As a young person, I learned "Lincoln freed the slaves," and that the Civil War ended when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865. It boiled down to "the North won, the southern slaveholders lost." Most of the history of what happened after the end of the war was skipped over in my classes. We learned next to nothing about Reconstruction. Thankfully, my parents filled in many of the gaps, but one of the things I could never understand, even as a child, was why, when we would drive through the South, there seemed to be more monuments to Confederates than to the victors. I learned early on to associate Confederate flag-carrying and waving with KKK activities, lynching, rape, murder, repression, segregation, and hatred of black people.
Is it any wonder that today, almost 150 years from ending of that bloody conflict, I find it completely disturbing that for a significant portion of our population, the Civil War continues? More distressing is the fact that children in this country are being taught that the Civil War wasn't about slavery. For this anathema, we have to point a finger directly at conservatives, right-wing teapublicans and libertarians.
Doug Muder, who goes by Pericles here at Daily Kos, wrote an absorbing piece recently, Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party. In it, he wrote, "Tea Partiers say you don't understand them because you don't understand American history. That's probably true, but not in the way they want you to think."
It's not a Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party protest was aimed at a Parliament where the colonists had no representation, and at an appointed governor who did not have to answer to the people he ruled. Today's Tea Party faces a completely different problem: how a shrinking conservative minority can keep change at bay in spite of the democratic processes defined in the Constitution. That's why they need guns. That's why they need to keep the wrong people from voting in their full numbers. These right-wing extremists have misappropriated the Boston patriots and the Philadelphia founders because their true ancestors -- Jefferson Davis and the Confederates -- are in poor repute.He said something else in the piece that struck me: "The South is a place, but the Confederacy is a worldview."
But the veneer of Bostonian rebellion easily scrapes off; the tea bags and tricorn hats are just props. The symbol Tea Partiers actually revere is the Confederate battle flag. Let a group of right-wingers ramble for any length of time, and you will soon hear that slavery wasn't really so bad, that Andrew Johnson was right, that Lincoln shouldn't have fought the war, that states have the rights of nullification and secession, that the war wasn't really about slavery anyway, and a lot of other Confederate mythology that (until recently) had left me asking, "Why are we talking about this?"
By contrast, the concerns of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and its revolutionary Sons of Liberty are never so close to the surface. So no. It's not a Tea Party. It's a Confederate Party. Our modern Confederates are quick to tell the rest of us that we don't understand them because we don't know our American history. And they're right. If you knew more American history, you would realize just how dangerous these people are.
The largest bas relief sculpture in the world, the Confederate Memorial Carving depicts three Confederate leaders of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (and their favorite horses, "Blackjack", "Traveller", and "Little Sorrel", respectively). The entire carved surface measures 3 acres (12,000 m2), about the size of two and a quarter football fields. The carving of the three men towers 400 feet (120 m) above the ground, measures 90 by 190 feet (58 m), and is recessed 42 feet (13 m) into the mountain. The deepest point of the carving is at Lee's elbow, which is 12 feet (3.7 m) to the mountain's surface.Across the nation, grade schools, high schools, and colleges are named for Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis. Fourteen states celebrate Confederate Memorial Day. Alabama still has an official state holiday that celebrates Jefferson Davis' birthday on June 3 each year. The Confederate battle flag is incorporated into several state flags.
There is a misperception that many of the of Southern states have flown some version of the Confederate flag without interruption since the Civil War. For the most part, the Southern states that raised the Confederate battle flag or incorporated it into their state flag did so in the early part of the 20th century or during the 1950s and 1960s, in a defiant stand against integration. Denmark Groover, the Georgia House floor leader who in 1956 sponsored the legislation to add the Southern Cross into the state flag, freely admitted as much. He maintained that he and many of Georgia's legislators at the time were staunch segregationists who had urged that the Confederate symbol be added to the flag as a protest against federal integration orders.As we move into 2015, there are many events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and far too many of them will be honoring Confederate traitors. We will hear the refrain repeated again and again, that it isn't about slavery, and that neo-Confederates are "not racists."
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) defines neo-Confederacy:
The term neo-Confederacy is used to describe twentieth and twenty-first century revivals of pro-Confederate sentiment in the United States. Strongly nativist and advocating measures to end immigration, neo-Confederacy claims to pursue Christianity and heritage and other supposedly fundamental values that modern Americans are seen to have abandoned.For an academic look at the rise of the neo-confederacy, I suggest:
Neo-Confederacy also incorporates advocacy of traditional gender roles, is hostile towards democracy, strongly opposes homosexuality, and exhibits an understanding of race that favors segregation and suggests white supremacy. In many cases, neo-Confederates are openly secessionist.
Neo-Confederacy has applied to groups including the United Daughters of the Confederacy of the 1920s and those resisting racial integration in the 1950s and 1960s. In its most recent iteration, neo-Confederacy is used by both proponents and critics to describe a belief system that has emerged since the early-1980s in publications like Southern Partisan, Chronicles, and Southern Mercury, and in organizations including the League of the South, the Council of Conservative Citizens and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Overall, it is a reactionary conservative ideology that has made inroads into the Republican Party from the political right, and overlaps with the views of white nationalists and other more radical extremist groups.
Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction, edited by Euan Hague, Heidi Beirich, and Edward H. Sebesta
An interdisciplinary team examines the mainstreaming of the New Dixie movement, whose calls range from full secession to the racist exaltation of "Celtic" Americans and whose advocates can be found far north of the Mason-Dixon Line.Whenever you hear someone state that "the Civil War wasn't about slavery," refer them to Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family, who wrote Commemoration, minus the myths:
A century and a half after the conclusion of the Civil War, the legacy of the Confederate States of America continues to influence national politics in profound ways. Drawing on magazines such as Southern Partisan and publications from the secessionist organization League of the South, as well as DixieNet and additional newsletters and websites, Neo-Confederacy probes the veneer of this movement to reveal goals far more extensive than a mere celebration of ancestry.
Incorporating groundbreaking essays on the Neo-Confederacy movement, this eye-opening work encompasses such topics as literature and music; the ethnic and cultural claims of white, Anglo-Celtic southerners; gender and sexuality; the origins and development of the movement and its tenets; and ultimately its nationalization into a far-reaching factor in reactionary conservative politics. The first book-length study of this powerful sociological phenomenon, Neo-Confederacy raises crucial questions about the mainstreaming of an ideology that, founded on notions of white supremacy, has made curiously strong inroads throughout the realms of sexist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, and often "orthodox" Christian populations that would otherwise have no affiliation with the regionality or heritage traditionally associated with Confederate history.
I can testify about the South under oath. I was born and raised there, and 12 men in my family fought for the Confederacy; two of them were killed. And since I was a boy, the answer I've heard to this question, from Virginia to Louisiana (from whites, never from blacks), is this: "The War Between the States was about states' rights. It was not about slavery." I've heard it from women and from men, from sober people and from people liquored up on anti-Washington talk. The North wouldn't let us govern ourselves, they say, and Congress laid on tariffs that hurt the South. So we rebelled. Secession and the Civil War, in other words, were about small government, limited federal powers and states' rights.
But a look through the declaration of causes written by South Carolina and four of the 10 states that followed it out of the Union - which, taken together, paint a kind of self-portrait of the Confederacy - reveals a different story. From Georgia to Texas, each state said the reason it was getting out was that the awful Northern states were threatening to do away with slavery.
South Carolina: "The non-slaveholding states ... have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery" and "have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes."
Mississippi: "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world. ...There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union."