Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Seriously, Though, When Do We Get To Stop Coddling The South?

Not to get all Godwin's law on the subject, but I think contrasting the continued legacies of Nazi Germany and the antebellum American South is a useful exercise; both committed horrible travesties and have left future generations to figure out how to properly remember and learn from such atrocities. As I've pointed out a few times, it's pretty embarrassing (or least should be) how much our nation simply elides over the horrible things we've done. While the German response may not be perfect, at least they've more-or-less all agreed it was not a time to proud of.

But we in America have a hard time agreeing that slavery was a bad thing (because we're terrible people, I guess) and that maybe we shouldn't have memorials and whatnot to the people who launched a bloody war (bloodiest in our history, in fact) to defend their right to own human beings. Seems like a simple thing to condemn, but maybe that's just me.

This past weekend a friend and I hit up some WV historical sites, specifically Harper's Ferry (site of the famous John Brown raid) and Antietam, a place I'd never heard of before but that was apparently the site of an important civil war battle (also the bloodiest single day of fighting in the civil war, so...uh...there's that).

While I understand both of these places are technically below the Mason-Dixon line and therefore a whole different form of logic applies, I simply could not believe how much Confederate sympathizing and glorification went on there. In addition to multiple gift shops (even state-run museum gift shops!) selling "Live Free or Die" shirts emblazoned with the Stars and Bars, multiple historical markers made the war out to be one of simple disagreement over the role of the federal government, with little if any mention of the whole genocidal slavery thing.

One monument even read something to the effect of "Erected for those on both sides who were fighting for what they believed in." Except, again, I feel the need to point out what one side believed in was their right to own human beings as property. You can't really chalk that one up to "well, everyone has their views and beliefs! Who's to say which is right and which is wrong?"

Because the answer is "All human beings with a shred of decency agree one side was wrong."

Maybe it's just because I grew up secure in my little Yankee bubble, but I really had no idea how some folks still desperately cling to historical revisionist views of the civil war, and it's embarrassing as hell, both as an American and as, you know, a human being.

Simply put: can you imagine any Holocaust memorial selling swastika t-shirts and putting up monuments that say "Jews and Germans alike both fought for their beliefs" as if it were some sort of simple misunderstanding between the two?

No, because that would be fucking horrible. But I suppose "being fucking horrible" has rarely stopped America from anything...

1 comment:

revdj said...

I recently learned that the "states rights" justification was a retcon. The touchpoint of the war was Northern States not enforcing a fugitive slave law, Northern States executing states rights, and the Southern states wanted a big strong federal government to tell the Northern States what to do.