This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Removing General Lee

When I woke up this morning, I was not planning on writing about removing statues of Robert E. Lee. I certainly did not believe that I would see a Republican Speaker of the House denounce people protesting said removal in Charlottesville, Virginia, although given the conduct of the demonstrators, it is not hard to condemn them. Still, this will take some unpacking. The demonstrators claim that this all about their history. They are correct, so let us start there.

If Abraham Lincoln had not been elected President, the Confederacy would have never been formed. They would have been perfectly happy with a Democratic President who would continue to enforce the Fugtiive Slave Act and continue their economic system, which was based on human bondage, which is the ultimate form of Capitalism. In capitalism, the labor of the worker is wholly owned by the capitalist. Slavery wholly owns the laborer as well, with only in-kind wages provided (which were often produced by the slaves themselves, they were hardly orderign shirts from Europe for them).

Without the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, the calls for abolition would goad slaves to vote with their feet on slavery to the North, for Dred Scott made it clear that they were property, so the now used name African American did not apply. Even though he said otherwise, Lincoln may have even freed the slaves, although he promised he would not. The Confederates did not believe him, so they seceded and fired on Fort Sumter. History makes it clear in the acts secession of each state that slavery was the issue, not self-determination, as some Confederate apologists now claim.

The Union soldiers did not orignially go to war to end slavery, although some eventually found that cause. Their motivation was restoring the Union. They certainly were not anti-capitalists, as many worked within that system, although Lincoln certainly made anti capitalist remarks from time to time. How Lincoln would have handled reconstruction is only vaguely known, although he at least had the 13th Amendment pass, although with a dangerous exception for convicts that was expoited harshly after reconstruction. Johnson handled it badly enough to be bypassed by the Radical Republican Congress and Grant led it well, but not so well that lasted when it lasted past 1872, when federal troops were removed for political expediency. The terms of the 14th and 15th Amendments were not enforced well in either the South or the North after that point, with President Wilson making Jim Crow universal.

Northern and Southern veterans alike began to remember the gallantry of battle and a mutual comradeship rather than the reasons for the war. Northern citizens no longer cared how African Americans (as the 14th Amendment made them) were exploited in both the sharecropper and penal peonage systems. Indeed, they still don’t when these come from the War on Drugs or have to do with immigrant labor in factory and field. As long as they get their bacon and orange juice, they have no qualms about how those who make it are treated.

Confederate monuments and highways are a testament to the historical amnesia to both treason and exploitation. Indeed, the Confederate Battle Flag only began flying when the Civil Rights movement and the coverage of racist push back pricked the conscience of the nation on these issues, although advances in agriculture and road building had already removed the economic imperitive for segregation where cotton is grown. 

De-unionization had still not reached meat packing and the abuse of migrant workers someone had not been noticed until Caeser Chavez brought it to our attention. Indeed, civil rights for Latinos took seperate Supreme Court action to have them considered a protected class rather than inferior whites.

It has taken fifty years for the civil rights movement to advance to the point of demanding the removal of monuments to Confederate treason. It took some time for civil rights action to grow enough to include this demand and the election of Barack Obama made people realize they could demand more, which has led to pushback from those who would retain power through voter suppression. Obama’s election and the FoxNews pushback has emboldened those who feel the charm of Southern glory to admit the outright racism of their desire to preserve Southern culture, which is was as much about racism and economics as it was about history.

The backlash also resulted in Donald Trump, whose record on civil rights in housing is putrid. Indeed, to hide it, you would think he would double-down on both housing enforcement and countering voter suppression. He has not. He gave us the ultimate Beaureguard as Attorney General and is advised by Bannon and Gorka, whose defenders claim have no racism in their background, even though Breitbart News is all about inflaming racism in the masses. Mr. President, give us a break and fire these three clowns and at least make it look like you honor your oath to enforce the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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