issue, only a specific example of the larger problem of a non-representative government. Ousting Mubarak was a subset of a larger set.

Succession is Destruction

Let's be clear that the South's quest to secede could only lead to the destruction of the the United States, not only through war but just in the act of secession alone. Once the principle of seceding is established the glue holding the Union together would soon dissolve. The legitimacy of secession could lead to nothing but balkanization, a group of independent states much like we see in Europe. The United States of American could not exist. 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 of that is in the fact that during the war the Confederacy began to dissolve through the secession of Southern states from the Confederacy. South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, also threatened later to secede from the Confederacy, as did Georgia later in the war.

Southerners today seem incapable of understanding that the South started and then lost a war that nearly destroyed the United States. The South lost decisively. The rebel cause was unjust, immoral and treasonous. The economic justification was unseemly; the actions were treasonous. There is no part of the Confederate cause of which to be proud. There is no moral high ground here.

The war mercifully ended before the Confederacy collapsed under its own weight of moral decay and disintegration through secession. On April 3, 1865, Richmond, Virginia, fell to Union soldiers as Confederate troops retreated to the West, exhausted, weak, and low on supplies. On April 5, Generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant started an exchange of notes that would lead to Lee's surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.

We should pause here a moment to take one issue off the table as we note the war's end. 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 and know it to be heinous. Honoring a man's bravery or military insight is not equivalent to honoring the cause for which he fought. And have no doubt that the cause championed by the South should cover every American with shame.

But damn if the South does not hold on to the war as if they never actually lost and as if their cause was just. Southerners seem unable to admit there is nothing to celebrate. So the celebrations stubbornly march on.

Confederate Flags and the Paradox of Patriotism

Which brings us to the Confederate flags issue. What exactly about the war's 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? Does a confederate flag indicate pride about the effort to protect slavery? Or attempting to secede from the Union? For starting a war in which two percent of the population died? For losing the war? These are odd banners to carry around for more than 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.

Few things could be more absurd than simultaneously flying Old Glory and a flag of the Confederacy over a state capitol, a practice only recently and most reluctantly abandoned. 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. In fact, 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.

Any version of the confederate flag flying anywhere is an affront to all Americans, at least those who live in the 21st century. Southerners claim a deep allegiance to 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.




To follow what's new on Facts & Arts please click here.

Below links to Amazon for Jeff Schweitzer's books.



     

 


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 Essays

Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACTS: "China uses incarcerated prisoners of conscience as an organ donor pool to provide compatible transplants for patients. These prisoners or “donors” are executed and their organs harvested against their will, and used in a prolific and profitable transplant industry."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "In the first episode of season three of The Kominsky Method (2021), there is a funeral service for Michael Douglas’ character’s lifelong friend Norman Newlander (played by Alan Arkin). By far the most inconsolable mourner to give a eulogy is Newlander’s personal assistant of 22 years who, amid a hyperbolical outpouring of grief, literally cannot bring herself to let go of the casket. It is a humorous scene, to be sure, but there is something else going on here that is characteristic of employer-employee relations in this era of neoliberal capitalism. “Making him happy made me happy,” she exclaims, “his welfare was my first thought in the morning, and my last thought before I went to sleep.” That isn’t sweet – it is pathological. ----- Employee happiness is becoming increasingly conditional on, or even equated with, the boss’ happiness. As Frédéric Lordon observes in his book, Willing Slaves of Capital (2014), “employees used to surrender to the master desire with a heavy heart…they had other things on their minds…ideally the present-day enterprise wants subjects who strive of their own accord according to its norms.” In a word, the employee is increasingly expected to internalize and identify with the desire of the master."
Jul 20th 2022
EXTRACT: "For three decades, people have been deluged with information suggesting that depression is caused by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain – namely an imbalance of a brain chemical called serotonin. However, our latest research review shows that the evidence does not support it."
Jul 13th 2022
"But is he “deluded”? " ---- "....we sometimes end up with deluded leaders because we ourselves can be somewhat delusional when we vote." ---- "David Collinson, a professor of leadership and organization at Lancaster University, associates this predicament with excessive positive thinking, or what he calls “Prozac leadership,” in reference to the famous antidepressant that promises to cheer people up without actually fixing what is wrong in their lives. “ ---- "In politics, Prozac leaders come to power by selling the electorate on wildly overoptimistic views of the future. When the public buys into a Prozac leader’s narrative, it is they who are already verging on the delusional." ----- "Another potential example is Vladimir Putin, who has conjured a kind of nostalgic dream world for his followers and the wider Russian public."
Jun 25th 2022
EXTRACT: "Many veterans, refugees and other people who have experienced trauma and have mental health issues spend little time thinking about the future. Instead, they are narrowly focused on the negative past. However, people who have experienced trauma and developed a healthy future perspective report being better at coping with life, having fewer negative thoughts about the past, and getting better sleep compared with those who have a negative future perspective. So, instead of dwelling on the past, people who have suffered trauma should be encouraged to think about the future and set goals that help them develop hope for a good life."
Jun 8th 2022
EXTRACT: " The devastation of war is a recurring theme in Turner’s work, and unlike his contemporaries Turner is willing to forego the occasion to bolster national pride or the patriotism of its fallen heroes. In “The Field of Waterloo” (1818), Turner’s great tragic vision of war, “The…  dead of both sides lay intertwined, nearly indistinguishable surrounded by the gloom of night.” Near the bottom center there are three women. The one farthest from us is bearing a child and in her right hand a torch which illumines the sea of mangled bodies. Beside her is another woman struggling to keep a third (also with child) from collapsing outright. Turner reflects not only on the dead and dying, but on the widows and orphans that war produces."
May 19th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Thus experimental creativity could be witnessed, but not verbalized.  When five leading Abstract Expressionist painters founded an art school in New York in the late 1940s, they offered no formal courses, because, as Robert Motherwell explained, "in a basic sense art cannot be taught." ------ "Conceptual artists are ...... more inclined to use written texts to accompany their works in other genres.  In 1883, Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother, "One of these days I will write you a letter;  I shall write it carefully and try to make it short, but say everything I think necessary."
May 17th 2022
EXTRACT: "Unfortunately, it’s common for dark triad personalities to become leaders. ..... their ruthlessness and ability to manipulate means they attain positions of power quite easily. When a “dark” leader attains power, conscientious, moral people rapidly fall away. A government operating under these conditions soon becomes what the Polish psychologist Andrzej Lobaczewski called a “pathocracy” – an administration made up of ruthless individuals devoid of integrity and morality. This happened with Donald Trump’s presidency, as the “adults in the room” gradually headed for the exit, leaving no one but staffers defined by their personal allegiance to Trump. A similar decay in standards has occurred in the UK."
May 11th 2022
EXTRACT: "The proportion of US electricity deriving from wind and solar in the month of April climbed to 20%. Thus, the renewables total was 26.5 if we add in hydro. This statistic is unprecedented."
Apr 24th 2022
EXTRACT: "Every year, around 12,000 men in the UK die from prostate cancer, but many more die with prostate cancer than from it. So knowing whether the disease is going to advance rapidly or not is important for knowing who to treat." ...... "For some years, we have known that pathogens (bacteria and viruses) can cause cancer. We know, for example, that Helicobacter pylori is associated with stomach cancer and that the human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer." ....... "....we have identified five types (genera) of bacteria linked to aggressive prostate cancer." ...... "We examined prostate tissue and urine samples from over 600 men with and without prostate cancer," ..... "....men who had one or more of the bacteria were nearly three times more likely to see their early stage cancer progress to advanced disease, compared with men who had none of the bacteria in their urine or prostate."
Apr 13th 2022
EXTARCTS: "Steve Jobs dreaded turning 30, because he knew it would be fatal to his creativity: "It's rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to contribute something amazing." ....... "When Ford introduced the Model T, he was 45 years old" ...... "Ford’s Model T arrived only after a series of earlier cars – Models A, B, C, K, N, R, and S." .... "Sam Walton opened Wal-Mart No. 1 in Rogers, Arkansas, at 44, and discovered “that there was much, much more business out there in small-town American than anybody, including me, had ever dreamed of.” At 53, Warren Buffett wrote in his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders that “your chairman, always a quick study, required only 20 years to recognize how important it was to buy good businesses.” "
Mar 29th 2022
EXTRACT: ".... Christie's web site calls Shot Sage Blue Marilyn [1964], to be auctioned in May, 'among the most iconic paintings in history', " ------ "Andy Warhol's annus mirabilis was not 1964, but 1962. This is recognized both by the market and by scholars. Thus in a paper published in the Journal of Applied Economics, Simone Lenzu and I found that in all auctions held during 1965-2015, the average price of Warhol's paintings executed in 1964 was significantly lower than the average price of those he made in 1962. And in a survey of 61 textbooks of art history published during 1991- 2015, whose authors included such eminent scholars as Martin Kemp and Rosalind Krauss, we found that fully 45% of the total of 137 illustrations of Warhol's paintings were of works from 1962, compared to only 12% of works from 1964. Thus not only do collectors value Warhol's works of 1962 more highly than those of 1964, but so do scholars of art history,.... "
Mar 29th 2022
EXTRACTS:".....there is plenty of space to scale. For internet-based businesses, the addressable total market is often large. In many areas, such as software, it spans the globe. Chinese estimates indicate that the average distance between seller and buyer on e-commerce platforms is roughly 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), compared to five kilometers for a traditional retail or service business." ------- "While the internet has removed many geographical barriers, high-growth companies cannot emerge just anywhere. In fact, though such firms can be found in more countries than ever, they remain concentrated in entrepreneurial hotspots. For example, of the 24 unicorns in Germany (as of March 2022), 17 are based in Berlin and five in Munich. Of France’s top 24 unicorns, 19 are based in Paris and one in a Paris suburb." ------ "Tech entrepreneurship has become global, but its beating heart remains local."
Mar 27th 2022
EXTRACTS: " We are supposed to be living in a post-ideological era, where everyone one is a cynic, not so gullible as to believe in anything anymore, least of all in the quaint notion of objective truth. This rejection of truth as such is among the great disasters to have befallen our relations with each other and between nations.  We appear to be beyond truth’s demise – we are now witnessing its unpleasant putrefaction and decay." ------ " If we want to grasp how ideology functions in America today, there is no better place to look than at the phenomenon of Trumpism. While he may be only a symptom, Trump himself is the quintessential embodiment of America’s moral and epistemic decline. " ------ "By its disavowal of truth and perpetuation of lies for the sake of self-aggrandizement, Trumpism represents an existential threat to this country and to the future of the Republic. It is a cancer that threatens whatever is good and decent in American life. " ----- "All they know is negative freedom – freedom from – but ignore the need for positive freedom, the freedom to… as in the freedom to flourish, to realize oneself in the world; to make and re-make oneself and the world through action."
Feb 14th 2022
EXTRACT: "In the decades since its inception, there has been heavy criticism directed towards the War on Drugs. These complaints include the increased incarceration rates, the increase in the number of prisoners in jail due to nonviolent offenses, uneven sentencing guidelines often based on the drug type and race, and suggestions of a racist component in terms of who was targeted by law enforcement. Various studies show that instead of reducing crime, the strict sentencing guidelines created more criminals and undermined many of the communities most strictly targeted by law enforcement. Long sentences for non-violent offenses made it difficult for those released to find work and weakened their bonds with family and their broader community."
Feb 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "......... there are countries that have had a relatively high number of infections but which have still managed to keep their death numbers low – countries like Japan. It’s had 17,612 infections per million people yet only 146 deaths per million. This is despite almost one in three people in Japan being over the age of 65 and so at greater risk of severe COVID (the average age of people dying from COVID is over 80). What has kept the death rate there down? A recent Japenese study has proposed an answer. It reports that the risk of people dying of COVID in Japan is related to the microbes present in their guts. "
Jan 26th 2022
EXTRACT: "Then there was a revolution. In 1964, Bob Dylan created a new kind of popular music. The simple, clear love songs ...... were replaced by complex and opaque lyrics, filled with literary allusions and symbolism. Dylan rejected the role of craftsman: "I'm an artist. I try to create art." Nor were his songs intended to be universal: "My songs were written with me in mind." "
Dec 13th 2021
EXTRACT: " We all know that Father Christmas would struggle to deliver presents to everyone around the world without the help of his magical reindeer. But why were they chosen to pull the sleigh rather than any other animal? It turns out that the biology of reindeer makes them ideal for the job. Here are five reasons why."
Dec 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "Planting more forests is a potent tool for mitigating the climate crisis, but forests are like complex machines with millions of parts. Tree planting can cause ecological damage when carried out poorly, particularly if there is no commitment to diversity of planting. Following Darwin’s thinking, there is growing awareness that the best, healthiest forests are ones with the greatest variety of trees - and trees of various ages."
Nov 19th 2021
EXTRACTS: "At a time when the struggle between authoritarianism and democracy is so intense, if not fateful for the future of democracies, NATO and the EU must warn these countries [Editor's note: Poland and Hungary, EU and NATO, Turkey NATO] that they are on the precipice of being kicked out if they do not change their governing practice. They must be required to restore the principles of democracy by upholding universal human rights and abiding the rule of law, or else they will forfeit their membership and suffer from the consequences of their crimes." ------ "A narcissistic leader, such as Trump, whose hunger for power seems to know no limit, has happily sacrificed the good of the country on the altar of his twisted ego. America’s democracy cannot be repaired unless he and those who helped him are held accountable and face the weight of the law."