Here's a proposition I am convinced is true, but that I will not elaborate here sufficiently to prove it: the problems in America that are manifested in the presidency of George W. Bush are problems ESPECIALLY of the American South. That the South was solidly red in both 2000 and 2004 is but one part of a complex and deep picture that substantiates this notion.
The presidency of George W. Bush has passed, praise the Lord. But we are still compelled to grapple with the lessons of this dark period of our history. We are so compelled not only because the damage the Bushites did will take years to repair, but also because the various cultural forces that it expressed remain. Those cultural forces --psychological, spiritual, political-- existed in America (and particularly in the American South) long before Bush, and they will persist into our future.
It is therefore an essential part of the course of healing to which America is now called to explore those forces, and in particular to seek to understand the forms of consciousness that structure thought and feeling, value and meaning, in the American South.
It is in the context of that quest for understanding that I have begun here what I expect will be a series of occasional pieces exploring questions about the culture of the South. The first such entry was "Explorations of Southern Culture: Venerating Disastrous Leaders." (See
Here is the second, which consists of a couple of passages from the article on Wikipedia on "The Lost Cause of the Confederacy."
Some of the main tenets of the Lost Cause movement were that:
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**Confederate generals such as Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson represented the virtues of Southern nobility, as opposed to most Northern generals, who were characterized as possessing low moral standards, and who subjected the Southern civilian population to such indignities as Sherman's March to the Sea and Philip Sheridan's burning of the Shenandoah Valley in the Valley Campaigns of 1864.
**Losses on the battlefield were inevitable due to Northern superiority in resources and manpower.
**Losses were also the result of betrayal and incompetence on the part of certain subordinates of General Lee. (The Lost Cause focused mainly on Lee and the eastern theater of operations.)
**Defense of states' rights, rather than preservation of chattel slavery, was the primary cause that led eleven Southern states to secede from the Union, thus precipitating the war.
**Secession was a justifiable constitutional response to Northern cultural and economic aggressions against the Southern way of life.- Advertisement -
**Slavery was a benign institution, and the slaves were loyal and faithful to their benevolent masters.
Contemporary historians are largely unsympathetic to arguments that secession was not motivated by slave ownership. Historian Kenneth M. Stampp claimed that each side supported states' rights or federal power only when it was convenient to do so. Stampp also cited Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens' A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States as an example of a Southern leader who said that slavery was the "cornerstone of the Confederacy" when the war began and then said that the war was not about slavery but states' rights after Southern defeat. According to Stampp, Stephens became one of the most ardent defenders of the 'Lost Cause' theory.
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