Southern Nostalgia

Via Civil War Memory, a video about the romantic veneration of the “Lost Cause”. It was originally created by Caitlin at Vast Public Indifference.

The Great Commoner
Being Agent Scully
I Cannot Tell a Lie
Hitler Can't Help You
  • Michael

    inb4 slavery not cause of war

  • busterggi

    Of course not Michael, slavery was just a coincedence, just like a century of Jim Crow laws in the south after the Confederacy lost. No bigotry at all.

    You betcha!

    • lurker111

      Exactly. If slavery had never existed, the Civil War would have happened anyway.

      (/snark–for those too dumb to recognize sarcasm)

  • nazani14

    Living in Fredericksburg, I have to deal with this BS on an almost-daily basis. The locals make a big deal about how the Yankees couldn’t get past the stone wall facing the river, ignoring the fact that bombardment left most residents homeless. Mercifully, there is not a lot of Stalinesque monumental statuary around here (though there probably would be it the town hadn’t been so broke for so long.) My particular beef is with the lionization of Rbt. E. Lee. I can’t get my head around someone who went through West Point and was able to fight against former classmates.

    • Paul

      Strong nationalism, much in the same way that the Germans couldn’t fully support people like Schindler, even after the war was over. They had gone against the Führer, and thus they had gone against their own country; it didn’t matter if the actions were good or bad, it was the country they had betrayed.

    • objectifier

      Lee’s writings show he was deeply divided in his loyalties to his home state of Virginia and to the union. Some in the south go so far as blame his ambivalence for many of the failures of the southern armies.

      One thing most folks aren’t aware of was that the actions of Lincoln in putting down the secession of the south forever changed us from “the several states” who were much more different from one another and much more independent and the United states where the federal government held all the trump cards. In reality, this was a central dispute from the beginnings of our country and at some point there would have likely been another issue that brought this to the head if slavery had not been a point of contention. The final brick in that particular dispute was laid when the constitution was amended to call for popular election of the senate, which before that time were appointed by the governors with the approval of the state legislators to give the state government a voice in the government.

  • mcvouty

    From the South Carolina Declaration of Secession:

    “We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.”

    CLEARLY this had nothing to do with slavery. It had to do with a differing opinion of what is sinful. And nothing much has changed…

    • Yoav

      It was all about a kind of sick glorification of property that you still see in the modern American right (just listen to some teacup to see what I mean). In this worldview ownership is the most venerated concept that’s why Rand Paul think that it’s OK for a restaurant owner to discriminate based on race and that the government shouldn’t force BP to pay for spilling oil into the golf. That’s naturally lead to considering any intervention in property ownership to be wrong even if said property is another human being.

  • nomad

    Hmmm… I wonder what it would have been like if the South had won the war?…Gee. I wonder…
    I wonder…

    • objectifier

      That’s always been a great bit of fodder for “what if” history buffs. Spike Lee did a great job in CSA, but in the end, there were so many possible variables. Other good “what ifs” center on things like what would have happened if either the Union had recognized a right to secession – something that Texans specifically reserved when they chose to join the union – or if reconstruction had been handled better or if the repatriation plan that Lincoln had championed – which did lead to the formation of what is now Liberia (from Liberty) – had been implemented. All these are interesting speculations. I live near Atlanta and grew up here during the civil rights movement starting in 1959. My family is very southern and some not the most liberal of folks. I have seen huge changes and a lot of misguided actions by groups of both colors and by the government. Northwest of Atlanta the town of Kennesaw reinacts the battle fought there against Sherman as he headed in to burn Atlanta to the ground. I think the civil war is Kennesaw’s primary business. There are many who can’t let go of this silly idea they have nurtured about the old south.

      I agree that the old south rising again is not what anyone sane wants. But there are those still proud of their home, even if it has a very dark past. There is much beauty down here and much to celebrate as well as much that still needs to change.

      Whether or not Spike got it right, his film does again open a dialogue about race, something I hope one day we will outgrow.

      • nomad

        “There is much beauty down here and much to celebrate as well as much that still needs to change.”

      • mcvouty

        Just to set the record straight (on a trivial matter), Spike Lee didn’t make C.S.A. He only slapped his name on the credits. The movie was directed and written by Kevin Willmott.

        I was disappointed in the film for a number of reasons, but I think the biggest error was that the CSA wasn’t interested in conquering the North. Promoting that myth is just as wrong as promoting the myth that the war wasn’t about slavery. The idea that they would move into the White House might make for good satire, but it makes for really poor (alt)history.

        • nomad

          Good points. But this is a false equivalence. ” Promoting that myth is just as wrong as promoting the myth that the war wasn’t about slavery.” It’s nowhere near as wrong as denying the war wasn’t about slavery. But, more importantly, the movie is not the promotion of a “myth” that the South wanted to take over national government. It poses a premise; in order to ask the larger question of what would this country be like if slavery continued as its central institution.

          • mcvouty

            Agreed. I certainly should have said “This is just promoting another harmful myth…etc.” Harmful in as much as it gives the uneducated another distorted view of the truth that many now consider fact. A realistic and plausible scenario could have been made in the film where the USA entered into a mutually-beneficial trade partnership with the CSA, but that wouldn’t have allowed for wacky Forrest Gump hi-jinks.

  • Custador

    Mass-media controlled societies seem to be very prone to romanticising history that was really deeply horrible.

    • JohnMWhite

      I suppose it’s because we get used to seeing everything in terms of stories, with simplistic symbols and motifs, and a good side and a bad side. The side we identify with are obviously meant to be the good ones. Kind of telling who some people identify with when they look at the Civil War.

  • PsiCop

    I’ve spent some time down south, and whenever the Civil War (er, “the War Between the States,” they like to call it*) comes up, I usually hear the refrain that it wasn’t about “slavery” it was about “states’ rights.” While they are correct that states’ rights were an issue, the truth is that slavery was the “right” that the southern states were fighting over. If not for the fact that the south depended on slaves for much of its agrarian labor, there wouldn’t have been as much contention over “states’ rights” as there was, and — very likely — no Civil War (er, “War Between the States”).

    It is, quite simply, irrational of southerners to refuse to admit the role that slavery played in leading up to the Civil War. What makes it so strange is that such an admission would not harm them … it all happened over 150 years ago, and is long in the past. So there’s no rational reason why they’d deny it. It reminds me a little of Turkey’s response to any mention of the Armenian Holocaust … i.e. a kneejerk, instinctive, unthinking denial, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

    • mcvouty

      Sadly, I think it’s more ignorance than irrationality. Most Americans simply don’t know their own history.

      I guess the upside is, it’s easier to teach history than critical thinking. The second downside is, people who lack critical thinking skills tend to operate with extreme confirmation bias, and are unlikely to ever believe the history they might be taught.

    • objectifier

      The correct southern description has always been “the unpleasantness between the states”

      • mcvouty

        The Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War includes the following:

        The War
        The Late Unpleasantness
        The Late Friction
        The Late Ruction
        The Schism
        The Uncivil War
        The War for Constitutional Liberty
        The War for Southern Independence
        The Second American Revolution
        The War for States’ Rights
        Mr. Lincoln’s War
        The Southern Rebellion
        The War for Southern Rights
        The War of the Southern Planters
        The War of the Rebellion
        The Second War for Independence
        The War to Suppress Yankee Arrogance
        The Brothers’ War
        The War of Secession
        The Great Rebellion
        The War for Nationality
        The War for Southern Nationality
        The War Against Slavery
        The Civil War Between the States
        The War of the Sixties
        The War Against Northern Aggression
        The Yankee Invasion
        The War for Separation
        The War for Abolition
        The War for the Union
        The Confederate War
        The War of the Southrons
        The War for Southern Freedom
        The War of the North and South
        The Lost Cause

    • tinyfrog

      I think it has more to do with the desire to “be on the right side”. The South suffered during and after the war. To add insult to injury, they also have to accept that they were fighting for the wrong cause. Nobody wants to be “the bad guys”, so they constructed a fiction. “It wasn’t about slavery” (because it’d be very hard to justify fighting for slavery), “it was about states rights” (an argument that they feel they can actually win, and a cause they can actually feel justified about). Based on that, I don’t think it’s about “knowing” one’s history, but it’s about constructing a story that makes Southerners and their Southern ancestors “the good guys” – a way to maintain their own pride.

  • AhhhClem

    In the alternative history from Firesign Theaters ‘Everything You
    Know is Wrong’ the South won the war but not the way we remember.

    “NoOoOoO body gwen habe to be a slave all de time no mo, we gwen take
    turns, and guess whose toin it is now?”

    And hereabouts it is referred to as the “War of Northern Aggression”.

    • lurker111

      And at least in Virginia, the outcome of the Civil War is still pending. Kid you not.

      • objectifier

        The same in Kennesaw Georgia, where they have frequent reinactments and more CSA souvenir and relic stores than you can believe.

        This is also the only (as far as I know) city in the US where gun ownership is mandatory for the head of each household. This was done back in the eighties as a reaction to Morton Grove, Illinois banning handgun ownership.

        They have a very low rate of burglary and home invasions vis a vis the rest of the Metro Atlanta area and even a fairly low rate of gun related crime. Would you burglarize a house where the owner had to have a gun?