Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Playing False With History"

Here's the best take I've found on the whole Jack Hunter / "neo-Confederate" controversy. OK, so it's not intentionally about that. It's actually a 15 -year-old quote from the preface to Henry Mayer's All On Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery -- a fine book that I'm working my way through right now and highly recommend:

The sentimental strain in our culture has turned our thinking about the Civil War into a pageant of heroism and a threnody of grief that separates the sacrifice from the cause. It allows us to regard the conflict as a tragedy of flag without acknowledging that it was equally a tragedy of race in which Northerners died to preserve a political system that had failed to solve the gravest moral issue in our history and Southerners shed their blood in a desperate counterrevolution to ensure that it never would. Even today there are people who believe they can fly the Confederate flag as a tribute to gallantry untainted by the white supremacy for which it stood. They are deceiving themselves and playing false with history.

Personally, I can actually buy the "youthful indiscretion" claim, for the simple reason that most of us who were born and/or raised in the south got plenty of regional, historical and ancestral pride shoved our way. And that kind of thing is more likely to be held onto, even if only loosely, than discarded.

But at some point you're likely to be confronted with the facts. And the fact is that even if Lincoln was the worst president in US history -- and I do think he's in the running for that title -- the Confederacy was still a wicked project, based on the claim that millions of people could and should by "right" be held captive and treated as property.

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