Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Honoring the Confederacy means you hate America

There's been a lot of talk about the apparent racism and historical ignorance of Virgina Gov. Bob McDonnell's proclamation of "Confederate History Month." But racism aside, I think Ta-Nehisi Coates makes a good point that we don't think about very often. Speaking of Republicans who approve of McDonnell's actions, he says:

If you honor a flag raised explicitly to destroy this country then this is the movement for you.

Well, yeah.

Defenders of the Confederate flag and other efforts to honor the Old South always say they're not interested in slavery or racism but heritage. Let's leave aside how the racism and slavery are inextricably bound up in that heritage; we'll ignore them entirely. (Although Republicans who chafe under the burden of racism accusations might stop and consider, for a moment, how actions like McDonnell's look to African Americans.)

Even putting its best foot forward, the reason the Confederacy existed was to tear asunder the United States of America. You can't get around it.

In that sense, the Confederates who fired on Fort Sumter weren't all that different from the Japanese who bombed Pearl Harbor, the Germans who sunk the Lusitania or the hijackers who hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on 9/11. We don't raise memorials in their honor, we don't fly their flags and we don't make proclamations in their memory -- their actions were an assault on the United States and its citizens.

Honoring the Confederacy, then, is a signal of contempt for the United States of America. Period.

Not all - probably not even most - Republicans are lovers of the Confederacy. But Confederacy-loving sentiment mostly finds its home in today's Republican Party. There is some irony here, since the GOP likes to style itself as more-patriotic-than-thou. But in the words of a Republican president: "You're either with us or against us." How can you love this country and the people who tried to destroy it? It doesn't make any sense.


RobbL said...

You're just trying to bait me, aren't you?

namefromthepast said...

Hope you had a good b-day Joel.

In most conflicts there isn't a clear good guy/bad guy. The Civil War is no exception.

I'll offer another prospective.

The confederate flag was not raised to "explicitly destroy this country"

To contemplate the motivations of the civil war is staggering. One big thing that is unmentioned by this essay is that we are debating history with what the US looks like today vs 1861. Socially and politically they are radically different.

The evolution of the modern state occured more quickly after the civil war, the sum polical power of the US shifted dramatically to Washington DC after the war and since that is the US we now know we can't apply this US to the US of 1861.

In federative policy when an entity, like the states, blocked encroachment on their liberty it was virtuous, when govt is centralized/socialized like it is today-treason. See your headline.

Lincoln did not send troops to erradicate slavery-he said repeated that he simply did not want the confederacy to succeed. In his first inaugural address he suggested the 13th ammendment be to prevent the federal govt from interfering with slavery. Ironic?

The south had many motivations to succeed the most repeated was for the principle of self determination and the right of self-governance.

Attempting to separate the emotional feelings of slavery, racism, etc towards the issues involving the civil war is virtually impossible and certainly shouldn't be left out. However, I feel, comparing the confederacy to the Japanese, Nazi Germany, and Islamic terrorists is a simple man's conclusion.

Remember Abraham Lincoln argued that a "physical difference" between whites and blacks prevented them from living together in social and political equality.

Remember it was Robert E Lee that argued that slavery was a "moral
and political evil"

Is patriotism defending yourself, your state, or federal govt if they are at odds? If the answer is always the feds why bother with states at all?

Are we willing to live with the consequences of an unchecked national govt? History teaches us repeatedly that this type of governance is where Nazi Germany comes hails. The power to do is good the power to do evil.

Deep breath.

RobbL said...

I'm not going to do a big thing here, but I will say the following:

1 - I'm not going to defend the Confederate flag. It's got too much baggage to be a useful symbol of anything noble.

2 - I think "namefromthepast" has good points, many of which I would echo.

3 - Fort Sumter was provoked, nobody (except a horse) died, and it's nothing like Pearl Harbor, the Lusitania, or the Twin Towers.

4 - I think even a cursory reading of the Declaration of Independence shows that document to be nothing if not a defense of the right to secession. The American Revolution was not like the French Revolution. Nobody marched on Parliament and tried to overthrow it. The colonies were demanding the right to separate from England and govern themselves. Trying to define what the Southern states did as somehow different is pure sophistry.

So, if defending the right to secession means I hate America, then I must hate America. But I reject that assertion.

Joel said...


Defending the right to secession doesn't mean you hate America.

But I think that actual secession by definition includes SOME level of hatred (or insert other negative-but-less-inflammatory synonym) for America -- at least enough to decide that you don't want to be part of it. Otherwise ... why secede?

Joel said...

namefromthepast: I need to compose a longer response to you.

RobbL said...

Joel: Because secession is (or, rather, WAS) the final check the states had against creeping tyranny from the central government. You don't have to hate something to not want to be bound to it. You don't even have to dislike it. You just have to value independence more than the benefits of shared resources.

The South was NOT trying to "destroy" the United States of America. It was trying to leave. Had they been left alone, the Northern states would not have ceased being the United States of America any more than England was "torn asunder" when the colonies left. Or Canada left. Or Australia, New Zealand, etc. England is still England, and the United States would still be the United States if it were to allow one or more of its states or territories to depart and govern themselves.

Anonymous said...

You talk about ignorance of history then xlaim the Confederacy only existed to 'tear asunder the United States of America'. Boy, talk about ignorant!
The wish of the Confederate Government and it's people was summed up by President Jefferson Davis in his inaugural address at Montgomery as well as his farewell address to the U.S. congress when he stated very plainly "All we wish is to be left alone".
The fledgling Confederacy had no military, initially and no infrastructure to defend themselves. Even General Lee himself stated that "All we wished is to have the Constitution restored the Union as it was"

The sons and grandsons of Confederate soldiers fought on every battlefield that the U.S. has spilled blood on from Cubas San Juan Hill, to Okinawa and their descendants are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan today. So, rather than saying those who support the Confederate Battleflag (that's the one you have up in your article, by the way... not the National flag. Do a little research) hate America, is asinine, irresponsible, and historically ignorant. If anything, they (we) love, respect, and support America and the united States Constitution more than our detractors.

Joel said...

Anon: I am well aware that the flag depicted here is the battle flag -- did I say otherwise? Is is the flag under which Confederate armies made war on the United States. It is flag under which southerners who no longer wished to be part of the United States killed Americans.


Jefferson Davis may have wished to have been "left alone" as you say -- but there's little doubt that what he wanted was for the Confederate states to be "left alone" and left separate from the United States.

You can defend the doctrine of secession until the cows come home -- and in some respects I wouldn't necessarily disagree with you. But there's no denying the intent of succession: to pull apart from the United States. Period. This actually isn't even debatable.

The sons and grandson and so forth of Confederate soldiers have no doubt served this country well and faithfully. But when you honor the Confederacy -- and the men who fought for it -- you honor a cause that, had it succeeded, would have left little or nothing for those descendants to defend.

So you can fool yourself all day if you want. The truth is: If you love the Confederacy, then you're against the United States. It's zero sum. And that doesn't strike me, frankly, as all that patriotic.

Anonymous said...

If modern day U.S. were to become tyrannical we are heading that way) what is wrong with seceding? Do we stick with the US because we don't want to be haters of US even though it becomes tyrannical?

Anonymous said...

If modern day U.S. were to become tyrannical (we are heading that way) what is wrong with seceding? Do we stick with the US because we don't want to be haters of US even though it becomes tyrannical?