09 April 2010

Honoring treason


Governor McDonnell of Virginia triggered a firestorm this week with his proclamation (link sent by Mendip) honoring the most monstrous, violent, and bloody act of treason ever committed against the American nation and Constitution. To be sure, that was not his intent. He released the proclamation last Friday by placing it, without fanfare, on his website, suggesting that he hoped it would not attract media attention. The point about it which sparked the most immediate outrage was its omission of any reference to slavery, which is a bit like issuing a proclamation in honor of the 9/11 hijackers without mentioning jihad. Later, under a barrage of criticism even from some of his allies, McDonnell apologized for the omission, calling it a "mistake" -- assuredly a startling one, since previous such proclamations by earlier Republican governors had included mention of slavery.

Whether this was just a crass, clumsy blunder or a crass, clumsy wolf-whistle, no one but McDonnell truly knows. However, he has in a way done the country a service, by drawing attention to the issue of Civil War history and its modern abuses.

David Frum cuts through the dishonest rhetoric which so often clouds this topic:

But the Civil War is a subject about which it is impossible to be bland, and in urging Virginians to remember, the proclamation engaged in some creative forgetting. It claimed that Confederate soldiers “fought for their homes and communities and Common-wealth.” None of those things was endangered in 1861. What was endangered was slavery.....

Oliver Willis puts it more bluntly:

When you celebrate the confederacy you support the idea of taking up arms against the United States in defense of the conti- nued enslavement of black people. To celebrate the Confederacy is to celebrate human bondage and treason. Period.

Citizen K reviews the revival of racism and terrorism after the war, and Beekeeper's Apprentice (who lives in Richmond) looks at the ongoing modern efforts to rehabilitate the Confederacy.

Frum and Willis are right. If any one action in American history met the standard of "levying war against" the United States (the Constitutional definition of treason), the secession of the South and the launching of the Civil war was it. The fault-line dividing the country was, and already had been for years, slavery. Certainly a Confederate victory would have kept slavery in existence much longer, probably decades. To claim that this was in any sense a noble cause, or that the people who fought for it were heroes, is an unspeakable outrage. To claim that embracing such an attitude and displaying the flag of treason is somehow compatible with American patriotism is bizarre.

I am not one of those people who looks down on the South, as the South. There are plenty of Southerners who are patriotic and non- racist, and there are plenty of racists and people with a nauseating disdain for patriotism in other parts of the country. The Constitu- tion itself says that "no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood" -- people are not responsible for the actions of their ancestors. But the Confederate fetish is an insult to the United States. It's also dangerous because it's divisive, in two ways.

Most obviously, of course, it insults black Americans, because the Confederacy fought, and indeed was established, to prolong the ghastly abuse of their ancestors.

Perhaps less obviously, it underhandedly legitimizes a kind of seditious talk which has become fashionable among extremists. Mutterings about secession do crop up here and there on the far right, and even the governor of Texas was caught making such remarks. Of course, there is not going to be another secession or another civil war, but that doesn't mean that this couldn't be a problem. Do we really want to let a version of Canada's endlessly-distracting Quebec issue arise in our country?

8 Comments:

Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

The south ought to feel fortunate that the Civil war was won by the north ...especially Texan's .... do we realize what these places would be like today if the north hadnt won? Yeah Guy .... year's back when I stayed in Montreal(QE) .... great town by the way .... it was so independent feeling guy ... alot different, than Toronto(ONT) for instance .... and it seemed like you were half lost if you didnt speak some French, I sware ... the main language in that place had to be French, these folk's just didnt seem to think they were Canadian's in a weird sense. Public sign's and much of every advertising was in French. I reckon Dallas is kind of like that .... I mean ... alot of area's in Dallas are spanish language only, Latino is the majority population here.

Later Guy ..........

09 April, 2010 08:36  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

RC: Thanks. I wish someone would talk that kind of sense into Governor Perry.

One difference between Texas and Quebec is that I'd bet there isn't much interest in secession among Hispanics in Texas.

09 April, 2010 08:49  
Blogger mendip said...

Alas, I truly feel that McDonnell represents RoVa, (or at least the Whites who live there), quite well. This is the reality south of DC. This is what I've grown up with, there is nothing new here. The Governor is speaking to the beliefs and hopes of his constituency.

09 April, 2010 10:59  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I guess evolution isn't the only subject which has been neglected in some people's education.....

09 April, 2010 11:08  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Nope ... not much secession talk at all out of Mexicano's, they feel fine the way it's set up. But this kind of talk was ole barbeque beer talk with rural folk's year's ago, not really nothing serious, It seem's these day's there is some kind of seriousness to some of these. I never gave it much thought before this whether Texas was independent or not, but after some thought, it's not the best interest of the state. Perry is lazy too, which works fine when theres nothing to do, but the state has new challenges, so we need someone that actually works, I will vote for White (former Houston Mayor for Gov. this year) and Perry been in already a long time, since Bush was governor anywayz, but Perry's not going to do nothin anywayz, he's too lazy to do shit. Most folk's here whatever party or race dont want to be a seperate country anywayz, this is kind of one of them isolated groups that breed amongst themselves type's.

09 April, 2010 11:42  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

RC: this is kind of one of them isolated groups that breed amongst themselves type's.

I suspected as much.

09 April, 2010 13:18  
Blogger godlizard (aka dotlizard) said...

I don't want to credit these morons with more subtlety and sophistication than they possess, but the convenient omission of any mention of slavery now that we have an African-American President seems particularly pointed. They mentioned it before, why not now? Because they are celebrating and encouraging the hate, feeding on the fears, and appealing to the lowest of the low, the yee-haw south-will-rise-again rednecks -- a group of people who known for their poor impulse control, and who are entirely expendable to the politicians and wingnut spokespersons who manipulate them.

This is all dog-whistle politics, all this subtext and innuendo -- every time one of their leaders makes a little mis-statement, whether it's mentioning McVeigh and getting applauded or mentioning secession and getting a chorus of rebel yells.

And yes, it's treason. Treason is the exact word for all this talk about violent overthrow of the government and/or civil war.

At least when liberals are disaffected and outnumbered in Congress, all they do is talk about moving to Canada or France or whatever.

10 April, 2010 14:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

GL: The connection between Obama and not mentioning slavery hadn't occurred to me, but you may well be right. I'm not sure they're all morons -- in the case of McDonnell I rather doubt it. This might well be more planned than it looks.

And yeah, why can't the far-right loons threaten to emigrate when Democrats win? Maybe because there aren't any countries out-there enough for them, except Islamic ones?

10 April, 2010 14:42  

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