"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Confederacy

Not my thoughts.  But anyone concerned with race and memory and the grasping tentacles of the Civil War needs to read Ta-Nehesi Coates in The Atlantic.  No one writes like him, and I don't know of anyone who thinks about these issues as clearly as he does- clear enough to even recognize his own clouds.  This, in particular, is brilliant.

If the war actually weren't about slavery, I think all our lives would be a lot easier. But as I thought on it, my sadness was stupid. What undergirds all of this alleged honoring of the Confederacy, is a kind of ancestor-worship that isn't. The Lost Cause is necromancy--it summons the dead and enslaves them to the need of their vainglorious, self-styled descendants. Its greatest crime is how it denies, even in death, the humanity of the very people it claims to venerate. This isn't about "honoring" the past--it's about an inability to cope with the present.


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.

1 comment:

  1. I'm actually surprised more Republicans haven't jumped on this bandwagon. I realize the negative implications, but a chance to pander to the base, decry "big government" with a historical basis, and (subtly) rally the inner racist in their constituents seems like a political goldmine!

    That being said, the historian in me is actually intellectually disappointed that there ISN’T a way to remember the Confederacy without the racist implications. I find the South’s nationalism argument especially interesting in a 19th century, Unification-of-Italy-and-Germany context. Compare the Confederacy to those, or pan-Slavism and anti-Hapsburg feelings, and you get an interesting historical/legal precedent to what the South was trying to do.

    But the slavery element is, rightfully, impossible to ignore, and any study of the politics of succession shouldn’t forget that crucial aspect of the CSA’s agenda.