Point of View Columns

The Confederacy – The American Reich

In a singularly perverted observation of Black History Month, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour stated last week that he had no problems with a new state license plate that honors Nathan Bedford Forrest. That would be the same Nathan Bedford Forrest who was a Confederate general and one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan.

The ensuing controversy was nothing short of bizarre, even for these bizarre times. Some Forrest apologists argued that he was only “one” of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan and he shouldn’t be burdened with the entire guilt of paternity involving this consortium of terrorist racists. Others claimed that regardless of his “imperfections” he was an outstanding general, perhaps a military genius, and he deserved honor for his martial accomplishments.

Rather than jump down the rabbit hole with Haley Barbour and the pitiful adherents to this concept of Southern “heritage” and “tradition” I am choosing to stand on the solid ground of history and fact. For too long the flying of Confederate flags, the celebration of the secession of southern states and the glorification of the “Southern way of life” has been the subject of debate. It is time for that debate to end.

The entire way of life in the southern states that seceded from the United States was based on slavery. Unlike the Germans at the end of World War II who claimed that they were unaware of the horror of the concentration camps, every conscious white man, woman and child in the South was absolutely aware of the forced bondage of millions of black men, women and children.

Like their moral bretheren the Nazis, the slave owners, slave masters and slave traders along with their wives, children and political supporters established an awful but efficient system because it was to their advantage. The Nazis chose the Jews, the slave owners chose black people.

Their approaches were similar. The religious and philosophical gymnastics used to justify the enslavement of black people would have sounded familiar to the Nazis as they justified the persecution and murder of Jews.

There was nothing endearing, uplifting or worthy of praise in a system that bought, sold, tortured and oppressed human beings on a daily basis. There is no honor in a “heritage” that accepted the brutalizing of the spirit of the slaves – and the slave masters. The “Southern way of life” embraced and endorsed rape, murder, torture and degradation. There is simply no escaping these facts.

I do not believe that the men and women whose family trees have their roots in the South should engage in eternal penance. I also do not believe that these men and women should blithely engage in the creation of a mythical history that absolves the sins of their mothers and fathers.

This is not only disrespectful of the memory of the men and women who suffered their entire lives as the property of a society as cruel and despicable as any in modern history. It is also dangerous, because by ignoring the facts of history we run the risk of not perceiving its recurrence.

The Confederacy was the American Reich. It was a relatively successful social and economic system that was built on the belief that the supposed inferiority of some people could be used for the benefit of the majority. There were psychic as well as economic values to this system – feeling superior to someone, anyone, anesthetizes the pain of personal insecurity and failure.

Like the Third Reich, the American Reich was worth fighting for, long after defeat was guaranteed. The “way of life” – legal and legitimized bias, prejudice and cruelty was worth dying for, and hundreds of thousands did just that.

Like the Third Reich, adherents of the American Reich continued to guard the flame of their wretched dream. The Nazis took to hiding in Argentina and Paraguay awaiting their return to glory. The Confederates went lurking in the dark woods of the South, wearing sheets, engaging in silly rituals and murdering black people in the middle of the night.

The dreams of the Third Reich have dimmed. There is no United States governor who would give cover to the Nazis. There are no statewide celebrations of the Third Reich (in the United States or Germany) replete with goose steps and brown shirts.

However, the dreams of the American Reich seem to be alive and well in too many places.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – December 31, 2010

The first decade of the 21st century is coming to a close. As individuals we have been witness to births and deaths of loved ones and a mixed brew of success and disappointment.

Broadening the horizon we have seen historic changes and cataclysmic disasters that could not be contemplated on December 31, 1999– 9/11 became a noun and someone named Barack Hussein Obama is the President of the United States. And Sarah Palin was just as unknown as Barack Obama.

Popes and pop stars have left the stage and it seems as if the tragedies suffered by the people of the Congo and Haiti and Somalia and so many other places will never end.

We begin the New Year with expectation and hope and the realization that as with every day tomorrow belongs to us if we just seize the moment.

A Wake Up Call

During the contentious debates over the health care bill, a blatant lie circulated to the effect that it mandated that there would be “death panels” that would decide who would live and who would die in the Brave New World of Obamacare.

The facts rarely get in the way of a good story these days, but the fact is that the legislative proposal called for end of life counseling, a service that is certainly needed by patients and their families.

While this provision was removed from the bill that ultimately passed, Medicare has recently issued some new guidelines that would permit end of life counseling to be a service that would be funded by the federal government. Anyone who has ever had to address the needs and concerns of a family member at the end of their life knows how beneficial it would be to have some counseling in making the right decisions.

Every person should have every service that will help them to live and prosper. Perpetuating a vegetative state indefinitely is rarely what any person (or their family member) would want. But without counseling very few Americans know what to do and make decisions that are tinged with needless indecision, perpetual doubt and eternal guilt.

If just a single family is spared this unnecessary agony end of life counseling would be a good thing. The fact is that millions of Americans are in need of this service every year.

Be prepared for the right wing of the right wing to mount a mindless assault on this sensible and compassionate initiative. Perhaps 2011 will be different from 2010 in that progressives and men and women of good will find their muted voices and speak up and against the right wing of the right wing.

Rent A Slave Redux

This past week I finished reading Manhunt, by James L. Swanson (Harper Perennial). It is the story of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth and the ensuing 12-day manhunt to capture and kill him.

The book is painstaking in providing details regarding the mood of the United States in 1865. As the Civil War came to an end the book makes clear that the issue of slavery was the fuse that gave rise to the conflagration known as the Civil War.

As close to a half a million Americans died in combat, President Lincoln was clear in never recognizing the “insurgency” known as the Confederacy, refusing to remove any of the stars from the American flag that represented the 11 secessionist states.

The Confederacy was always considered a treasonous rebellion and it was never accorded any recognition of its claimed sovereignty. Booth and his cohorts were clearly motivated to commit murder in order to perpetuate their vision of white supremacy and eternal black slavery.

That the Confederacy and all that it stood for would be celebrated for 4 ½ years here in the 21st century is an obscenity. The revelers and faux historians can spout words like “heritage” all they want, but slavery and white supremacy were the foundations of the Confederacy. The spirit of John Wilkes Booth inspired the Ku Klux Klan in the 19th century and the White Citizens Councils in the 20th century.

And now it appears that Booth lives in the 21st century celebrations of a treasonous revolt that needs to be buried next to Booth.

New Year’s Eve

Point of View went online in late June of 2010. Since then there have been over 8200 visits to this site and the number grows by the day. I am most grateful for your interest, comments and support.

As we go into the New Year and the new decade we will continue to present points of view that I hope will contribute a positive tone to the discussions of the issues of the day. Stay strong!

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