Pardon my French, but I have had enough of this Confederate bulls–t. Americans are exceptional in many ways, one of them being that we tolerate the glorification of the losers of a war fought for one reason and one reason only: so white southerners could keep black southerners enslaved.
We up north can’t stop how the Civil War is taught, or mistaught, to kids down south. But we surely do not have to agree with or accept as valid in any way the kinds of lies and distortions Confederate sympathizers and white supremacists spout about that tragic time. Rather, Americans from all parts of the country need to affirm, loudly and repeatedly, that the south rebelled not to protect the principle of states’ rights but to keep black people as their property. Check the record — the CSA’s founding documents and fathers are crystalline on this point. “Our new government … rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition,” said Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens. “This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this [sic] great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.)
To shirk this duty of constant refutation of racist lies is to give comfort a mindset that leads to the disgrace of what happened in Charlottesville.
President Trump: The statues of Washington, Jefferson, et al. were put up to inspire all Americans. The statues of Lee, Stonewall Jackson, et al. were put up to inspire some Americans and intimidate others. The Revolutionary War was fought to expand freedom. The south launched the Civil War to keep freedom restricted.
Sure, many Confederates fought bravely and skillfully. For some, that justifies them being memorialized as we memorialize those who fought bravely and skillfully for the Union. I don’t agree. If the rebels had fought less skillfully for one of the worst causes anybody ever fought, the Civil War would have been less murderous and destructive. Erwin Rommel was a good general too, but you don’t see him lionized in Germany.
I fully support the right of the communities in which they stand to decide whether the Confederate memorials should stay or go. I also fully support their being taken down and either melted for scrap or placed in museums of bad ideas.
Back in November, I wrote this. “While I don’t quite buy the argument that everybody who voted for Trump is a sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic bag of hate, it’s impossible to deny that the actual bags of hate have been energized, and how, by Trump’s election.” Yup.
I also wrote this. “Those who believe in diversity, tolerance and the expansion of personal, racial and sexual freedoms that began in the ’60s had better prepare themselves to defend those freedoms. They will be attacked like they haven’t been in decades.” Yup.
And this. “Also, blacks, Latinos and Muslims [I should have included Jewish people too and apologize for the omission] will face ramped-up hate and violence. It’s up to people of good conscience to stick up for them.” Yes, and thank God, people of good conscience all over the country are doing that.
Reject utterly and with great force, I urge, the concept pushed by the president that there’s some kind of equivalence between the white supremacists and those who turned out in Charlottesville to oppose them. Pardon me again, but that’s vile and pernicious bulls–t. I often think about this quote from philosopher Sidney Hook — “Tolerance always has its limits. It cannot tolerate what is itself actively intolerant.”
It’s sometimes easier for people to describe what they’re against than what they’re for. In response to seeing one of the Nazis of Charlottesville wearing a shirt with their father’s name on it, the children of the late, truly great Johnny Cash posted a message on Facebook, which included a paragraph which I think gets to the heart of the matter. “We do not judge race, color, sexual orientation or creed. We value the capacity for love and the impulse towards kindness. We respect diversity, and cherish our shared humanity. We recognize the suffering of other human beings, and remain committed to our natural instinct for compassion and service.”