Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Response to The Oxford American

Colors That Bleed by Warwick Sabin

The voluntary obtuseness in pieces like this one never ceases to amaze me. The city of Marshall's name is a disavowal of the Confederacy? Or the result of the influence of the military dictatorship set up by the federal government in the former Confederate states, as represented by the U.S. troops in Burrowsville? The forced imposition of northern/federal will upon the Southern states was practically the definition, and certainly the reality and practice, of Reconstruction.

And if you don't understand Kim Ragland's reference to the flag prohibition being a "slap in the face" of the men and women fighting for our country, let me give you a way of looking at it that obviously didn't occur to you. Our military personnel take an oath to uphold the Constitution -- the document that is supposed to charge the government with securing the rights of citizens, including the right to free speech and free expression. The troops may not feel about the Confederate flag the way the people of Marshall do, but they don't have to agree with the way Americans express their views in order to protect that expression. It is not the place of the city council to circumvent the will of the people. They are elected servants who are supposed to do the will of the people. The imposition of government on the people's rights and will are what the troops fighting against overseas -- but they're just supposed to accept it here, in their own country?

I suspect most of the troops remember what elitists back home have forgotten, or rejected: "I may not agree with what you say but I defend to the death your right to say it." Or, in the case of the mayor and people of Marshall, to display it.

There was no violent rebellion 150 years ago. There was a violent invasion of the Southern states by the federal government's military. There was absolutely no justification for responding to the peaceful and democratic secession of the Southern states with military invasion and war.

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson established that people are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that governments are instituted to secure those rights. One right he specifically identifies is the right of the people to alter or abolish their government and create another that suits them better. This right both pre-exists and transcends the Constitution. How grotesque, then, that the only time Americans have attempted to exercise this right, the government that was supposed to secure it for them made brutal war on them instead.

That the people of Southern towns likely do not share your elitist view of history (and of them) doesn't mean they are conflicted and confused. It's far more likely that you're seeking to create in yourself the warm fuzzies of moral and intellectual superiority by bad-mouthing people simply for seeing the issue differently than you do -- i.e., you're right, they're wrong.

The Confederate flag did not inspire treason. The charge of treason applies only to people who, owing allegiance to the US, make war on it, or assist those who do. Since the states had already seceded (as was their right, enunciated by the Declaration of Independence) the people of those states no longer owed allegiance to the US. Thus, no treason.

The South did not tear itself apart OR tear itself away. It peacefully and democratically seceded, state by state, and it was invaded, blockaded, and starved. The invaders burned entire towns as well as farms, homes, barns, stored food and crops in the field; shot family pets; killed livestock and threw the carcasses in wells and streams to contaminate drinking water, stabled horses in church sanctuaries just for spite, and dug up corpses looking for valuables to steal. Oh, but I'm sure it was done without malice and with charity, since Lincoln suggested it should.

What I find grotesquely hypocritical of your essay is your charge that admirers of the Confederate flag do not fully comprehend its "complicated heritage" -- but then you simplistically reduce that heritage to "a nation conceived to deny fundamental human rights for some of its citizens." No, you got it right the first time; the issues that went into the creation of the Confederate States of America were not as simple as the all-slavery, only-slavery school would have us believe.

It is even more complex when you realize that virtually everything the Confederacy is criticized for, the United States is also guilty of -- and worse. The Confederate government did not have as official policy the genocide of the Plains Indians. It did not herd native Americans into reservations where their condition was worse than that of slaves. It did not engage in domestic mind control experiments and torture in Central America, like the CIA after WWII. When you compare the sins of the two governments and cultures, the CSA actually comes out as morally superior.

You seem to have a grudging respect for the hillbillies of Searcy County since they evidently didn't think secession and war was worth their time and trouble. Of course, that's probably the only thing admirable about them, judging by the way white Southerners -- especially hardscrabble rural ones -- are perceived and portrayed by the USA, especially in popular culture. They are among the last few groups people can ridicule and mock without rousing the wrath, or at least the verbal condemnation, of the political correctness police. I wonder if your grudging respect for their uninvolvement in the Confederacy's denying fundamental human rights to some of its citizens would move you to defend them from such as this:
Arkansas Hillbillies Google Search

And this:
And this:
And this:

I'm a self-taught writer. I found the Oxford American website while searching the Internet for writing-related content. I'm also a Southerner, and a descendent of poor, hardscrabble Georgia mountaineers. I am pleased with and proud of my region and its people and I write to honor them by accurately portraying them. I do not feel it necessary to portray them as scum-sucking racist inbred hicks in order to please some New York editor, or some Southern carpetbagger-or-scalawag editor. I would rather never be published than to achieve publication by lying about the good people of my region and their culture.

Fortunately, there are alternatives now, thanks to the digital revolution. Self-publishing has become affordable with print-on-demand technology. Downloadable electronic books circumvent brick and mortar bookstores. This same technology has given Southerners access to information about the past unfiltered by self-appointed gatekeepers who wish our view of history and our beliefs about ourselves and our culture to conform to theirs.

Not only do I feel no compulsion to trash my region and its people with my writing; I feel no desire to read others who engage in such. For example, "After all, the South is often mercilessly derided by outsiders for the more shameful aspects of its history; for its standing in many socioeconomic categories; and for the political systems and attitudes that are largely responsible for both." Anyone who writes such without pointing out that the political systems and attitudes responsible for both are not Southern in origin, but imposed from without, loses me quickly. As for the South's "socioeconomic categories" -- i.e., its poverty -- don't blame that on the Southern people....Blame it on things like this:

I'll happily leave the Oxford American website, go outside for some breaths of fresh air to clear my head and get the bad taste out of my mouth... and get back to the real South, a wonderful place regardless of 150 years of elitist efforts to sanctify the north of its sins by pretending only the South has them -- and that the sins are the crux, the definition, the sum-total of the South.


  1. You know, I've traveled to the north a couple of times in my life and I've found the people up north to be rude and condescending because I was from the south. The first time I went I was a kid and my Pawpaw bought some gas and a coke. He said they charged outrageous prices for a coke at one store when they heard his southern accent. Cokes cost the same in the north as they do in the south. The last time I went I heard people mocking the southern accent and making fun of a persons 'southern accent'of someone whom I had perceived as having a 'northern accent'. You knew him. It was Craig and they were saying that at his memorial service.

  2. Some backsass needed here-

    Mary Baldwin College, Staunton, VA

    I don't think you could find a more ridiculously hypocritical statement than this-

    "'Why would you want to fly the Confederate flag here?... Diversity is important at Mary Baldwin,' said rising senior Tiara Hines."

  3. Topcat, how important can diversity be at an institution of higher learning that only permits students of one sex? As I've noted elsewhere, the stench of hypocrisy from leftists and Confederacy-bashers can come through the internet and burn your rhinal cavaties raw.


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