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Problematic Southern Culture: The Lost Cause Movement

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Introductory Remark:

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.
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**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.[15] 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.[16]

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)

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According to the  current  view in the o... by Mark Sashine on Friday, Feb 27, 2009 at 9:58:26 AM
As a person with a history major i can tell you sl... by liberalsrock on Friday, Feb 27, 2009 at 10:04:33 AM
Your comments here puzzle me some, Mark. First, on... by Andrew Bard Schmookler on Friday, Feb 27, 2009 at 10:31:17 AM
The answer to your inquiry can be rather long but ... by Mark Sashine on Friday, Feb 27, 2009 at 2:42:27 PM
Clearly, Mark, I'm not interested in singing t... by Andrew Bard Schmookler on Friday, Feb 27, 2009 at 4:41:17 PM
England in 1770s  had the GNP much bigger tha... by Mark Sashine on Friday, Feb 27, 2009 at 5:47:38 PM
Yes, sometimes the weaker party wins.  The re... by Andrew Bard Schmookler on Friday, Feb 27, 2009 at 6:59:26 PM
I feel I should respond also at a different level ... by Andrew Bard Schmookler on Friday, Feb 27, 2009 at 7:08:14 PM
In high school I had a wonderful crazy history tea... by Jennifer Hathaway on Friday, Feb 27, 2009 at 10:40:36 PM
well the industrial elitists can put up a smoke sc... by Ernest on Saturday, Feb 28, 2009 at 7:49:49 AM
Sorry, I cannot even begin to see how you'd ma... by Andrew Bard Schmookler on Saturday, Feb 28, 2009 at 9:07:47 AM
The South tried to take over the North  with ... by John Hanks on Saturday, Feb 28, 2009 at 12:31:34 PM
Somehow the notion that wars are won by the "... by Bryan Emmel on Sunday, Mar 1, 2009 at 5:58:58 AM
I think, Andy and Jennnifer did. I  did not s... by Mark Sashine on Sunday, Mar 1, 2009 at 7:29:17 AM
Some people cling to their romantic notions of war... by Bryan Emmel on Monday, Mar 2, 2009 at 1:07:53 AM
There are modern Lost Cause writers of history suc... by John Lorenz on Monday, Mar 2, 2009 at 1:53:25 AM
Yes, war is the shortsighted violent approach towa... by Jennifer Hathaway on Sunday, Mar 8, 2009 at 10:57:41 AM
The question is: "The tendency for peoples to... by lwarman on Tuesday, Mar 3, 2009 at 8:29:34 PM