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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Regarding "Confederate History Month" in Virginia

The Practical Implications of "Confederate History"
According to reports by CNN and The Washington Post, Governor Bob O'Donnell, Republican Governor of Virginia, is looking pretty stupid.  No doubt motivated by hopes of exploiting the coming Civil War sesquicentennial for political and economic profit, the Gov declared the month of April as "Confederate History Month."  Completely lost in white narcissism, it seems that Governor O'Donnell forgot that (1) Virginia was the heart and soul of black chattel slavery and its interest in rebelling against the union in 1861 was essentially premised on the right to sustain that cruel and exploitative institution; (2) that a large portion of people in Virginia and the rest of the country do not want to commemorate political treason, rebellion, and the contribution that so-called Confederates made in forcing our nation into a bloody civil conflict; and (3) that Confederate history, so-called, is fundamentally intertwined with white supremacy, racial oppression, and hypocritical "evangelical" conservatism--the kind of religious subculture that doesn't condone drunkenness, gambling, or adultery, but sanctions stolen black labor, the rape of black women, the prohibition of blacks from marrying or having an education, and even the right of a white slave master to murder his blacks without facing penalty of law.  And this is a legacy that Governor O'Donnell wants to remember?
The Confederacy was a secessionist movement that formed for all the wrong reasons.
The Confederacy was a secessionist movement that formed for all the wrong reasons.  The Confederacy was a union of betrayal and hubris  that drove millions of the South's sons--slave owners and non-slave owners alike--to death for the sake of the profits of slave holding elites.  The Confederacy was a foolish venture in which arrogant leaders failed to "count the cost" before throwing the nation into a pit of blood and death.  The Confederacy was happily crushed in 1865 because, despite all the arms-piling and antebellum preparations made by Southern leadership in anticipation of secession, it could not go the distance with the federal government. Similarly, neither could it stand vindicated in the light of history because its agenda is clearly one of shame and immorality, no matter what a deluded set of Southern Calvinists may argue.  No decent person should believe that a society essentially defined by race slavery is noble, endearing, or worthy of celebration at the point of its most foolish and wicked history -- southern secession.  If Virginia's Confederate heritage people want to do something, they ought to collect money to build a memorial to all the slaves their forebears exploited, and draft a state apology, signed by Governor O'Donnell, to Virginia's black community.  While he's at it, maybe David Reynold's idea of pardoning John Brown could be thrown in by Governor O'Donnell for good measure.  

At any rate, because he's standing on the wrong side of history, Governor O'Donnell's proclamation came off like a political pants-pooping episode, and subsequently he has had to clean up his mess by a too-little-too late expression of regret, clarifying the fact that the State of Virginia abhors and regrets slavery.  Of course, the Governor did so after the fact, but he is apparently sticking to his guns about making April "Confederate History Month" in the Old Dominion.

It would be easy to blast the G.O.P. over this, perhaps even opine that this is a subtle slap at President Obama.  But this blogger is non-partisan and I'm not going there.  More importantly, this theme goes far deeper than current political tensions between white liberals and white conservatives, neither of whom have ever sufficiently addressed the shameful history of slavery in this nation and the legitimacy of working out some kind of reparations and accountability on the part of the government.  This is about telling the truth about the history of the United States, Virginia included.  Do we really want to celebrate Confederates?   And why is it that so few whites seem to get it, that celebrating the Confederacy in Virginia is like Germans celebrating the role of the Nazis in World War II?  Was black chattel slavery really so much different just because it was enforced by a so-called Christian society?

There are sadly a significant number of Southerners who still love their Confederate so-called heritage.  When they say that they love it, that they're proud of it, that it was a noble Christian society, etc., they are really apologists for the sins of their fathers.  How can Governor O'Donnell sustain Confederate History Month and express regret over slavery?  Didn't the Wisest of All declare, "You can't serve two masters"?  Which master does Governor O'Donnell want to serve, the Confederacy or Liberty?  This double standard is certainly the case with a significant segment of Reformed Presbyterians in the South, who have elevated the Confederate heritage because of its historic theological "orthodoxy," and to this very day idolize Southern, pro-slavery theologians for being faithful to Holy Scripture.  Are these people so devoid of humanity that they cannot see the contradiction in their thinking?

A Confederate Family "Tree"
Confederate history is best summed up in two words: slavery and rebellion.

Confederate history is best summed up in two words: slavery and rebellion, and rebellion for the worst of reasons.  At least John Brown committed "treason" against the Old Dominion in an attempt to set people free from slavery.  Sadly, no other country that has been forced to suppress a civil rebellion has afterward so glorified, praised, and romanticized its defeated rebels and enemies as has the U.S.A.   No traitors and rebels have ever been as warmly welcomed back and forgiven as were white Southern "Confederates."  No government in its right mind would allow the flag of its former rebels and enemies to be flown as state emblems and banners after having crushed that same rebellion.    Had Abraham Lincoln not been such a whites-first politician, and had he dealt with the Confederacy as its leaders deserved, there would have been something akin to the Nuremberg trials in Washington D.C. in 1865, and a whole lot of Confederates would have been "John-Browned" rather than coddled and suckled at the breast of white unity.  "With malice toward none" except former black slaves, that is!

To declare April "Confederate History Month" in Virginia is not only a political insult to the United States and its people, it is a glorification of greed-based rebellion wearing the cloak of nobility.  (No wonder ex-Confederates were so good at hiding under cloaks and hoods after the Civil War.)  Worst of all, "Confederate History Month" in Virginia is an open, flagrant affront to black people and their allies in this nation, who recognize that REAL "Confederate history" is the history of oppression.  Indeed, it is the STARTING POINT of post-Reconstruction segregation, racist brutality, lynching, and discrimination that continued well into the 20th century.  

Maybe blacks in Virginia ought to proclaim their own annual celebration--NAT TURNER HISTORY MONTH.

Maybe instead of complaining about "Confederate History Month," blacks in Virginia ought to proclaim their own annual celebration--NAT TURNER HISTORY MONTH.   If that's offensive to white Virginians and their cousins across this country, then maybe it will finally occur to them how offensive this notion of glorifying Confederate history is to black people and their allies.   If Virginia really wants to commemorate the Civil War sesquicentennial, that is perfectly legitimate as long as the spirit of hubris, oppression, and rebellion is not glorified and idealized in name of "Confederate history."  Rather than celebrate Virginia's Confederate legacy, perhaps an extensive education and information program could promote understanding of the history, politics, and crisis that led this nation to civil conflict and how Virginia's leaders played a major role in bringing this about.  Let Virginia tell the truth about itself and so provide a positive model rather than resurrecting the demons of the Old Dominion.

1 comment:

JamesHofsiss said...

How about a "John Brown's Raid" month in Virginia?