"Neo-Confederates?" Seriously?

Thursday, January 15, 2009
I was reading Newsweek last night, and in an article relating to Abraham Lincoln, I came across a term I had not heard before: "Neo-Confederate."

According to Wikipedia, this movement is characterized by the following themes:
  • Honor of the Confederacy and its veterans.
  • Culture, specifically Christian culture.
  • Economics, including a free market economy and less taxation.
  • History, including criticism of the presidency and Abraham Lincoln and Reconstruction.
  • Secession, including openly advocating the resecession of the Southern states.
Additionally, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, many of these groups have close ties to the white supremacist League of the South (LOS) and the Council of Conservative Citizens.* It makes me wonder how many black Southerners self-identify as "neo-confederates." Not many, I'll bet.**

Now, I'm not a Southerner. With the exception of a couple months spent at boot camp in Orlando, Florida, I've never spent any significant time in the South. I have no skin in the game when it comes to "honoring" the Confederacy and its veterans, especially when doing so strikes me as holding up the losers as a group worth emulating.**

I'm not a Christian. I believe allowing Christian culture and symbolism an exclusive place in our public institutions is a violation of the Establishment Clause. We're not a Christian Nation - we're a secular nation with a majority Christian population.

I'm a liberal. So while I understand the appeal of a free-market economy, I do notice that those who favor it the most are usually the ones with the most money. Until, as my friend Steve says, the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith smacks them upside the head, that is. Then they want the guv'ment to step in and bail their asses out.

I'm a person who believes in honest, fact-based discussion. While most people don't realize that President Lincoln was the "president [who] had suspended the writ of habeas corpus, closed the most newspapers, arrested the most political rivals, opened and censored the most mail and executed the most American citizens without trial," I don't think he was the bastard the Neo-Confederates would have us believe. He made some tough choices - maybe not all of them were the best choice available at that time. But he made us whole. So debate the writing of history, and discuss its relevance to today's society, but make sure you can defend your position with something other than revisionist ideas.

And I'm a patriot. So the idea that a good chunk of the U.S. should just be able to walk away bothers me on a fundamental level. Because while you might be able to make a case that the Union would be better off without the South (and vice-versa), that's really not true. It takes all of us to make the nation we have today, and even if parts of Southern culture give me indigestion, there are other aspects worthy of my respect and admiration.

So I just don't get it. Neo-Confederates? Really? What's the point? Don't these people have anything better to do than to sulk and stew over an event that can't be changed?


*Why, yes, linking those two organizations did make me throw up in my mouth. Thanks for asking.

**I realize there are probably some Neo-Confederates who are sentimental for the Confederacy without being racist pigs. But they're fishing in the same pool of evil as the white supremacists, and the presence of the asshats makes all the fish rotten.

***Please do not spend your time writing comments about the "War of Northern Aggression" or how the Civil War was a bout "State's Rights." It wasn't a war of Northern aggression - it was a war about keeping the Union whole. The "State's Rights" thing I'll give you. But the Confederacy still lost. They lost.
Sticking your fingers in your ears and singing "Lalalala!" will not rewrite history so that the Confederacy turns into a basket of Win. Get over it already.

23 comments:

Random Michelle K said...

You're doing it wrong.

They need to be numbered footnotes, not asterisks, to make it a scientific argument.

Please try and remedy this in the future.

Janiece Murphy said...

::snort::

I guess I'm just an amateur, then.

And somehow, that's okay with me.

Chris said...

"...an event that can't be changed?"

Janiece, did you miss that South Park episode when the Confederate reenactors won the Civil War? :P

John the Scientist said...

And these people should NOT be confused with Sons of Confederate Veterans, who, you know, actually had ancestors in the damn war and honor them specifically.

I had a great great uncle in Stonewall Jackson's outfit, a great great grandfather in the Maryland Confederate forces and a great great grandfather in the only Union unit fielded by Virginia.

So I belong to both the SCV and the Sons of Union Veterans. The SCV is a lot like the DAR - upper class, uppity, and you suspect a bit racist underneath, but they have too much outward class to show it. My daughter is also eligible for the DAR.

I'm thinking that both the SCV and the DAR are going to have privately fits about accepting someone with a Chinese first name.:D

Janiece Murphy said...

Chris, I didn't see that one, but I did see the one where Obama, McCain, et al, are actually a consortium of jewel thieves.

John, I think we both know there's a difference between knowing and honoring your heritage and being a delusional, racist fucknut.

My own claim to fame is having William T. Sherman as a Great, Great, Great Uncle. Of course, I don't mention that on the rare occasions when I'm in the South.

The Smart Girl is eligible for DAR, also. I never had any interest, other than possibly going and making sure my tattoos were showing.

Because I'm just that kind of gal.

Eric said...

One of the problems with the formal Neo-Confederates (and the less-zealous idiots who nonetheless have assorted moronic bumper stickers showing their support for the Lost Cause) is that there actually isn't much of a case to be made that the South or North would have been better off without the other.

For starters, I think the American Civil War can be framed in a very real way as a struggle between a pseudo-feudal economic regime and modernity. The South's dependence on subservient manual labor was always doomed by the the industrialization of agriculture. Had the South been allowed to secede, our fate would have been similar to that of every other under-industrialized agricultural nation: relegation to an essentially third-world (or at best second-world) status by the middle of the 20th century. The South was very simply on the wrong side of history on nearly every possible axis you can think of.

As for the North: the North's burgeoning industrial might was the future, but a future dependent on access to raw materials. The United States has been fortuitous in having vast natural resources, including southern and mid-western farmlands and western and northern access to fossil fuels and mineral deposits; a smaller United States would have lacked much of that resource base and would have had to join the colonialist nations (a race in which the United States was mostly already left far behind by the beginning of the 19th century, making our general opposition to colonialism not merely moral but mostly pragmatic). In short, Southern textiles and foodstuffs were essential fuels in the United States' rise to global prominence in the first half of the 20th century; a smaller, limited United States consisting of the North and perhaps part of the West isn't a superpower--it's France (at best) or maybe, say, a supersize version of Belgium (at worst). A second or third-tier nation, in other words.

Finally, on the most important point of all: if you're not going to use numbers, might I suggest using whatever Character Map app your OS provides to insert daggers (†) and double-daggers (‡) alongside your asterisks (*) to typographically spice up your footnotes and add a touch of nineteenth-century literary elegance to your work. ☺

Eric said...

Ironically, ☺ was supposed to be the character for :-) . But the daggers and double-daggers rendered just fine, as far as I can tell.

Eric said...

Oh, and one more thing if any "State's Rights" people show up: the specific "State's Right" in question was the States' right to continue the practice of owning human beings as chattel. Saying that the Civil War was about "State's Rights" therefore manages to simultaneously be correct and utterly dishonest, a nice trick, that. It's a bit like saying WWII was really about "living space" (yes, which the Germans meant to obtain by means of sending a very large invasion force into Poland).

"State's Rights" is one of the most intellectually-dishonest euphemisms in the popular currency, and those who use it as some sort of serious claim or argument should probably be beaten about the head with a flounder. Preferably one that's been sitting in a freezer for several months.

Jim Wright said...

Fuck the Confederacy.

Seriously.

I lived in the South. I'm related by marriage to bunch of southern rednecks. Ignorant, grade school dropouts who seem to think that they'd be CEO's and millionaires if it wasn't for all the damned (insert your favorite ethnic slur here, insert your favorite Oppressive Yankee Government slur here) instead of the welfare dependent trailer park dwellers they are. I've listened to them wax nostalgic in that ignorant redneck accent over the great old days of the Confederacy where they'd all have been plantation owners drinking mint juleps and it was peace and harmony and everybody knew their place, just as God intended. Yehaw, Bubba, the South's gonna do it again! This, of course, spoken on the porch of some rundown shitty assed trailer, surrounded by a yard of junker cars and piles of beer cans. I get the lecture on Southern Pride, and Southern Manhood, and Southern Heritage, with the stars and bars in one hand - and a US Government welfare check and food stamps clutched in the other - and complete and total ignorance of actual history and what the CSA actually stood for or what place uneducated ignorant dipshits like my brother in law would have in it.

Seriously, fuck the Confederacy.

Sorry, John, but the sooner the myth of the Confederacy dies, the better.

Jim Wright said...

Jesus, Janiece, between this and the IVR post, you're pushing all of my buttons today. :)

John the Scientist said...

Jim, it is quite easy to sour on the South when you are surrounded by Bob Ewells.

It's just that up here, I've also had my fill of sanctimonious Yankee bullshit from Swamp Yankees who think a yearly trip to Providence is a big deal, joke about how backwards the South is, and who look down on my wife because of the color of her skin when they haven't done anything in their lives that gives them the right to address her by her first name, and not as "Dr.".

If I were the kind to become a re-enactor, I'd put on the Gray, just to get a chance to take a shot at them, even if it is a blank.

Janiece Murphy said...

if you're not going to use numbers, might I suggest using whatever Character Map app your OS provides to insert daggers (†) and double-daggers (‡) alongside your asterisks (*) to typographically spice up your footnotes and add a touch of nineteenth-century literary elegance to your work.

Everybody's a fucking critic.

Janiece Murphy said...

Eric, you made some points that just support my initial position - I don't get it.

What possible value is there in achieving Neo-Confederate goals?

And Jim, I have a strong suspicion (not corroborated by annotated footnotes) that the majority of the Neo-Confederates are mouth-breathing dolts, or at least bigoted asshats with a complete lack of critical thinking skills.

I could be wrong - but I've not seen any evidence of it.

And John, every region has its own version of annoying regional fucknuts. When you pick your region, you pick your flavor.

Why is ashholery such an equal opportunity vice?

mattw said...

A few years ago we went to visit my wife's grandparents who had moved down to Arkansas. Man-oh-man did they acclimate to that southern culture quickly, and her grandfather is from Oshkosh, WI.

Anyway, he took us around the town square, which has a bunch of war memorials, and when we got to the one for the Civil War he told us about how the slaves didn't have it that bad, and didn't really want to be free and how the masters all treated them well. I had to stop myself short of saying "WTF have you been smokin? You seriously believe that?" But we held our tongues.

Also, the first couple times they came up to visit after they'd moved down there (they moved from IL) they apparently came up with a big Confederate flag on the back of their car. They were told that that was not cool and they shouldn't be driving around like that and they took it off.

John the Scientist said...

"Why is ashholery such an equal opportunity vice?"

As my former-Jarhead labmate used to say "I love mankind, it's the people I can't stand."

Eric said...

As you say, Janiece, there's no benefit to the Neo-Confederate cause.

Part of the appeal is what Jim notes: the fantasy of some beer-swilling rednecks that their problems would be solved if they lived in a different universe. Part of what they fail to get is that the majority of Southerners indeed weren't slaveowners (one of the few points Rebel apologists are correct on)--the majority of Southerners were poor laborers and small farmers whose access to jobs and ability to competitively sell their produce was depressed by the existence of a slave-based economy.

Point being: the people Jim describes think "Glorious Old South," and picture themselves as being plantation owners or maybe at least working as a supervisor on a plantation, when the odds are that they'd be basically what they are now, or maybe even a smidgeon worse off. They almost certainly wouldn't own a whole hell of a lot, much less own a slave.

The other major thing is that there's a certain amount of class politics involved. At the end of the 19th century, the Progressive movement in the South had gained some ground in getting poor whites and poor blacks had more in common by virtue of being poor than they had differences by virtue of race; entrenched interests in the South--the millowners, bankers, big farmers, etc.--who stood to lose out in the Progressives' ascent to local and national power were able to fire up the Klan and grease the propaganda wheels to re-divide Southerners on race, a wound that had a chance to scab over but bleeds freely when picked. The legacy of generations of this us-and-them business is a key component of what fuels people like the Neo-Confederates. They fail to notice that the people who really gain the most out of flag controversies and such are the same class of wealthy property owner that sat on their asses in Richmond or Charleston or Atlanta and profited from the slave economy that non-slave-owning poor whites fought and died for.

That's why I frankly consider the rebel flag bumper sticker to be the equivalent of a "Kick Me" sign taped to one's back. Some rich white guy talks about "pride" this and "heritage" that, and goes back to the state house on a wave of misguided love and blindly-ignorant nostalgia.

As if the whole thing isn't sad enough, Janiece: the value isn't really in achieving the goals of the movement, the value is what some people gain by talking about it by people who really aren't interested in actual success, just shit-stirring.

Janiece Murphy said...

Eric, I consider shit-stirring the status quo to be a time-honored liberal undertaking.

But these folks don't want progress, per se, they want a return to yesteryear, those glorious days of yore when human dignity was cheap and so was amoebic dysentery.

Still not getting the point. I must be dense, or something...

Eric said...

Wait, wait, wait--Janiece, you're not thinking I'm disagreeing with you, are you?

I see I was kind of rushed and imprecise when I wrote about shit-stirrers talking about it. I didn't mean poking the status quo for good cause.

I mean that there is a class of local politician down in this part of the country who wouldn't know what to do with himself if the South rose again. Probably would piss his pants and beg the Governor to bring back the National Guard or weep as his shot at eventually running for the U.S. House went down the tubes. Anyway, these guys depend on the Ignorant vote, so they campaign on flying the Stars-And-Bars over the state house or against making MLK day a state holiday, and they're not trying to be "provocative," they're shit-stirring, trying to get their base out to keep black Yankee liberals from taking their guns or something.

It's not wholly a local politician thing, tho' they're the usual suspects: Jesse Helms successfully ran for national office for years, basically running this brilliant scam where he'd get himself into national office by running against it. "Washington is evil, so send me there," kinda like Br'er Rabbit trying to get Br'er Fox to throw him into that awful briar patch.

I think maybe you're getting it, but if you're not it's because you're thinking about it rationally. The politicians who run on States' Rights and Old Glory don't really want those things, it's just talk (well, there's kinda crazy fuckers like South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, but what part of "kinda crazy fucker" isn't self-explanatory when it comes to his positions). They'd be screwed if anybody actually ever acted on what they advocate, and what they really are (even if they kind of believe the horseshit they shovel, like Sanford) is a bunch of manipulative and cynical pricks. And then the Joe Blows who glom onto it (the people you started with) are, basically, idiots. They want it for reals, but have no idea what it is they really want. They think if things were different, they'd be better, but they don't really know why.

No, you're fine talking about this: anybody who wants to talk about reasonably and with a sense of history ought to be talking about it to repudiate the asstards and morons.

Janiece Murphy said...

No, Eric, I wasn't clear.

You and I are on the same page - it's the "Neo-Confeds" I don't get or understand.

Nathan said...

I've missed all my reading for more than a week, so I'll chime in late on this one.

When you begin a Civil War...and then you lose that Civil War...you are...plain and simple...traitors. (You only get to be noble heroes by winning.) Every fucking one of them who was sent home alive was treated generously.

(I have no intention of discussing Reconstruction or any of the abuses that took place then, but the entire Confederacy was in rebellion and flying any of their fucking symbols now is an insult to the Union that beat the ever living shit out of them.)

Janiece Murphy said...

NATHAN!

We missed you, pseudo-zombie!

And yeah, what you said.

Steve Buchheit said...

I think it was Shelby Foote who said that every southern boy can believe it was 5 before noon on July 3, 1863, before the orders to open up the barrage for Pickett's (technically Longstreet's or Pettigrew's) Charge came. Before "the mistake" happened.

These idjits are living examples of revisionist idealism. Most of their side that died for "The Cause" had no dog in the fight. And their revisionist ideal of all the whites living in mansions while the slaves toiled in the field displays their vast ignorance of the time when the whites who died for the Confederacy, and the majority of the population were barely more than land squatters and subsistence farmers. They also tend to glorify the marauders, who put modern terrorists to shame and vastly overshadow the atrocities of Sherman and Grant.

The remind me of those RenFair renactors who completely miss that for what some of them do would have them hung, and there was never that many royalty. Only the neo-confederates embrace the racism that the rest of the civilized world has rejected and is still trying to overcome. Ah well, there are those that think Stalin was a good man as well.

I visited Gettysburg several years ago. It was just amazing. I never could understand the order of battle on that first day. Now having seen the ground I can understand it. I spent a lot of time at The Angle. It, for me, was exceptionally moving. Especially when I stepped over and looked at it from the assaulting side. From the Union positions Pickett's advance seemed like a good jog. From the other side I said, "Dear God, they charged up there?" Then I tried to reimagine it, the ridge, filled with Union guns and riflemen not even to think of the cannonade coming off Little Round Top. Sweet Mother of God they were madmen.

And then there are the markers. (paraphrase) "This is the spot Lane's troops made when the Connecticut guns opened up (15 yards away) with canister. Half of them dropped here."

And then there was the market for Ohio's 8th (personal to me). Having seen battle all throughout the war, the remnants provided the flanking maneuver into Pettigrew's left. There was no list of survivors, because none of them made it back.

In the Wheatfield, on the third day of battle, the dead and wounded lay so thick you couldn't walk on the ground, but had to step on bodies (read the marker to the Irish Brigade, none of them survived this battle). The fighting was so fierce and devastating in the Plum Run (below Devil's Den) area it was renamed Butcher's Hallow and is closed to visitors. The fighting on Cemetery Ridge is only overlooked because those soldiers that survived chased the South out to harass Lee's flanks on the 4th (if memory serves there were eight bayonet charges and counter charges on Cemetery Ridge, where most of Ohio's battalions were stationed).

To miss the butchering of this war in places from Vicksburg, The Wilderness, Manassas/Bull Run, Gettysburg, is to simply be brain dead ignorant. The South failed. Get over it. We turned Lee's home into a cemetery for our dead so neither side would ever forget the cost.

Anne C. said...

Thanks for the sum up of Gettysburg, Steve.

Growing up near Antietam, I went there sometimes to sort myself out. It's stunning to think of the gallons of blood that was spilled on that ground.