Wednesday, April 13, 2011


It was on this day 150 years ago that the United States...weren't. The military arms of the brand-new "Confederate States of America" opened fire on the fortification in Charleston harbor as a way of officially announcing that it was "game on".

Enough ink has been spilled about the blood that was spilled thereafter to make any further effusion on my part somewhere between extraneous and foolish. I may just pick one of the Civil War engagements to talk about this month, although I'm starting to wonder whether anything about that mess of a fraternal slapfight was "decisive", given that we seem today to be as much a house divided, half Fox and half free, as we were back in the day.

But I will make one observation that should really be jim's, since he has gone further down the road towards recognizing that the first step to take when you set out upon resolving your differences through armed force should be to dig two graves, is that the capture of Sumter may well have been decisive in defeating the Confederacy.

Adam Goodheart observes as much in today's NYT:
"It is difficult to see what the rebels would have lost if they had allowed Major Anderson and his tiny Union force to remain indefinitely. Indeed, they could have couched their forbearance as a humanitarian gesture, a token of their peaceful intentions that might have won them allies not just in the North, but also – all-importantly – among the nations of Europe. Certainly leaving Sumter alone would have bought them more time: more time to more fully organize and equip the South’s armies; more time to establish all the ordinary apparatus – a postal service, a stable national currency, a judicial system – that serve to make government a solid fact rather than a speculative figment. Both to its own citizens and to the rest of the world, the Confederate States of America might have come to seem like a fait accompli."
Certainly the man who did perhaps more than anyone to scourge the Confederacy with fire and blood seems to have agreed. "They attacked Sumter," said Abraham Lincoln, "it fell, and thus, did more service than it otherwise could.”

I've always been pretty skeptical about the way we here in the U.S. seem to congratulate ourselves on our national greatness about liberty and equality. It took four years and millions of deaths for us to accept that owning other people like they were Cheeze Doodles wasn't really a good idea. The British, who made us look like pikers when it came to butchering and conquering peoples duskier than most Britons, did the same with a bloodless Act of Parliament thirty-two years earlier.

But, anyway, it was April 13, 1861 that we began our four-year internecine dispute over how the domestic help should be payed. Feel free to discuss.

Update 4/13 p.m.: One good place to start the discussion might be the fact that...
"In the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll released Tuesday, roughly one in four Americans said they sympathize more with the Confederacy than the Union, a figure that rises to nearly four in ten among white Southerners. When asked the reason behind the Civil War, whether it was fought over slavery or states' rights, 52 percent of all Americans said the leaders of the Confederacy seceded to keep slavery legal in their state, but a sizeable 42 percent minority said slavery was not the main reason why those states seceded." many as a quarter of us LIKE the idea of "It was OK to believe that black people are ownable, like Cheeze Doodles" (i.e., the "sympathize more with the Confederacy") and almost half of us are lying to ourselves about history, and not in a subtle "well, gosh, the historical record is SO unclear on this" way but a "Gee, I know that Jefferson Davis said that
"The condition of slavery with us is, in a word, Mr. President, nothing but the form of civil government instituted for a class of people not fit to govern themselves. It is exactly what in every State exists in some form or other. It is just that kind of control which is extended in every northern State over its convicts, its lunatics, its minors, its apprentices. It is but a form of civil government for those who by their nature are not fit to govern themselves. We recognize the fact of the inferiority stamped upon that race of men by the Creator, and from the cradle to the grave, our Government, as a civil institution, marks that inferiority."
but that doesn't mean he and all those other rebs committed treason in defense of slavery..." sort of way.

I know that the post hoc does not ergo propter hoc, but the fact that a hell of a lot of Americans STILL believe this crap after millions of people like my great-granduncle Richard died trying to knock the fool-stuffing out of their ancestors' heads makes me even more irritated with the Public as Ass; we often get the nation and the government we deserve.

And the fools that believe this nonsense, well...

Update 4/14: Let me be a little MORE explicit here.

We in the U.S. need to knock this Lost Cause nonsense on the head like a sick cat. Here's a good example of what I'm talking about, from Crooked Timber; the writer explains that he had to take a citizenship test, that part of this test was about U.S. history, and that the part about U.S. history said this about the origins of the Civil War:
"The Civil War began when 11 southern states voted to secede (separate) from the United States to form their own country, the Confederate States of America. These southern states believed that the federal government of the United States threatened their right to make their own decisions. They wanted states’ rights with each state making their own decisions about their government. If the national government contradicted the state, they did not want to follow the national government."
This is the "official" version, funded by your and my tax dollars.

Well, horseshit. The "right" the rebels believed in was the Cheeze Doodle Clause. It didn't have anything to do with how they felt they should be able to spend federal highway funds, or whether the tariff on imported goods was too high or too low.

Would it kill us to drive a stake into the heart of this fucker? To accept, as most Germans today accept abut Naziism and most Japanese accept about the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, that the South broke the Union on behalf of their belief that it was right and proper for one man to OWN another?

I don't believe that we'll ever really get there. But this sort of stuff shows me we don't really even want to start.

So is it any wonder we're discussing stuff like bombing for peace and punching poor people in a depression? Christ, we can't even agree that the Cheeze Doodle Clause was fucked up like a football bat. No wonder we're so ate up.

(Crooked Timber post here: - for some reason my computer has decided not to let me link to stuff today. It's probably virused, and I blame it all on Congressional dysfunction.)

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