1.08.2011

Me and the Yankees: A follow-up

Three weeks ago I wrote, but yesterday just published, a seemingly-confused mental and emotional vascilation regarding the secession of South Carolina 150 years ago. As my undoubtedly-better half has occasionally commented, my spiel on Reconstruction is (besides being incredibly boring to most) "Yankee Outreach". And she should know, being born a Jayhawker, both geographically and in temperment.




Occasionally, it goes beyond boring and into pedantry.


The point of the thing, I suppose, requires two elaborations. The first is part of my general disdain for all things imperial. The United States government treated its own as imperial subjects, and a whole lot of innocent people, who shared the misfortune of geography, suffered for the sins of a comparative few. The counterargument is to be made that a whole lot of people suffered in the antebellum South because of the misfortune of the color of their skin. To the extent of racism (which is still an ongoing problem in every corner of our little country), that is perhaps true. But, the larger point is that the persons complicit in the slave trade, North and South, were never the ones who suffered. It was the poor, the iceberg class --9/10ths below the surface-- that did the fighting, bleeding, dying, and post-war suffering. Those who truly profited moved along, bid their time, and bought their pardons. Where was "Reconstruction" for the flesh marketers in the North, and the Northern profiteers off the inhumanity of slavery? There was none. To the victors go the spoils, including, I suppose the ability to continue to demonize another part of the nation for a century and a half, without confronting the "winner's" own remarkable, blinding hypocrisy.
James Henry Hammond Slave Owner Brad Delong                                                                          
Worth your read; Berkeley's Econ 113: Economics of Slavery


The second point, and one which I was probably a bit inarticulate in expressing, is that of the many many people drafted, bought/sold, and who otherwise fought for the South, very few of them were lifting a rifle to support continued subjugation of other human beings. The nation is, and has, always been at war between the pastoral South and the industrial North. The Constitution is, if nothing else, an intrinsic muddle of the those competing interests. Regionalism has always been stronger than our nationalism. Having traveled extensively, to 92% of the United States, I can definitely vouch for the proposition that our regional differences outweigh our national similarities...there is as much difference between the American Southwest and the Northeast, as there is between the United States and Canada. Folks in Portland don't have the same regional concerns or characteristics as those in Omaha. Charlotte is nothing like Chicago. We are about 7 discrete nations held together by a common tonge (increasingly irrelevant), a common currency, and the threat of government-sanctioned violence to hold the whole thing together.


If nothing else, the average kid in the South was fighting to protect his backyard, and his home, or because his government drafted him to do so. I dare say the missionary zeal of violence to prove a point was much more likely to be found in the North. And what were those points? One is obvious: Our fellow human beings deserved better than to be enslaved by the landed gentry and large growers in the South. And you know what? Every 17 year-old kid who slapped on some Navy Blue and went to march into our hostile Southern terrain, to die in heat and humidity, awash in deadly animals and insects, died for a worthy cause -- theirs was a just war.

The second point is less obvious: to those Yankees who marched down here to prove that a "more perfect union" can be achieved by force, and by bloodshed; or those who were led to believe so by their government, they were wrong. That portion of the equation is a bankrupt premise, because they were fighting to preserve, not a "union" or the "republic" but, America's growing empire and its growing economic hegemony. While Lincoln's private correspondence was a bit more forthcoming about this point, American history has yet to fully recognize that fact.

Lest there be any doubt that it was an imperial war to preserve territorial and economic Empire, I do challenge you to read exactly what happened with "reconstruction", and how the otherwise-nonculpable citizens of the American South were treated by their victorious overlords. To the kids in Heather Gray, who recognized that they were being invaded and occupied, to the extent hey fought to protect against the inevitable "Nation-building" that would occur under Reconstruction, not a damned one of those kids is to be faulted, just as those who fought for imperial purposes were in the wrong.

Like I said, it's complicated.

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