Not So Grand Confederacy
Last week, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell issued a proclamation recognizing Confederate History Month. Celebrations of the Confederacy have always been a little odd. In a country where being termed “anti-American” is only slightly better than being designated as a “racist,” we still choose to celebrate the very definition of “anti-Americanism,” you know, waging war on America. Yet, many American citizens take a certain strange pride in the Confederacy’s efforts. Hank Williams Jr., a southern hero, went as far as to write a song entitled “If the South Would’ve Won,” which dreams of a day when the U.S. Capitol would be in Alabama and any product made in China would be banned. What these celebrations of the Confederacy seem to forget or ignore is that a victorious South would have meant, above all else, the continuation of slavery.
In an opinion piece published in the New York Times, Jon Meacham discusses the growth of “neo-Confederacy” and its efforts to rewrite history:
That has not, however, stopped Lost Causers who supported Mr. McDonnell’s proclamation from trying to recast the war in more respectable terms. They would like what Lincoln called our “fiery trial” to be seen in a political, not a moral, light. If the slaves are erased from the picture, then what took place between Sumter and Appomattox is not about the fate of human chattel, or a battle between good and evil. It is, instead, more of an ancestral skirmish in the Reagan revolution, a contest between big and small government.
The point here is that being “anti-government” and “Confederate” are often conflated when they should not be. The Civil War was not fought over some great crusade by the middle class against liberal elites, or for small government against big government. It was fought over the continuation of the enslavement of innocent people. Sticking a confederate flag bumper sticker on your Ford Ranger should not be a badge of honor, but rather a scarlet letter. Singing that “if the south would’ve won, we woulda had it made,” should be dismissed out of hand as ridiculous. You can not celebrate the Confederacy’s effort without celebrating the inherent racism that was its motivation.