Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Civil War revisionism

As you may have heard in the news, last week the Governor of VA declared a Confederate History Month and neglected in the declaration to mention the labor structure that underpinned the entire economic model of the southern United States, defense of which was the goal of the Confederate States' secession, and which was oiled in the blood of a race. You know, or something. Anyway, people rightfully complained, another Southern governor predictably and depressingly doubled-down, and a political bloc, primarily of the right-wing and of the south, continues to pretend that slavery was a "minor" aspect of the Civil War and that the Battle Flag only stands for noble tradition and defense against "northern aggression."

Ta-Nehisi Coates, who I believe I've linked before (he's a liberal writer for the Atlantic), has written increasingly about the Civil War over the last several years as he continues to voraciously read books on the subject. I've only been reading him for about a year and a half, so I could be wrong, but I think this is a recent interest for him. In any case, he's been all over the more vocal resurgence of revisionism the past few weeks, and has written some good stuff, criticizing Gov. McDonnel's original declaration and, rightly, commending him for his later mea culpa. He aired some fascinating and sad comments from his readers. And now he's dug in to the psychological underpinnings of the Lost Cause. In the process, he wrote one of my favorite sentences I've seen in some time, the second the two I will quote here:
This is about a lancing shame, about that gaping wound in the soul that comes when confronted with the appalling deeds of our forebears. Lost Causers worship their ancestors, in the manner of the abandoned child who brags that his dead-beat father is actually an astronaut, away on a mission of cosmic importance.
Matthew Yglesias of ThinkProgress has also written some great stuff on the subject over the past couple weeks, as well. At the Daily Beast he wrote about the strain within the GOP that celebrates treason in defense of slavery, subverting that party's roots. And on his blog he commented on Ed Kilgore's suggestion of a Neo-Confederate History Month, which he points out would be quite bipartisan in its subjects.

Late-breaking addition: MS Gov Haley Barbour's history-ignorant proclamation of Confederate History Month!

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