It's complicated. That is the only way to describe my feelings today. Complicated. Today is the 150th Anniversary of South Carolina's secession from the Union. And this will probably be long, perhaps angry in parts, but please bear with me: This is complicated for Southerners, but what I say is notsome neo-Confederate fantasia.
On Dec. 20, 1860, this was the South Carolina flag. Pay attention to the St. George's Cross in blue; it would later become a St. Andrews cross and is visceral symbol that still divides America.
For those in the United States North and Midwest, the Civil War is largely a by-blow of a different time and place, with the tried and true American notion that it was fought and won by those who held the belief that human beings should not be enslaved and brutalized for profit. You learn about it; maybe go to Gettysburg or Sharpsburg; make a few jokes to Southerners that cross your path; absorb the memes and move along.
The average person in Schenectady or Syracuse, Des Plaines or Des Moines, Toledo or Harrisburg, Bangor or Hartford just doesn't reflect very often on what it means to lose a third of the male population, to have martial-law imposed on from without, to have the civilian population subjected to rampant rape robbery and murder, and then to be economically isolated for another half of a century under the guise of "reconstruction".
Coming from a different view, though, I can tell you that in the South, we take a very different view: it was fought largely on our soil. The farmhouses with aging stones still mark where a descendant died in the backyard. Old, stately oaks and sycamores still display the gouges from random shots that spared a random person while ripping another soul violently from its body.
Everywhere around you is history, distant and near: and they are all ever-present reminders of a War that never died; and one which existed well before the first shots were fired on Ft. Sumter in April of 1861.
That tree is still probably alive.
I'm not going to sit here and say that those who died in the American South were rebels and traitors deserving of death: Most weren't. Like most wars, their interests were not what was at stake. The vast majority were poor, dumb farm kids conscripted and told to point a gun and shoot at other human beings. A mere 10% of the South owned slaves; needless to say, those 10% did not do the bleeding and dying in that war. That 10% never has. And there were others who thought they were being invaded, and fought to protect their home...that included a not-insignificant number of freed black slaves.
Fucking disgusting: Southern blacks beaten mercilessly in Georgia.
But was the system barbarous? Of course it was; and the 10% of the plantation class never admitted that to themselves. Equally barbarous was Northern industry built on the bodies of maimed children, exploited miners, and, yes, slaves: For instance, New York in 1862 was the second largest slave port in America. Moreover, Boston was the largest exporter of slave made textiles. No good guys here. Just profiteers on all sides.
Also fucking disgusting: a mentally retarded Boston child forced to the factory...
And the Bronx slave market...
Just as the Antebellum South, and its apologists, need to understand that the barbarism of slavery -- no matter how many of the U.S's bills were paid with that money -- is not, and never was, a sane, rational, human, humane or sustainable way to make a fortune. Nor was it a good cause to engage in the most senseless, bloody conflict of our brief national history. Ours was not a just cause -- at least to the extent of defending slavery. The willingness and ability of alleged partners to dissolve a confederation/union, should and ought never have been denied. And, to the extent that equals have no way out, and then defended territorial sovereignty? Well...that's a different matter.
Slavery made us an evil nation, as well as a very rich one; from the plantations that used slaves, to the Northern factories and shipyards who imported human beings and exported slave products. 150 years later, we're still not healed: The legacy of that war, and the legacy of four centuries of inhumanity will do that. As will being treated as the nation's retarded cousin in the basement.
And, so long as the North continues to treat 40% of the American population as redheaded stepchildren, warily apologetic for the sins of others, then it never will be healed. Just as it will never be healed until the unreconstructed types grow the fuck up, quit romanticizing the war as anything other than the protection of a stultyifyingly rigid world of caste, class and sheer brutality.
Like I said; It's complicated.